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Switched on Pop

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Switched on Pop: How Popular Music Works, and Why it Matters
Switched on pop cover.jpg
  • Charlie Harding
  • Nate Sloan
SubjectPop music
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication date
LC ClassML3470 .S6 2020

Switched on Pop: How Popular Music Works, and Why it Matters is a 2019 nonfiction book written by Charlie Harding and Nate Sloan with illustrations provided by Iris Gottlieb.[1][2] The book covers pop music from a musicological perspective. The book gets its title from the podcast Switched on Pop which is co-hosted by Harding and Sloan and similarly analyzes pop music in a more academic style.[2]


Nate Sloan is a musicology professor at the Thornton School of Music of the University of Southern California.[1] Charlie Harding is a songwriter and a music producer.[3] Harding and Sloan started their podcast in October 2014.[4] In the podcast, which is released by Vox Media, the duo discuss and analyze the musical concepts behind popular music.[5][3] In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Harding and Sloan revealed they decided to write the book because "the book allows us to think about the things we’ve learned and put them in historical context" and because listeners wanted a "comprehensive guide to how to listen more thoughtfully."[6]


The book contains 16 chapters. Each chapter focuses on a pop song from the previous twenty years and uses it to explain a specific musical concept. For example, "Oops!... I Did It Again" by Britney Spears is used to explain counterpoint and "Paper Planes" by M.I.A. is used to highlight the historical and legal aspects of sampling.[1] "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen and "Get Enough" by Paul McCartney are also analyzed in the introduction and conclusion, respectively, without an associated musical concept.

Songs featured in Switched on Pop[7]
Musical concept Song title Artist
Meter "Hey Ya!" Outkast
Melody "You Belong with Me" Taylor Swift
Harmony "We Are Young" Fun.
Form "We Found Love" Rihanna
Timbre "Chandelier" Sia
Lyric "What Goes Around... Comes Around" Justin Timberlake
Hook "Break Free" Ariana Grande
Rhyme "God's Plan" Drake
Syncopation "Swimming Pools (Drank)" Kendrick Lamar
Modulation "Love On Top" Beyoncé
Counterpoint "Oops!... I Did It Again" Britney Spears
Sampling "Paper Planes" M.I.A.
Sound design "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" Skrillex
Tonal ambiguity "Despacito" Luis Fonsi
Genre "Since U Been Gone" Kelly Clarkson
Musical identity "Made in America" Jay-Z and Kanye West


Switched on Pop received positive reviews from critics. Hannah Giorgis of The Atlantic praised the book, writing "Switched on Pop is a far less foreboding sensory experience than 'Swimming Pools,' but it’s no less immersive."[8] Emily Bootle of the New Statesman noted that the "required understanding of music theory leads to necessarily laborious explanations, but also allows for the authors' most illuminating insights".[9] Neil Shah of The Wall Street Journal lauded the book for its "sophisticated but accessible discussion" of the selected musical tracks.[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b c McKenna, Max (January 16, 2020). "'Switched on Pop' Schools the Academy". PopMatters. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Amar, John (May 15, 2020). "Beethoven to Beyoncé: Switched on Pop Authors and Podcast Hosts Reveal the Powers of Popular Music". Houston Press. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Johnson, Ellen (December 9, 2019). "Switched On Pop Hosts Charlie Harding & Nate Sloan Tell You Why You Should Care About Pop Music in New Book". Paste. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  4. ^ Wafai, Yasmeen (January 16, 2020). "Why do the catchy lyrics always get stuck in your head? This book about pop music explains". The Seattle Times. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  5. ^ Hancock, Amanda (September 29, 2019). "Why Lewis Capaldi's sad banger 'Someone You Loved' has become an unlikely pop hit". Colorado Springs Gazette. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  6. ^ a b Shah, Neil (December 10, 2019). "The Secret Sauce Behind Pop-Music Hits". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  7. ^ Sloan, Nate; Harding, Charlie. Switched on Pop : How Popular Music Works, and Why it Matters. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. vii–viii. ISBN 978-0-190-05665-0.
  8. ^ Giorgis, Hannah (December 19, 2019). "Diving Into Pop Music's Hidden Depths". The Atlantic. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  9. ^ Bootle, Emily (January 8, 2020). "Switched On Pop: a nerdy appreciation of pop music". New Statesman. Retrieved August 21, 2020.

External links

This page was last edited on 17 February 2021, at 01:45
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