Podcast: Switched On Pop

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Pop music surrounds us, but how often do we really listen to what we’re hearing? Switched on Pop is the podcast that pulls back the curtain on pop music. Each episode, join musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding as they reveal the secret formulas that make pop songs so infectious. By figuring out how pop hits work their magic, you’ll fall in love with songs you didn’t even know you liked.
switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Pop3 days ago
In the year 2000, D'Angelo released Voodoo—with some help from Questlove, Angie Stone, Raphael Saadiq, and a band of jazz veterans—an album that has cast a long shadow with its unique sound of stripped-down soul, Faith Pennick, who literally wrote the book on the record, joins to break how D'Angelo broke the "shiny suit" regime of R&B, explore how he conjured the spirits of J Dilla, Prince, and Roberta Flack, and consider how one video almost derailed his career.
Check out D'Angelo's Voodoo by Faith Pennick, from Bloomsbury's 33 1/3 Series

Songs discussed:

D'Angelo - The Line, The Root, Spanish Joint, Chicken Grease, Untitled (How Does it Feel)

Rev JC Burnett - Amazing Grace

Prince - Kiss

Justin Timberlake - Damn Girl

Thundercat - Them Changes

Slum Village - CB4

Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola - There Used to be a Nightclub There

Roy Hargrove - Strasbourg / St. Denis

Solange - Cranes in the Sky

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D’Angelo and the Legacy of Voodoo (with Faith Pennick), Vox
switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Pop10 days ago
With Nate’s birthday around the corner, it’s time to admit that our go-to birthday song is actually the worst to sing to someone. There are reasons both musicological and cultural why this wooden celebratory number needs to go, ranging from funereal rhythms to Wagnerian opera to the Wizard of Oz. Tune in to uncover the horror of “Happy Birthday” and consider some of the alternatives on offer, including a recent Anne-Marie hit that takes birthday wishes and turns them around 180º.

Songs Discussed
Frédéric Chopin - Piano Sonata No 2 in B-Flat Minor, III
John Williams - The Imperial March
Judy Garland - Over the Rainbow
Richard Wagner - Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde
The Beatles - Birthday
Anne-Marie - Birthday
Fetty Wap ft. Monty - Birthday
Stevie Wonder - Happy Birthday
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"Happy Birthday" is the Worst (with Anne-Marie), Vox
switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Pop17 days ago
Latin Trap megastar Bad Bunny may be best known to American audiences for his feature on Cardi B’s #1 “I Like It’, but the Puerto Rican native is known to music-lovers worldwide for more than just those few bars. Bunny started off as a student in Universidad de Puerto Rico studying audio visual communications. He was bagging groceries at a supermarket in PR when he posted his song ‘Diles’ on SoundCloud. That moody, 808-fueled track turned into a record deal, as well as huge feature opportunities with bigger acts like Becky G, and of course--Cardi. His newest project, YHLQMDLG (an acronym that stands for the Spanish translation of “I do what I want”) is currently smothering the Hot Latin Billboard Chart. The albums opening track, "Si Veo a Tu Mamá" had us listening to the origins of Bossa nova, and investigate how elevator music-sounding samples and overused chord progressions add up to latin trap magic for El Conejito Malo.
Special thanks to Bad Bunny super fan and listener Maita, for never giving up hope :)

Songs discussed:
Bad Bunny - Diles
Becky G ft. Bad Bunny - Mayores
Cardi B ft. Bad Bunny, J Balvin - I Like It
Bad Bunny ft. Drake - MIA
Bad Bunny - Si Veo a tu Mamá
Antônio Carlos Jobim - The Girl From Ipanema
Bad Bunny - Soliá
Bad Bunny ft. Kendo Kaponi, Arcangel - P FKN R
Bad Bunny ft. Jowell & Randy, Nengo Flow - Safeara
Missy Elliot - Get Ur Freak On
Bad Bunny - <3
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Bad Bunny Has A Message For Your Mom, Vox
switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Pop24 days ago
Gone are the days of a clear dividing line between “mainstream pop” and “conscious” music. Many of the world’s highest-grossing pop stars are climbing the charts with lyrics that seem to get right at the very weight of human existence. They’re tackling climate change, and drug addiction, crippling anxiety, inequality, sexism and racism. It’s a fascinating shift to witness.
That’s why this week, we’re especially thrilled to be chatting with folk-pop duo Overcoats. JJ Mitchell and Hana Elion are known for otherworldly harmonies that sound more like a single voice diverging in two rather than the other way around. We discuss two singles off their new album “The Fight” (out now), and reflect on how seemingly small decisions about a song’s arrangement can make things like anxiety and microaggressions feel a bit easier to carry. Here’s a teaser quote from the episode that we’ll be thinking about for a while:
“We often use repetition as a way of saying something until you believe it...that’s very true for this song as well. We’re singing ‘There’s a fire / There’s a fury’...it feels apocalyptic. But the more you say ‘We’ll get through it’ and the more voices join in, it starts to feel true, and starts to feel hopeful.”

SONGS DISCUSSED
Overcoats - The Fool
Overcoats - Fire & Fury
The Supremes - Stop In The Name Of Love
LCD Soundsystem - Watch The Tapes
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The Fire & Fury Of Overcoats, Vox
switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Poplast month
This week, Charlie talks to Lauv, the singer, songwriter and producer behind unfailingly catchy tracks such as “Mean It” and “I Like Me Better.” Lauv’s a master at making the sad feel fun—masking themes of anxiety and betrayal with upbeat, percussive production. He even does a bit of the opposite, too, by infusing his joyful songs with vulnerability and emotional complexity. You’ll soon be able to hear all of that and more on his debut studio album, ~how I’m feeling~, out later this week. Our conversation explores Lauv’s song-making process and touches on everything from T Swift (Lauv counts himself a fan), “mind” rhymes, and the particular nuances of loneliness in the internet age. Today’s episode also features the voices of some of our wonderful listeners--special thanks to Katy, Sadie, Robert, Genevieve, Keen and everyone else who wrote in with questions for Lauv.
Songs Discussed:

Lauv with Anne-Marie - fuck, i'm lonely

Lauv & LANY - Mean It

Lauv - I Like Me Better

Lauv & Troye Sivan - i’m so tired...

Lauv - Changes

Lauv - Modern Loneliness

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Can't Help Falling in Lauv (the interview), Vox
switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Poplast month
When Bristol-based producer Laxcity logged onto Twitter to find out that Justin Bieber sampled his music, he was at first unphased. The sampled material came from a royalty-free sample pack on Splice.com, free for Splice users to add to their track. Then accusations of theft started rolling in. Another artist, Asher Monroe, had used the same sample just a few weeks earlier and he accused Bieber of copying the idea. Laxcity inserted himself into the argument to show that the so-called offending sound, was in fact his, but not limited to anyone’s use. This mixup led to Bieber shouting out Laxcity, giving the nascent producer a career boost. On his episode we speak with Laxcity, Splice CEO Steve Martocci, PEX COO Amadea Choplin and Verge reporter Dani Deahl (who first reported the story) to unpack how sampling works in today’s music. Then we hear how Beiber’s new album, “Changes,” interprets the sample to convey Bieber’s personal evolution in the public eye.
Songs Discussed
Laxcity - Good Morning (Splice Sample)
Asher Monroe - Synergy
Justin Bieber - Running Over, Sorry, Available, Yummy, Intentions
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What Happens When Justin Bieber Samples Your Music, Vox
switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Poplast month
In 2019 guitar made a comeback in the top 10. According to analysis from Hit Songs Deconstructed, about a third of all songs featured the electric guitar, a nearly 10% jump from the year before. In 2020 this trend isn’t stopping. Recent releases by Halsey, 5 Seconds of Summer and Joji all prominently feature electric guitars tones. They reference 90s nu-metal, grunge and metal genres. More than a nostalgic nod, these songs draw from an era that was self-consciously “alternative” to convey disaffection, frustration and longing.

SONGS DISCUSSED

Khalid, Normani - Love Lies

Juice WRLD - Lucid Dreams

Halsey - Without Me

Joji - Slow Dancing In The Dark

Joji - Run

Metallica - Enter Sandman

Santo & Jonny - Sleep Walk

Chuck Berry - Johnny B. Goode

Buddy Holly - That’ll Be The Day

LCD Soundsystem - Losing My Edge

5 Seconds Of Summer - No Shame

Nirvana - Come As You Are

Halsey - Experiment On Me

Rage Against The Machine - Bulls On Parade

Limp Bizkit - Break Stuff

MORE
Listen to our conversation about MIA’s “Paper Planes” and Drake’s “God’s Plan” with Sam Sanders on NPR’s It’s Been A Minute
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Return Of The Guitar: Halsey, 5 Seconds of Summer, Joji, Vox
switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Pop2 months ago
The boy band One Direction has been on hiatus for nearly five years, yet only now have all of the members of the group released a solo album. But how do these efforts from Niall, Liam, Harry, Louis and Zayn stack up? Vox Writer (and One Direction fan) Alexa Lee compares albums as a challenge for each member to rise to their greatest artistic potential.
SONGS DISCUSSED

Zayn - Let Me

Zayn - Entertainer

Niall Horan - Nice To Meet You

Niall Horan - Put A Little Love On Me

Liam Payne - Strip That Down

Liam Payne - Hips Don't Lie

Louis Tomlinson - Walls

Louis Tomlinson - Kill My Mind

Harry Styles - Adore You

Harry Styles - Watermelon Sugar

Harry Styles - Cherry

MORE
Read Alexa’s piece “2 winners and 3 losers from One Direction’s solo albums”
Listen to Nate convince Charlie to love One Direction in an early episode of Switched On Pop
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switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Pop2 months ago
Selena Gomez has her first #1 song on the Hot 100. “Lose You To Love Me” is a confessional look at her past five years of heartbreak and health challenges. By contrast, her single “Look At Her Now” is a testament to moving on and moving up. Each of these songs inhabits a different musical and lyrical world and we were lucky to get to speak with her collaborators on the songs to take us behind the scenes of how they came to be. Justin Tranter and Ian Kirkpatrick are two of today’s most in-demand writers. They walk us through how Selena takes her personal emotions and translates them into public catharsis on her album “Rare.”
Songs Discussed

Selena Gomez - Vulnerable, Lose You To Love Me, Look At Her Now

Crash Test Dummies - Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmmm

Dua Lipa - New Rules

More
Watch Selena Gomez interviewed by Zane Lowe on Beats One.
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switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Pop2 months ago
Post Malone has confounded your hosts since he emerged on the scene, so this week we sit down to try and get to the bottom of our cycles of attraction and repulsion through deep analysis of his current hit, "Circles." Along the way, we discuss trenchant questions such as: How is the minor IV always the saddest of all chords? Why does Posty tend to sound like a certain ruminant mammal? And, what happens when you plug Tchaikovsky into a Wu Tang name generator?
Songs Discussed:

Post Malone - Circles, Rockstar, Stay, Congratulations, Candy Paint,

Fleetwood Mac - Landslide

Tchaikovsky - Symphony No 6, Finale

And don't forget to enter the Wu Tang Name Generator
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Post Malone has us Running in Circles, Vox
switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Pop2 months ago
Mac Miller, Future and Billie Eilish all have good and bad news to share. On Miller’s posthumous album, Circles, he exposes personal struggles with fame, addiction, and mental illness — sobering topics given his unintentional drug overdose last year. Yet at the same time we hear him searching for “good news,” practicing self care and accepting that “there's a whole lot more” waiting. Future & Drake’s celebration of material excess also finds them “working on the weekend” just to keep up appearances. Similarly, Billie Eilish has achieved “everything [she] wanted,” but dreams of death and darkness overwhelm her. But she’s buoyed by the support of her brother FINNEAS. Many pop songs are about a single emotion: love, heartbreak or exuberant joy. But these great songs evoke more complex emotions, existing somewhere in a liminal space between our hopes and fears.
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switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Pop3 months ago
Dua Lipa remembers the disco era in her hit “Don’t Start Now.” What may sound like just another dance floor track, upon deeper listening unfolds as a celebration of the genre. References to Gloria Gaynor, Chic, Giorgio Moroder and the Bee Jees are all waiting here for the curious listener to uncover. But so are the Italian and Daft Punk inspired bass lines. Yet the song is more than just one big disco ball cliché. It is brilliantly written too. We asked our listeners to help us highlight the best moments of the song as this is a song that continues to sound anew upon each playback. In 2020, the influence of Disco is still very much alive and Dua Lip’s “Don’t Start Now,” written with Caroline Ailin, Emily Warren and Ian Kirkpatrick, is a shining example of a great contemporary disco track.
Songs Discussed

Dua Lipa - Don’t Start Now

Gloria Gaynor - Staying Alive

Chic - Good Times

Giorgio Mordoer - Baby Blue

The Bee Gees - You Should Be Dancing

The Michael Zager Band - Let’s All Chant

MFSP - TSOP

Todd Terje - Strandbar Piano

Fred Falke and Alan Brav - Intro

Daft Punk - Voyager

Ryan Paris - Dolce Vita

Madison Avenue - Don’t Call Me Baby

Marvin Gaye - Got To Give It Up

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Dua Lipa’s Disco Fever, Vox
switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Pop3 months ago
The sound of R&B is difficult to pin down. Since the 1950s, the label has been used both as a genre and as a catch-all for the entirety of black popular music. Soul, funk, disco and even hip-hop have at times been covered by this "R&B" umbrella. On Chance The Rapper's new album, The Big Day, all of these influences come through—and he's not alone. On recent Kehlani records, 90s R&B and 2000s trap both play a role. But both these artists are a far cry from the 50s R&B sounds of Sam Cooke. To understand how R&B has changed over time, we consult with Trevor Anderson, manager of Billboard's R&B/Hip Hop chart. Then we speak with R&B super-producer Oak Felder to understand how R&B is progressing and what it might become.
Songs Discussed
Chance The Rapper – Hot Shower
Chance The Rapper – I Got You
Sam Cooke – You Send Me
Elvis Presley – Crying In the Chapel
The Temptations – I Can’t Get Next To You
Mtume – Juicy Fruit
Biggie – Juicy
Toni Braxton – Breath Again
Janet Jackson – That’s The Way Love Goes
Boys II Men – I’ll Make Love To You
Lauryn Hill – Doo Wop (That Thing)
Diddy – I’ll Be Missing You (feat. Faith Evans & 112)
Nelly – Dilemma
Kehlani – Distraction
SWV – Weak
Aaron Hall – I Miss You
Usher – You Make Me Wanna
Brandy – Sit-in Up In My Room
Dru Hill – In My Bed
Silk – Freak Me
Demi Lovato – Sorry Not Sorry
Jodeci – Cry For you
Mariah Carey – Vision of Love
Kehlani Everything Is Yours
Chance The Rapper – All Day Long
Queen – Fat Bottom Girls
Diana Ross – I’m Coming Out

For an in depth history of R&B on Billboard, read Chris Molanphy's feature on Pitchfork.
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switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Pop3 months ago
On a trajectory to be one of the biggest pop stars for this generation, seventeen year old Billie Eilish is not, however, your typical pop star. Her music speaks to the real anxieties of young people without any veneer. She sings from the perspective of monsters and villains. Her hushed voice, baggy style, and direct demeanor subvert the norms of the pop princess. And her music is dark, but still catchy. Billie co-writes and produces her sound with her older brother Finneas O’Connell. Together this family duo have crafted the second biggest selling album of 2019, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” On this episode, we examine how Billie and Finneas crafted a cultural phenomenon, why their message speaks to this generation, and we speak with Finneas about the creation of their hit song “Bad Guy.”

MORE

Watch Billie and Finneas break down “Bury A Friend” on The New York TimesBillie Eilish – Ocean Eyes

Billie Eilish – Bored

Billie Eilish – You Should See Me In A Crown

Billie Eilish – Bad Guy

Billie Eilish – Bury A Friend

Marilyn Manson – The Beautiful People

The Doors – People Are Strange

Nine Inch Nails – Closer

Billie Eilish – ilomilo

Billie Eilish – All Good Girls Go To Hell

Billie Eilish – Xanny

Frank Sinatra – Dream A Dream

Billie Eilish – I love you

John Carpenter – Halloween Theme

Billie Eilish – Bellyache

MORE
Billie Eilish explained on Vox.com
Watch Billie and Finneas break down “Bury A Friend” on The New York Times
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switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Pop3 months ago
There are icons, and then there’s Dolly Parton. The country singer-turned-actress-turned-cultural phenomenon has produced a nearly unparalleled body of work, in both quantity (Parton is the sole or co-author of more than three thousand songs) and in legacy. Despite releasing her first album over 60 years ago, Parton’s songs are still covered and performed live by today’s pop artists. Presidential candidates are still selecting her songs as official walk-on music. So what is it exactly that makes her music so enduring? Today, we select four essential Dolly songs for dissection and try to answer that big question with the help of composer, longtime radio-maker and host of the new hit podcast, Dolly Parton’s America--Jad Abumrad. Whether or not you identify as a Dolly Parton fan, or even a country music fan, we think you’ll love this one.
Songs discussed

Dolly Parton - Dumb Blonde

Dolly Parton - Down from Dover

Dolly Parton - Jolene

Dolly Parton - Light of a Clear Blue Morning

Kesha - Praying

Mariah Carey - Hero

Andra Day - Rise Up

Dolly Parton - 9 to 5

Stevie Wonder - I Wish

Dolly Parton - Mule Skinner Blues

Thanks to Jad, producer Shima Oliaee and the rest of the Dolly Parton’s America team. You can check out the eight episodes they’ve released so far, and keep an eye out for the final one at www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/dolly-partons-america.
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Dolly Parton's America (with Jad Abumrad), Vox
switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Pop4 months ago
Bass distorted to the edge of audibility; voices croaking out dark and violent lyrics; a hacked-together DIY aesthetic. This isn't a fringe musical movement, this is the sound of TikTok, the video app used by millions in Generation Z. And soon enough it might also be the sound of pop as we know it. Cat Zhang from Pitchfork stops by to clue us into the sonic reality of music's newest platform, from Gordon Ramsay to pumpkins screaming in the dead of night.

Songs Discussed

Savage Ga$p, 93FEETOFSMOKE - Pumpkins scream in the dead of night

haroinfather, Savage Ga$sp - Tunnel of Love

Arizona Zervas - ROXANNE

HL Wave, Jhonny Flames - Gordon Ramsay

Hooligan Chase - Asshole

Comethazine - Walk

Peter Kuli, Jed Will - ok boomer

Young Spool, Jakob - WTF

Check out Cat's article The Anatomy of a TikTok Hit on Pitchfork
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Who's Afraid of the Sound of TikTok? (w Cat Zhang), Vox
switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Pop4 months ago
We hand over the hosting duties to Constance Grady, book reviewer for Vox.com, to discuss our new book/baby - Switched on Pop: How Popular Music Works and Why it Matters, and go deep on two specific concepts we haven’t touched nearly enough on the show: timbre (with the help of Sia’s “Chandelier) and sampling (via M.I.A.’s iconic “Paper Planes). The book of course goes further, devoting a full chapter each to sixteen different concepts we’ve explored on the show (think harmony, modulation, syncopation, genre), and pairing those concepts with the pop tracks that really bring them to life.
There are so many people who helped us get this thing from concept to bound stack of papers that you can hold in your hands, but right now, right here, we want to shout out: our listeners. You all shape the show every week by suggesting incredible episode ideas and recommending songs for us to break down. You also inspired this book, when you asked us year in and year out for a definitive guide to the essential musical knowledge necessary to understand contemporary pop. We hope you like it, and know that your emails, tweets and analysis continue to delight and inspire us to no end.

SONGS DISCUSSED

Carly Rae Jepsen - Call Me Maybe

Sia - Chandelier

M.I.A. - Paper Planes

MORE
Switched on Pop: How Popular Music Works and Why it Matters is available now! Find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound or buy directly from Oxford University Press.
Book illustrations by the indomitable Iris Gottlieb: https://www.irisgottlieb.com/
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switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Pop4 months ago
The East Coast / West Coast hip hop feud between Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls is full of tragedy and conspiracy, but what did it really sound like? For the third season of of the hit podcast Slow Burn, host Joel Anderson and producer Christopher Johnson dig up untold stories about this infamous rivalry, and they join Nate and Charlie to break down boom bap, G Funk, and the surprising points of overlap between two titans of rap.
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Prelude & Feud on a 'G' Thang: Biggie vs Tupac, Vox
switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Pop4 months ago
Electric Guest (Asa Taccone and Matthew Compton) take a left turn towards pop on “Dollar" — a song about making more out of less, something too many people find themselves to do right now. The music follows the same principle, turning cheap synths and canned horns into a symphony of sound. We chat with Asa about how the track — equally inspired by Stevie Wonder and Bertolt Brecht —came to be and why pop can be a balm in dark times.

Songs Featured
Electric Guest - Dollar
Stevie Wonder - Uptight (Everything's Alright)
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Pop is the Sound We Need Right Now (with Electric Guest), Vox
switchedonpop
switchedonpopadded an audiobook to the bookshelfPodcast: Switched On Pop4 months ago
Nate doesn’t know much about the musical style known as emo. Sadly, he was too busy nerding out on jazz during his youthful years to catch the moment. That’s a shame, because emo is experiencing a revival right now - most surprisingly within the world of hip hop. All of which leaves Nate in the awkward position of not really having any idea what’s going on, so thank goodness for some schooling by Vox culture reporter Allegra Frank, who spent her teenage years the right way: getting emotional to the soundtrack of emo. Her first lesson about this endlessly fascinating subculture? It’s way more than just a sound.

Songs discussed:
Sunny Day Real Estate - Seven
Jawbreaker - Do You Still Hate Me?!
My Chemical Romance - I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
Fall Out Boy - Sugar, We’re Goin Down
Panic! At the Disco - I Write Sins not Tragedies
Jimmy Eat World - Lucky Denver Mint
Jimmy Eat World - A Praise Chorus
Jimmy Eat World - The Middle
American Football - Never Meant
Foxing - Lich My Prince
The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - Heartbeat in the Brain

Check out more of Allegra’s work here: https://www.vox.com/authors/allegra-frank
And learn more about Tom Mullen and Washed Out Emo here: http://www.washedupemo.com/about
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The Past, Present, and Future of EMO (with Allegra Frank), Vox
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