Chance The Rapper, Kehlani, & The Shifting Sound of R&B — with Oak Felder

The sound of R&B is difficult to pin down. Since the 1950s, the label has been used both as a genre and as a catch-all for the entirety of black popular music. Soul, funk, disco and even hip-hop have at times been covered by this R&B umbrella — Billboard has changed how it counts what genres over the years. On Chance The Rapper’s new album, The Big Day, all of these influences come through. He’s not alone. On recent Kehlani’s records for example, 90s R&B and 2000s trap both play a role. But both these artists are a far cry from the 50s R&B sounds of Sam Cooke. To understand how R&B has changed over time, we consult with Trevor Anderson, manager of Billboard’s R&B/Hip […]

Space, The Final Frontier: Madonna, Stephen Puth and Street Studios

Find out how music creates a feeling of space in this three part episode. First, we may not realize it when we listen to Madonna’s new record, but the location of her music is essential. In exploring her catalogue we hear the sound of different eras by just the space evoked in a song. Second, the same is true for Stephen Puth who uses spacial effects for brilliant creative purposes on his song “Look Away.” When music is recorded in a studio with perfect acoustics, engineers manipulate that audio to place it in a 3D virtual space using reverb, delay, volume, panning and filters. Each of those effects changes our relationship to the music, and in Steven’s case, the lyric. Finally, when we get outside […]

Why Does Every Intro Sound Like It’s Underwater? (Live)

Ever notice that wobbly, drunken and underwater sound common in so many contemporary pop songs? In an era of pristine recording quality, music producers are referencing old and impure technologies to add character to their recordings. Digital cassette hiss, tape wobble, and vinyl crackle are intentionally added to productions as a facsimile of “authentic” recording technology. Why the sudden nostalgia? Where does this underwater sound come from? What does it mean? How is it made? Find out on a live episode of Switched On Pop, recorded at Recode’s annual Code conference with guest host Estelle Caswell, creator of Vox’s Earworm video series. Listen to Estelle’s Spotify playlist of underwater intros.

The Man Behind the Rocketman with Giles Martin

Rocketman is a spectacle the size of Elton John, four films in one. It contains a biopic, jukebox musical, addiction recovery story and a romance between friends. The soundtrack ties the story together by taking historical liberties to tell a fantastical story about one of the best living songwriters. Charlie is joined by Vox’s film critic, Alissa Wilkinson to breakdown the film and deconstruct how its melodic themes create an emotional arc. He also speaks with Giles Martin (son of 5th Beatle George Martin) who music directed the film and soundtrack about how he assembled an entire life’s work into a singular narrative.   Songs Discussed Taron Egerton – Rocketman Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Kit Connor […]

The Greatest Pop Stories Never Told (with Jessica Hopper)

On the KRCW series Lost Notes, Jessica Hopper plumbs pop music history for the most important stories never told. She brings us a bevy of lost gems, from Fanny, an all-female quartet of rockers that was one of David Bowie’s favorite bands, to the Freeze a late-70s punk outfit now coming to terms with the offensive lyrics of their youth. Tune in to discover another side of pop, one that’s rarely been heard. Songs Discussed: Fanny – Charity Ball (Live Version) Fanny – Ain’t that Peculiar The Freeze – I Hate Tourists Cat Power – The Greatest

Should You Care About Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber?

A pop star collaboration is a foolproof way to grab the attention of two audiences at once. But do more collaborators actually make a better song? Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber put this question to the test in their new song “I Don’t Care.” The track takes us inside the head of an antisocial party hopper, who’d rather be back home with his lover. Nate and Charlie investigate how the songwriters works that message into their music and speak with Ross Golan about Ed Sheeran’s songwriting brilliance. Songs Discussed • Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber – I Don’t Care • Ed Sheeran – Shape of You • Justin Bieber – Love Yourself • Kygo ft. Ella Henderson – Here For You • Maroon 5 – […]

The Smooth Sound of Morning News

What do Bach and smooth jazz have in common? Both score the unmistakable theme song for NPR’s flagship show Morning Edition, listened to by millions across the country every day since 1979. This is undeniably pop music, a daily soundtrack to the lives of many. So why does it sound the way it does? And why, after forty years, why does NPR want to change it? Featuring: BJ Leiderman – Morning Edition Chuck Mangione – Feels So Good Herbie Hancock – Chameleon George Benson – Breezin’ Kenny G – Songbird Don Voegeli/Wycliffe Gordon – All Things Considered Take 6 – All Things Considered Phish – All Things Reconsidered

Is There An Indie Rock Conspiracy? (Featuring Joywave)

Many people write us with musical maladies and conspiracies. A recent one caught our attention. Daniel Armbruster, lead vocalist of indie band Joywave, has been hearing the same melody in tracks across the Alternative Songs charts. He believes that this hook could be the secret to securing a spot on the Billboard 100. Nate and Charlie investigate this issue, traveling from the contemporary charts all the way back to a fundamental musical scale. The stakes are high: is it possible to hack your way into a hit alt-rock song? Songs Discussed Young The Giant – Superposition Cold War Kids – First Sir Sly – &Run Joywave, KOPPS – Tongues Maroon 5 – Moves Like Jagger Lady Gaga – Bad Romance  AJR – Burn the House […]

Top 40 Activism with Justin Tranter

Can political protest exist within the confines of commercial popular music? Songwriter Justin Tranter is equal parts songwriter and activist. You’ve likely heard his contributions to songs by Britney Spears, Julia Michaels, Selena Gomez, Janelle Monae and Ariana Grande, but unless you were paying close attention, you may have missed the essential subtext in his work. As an LGBTQ activist and board member of GLAAD, Justin brings his activism into Top 40 pop music lyrically and otherwise. On this episode, he breaks down his newest hit “Swan Song” which was co-written with Dua Lipa. This song is a triple threat serving as the end credits for the film Alita: Battle Angel, a Billboard hit, and a protest against the silencing of marginalized people. Justin shows […]