Switched on pop How popular music works, and why it matters

Nate Sloan, 1986-

Book - 2020

'Switched on Pop' illuminates the essential musical concepts behind two decades of chart-topping songs. The text moves through close studies of 16 modern pop classics by artists from Beyoncé to Zedd, each chapter bringing out key aspects of a particular song as well as introducing core concepts such as rhythm, melody, harmony, form, and timbre. As the work progresses, more complex concepts such as syncopation, counterpoint, rhyme, and modulation are covered, culminating in an examinat...ion of genre, identity, and musical meaning. Accessible prose and engaging illustrations break down pop hits and musical ideas in clear, jargon-free language, and point toward a new way of listening to the modern soundtrack of pop.

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Subjects
Published
New York, NY : Oxford University Press [2020]
Language
English
Physical Description
viii, 201 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780190056650
0190056657
Main Author
Nate Sloan, 1986- (author)
Other Authors
Charlie Harding, 1986- (author), Iris Gottlieb (illustrator)
  • Introduction : Switched on pop : Meter : Carly Rae Jepson-"Call me maybe"
  • Y'all don't want to hear me, you just want to dance : Meter : Outkast-"Hey ya!"
  • A star's melodic signature : Melody : Taylor Swift-"You belong with me"
  • The harmonic hero's journey : Harmony : Fun ft. Janelle Monáe-"We are young"
  • When the drop broke the pop song : Form : Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris-"We found love"
  • A voice without a face : Timbre : Sia-"Chandelier"
  • Painting a musical masterpiece : Lyric : Justin Timberlake-"What goes around...comes around"
  • What makes pop so catchy : The hook : Ariana Grande ft. Zedd-"Break free"
  • Sometimes the truth don't rhyme : Rhyme : Drake-"God's plan"
  • Drunk on rhythm : Syncopation : Kendrick Lamar-"Swimming pools (drank)"
  • Music takes you higher : Modulation : Beyoncé-"Love on top"
  • The performance of identity : Counterpoint : Britney Spears-"Oops@...I did it again"
  • Is collage a crime? : Sampling : M.I.A.-"Paper planes"
  • Shock, awe, and synthesis : Sound design : Skrillex-"Scary monsters and nice sprites"
  • Finding home in the harmonic diaspora : Tonal ambiguity : Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee-"Despacito"
  • Does pop have a sound? : Genre : Kelly Clarkson-"Since U been gone"
  • I like everything...except country and hip hop : Musical identity : Jay Z and Kanye West ft. Frank Ocean, Toby Keith-"Made in America"
  • Conclusion : The past, present, and future of silly little love songs : Paul McCartney-"Get enough".
Review by Library Journal Reviews

In 2014, Sloan (musicology, Univ. of Southern California) and songwriter Harding launched the Switched on Pop podcast to introduce audiophiles to the complex beauty of popular music. Since then, they have recorded more than 128 episodes and deconstructed everyone from Britney Spears to Elton John. Here, the duo turn their podcast into a 16-chapter manifesto on the last 20 years of popular music. From contextualizing Outkast's "Hey Ya" within the rhythmic long tail of ragtime to drawing connections between Justin Timberlake and the 12th-century troubadour Bernart de Ventadorn, the authors underscore both the musical traditions and the musical complexity from which 21st-century popular music has arisen. Along the way, terms such as tonality, syncopation, and chromaticism are defined and deconstructed with humor and a deep knowledge of musical theory. VERDICT In much the same way that Wendy Carlos's 1968 album Switched-on Bach introduced synthesizers to popular music, Sloan and Harding's ode to popular music reintroduces the Billboard Top 100 to the field of musicology and the snobbiest of vinyl collectors. A necessary addition to any music collection.—Joshua Finnell, Colgate Univ., Hamilton, NY Copyright 2019 Library Journal.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Pop music surrounds us - in our cars, over supermarket speakers, even when we are laid out at the dentist - but how often do we really hear what's playing? Switched on Pop is the book based on the eponymous podcast that has been hailed by NPR, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, and EntertainmentWeekly for its witty and accessible analysis of Top 40 hits. Through close studies of sixteen modern classics, musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding shift pop from the background to the foreground, illuminating the essential musical concepts behind two decades of chart-toppingsongs. In 1939, Aaron Copland published What to Listen for in Music, the bestseller that made classical music approachable for generations of listeners. Eighty years later, Nate and Charlie update Copland's idea for a new audience and repertoire: 21st century pop, from Britney to Beyoncé, Outkast toKendrick Lamar. Despite the importance of pop music in contemporary culture, most discourse only revolves around lyrics and celebrity. Switched on Pop gives readers the tools they need to interpret our modern soundtrack. Each chapter investigates a different song and artist, revealing musicalinsights such as how a single melodic motif follows Taylor Swift through every genre that she samples, André 3000 uses metric manipulation to get listeners to "shake it like a Polaroid picture," or Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee create harmonic ambiguity in "Despacito" that mirrors the patterns ofglobal migration.Replete with engaging discussions and eye-catching illustrations, Switched on Pop brings to life the musical qualities that catapult songs into the pop pantheon. Readers will find themselves listening to familiar tracks in new ways—and not just those from the Top 40. The timeless concepts that Nateand Charlie define can be applied to any musical style. From fanatics to skeptics, teenagers to octogenarians, non-musicians to professional composers, every music lover will discover something ear-opening in Switched on Pop.