Switched On Pop

A Vulture podcast about the making and meaning of popular music hosted by musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding.

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Billboard’s ‘Hot 100’ Doesn’t Make Sense

There’s seemingly no discernible trend happening at the top of the Billboard chart. Is it actually measuring the most popular music right now?

More From Switched On Pop

  1. The Jonas Brothers Went Full Dad Rock on The Album“We’re a band, and it’s band music.”
  2. Let’s Give a Close Listen to Eurovision 2023’s Six Front-runnersAll of the song contest’s odds-on favorites are over-the-top, but only one of them is way, way over.
  3. More Drake AI Songs Are ComingThey’re easier to make than you think.
  4. For 100 Gecs, This Is What Sincerity Sounds Like“We’re not gonna make music that we think is bad.”
  5. ‘Kiss From a Rose’ Wasn’t Made to Be a Classic“It shouldn’t really work, if you start to get analytical about it. But somehow it does,” says Seal. “It’s kind of against all odds.”
  6. The L.A. Guitar Shop Reinventing Indie FolkEveryone from Taylor Swift to Phoebe Bridgers is on an Old Style kick.
  7. Cuddle Up to the Sweet, Soft Sounds of Sapphic PopTegan and Sara, King Princess, and even Hozier soundtrack a feeling of femme4femme yearning.
  8. You Haven’t Heard ‘Stayin’ Alive’ Like This BeforeScary Pockets and Lizzy McAlpine show how they put a distinct spin on the Bee Gees classic.
  9. How Midnights Sonically Convinces Us That Taylor Swift Actually Broke CurfewHint: With the help of “a very low, almost boiling bass patch that adds an air of discomfort to whatever it accompanies.”
  10. Something Good Is About to Happen to Steve LacyHis songs “Dark Red” and “Bad Habit” soundtrack hundreds of thousands of TikToks, and his popularity is only building from there.
  11. Is Releasing an Album a Painful Breakup or a Beautiful Link to the World?Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath talks to Maggie Rogers, Jeff Tweedy, Bartees Strange, and Katie Gavin about the emotional difficulty of releasing a record.
  12. Santigold Was Combusting From the Pressures of LifeCreating her new album, Spirituals, was “my way to escape and create some beauty and light to grasp onto and move toward.”
  13. Lady Gaga Loves Her Pequeños MonstruosA brief timeline of the Latin music touches in Mother Monster’s catalogue.
  14. Pop Music Is Regurgitating Itself Faster Than EverPublishers are pumping up the value of their expansive — and expensive — catalogues by feeding artists old hits to regurgitate as new ones.
  15. If There’s Still Such a Thing as the ‘Song of Summer,’ This Year’s Is …Beyoncé? Lizzo? Harry Styles? Bad Bunny? (Kate Bush?) Or all and none of the above?
  16. Blackpink Knows You Gon’ Like That Song (and That-That-That-That One Too)The group’s new single slides right into the summer’s soundtrack of big samples and reinterpretations.
  17. Demi Lovato Knows All the Highs and ‘Whoas’ of Pop PunkOn “Substance,” she flexes her intimate familiarity with the genre.
  18. What Kelis’s ‘Milkshake’ Was Bringing to Beyoncé’s ‘Energy’A musicological breakdown of Renaissance’s most controversial sample.
  19. Doja Cat’s ‘Vegas’ Is a ‘Hound Dog’ History LessonHer single borrows from Big Mama Thornton, Elvis, and others who have recorded the classic.
  20. How Abortion-Rights Chants Became an AnthemThe moment the singer MILCK heard “We won’t go back” during a protest, she knew she had the makings of a song.
  21. Harry’s House Is Powered by Harry’s HornsHarry Styles’s recent album taps into the 1980s and the percussive, full-bodied horn sections of that era.
  22. The House Music That Beyoncé BuiltHer new single, “Break My Soul,” taps into the genre’s long, vibrant history.
  23. The Point Guard of Winning Time’s Score Sees Jazz in BasketballNicholas Britell brought charts to record the show’s score. Robert Glasper, his co-composer, doesn’t get down like that: “I was like, ‘Hell no.’”
  24. Kate Bush, Running Up Those ChartsA deal with God, a vortex of nostalgia, and Stranger Things’ needle drop for the ages.
  25. So Your Song Went Viral on TikTok. What’s Next?While stars see the platform as a chore, it’s a lifeline for new acts.
  26. Latto and Mariah Carey’s Big ‘Genius’ EnergyExploring the post-punk origins of a fantasical pop smash.
  27. Mr. Morale & the Big SamplesBreaking down the sonic bread crumbs of Kendrick Lamar’s latest album.
  28. PJ Morton Made Nas’s Dream Come TrueAfter the rapper name-dropped Stevie Wonder on a panel, a fortuitous beat slid his way.
  29. Will Ukraine Win Eurovision This Year?Its entry, written before the Russian invasion, has become a beacon of national pride and is the odds-on favorite to take home the glass microphone.
  30. Belle and Sebastian Fear Accordions But Not Their ReputationBand leader Stuart Murdoch: “We might be deeply uncool and a little bit fey, but we ain’t going anywhere.”
  31. Batman Isn’t the Only Person Brooding to ’90s AlternativeNirvana’s “Something In The Way” recently hit the Hot 100 alongside songs that are clearly borrowing grunge-era sounds.
  32. 6 Steps to Writing a Buzzy SingleAllison Ponthier gives a tour of her songwriting journal and the process she used to write her new song, “Autopilot.”
  33. Slow Build, Fast RiseWith a Gospel-tinged sound and collective of contributors, Maverick City Music has released 17 genre-spanning albums in 4 years.
  34. The Vocal Turbulence of Britney’s ‘Gimme More’The thick manipulation of her singing matched what was happening in her personal life.
  35. The Writers of Britney’s ‘Toxic’ Worried It Was Too ‘Weird’ to Be a HitThey were wrong.
  36. When Britney Needed a New Sound, the Neptunes Delivered“I’m a Slave 4 U” marked the beginning of a new Spears era.
  37. Haters Misunderstood What Made Britney’s ‘Baby Voice’ GreatHer technique was pure artistry, no “Oops” about it.
  38. ‘I’m a Big Fan of Uncomfortable Space on Records’Khruangbin and Leon Bridges took a less-is-more approach when making their latest EP, Texas Moon.
  39. Enjoying Emotional Overload With Sylvan EssoThe Grammy-nominated duo discuss their intoxicating, body-moving sound.
  40. We Just Had to Talk About ‘Bruno’Figuring out why everyone loves the doomy-gloomy Encanto song that became Disney’s first chart-topper in 19 years.
  41. Elvis Costello’s Aim Remains True, 32 Albums InPlus, riffs on everything from Olivia Rodrigo’s songs being “how rock and roll works” to passing on a chance to write for Adele.
  42. Behold the Indie K-pop StarWith his new album There and Back Again, Eric Nam searches for footing outside the industry machine.
  43. The Weeknd’s Dawn FM Is a Dirge, a Mirror, and an Echo, Echo, EchoThe pop star compellingly regurgitates past hits to soundtrack the grim present and future of celebrity.
  44. Which New-Gen Christmas Songs Have Us Shouting Out With Glee?Making a list of recent holiday tracks and checking it twice to find out what we’ll be singing in December for years to come.
  45. Tai Verdes Started From the Bottom (of His Building, Literally the Basement)Now the TikTok star is here, selling out a tour and performing at Lollapalooza.
  46. Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, ‘Beautiful Nugget’ HuntersThe Grammy-decorated duo reflects on the wide array of influences at work on their latest album Raise the Roof.
  47. How Many Let It Be Reissues Does It Take for the Beatles to Get the Vibe Right?Fifty years and two documentaries later, it looks like the answer is “at least four.”
  48. Snotty Nose Rez Kids Revel in a Beautiful Blend of Rap and Indigenous CultureAs Young D from the First Nations hip hop duo explains, “In hip hop, you have the MC. Well, we have our storytellers.”
  49. New ABBA, Just Like the Old ABBA (and Then Some!)Figuring out what makes the band tick on the occasion of Voyage, their first album in 40 years.
  50. The Healing Power of PopWe know that music gets us through hard times, but let’s look a little into the science and craft of why.
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