Listened CHVRCHES and the sound of 80s horror by Written By Charlie Harding from

Screen Violence is their new album. It draws inspiration from classic horror films like John Carpenter’s Halloween. With its horror frame, the lyrics explore dark themes, like the violent online abuse CHVRCHES lead singer Lauren Mayberry has endured for much of the band’s existence, a hyper consciousness of her own mortality brought on by that abuse, and fears of losing her grip on reality. Switched On Pop’s co-host Charlie Harding spoke with Lauren, Ian, Martin from CHVRCHES about the making and meaning of Screen Violence.

An interesting conversation about music, inspiration and technology. What I found interesting was the discussion of synthesisers and the way in which the same instruments have been used for such different purposes.
Bookmarked The Musicological Zest of “Switched On Pop” by Alex Ross (The New Yorker)

A typical “Switched On Pop” episode pairs a contemporary hit with a musical topic—modal scales, descending bass lines, modulations, and so on. The strategy that Sloan used when he taught harmony by way of “Call Me Maybe” remains in play. Because the songs are so familiar to much of the audience, the hosts can wallow in technical lingo without fear of losing people. A sly bait and switch is at work: the conversation often wanders far from the song in question, ranging across pop-music history or delving into the classical past. For me, the switch operated in the opposite direction. For the sake of listening to Sloan and Harding musicologically jabber away, I received an education in the mysteries of the modern Top Forty.

Alex Ross breaks down the music podcast Switched on Pop. He explqins how and why it works so well, labelling it as ‘mutual mansplaining’ between Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding.

As a ‘persnickety classical-music critic’, Ross takes particular note of their four part series on Beethoven’s 5th Symphony touching on the different tack taken. Personally, this is one of the things I habe noticed more lately, that the podcast has started diving into the worlds of different artists and with that using different approaches. This maybe in part based on the extension of the ‘mutual mansplaining’ through the involvement of more guests and what might be described as bramd cross-pollunation.

It is interesting to contrast this approach with that of Kirk Hamilton’s Strong Songs. I feel that Hamilton spends a lot more time in the weeds and often covers a wider range of music, but like Switched on Pop, often ends up diving into various detours.

Listened Bruno Major restyles the Great American Songbook by Written By Charlie Harding from

Bruno Major blends old song structures from The Great American Songbook with contemporary production on his new album “To Let A Good Thing Die.” The result is a nostalgic, yet contemporary collection of love songs for the Netflix and chill generation. We speak with Bruno Major about how he draws inspiration from the past to craft something new. He breaks down his songs “Nothing,” “To Let A Good Thing Die,” and “The Most Beautiful Thing,” which he wrote with Finneas. And we unpack how Bruno Major found success only after being dropped from his record label.

Bruno Major discusses the references to the past in his reimagining of jazz. He also talks about the influence of other styles on his music.
Listened Jacob Collier on staying creative and his 646 track song “All I Need” (EPISODE 169 B) from

Quarantined in his family’s music room, musician Jacob Collier has been remarkably productive. Known for his polymathic musical talents, Collier has used this time to reflect on, and release new music. His latest song “All I Need,” was created with new technology that let him record remotely with his collaborators Mahalia and Ty Dolla $ign. The song is uplifting. It modulates into arcane keys that evoke the euphoria of newfound love. Collier’s also been convening live streams with artists like Tori Kelly and Chris Martin where Collier seemingly defies the laws of physics to collaborate, in time, over long-distance video chat. Collier is a hopeful voice, demonstrating how music can boost our spirits in dark times.

Charlie Harding talks with Jacob Collier about what it means to make music during the current coronavirus pandemic. Collier says that his process for recording music has not changed, however his perspective on things has. Being forced to stay at home has helped see past the big things to recognise the disarming characteristics of the everyday small things. This is something he describes as the ‘space between the notes’, where you need to look within something to find something.

He explains that as his music has grown in complexity over the years, he has had to rethink how he collaborates. One thing that has made this more doable has been technology, such as Source Connect, that allows you to record live sessions from across the world.

In regards to live streaming, Collier elaborates on how he taught his brain to compensate the latency by perceiving the music in two times to perform live, rather than the perception of being live that many performances are. Something Harding labels a ‘rhythmic multiverse’. He worked this out live with Tori Kelly:

He moves onto a discussion of his track All I Need. This includes an explanation of his intent in moving away from A 440 halfway through the song to musically capture the uncanny experience of love. He also touches on how he managed to have 646 tracks in his Logic session.

He closes the interview with a reflection on playing live and how the most joyous instrument to play live is actually the crowd.

I remember coming upon Jacob Collier a couple of years ago via his explanation of harmony:

As well as his breakdown of Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke:

I find his take on music so interesting.

Listened Carly Rae Jepsen: Meeting The Muse by Written By Charlie Harding from

They say you should never meet your idols, that you’ll only be disappointed. We had this possibility in mind going into our first interview with Carly Rae Jepsen, the pop star who inspired us to start our podcast Switched on Pop when Nate taught “Call Me Maybe” as a case study in music theory. Six years later and hundreds of pleading emails later, the time had come to meet the muse and unpack her latest offering, Dedicated Side B. In the course of composing her last two albums, E•MO•TION and Dedicated, Jepsen wrote over 200 songs. Many of her favorite works didn’t make it on either final album, so she’s started a tradition of releasing “Side B” records on the one-year anniversary of her last release. Her newest collection of unreleased music fluidly crosses decades of musical history and spans a vast emotional range. We spoke with Jepsen over Zoom about how she curated her latest B-Side release from a massive body of work. Would this beatific figure, once described by poet Hanif Abdurraqib and the “most honest pop musician working,” live up to her reputation? Listen to find out.

Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding speak with Carly Rae Jepsen about her part in the origins of the podcast, a breakdown of I Want You In My Room and the release of her latest album Dedicated Side B.

A few interesting points to come out of the analysis of Jepsen’s song was the way in which Jack Antonoff creates a safe space in the studio to explore different and diverse ideas. This reminds me of Rick Rubin and his focus on creating the conditions to flourish. Also, the connection between the music and lyrics, especially the unual diminished chord in the pre-chorus that has always caught me.

In the second part of the program, Jepsen discusess how writing is more than a job and how she is always collecting ideas. This is how she wrote 200 songs for Delicate. She explains that she has ‘albums buried in the backyard’ which sometimes come out if she needs particular parts. This is reminiscent of Tom Waits (as recounted by Thom Yorke) who talks about leaving songs in the shed to mature:

There’s a Tom Waits quote about songwriting, he says he’ll have loads of little ideas and stuff, he’ll leave them in his shed at the bottom of the garden, which is his studio, and he shuts the door, and it’s like they’re little kids and they all breed and when he comes back there’s loads of them… certain things have really flourished and certain things have died. You know, we could go and do it all tomorrow, but… when you write a song, certain songs you just forget about and certain songs increasingly take on a significance and just don’t go away, and I think that’s the most important stage, really, because I think anyone can just rattle ’em off. But it’s what ends up meaning something to you.

She also explains how she decides which songs make the album and which don’t, creating charts which plot theme and feel of songs. She describes this as a ‘beautiful crazy mind’.

Listened What Happens When Justin Bieber Samples Your Music by Written By Charlie Harding from

When Bristol-based producer Laxcity logged onto Twitter to find out that Justin Bieber sampled his music, he was at first unphased. The sampled material came from a royalty-free sample pack on, free for Splice users to add to their track. Then accusations of theft started rolling in. Another artist, Asher Monroe, had used the same sample just a few weeks earlier and he accused Bieber of copying the idea. Laxcity inserted himself into the argument to show that the so-called offending sound, was in fact his, but not limited to anyone’s use. This mixup led to Bieber shouting out Laxcity, giving the nascent producer a career boost. On his episode we speak with Laxcity, Splice CEO Steve Martocci, PEX COO Amadea Choplin and Verge reporter Dani Deahl (who first reported the story) to unpack how sampling works in today’s music. Then we hear how Beiber’s new album, “Changes,” interprets the sample to convey Bieber’s personal evolution in the public eye.

Listened Return Of The Guitar: Halsey, 5 Seconds of Summer, Joji by Written By Charlie Harding from

In 2019 guitar made a comeback in the top 10. According to analysis from Hit Songs Deconstructed, about a third of all songs featured the electric guitar, a nearly 10% jump from the year before. In 2020 this trend isn’t stopping. Recent releases by Halsey, 5 Seconds of Summer and Joji …

It would be interesting to see how many songs have their first beginnings on guitar, but it then gets stripped out in production. For example, consider Taylor Swift’s cut back version of The Man. This is not a ‘guitar’ song, but could quite easily could have been.
Listened Look At Selena Gomez Now with Justin Tranter & Ian Kirkpatrick by Written By Charlie Harding from

Out now: Switched On Pop: How Popular Music Works, And Why It Matters

Switched On Pop

Look At Selena Gomez Now with Justin Tranter & Ian Kirkpatrick
Feb 11

Selena Gomez has her first #1 song on the Hot 100. “Lose You To Love Me” is a confessional look at her past five years of heartbreak and health challenges. By contrast, her single “Look At Her Now” is a testament to moving on and moving up. Each of these songs inhabits a different musical and lyrical world and we were lucky to get to speak with her collaborators on the songs to take us behind the scenes of how they came to be. Justin Tranter and Ian Kirkpatrick are two of today’s most in-demand writers. They walk us through how Selena takes her personal emotions and translates them into public catharsis on her album “Rare.”

Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding speak with Justin Tranter and Ian Kirkpatrick to dive beyond the usual mechanics of the tracks to the rhythms of the writing sessions behind two of Selena Gomez’s hits.

Anil Dash is obsessed with Prince. Since he’s the host of the tech podcast Function, he has a unique perspective on the Purple One’s complicated relationship with technology. Anil joins the show to break down the many ways that Prince predicted the sound and science of modern pop, from drum machines to online distribution to internet culture. We’ll discuss how Michael Jackson jacked Prince’s electronic experimentation for Thriller, why Prince liked to lurk in fan chat rooms, and how he found ways to change his sound without ever sacrificing his integrity. We’re only beginning to understand Prince’s legacy, but Anil takes us one step closer to fully appreciating the ahead-of-their-time talents of a once-in-a-century artist.

Anil Dash discusses both the man and his music. Of particular interest was Prince’s use of technology, as well as his influence on others, such as Michael Jackson.

Listened Dolly Parton’s America (with Jad Abumrad) by Written By Charlie Harding from

There are icons, and then there’s Dolly Parton. The country singer-turned-actress-turned-cultural phenomenon has produced a nearly unparalleled body of work, in both quantity (Parton is the sole or co-author of more than three thousand songs) and in legacy. Despite releasing her first album over 60 years ago, Parton’s songs are still covered and performed live by today’s pop artists. Presidential candidates are still selecting her songs as official walk-on music. So what is it exactly that makes her music so enduring? Today, we select four essential Dolly songs for dissection and try to answer that big question with the help of composer, longtime radio-maker and host of the new hit podcast, Dolly Parton’s America—Jad Abumrad. Whether or not you identify as a Dolly Parton fan, or even a country music fan, we think you’ll love this one.

Replied to Who’s Afraid of the Sound of Tik Tok? (w Cat Zhang) (

Bass distorted to the edge of audibility; voices croaking out dark and violent lyrics; a hacked-together DIY aesthetic. This isn’t a fringe musical movement, this is the sound of Tik Tok, the video app used by millions in Generation Z. And soon enough it might also be the sound of pop as…

After listening to your discussion with Cat Zhang about TikTok, I was left wondering whether Hudson Mohawke’s production of BANKS recent album reflected this dirty aesthetics or if this is in fact a reference to SoundCloud rap?
Replied to Total Request Live! Taylor, Lana, Kim, and More (with Sam Sanders) (Switched on Pop)

NPR’s Sam Sanders stops by to break down the tracks that Switched On listeners have been loving. Swedish dancefloor confessionals, songs that stop time, the specificity of Lana Del Ray, and the awkwardness of descending fourths: it’s all on the table in this freewheeling conversation of deep musical nerdiness.

Sam Sanders discussed Taylor Swift’s vocal up tick in Cruel Summer. This is something she does in Getaway Car. Both tracks feature collaboration with Jack Antonoff. Interestingly, this is a technique used in Antonoff’s own music with The Bleachers on tracks Everybody Loves Somebody and Don’t Take the Money. I therefore wonder if it is something that he has introduced to Swift or even vice versa?
Listened Mastering Music (with Dallas Taylor of Twenty Thousand Hertz) from Switched on Pop

Dallas Taylor, host of the stellar sound design series Twenty Thousand Hertz, stops by to fill Nate in on the science and style of mastering: the subtle art that explains why Metallica had to re-release a controversial album, Kanye sounds so crisp, and why the best pop really pops.

In this episode, Dallas Taylor discusses the intricacies involves in the mastering process which involves processing the completed track. This is in contrast to mixing. What was interesting is that different mediums require different masters. This is another interesting take on covers and the ‘original’ song.