Switched on Pop podcast

James Blake & The Return of Harmony

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For a decade James Blake has crafted an idiosyncratic sound. His early work as a minimalist electronic producer fused lush R&B chords with lyrical collage and unfiltered synthesizers. He describes his hit 2013 song “Retrograde” as apocalyptic yet also romantic. This single was in stark contrast to the bubblegum pop of the early 2010s. But other artists recruited him to spread his subversive sonics. He produced on three of the most seminal albums in recent history: Beyoncé’s Lemonade, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN and Frank Ocean’s Blonde. Before Blake, it sounded like pop was caught in the same four chord loop. But gradually Blake’s vision of harmonic melancholy has infused popular music. On his new album “Friends That Break Your Heart,” Blake has written his most compelling songs yet, but underneath are those his familiar wandering chords and emotional suspense. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

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  • Switched on Pop podcast

    James Blake & The Return of Harmony

    39:50

    For a decade James Blake has crafted an idiosyncratic sound. His early work as a minimalist electronic producer fused lush R&B chords with lyrical collage and unfiltered synthesizers. He describes his hit 2013 song “Retrograde” as apocalyptic yet also romantic. This single was in stark contrast to the bubblegum pop of the early 2010s. But other artists recruited him to spread his subversive sonics. He produced on three of the most seminal albums in recent history: Beyoncé’s Lemonade, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN and Frank Ocean’s Blonde. Before Blake, it sounded like pop was caught in the same four chord loop. But gradually Blake’s vision of harmonic melancholy has infused popular music. On his new album “Friends That Break Your Heart,” Blake has written his most compelling songs yet, but underneath are those his familiar wandering chords and emotional suspense. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    Sparkle spoke out against R Kelly. It cost her her career.

    31:03

    On this week’s episode we're sharing a story fromThe Cut where senior writer Angelina Chapin and co-host Jazmín Aguilera talk about and talk with Sparkle (born Stephanie Edwards), who first reported R. Kelly to the police for allegedly sexually abusing her 14-year-old niece. Back then, no one believed her, but following the explosive documentary Surviving R. Kelly and the R&B artist’s trial, at the end of which he was found guilty of nine federal sex crimes, she’s been vindicated. Angelina spoke with Sparkle a few times during and after R. Kelly’s most recent trial to hear about the monumental costs she has paid for coming forward. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    ICYMI: The Mystery of Montero AKA Lil Nas X (feat. Take A Daytrip)

    35:59

    Lil Nas X has a talent for creating productive controversy. First with “Old Town Road,” he challenged expectations about blackness in country music. Now with “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” he takes aim at anti LGBTQ+ messages propagated by the religious dogma from his youth (he came out as gay during Pride 2019). The song describes a romantic encounter without innuendo. Sure it’s raunchy, but the song doesn’t especially stand out on Billboard where explicit sexual fantasy is commonplace. But his use of religious iconography in his video and merchandise created an immediate backlash. In the video to “Montero,” Lil Nas X rides a stripped pole into hades where he gives a lap dance to Satan (also played by Lil Nas X). Despite the obvious commentary on repressive orthodoxy, religious conservatives failed to see the subtext. The song became a lightning rod. But as pundits fought on social media about the song's meaning, most critics failed to look into the song’s musical references. Produced by Take A Daytrip, the duo behind Shek Wes’ “Mo Bamba” and Lil Nas X’s “Panini,” “Montero'' mashes up genres that take the listener on a global journey, sharing his message of acceptance across cultures. Music Lil Nas X — Montero, Old Town Road, Panini 24kGoldn, iann dior - Mood Dick Dale and his Del-Tones - Misirlou Tetos Demetriades - Misirlou Aris San Boom Pam Silsulim - Static & Ben El Shek Was — Mo Bamba Lehakat Tzliley Haud Bouzouki recording from xserra from FreeSound under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License More Listen to Gal Kadan’s project: Awesome Orientalists From Europa on Bandcamp Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    Deja Vu: Why Olivia Rodrigo keeps giving up songwriting credits

    1:00:35

    In the last few years music copyright claims have skyrocketed. More and more artists are giving songwriting credits away. Frequently, credits are given retroactively to avoid the cost of long jury trials like when Sam Smith credited Tom Petty. Smith’s melody for “Stay With Me” clearly drew from Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” On rare occasions these cases go to court, where music litigation is at an all time high. In the last ten years there have been 190 public cases, up over 350% from the prior decade, according to The George Washington University & Columbia Law School Music Copyright Infringement Resource. This story has come in and out of the news cycle in closely watched jury trials including artists like Marvin Gaye, Led Zeppelin, and Katie Perry. Historically, courts have extended copyright to only unique combinations of words and music, not rhythms, chords, instruments. But recent cases increasingly litigate the core building blocks of music. Many artists fear that a bad court outcome could let an artist copyright a “vibe” using commonly used musical language.   The question of whether someone can borrow a vibe resurfaced when Olivia Rodrigo shared songwriting credits on her hit 2021 album Sour with Taylor Swift, and comparisons have been made to the art of Courtney Love and music of Elvis Costello. Many listeners have commented on Rodrigo’s more obvious influences on social media. Viral TikTok videos compared Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U” to Paramore’s “Misery Business,” which share a common chord progression and vibe. This online campaign likely contributed to Rodrigo handing songwriting credits, also known as publishing, to Hayley Williams and Josh Farro of the band Paramore.  This week we are airing the conversation Switched On Pop’s Charlie Harding had on the podcast Decoder with host Nilay Patel who is also editor and chief of The Verge. Together we try to understand how the byzantine music copyright system works, and how its rules affect the sound of pop music today and in the future.  SONGS DISCUSSED - Spotify Playlist Sam Smith - Stay With Me Tom Petty - I Won’t Back Down  M.I.A. - Paper Planes The Clash - Straight To Hell Olivia Rodrigo - deja vu Taylor Swift - Cruel Summer Olivia Rodrigo - good 4 u Paramore - Misery Business Robin Thick, T.I., Pharrell Williams - Blurred Lines Marvin Gaye - Got To Give It Up Katy Perry, Juicy J - Dark Horse FLAME , Lecrae, John Reilly - Joyful Noise Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven Spirit - Taurus Michael Bolton - Love Is a Wonderful Thing The Isley Brothers - Love Is A Wonderful Thing Taylor Swift - Look What You Made Me Do Right Said Fred - I’m Too Sexy Doja Cat, SZA - Kiss Me More Olivia Newton-John - Physical Anne-Marie - 2002 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    CHVRCHES and the sound of 80s horror

    33:38

    CHVRCHES is well-known for their comprehensive use of synthesizers and their updated take on “synthpop”, a subgenre of pop we most closely associated with the 1980s. While gearing up to make their second album in 2015, CHVRCHES members Iain Cook and Martin Doherty spent much of the recording budget buying up many of the original synthesizers used to make those iconic 80s dance tracks. Contemporary replicas of those synth sounds are now commonplace with pop acts like Dua Lipa and The Weeknd. But CHVRCHES has been wielding these sounds for more than a decade, and their newest project is a great reminder of how closely we link that synth sound with not just to a bygone era, but specifically to the eerie sound of horror film.  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. MORE Chvrches' Lauren Mayberry: 'I will not accept online misogyny' SONGS DISCUSSED CHVRCHES - Never Ending Circles Dua Lipa - Physical The Weeknd - Blinding Lights CHVRCHES - California CHVRCHES - Lullabies CHVRCHES - Final Girl CHVRCHES - Violent Delights CHVRCHES - He Said She Said CHVRCHES - Asking For A Friend  John Carpenter - Halloween Theme Suspiria - Markos John Carpenter - Christine John Carpenter - Turning The Bones (CHVRCHES Remix) CHVRCHES - Good Girls (John Carpenter remix) CHVRHCES - How Not To Down (with Robert Smith) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    From Taylor Swift to Bon Iver, Aaron Dessner Finds Meaning in Musical Community

    27:01

    On August 27th Big Red Machine, the joint musical project of Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner - artists known for their work as Bon Iver and in the rock band The National, respectively - returned with new music. You’ve most definitely heard Dessner’s production work elsewhere, like on Taylor Swift’s pandemic albums evermore and folklore. The Big Red Machine album, titled How Long Do You Think it's Going to Last, celebrates the fruits of creative partnership and the importance of family and community. At least, that’s what we took from our conversation with Dessner. “A lot of my favorite music - usually there's something elusive about it, in that whatever is elusive is coming from this weird cocktail of different people's input. There's just this weird, swampy alchemy, and you can't easily put your finger on why it's so moving.”  Dessner told us he draws much of his creative inspiration from the kinetic energy generated by multiple musical brains working in tandem, which makes sense given the list of features on this album - everyone from Swift to Sharon van Etten to Anaïs Mitchell to The Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold. “I'm such a born collaborator. I'm definitely interested in this exchange where you make something and you send it out into the ether and then it comes back slightly changed or radically changed. Then you work on it and send it again. I like this handoff, this communal approach to music making.” The musical collective fostered by Vernon and Dessner on How Long Do You Think It's Going to Last is a testament to the power of musical communities in a year of intense isolation. We’re so pleased to bring you Nate’s conversation with Aaron Dessner in this week’s episode. Songs Discussed Big Red Machine - Birch, feat. Taylor Swift Big Red Machine - Phoenix, feat. Fleet Foxes & Anaïs Mitchell Big Red Machine - Magnolia Big Red Machine - Renegade, feat. Taylor Swift Big Red Machine - Mimi, feat. Ilsey Big Red Machine - The Ghost of Cincinnati Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    Modern Classics: Carina del Valle Schorske on Cat Power's "Manhattan"

    29:51

    Recently the hosts of Switched on Pop kept seeing the same byline next to their favorite pieces of music writing. A moving profile of Bad Bunny? There was the name. A searing critique of West Side Story? There it was again. An elegy on love, loss, and an Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson duet? By now it was committed to memory: writer and translator Carina del Valle Schorske. So we knew we had to invite Carina to participate in our Modern Classics series and learn what this brilliant writer would place in her modern pop pantheon.  Carina’s pick, the 2012 song “Manhattan” by Cat Power, presents an opportunity to analyze an artist we’ve never discussed on the show before, and a song that sparks associations with New York City’s rich musical history. Cat Power, aka Chan Marshall, released “Manhattan” on her 2012 album Sun, and the song—on which Marshall recorded every instrument herself—has become an unlikely sleeper hit in the Cat Power catalog. Perhaps that’s because, as Carina tells it, the song is a celebration and elegy at once, trying to capture the beat of a city that is constantly in flux, but with an inescapable iconicity.  “Manhattan” isn’t the only piece of urban musical alchemy Carina brought to the show. Cat Power’s ode to the borough syncs up in surprising ways with the 1978 salsa track by Willie Colón and Rubén Blades, “Buscando Guayaba.” Together, the songs stake out a twisting path across genre, time, and language, but along on the same streets. Songs Discussed Cat Power - Manhattan Rubén Blades and Willie Colón - Buscando Guayaba, Pedro Navaja Ella Fitzgerald - Manhattan Stevie Wonder - Livin’ for the City Alicia Keys and Jay Z - Empire State of Mind Check out Carina’s profile of Bad Bunny, her essay on Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson, and more writing at her website. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    The Joy of Music Festivals

    27:12

    For the past two weeks, our series on summer music festivals has uncovered the interplay of festival fashion and music and examined festival subcultures. But we've so far overlooked an essential reason that people attend music festivals: to experience transformational joy. At the start of summer 2021 it seemed like the pandemic was waning and that live music was coming back. But now, heading into the fall with the Delta variant, the fate of live music is once again in question. Caught in this limbo, we thought it might be a good time to get nostalgic and reflect on joyous music festival moments as we hope for more live music in the future.  This week's episode features seven stories from listeners about their most surprising and wonderful moments at festivals past. The first story comes from musician and producer Dave Harrington of the band Darkside, who was once helped out of a musical rut by a Phish festival set Songs Phish (live Aug 4, 2017) - Everything In Its Right Place, Axis Bold As Love, Prince Caspian Darkside - Only Young Music scored by Zach Tenorio of Arc Iris Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    The Beauty and Horror of Insane Clown Posse's Summer Festival

    35:16

    The Gathering of the Juggalos is the music festival centered around the rap duo Insane Clown Posse. Their songs are hyper-violent and profane; their stage show features grotesque clown makeup and blasting the audience with their favorite drink, Faygo soda; and their fandom has even been designated by the FBI as a loosely organized gang. Musically, they’ve historically been rejected by critics: The Guardian has called them “a magnet for ignorance;” Allmusic has called them a “third rate Beastie Boys,” and Blender called them “the worst band in music.” Nate became fascinated with them after watching the 2011 documentary American Juggalo — that’s when he realized that there’s more to Insane Clown Posse and its fans than he previously thought.  For the second episode of our summer festival series, we dig into the sound of Insane Clown Posse to ask: Is their music really as bad and offensive as all the critics say? What is the general public missing that ICP’s fans are hearing? To answer these questions, we talk to Nathan Rabin, the author of You Don't Know Me but You Don't Like Me: Phish, Insane Clown Posse, and My Misadventures with Two of Music's Most Maligned Tribes, and 7 Days In Ohio: Trump, the Gathering of the Juggalos and The Summer Everything Went Insane. Songs Discussed Insane Clown Posse - House of Horrors, Hokus Pokus, My Axes, F*** the World, Miracles, Down with the Clown Esham - The Wicketshit Will Never Die Eminem - Stay Wide Awake More Check out more of Nathan Rabin's writing Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
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    How Coachella took the Woodstock look

    25:58

    The co-hosts of The Cut, Jazmin Aguilera and B.A. Parker, think deeply and incisively about fashion. For this special episode of Switched on Pop — the first in our three-part miniseries about summer festivals — we invited the hosts of The Cut, Jazmin Aguilera and B.A. Parker, as our honorary co-hosts to help us break down the connections between festival fashion, music, and culture. With the additional help of Dr. Lorynn Divita, Associate Professor of Apparel Merchandising at Baylor University, we dissect the commercialization of festival fashion, and how it could lead to some festival goers feeling alienated from the musical experience they love. And, of course, we all discuss the iconic looks -- and performances -- of two of the most quintessential music festivals: Woodstock and Coachella. MORE 3 Days of Peace & Music & Fashion : A History of Festival Dress from Woodstock to Coachella Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

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