Best Arts & Culture podcast Webby 2020 winner about the making and meaning of popular music. Musicologist Nate Sloan & songwriter Charlie Harding pull back the curtain on how pop hits work magic on our ears & our culture. From Vulture and the Vox Media Podcast Network.

Popular episodes

L’Rain asks “what have you done to change?” (live at JBL)

Jul 23 • 26:12

L’Rain is the musical persona of the singer and multi-instrumentalist Taja Cheek. Her new album Fatigue begins with a lyrical quandary: “what have you done to change?” The music that follows takes us on a journey of self discovery with songs interwoven with home recordings of practicing piano, clapping games, and everyday life....

Summer Hits: City Girls - Twerkulator (with Kyra Gaunt)

Jul 20 • 24:25

One of the songs we anticipate playing on repeat this summer is “Twerkulator” by Miami rap duo City Girls. It’s a track with enough sonic energy to power a small town, but that’s not all we dig. The song’s music includes a chain of samples that stretch back through pop music history—from 1990s house, to 1980s electro, to 1970s German krautrock—and poses an implicit challen...

Summer Hits: Lorde - Solar Power (w Hanif Abdurraqib)

Jul 16 • 31:05

Lorde's new song "Solar Power" set the internet ablaze when it dropped from out of nowhere in June. Some fans found the song to be a buoyant departure from Lorde's last release, Melancholy, while others thought the track felt half-baked. On top of that, listeners questioned the song's provenance — had Lorde cribbed too closely from 90s hitmakers like Primal Scream and Geor...

Summer Hits: Olivia Rodrigo - good 4 u (with Jessica Hopper)

Jul 13 • 35:01

Olivia Rodrigo’s summer breakup anthem “good 4 u” is filled with the kind of ebullient angst that makes us want to spontaneously dance around our house and belt the lyrics out with abandon. Whether it’s the creeping baseline that pulls us in, or the cathartic release of the chorus, we can’t get enough of this track. And we’re not alone, it seems. The song debuted at #1 on ...

Growing Pains with Lucy Dacus

Jul 2 • 32:03

Growing up is never easy. But pop songs about adolescence too often gloss over the complicated moments. The “teenage dream” archetype is just a pop culture fantasy. And no one really wants to be 17 forever. ...

Summer Hits: BTS - Butter (with Jenna Andrews)

Jun 29 • 36:10

In summer 2020, BTS released “Dynamite,” their first single recorded entirely in English. The song shot up the charts, became one of the most successful YouTube videos in history, and won over pop radio, which had stubbornly refused to play their songs in Korean. Now in summer 2021, BTS have topped themselves again with “Butter,” yet another English language bop that melts...

Pop’s Worst Kept Secret ft. Emily Warren

Jun 22 • 28:33

In 1974 country music, singer songwriter, Dolly Parton got wind that Elvis Presley wanted to record her new song, “I Will Always Love You.“ According to Dolly, the deal fell through when Elvis's manager demanded 50% of the publishing revenue. Dolly refused, released the song herself, and years later arranged a more equitable deal with Whitney Houston, who of course made it...

40 Years Later, Japanese City Pop is Still Crashing the Charts (with Cat Zhang)

Jun 15 • 31:06

If you listen to a lot of music on YouTube, you may have been recommended a video. The thumbnail image is a striking black-and-white photo of a Japanese singer named Mariya Takeuchi. The song, “Plastic Love,” is a lush disco track with deep groove, impeccable string and horn arrangements, and a slow-burn vocal performance from Takeuchi. When the song was released in 1979, ...

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