hits counter Switched on Pop: How Popular Music Works, and Why It Matters - Ebook PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Switched on Pop: How Popular Music Works, and Why It Matters

Availability: Ready to download

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 Entertainment Weekly for its witty and accessible analysis of Top 40 hits. Through close studies 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 Entertainment Weekly 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-topping songs. 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 Beyonc�, Outkast to Kendrick 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 musical insights such as how a single melodic motif follows Taylor Swift through every genre that she samples, Andr� 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 of global 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 waysand not just those from the Top 40. The timeless concepts that Nate and 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.


Compare

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 Entertainment Weekly for its witty and accessible analysis of Top 40 hits. Through close studies 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 Entertainment Weekly 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-topping songs. 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 Beyonc�, Outkast to Kendrick 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 musical insights such as how a single melodic motif follows Taylor Swift through every genre that she samples, Andr� 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 of global 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 waysand not just those from the Top 40. The timeless concepts that Nate and 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.

30 review for Switched on Pop: How Popular Music Works, and Why It Matters

  1. 5 out of 5

    Miles Robinson

    It's difficult to rate this book, as I found myself wondering at various points if I wasn't the target audience, which I ended up believing is someone with little to no music literacy. I also wondered if the task at hand—distilling somewhat complex musical concepts through the text medium, while simultaneously addressing broader critiques of the pop-industrial complex—was simply too ambitious for 166 pages. Thinking I could go into this book knowing "How Popular Music Works" and learn the "Why I It's difficult to rate this book, as I found myself wondering at various points if I wasn't the target audience, which I ended up believing is someone with little to no music literacy. I also wondered if the task at hand—distilling somewhat complex musical concepts through the text medium, while simultaneously addressing broader critiques of the pop-industrial complex—was simply too ambitious for 166 pages. Thinking I could go into this book knowing "How Popular Music Works" and learn the "Why It Matters" part, I bit. I ended the book feeling my theory about the audience was true, and probably not to the detriment of those curious about music theory—after all, the musical definitions all tend to be plain-language, and the diagrams, while sometimes misleading or unnecessary, would likely lend themselves to a beginner wrapping their head around a concept like syncopation. However, with respect to critiques that address popular music's role in co-opting (and defanging) cultural movements, its propensity to perpetuate the wealth of record execs at the expense of new artists, and even the alienation and destruction it can wreak on the lives of it's most "successful" stories, the authors seem to fall firmly onto the comforting notion that pop is an elevating force that can seemingly do no wrong. The most common approach they use to counter those notions is to embed smaller, one-off critiques ("Sia using a patois is appropriation", "female artists tend to be scrutinized more for using the same performance techniques as men", etc.), that by themselves would make compelling essays. But it becomes clear the authors' concern is only perfunctory, as any socio-political commentary is itself clearly appropriated, and never exceeds more than a paragraph of length in any of the chapters/essays within the book. The authors, after performing their duty, happily return to their unquestioning thesis that Drake's use of identity rhyme makes him like John Keats. The authors betray their lack of concern with addressing any deeper critique of pop by refusing to connect individual points into a broader narrative. This sort of sterile handling of "difficult" topics, allows them to quickly get back to freely expounding on how, since some popular art shares some qualities with some old dead white guy art, (and all old dead white guy art is good) then all popular art must be good, right? I'll give it to them that their chapter on sampling and M.I.A. at least acknowledges some radical notions, as a consequence of the topic at hand, but again, these ideas barely resonate throughout the rest of the book. Without much exaggeration, every other passage of the book that doesn't concern a specific musical concept or techinque can be roughly categorized as follows: 1) Excessive praise of Max Martin 2) Patronizing comparisons of pop producers to European classical composers The latter is really one of the more aggressive sins. At one point the authors claim Taylor Swift would have stood up to the censorship of Stalin's government simply because composer Prokofiev and she both produced works which retold (and altered the ending of) Romeo and Juliet. Another time they claim "... the [...] chord progression in 'Despacito' [...] caused music theorists to rethink notions about tonality that have held strong for almost 300 years." Maybe these are tongue-in-cheek statements that could have worked well in the podcast format, but in a book that's ostensibly presenting itself as academic, they feel absurd. And truly, ironically, their condescending attributions—say, of the invention of tonal ambiguity to Luis Fonsi, a perfectly fine musician without that pretense—seems to act out the very premise of the corrupted machine of popular music they (occasionally) claim to be aware of. After all, the adulation of these popular "brand" musicians as inventors of these techniques requires complete, and intentional ignorance of any music that isn't pop. It also requires ignorance that "brand" musicians represent entire teams of highly specialized individuals working for a corporation to maximize profits, not necessarily people who are interested in music for its own sake. Ultimately, you can look at these pop songs as "elevated art", entirely divorced from their context in society, or you can address the fact that musical labor can be manipulated, stolen and controlled just like any other resource. By attempting both (while only doing the latter halfheartedly) the authors end up only creating a series of soundbites that may perform well at your next dinner party, but unfortunately, lack the ability to reveal anything deeper about why "pop music matters".

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kazen

    Nothing wrong with this book, but with me - I took music theory in school so I'm having trouble sitting through the explanations without fidgeting. Your mileage will most likely vary, but I'm putting this one down at 15%. Nothing wrong with this book, but with me - I took music theory in school so I'm having trouble sitting through the explanations without fidgeting. Your mileage will most likely vary, but I'm putting this one down at 15%.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Costain

    Thanks to Oxford press and the book’s authors for the free copy of Switched on Pop. I appreciate it. Switched is dense, but accessible, Sloane and Harding have crafted a book that seems worthy of a songwriter’s attention but with enough fundamentals to help along someone who knows nothing of this world. Me. The incredible thing is, I’m know very little about music construction- but it didn’t matter. This book hooked me into the world of beat, measure, octave, harmony, and timbre in a way that ma Thanks to Oxford press and the book’s authors for the free copy of Switched on Pop. I appreciate it. Switched is dense, but accessible, Sloane and Harding have crafted a book that seems worthy of a songwriter’s attention but with enough fundamentals to help along someone who knows nothing of this world. Me. The incredible thing is, I’m know very little about music construction- but it didn’t matter. This book hooked me into the world of beat, measure, octave, harmony, and timbre in a way that made sense; not as a bunch of arcane terms I was expected to just understand. This wasn’t done, as far as I’m concerned, condescendingly. Rather, you’re taken on a journey of musical ideas where the chosen songs seem to fit the narrative well - a narrative of ever-expanding musical knowledge. I’m not an expert after reading this either, but it helped me actually have a conversation with my singer/songwriter girlfriend and not sound stupid. That’s my kind of book. Switched on Pop takes a sort of listicle approach by diving into one song per chapter. This, however, feels perfect because with each song, I’m introduced to new musical concepts. The beauty of this is the effect of building knowledge of musical parts, one song analyzed at a time. The chapters are short and concise enough that you feel like forward progress is there. This book is emanatly readable, proof of concept: on my first sitting, I had read 30% of the book. It just finds ways to propel you to the next chapter, the next song. Not with a cliffhanger, but with anticipation for what you’ll learn next. Hoping the next song is a song you’ll know, and then -boom- it’s Love on Top by Beyonce (one of my favourites).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elena Cruz-López

    I’ve been a huge fan of this podcast for a few years, so I was very excited to read their book. I think this book is excellent for anyone who enjoys music and wants to learn more about it. It’s very approachable and doesn’t use any jargon. Each chapter is short and includes cool illustrations to help us understand what Nate and Charlie are talking about. I also think the short chapters are nice because they won’t overwhelm readers (they tend to segue neatly into the following chapter). Readers w I’ve been a huge fan of this podcast for a few years, so I was very excited to read their book. I think this book is excellent for anyone who enjoys music and wants to learn more about it. It’s very approachable and doesn’t use any jargon. Each chapter is short and includes cool illustrations to help us understand what Nate and Charlie are talking about. I also think the short chapters are nice because they won’t overwhelm readers (they tend to segue neatly into the following chapter). Readers will learn about musical terms that musicians are familiar with using different hits from the past two decades. This what the podcast and the book wants listeners and readers to do—make people feel comfortable talking about music we enjoy. You don’t have to be a musician to be able to talk about music! :) And for those with musical experience: this book might expand our brains and look at music we might not be super familiar with! P.S. I highly recommend checking out their podcast if you want to get more out of this book!

  5. 4 out of 5

    David Basora

    So, I enjoyed this immensely, but the reason it took me the entirety of the COVID-19 quarantine and another 2 months to finish is that I got distracted by the podcast that this book originated from during that time. I started reading the book, then started the podcast. 141 podcast episodes later, I finished the book. I have zero musical training and was dropped from school chorus in middle school, so my musical knowledge is entirely instinctive. Having Nate, Charlie, and their guests give more m So, I enjoyed this immensely, but the reason it took me the entirety of the COVID-19 quarantine and another 2 months to finish is that I got distracted by the podcast that this book originated from during that time. I started reading the book, then started the podcast. 141 podcast episodes later, I finished the book. I have zero musical training and was dropped from school chorus in middle school, so my musical knowledge is entirely instinctive. Having Nate, Charlie, and their guests give more meaning to music that I have only recently admitted to myself that I enjoy, has been more fun and interesting than I would have expected. I think the biggest obstacle to getting to the point that Nate and Charlie reached to perform the analyses that they do is accepting that Pop music, with a capital P, is designed formulaically with the intention to attract as wide an audience as possible. So if a song sounds shallow, simple, derivative, unoriginal, or all of those things at once, and you can't get it out of your head regardless of that, then that is okay. That song probably is all of those things and might be Billboard's #1 hit that year. The key is that if you know how to listen to it, or find a source to explain it to you, like Switched on Pop, then you can find the artistry behind the glamour and money-making math of the music. I can now look at "Cry Me a River" and "Since U Been Gone" differently, while still appreciating that "Maps" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs appeals to me just as much. I love music, and they are seriously doing a service to all music listeners by writing this and continuing to produce the podcast. I hope that they write follow up books that go into the histories of particular genres, because I would read those immediately as well. And faster, since I would presumably be caught up to the podcast by then.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Erin Bomboy

    Pop music gets a bad rap for being derivative, insultingly simple, and pandering to our basest instincts. In essence, it's rechewed bubblegum. Switched on Pop is in on the joke, yet this breezy, fun-to-read book elevates pop to worthy of intellectual pursuit. Authors Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding elaborate on the elements of music by unpacking 21st-century monster hits. They do everything from tease out the rhythmical irregularities of Outkast's "Hey Ya!" to identifying the importance of timbre Pop music gets a bad rap for being derivative, insultingly simple, and pandering to our basest instincts. In essence, it's rechewed bubblegum. Switched on Pop is in on the joke, yet this breezy, fun-to-read book elevates pop to worthy of intellectual pursuit. Authors Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding elaborate on the elements of music by unpacking 21st-century monster hits. They do everything from tease out the rhythmical irregularities of Outkast's "Hey Ya!" to identifying the importance of timbre in Sia's "Chandelier." When they tie it all together with Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone," you'll have whole new respect for the genre, which is complex, rich, and worthy of consideration. Take that, aesthetes. I took music theory classes in grad school, so this was easy for me to follow. Beginners might struggle more even with the lucid explanations, but the history of each song is worth a read in and of itself. My quibble—and I've whinged about this before—is that I don't understand why the ebook didn't come with links to the songs. It made for a trying experience, reading the chapter and then going to YouTube to listen to the song. As always, publishing has squandered an opportunity for a multi-media experience. As a bonus, check out Rick Beato's "Why This Song Is Great" YouTube channel for a similar treatment to classic rock.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    This was part of a reading challenge in March. However, I really enjoyed this book and have become an avid listener of the podcast. I was also interested in checking it out, as my girlfriend is a former DJ and an avid Pop promoter. This definitely helped me understand her passion and even gave me some talking points so I can hold my own in our conversations! The book breaks down about a dozen pop songs and talks about why they are important and how they differ from other pop songs, basically what This was part of a reading challenge in March. However, I really enjoyed this book and have become an avid listener of the podcast. I was also interested in checking it out, as my girlfriend is a former DJ and an avid Pop promoter. This definitely helped me understand her passion and even gave me some talking points so I can hold my own in our conversations! The book breaks down about a dozen pop songs and talks about why they are important and how they differ from other pop songs, basically what makes them unique and puts them in our heads...forever. Easy to read for the layman (Written by a musician and a music professor), and each chapter builds on what you learned previously. This was a great little book!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany :)

    All the other reviews nailed this on the head — Switched on Pop follows a very similar format as the podcast, though it follows a tighter narrative of building on basic music theory concepts. It’s explained at a level that as already mentioned, may seem too elementary to folks with some music education, but the examples and observations about the featured songs do make you think about those songs you’ve heard nonstop in a different manner. I really enjoyed this read and wished it was longer! The All the other reviews nailed this on the head — Switched on Pop follows a very similar format as the podcast, though it follows a tighter narrative of building on basic music theory concepts. It’s explained at a level that as already mentioned, may seem too elementary to folks with some music education, but the examples and observations about the featured songs do make you think about those songs you’ve heard nonstop in a different manner. I really enjoyed this read and wished it was longer! The illustrations are also fantastic! They bring a lot of character to the book and aided my translation of what I read to what I was hearing to what I saw pictorially.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amy Lively

    3.5 Stars. I have not listened to the podcast but I was intrigued at this style of analyzing pop music. I will admit that I do not listen to much current pop music but, pop music being what it is, I have heard most of the songs featured in the book (which I didn't realize until I played some of the songs when I started a new chapter.) I found the analysis very interesting and it makes me want to take a closer look at the pop of previous decades in a similar manner. I will say that, not being as 3.5 Stars. I have not listened to the podcast but I was intrigued at this style of analyzing pop music. I will admit that I do not listen to much current pop music but, pop music being what it is, I have heard most of the songs featured in the book (which I didn't realize until I played some of the songs when I started a new chapter.) I found the analysis very interesting and it makes me want to take a closer look at the pop of previous decades in a similar manner. I will say that, not being as familiar with the musical terms, I found some of that to be a bit tedious. I also would have liked more discussion on the "why it matters" part of the equation, which is what prompted me to pick up the book in the first place.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    Like what I read in another review, the fun of the book was reading in anticipation of the next chapter—what song was gonna be examined and what would its corresponding musical concept be (timbre, sampling, meter, melody, etc.). The book was able to make me a Taylor Swift fan while also pushing me to appreciate “Oops...I Did It Again.” The concepts strewn throughout the book are easy to remember so that you could listen to whatever the top songs of the time are and not easily come to dismiss the Like what I read in another review, the fun of the book was reading in anticipation of the next chapter—what song was gonna be examined and what would its corresponding musical concept be (timbre, sampling, meter, melody, etc.). The book was able to make me a Taylor Swift fan while also pushing me to appreciate “Oops...I Did It Again.” The concepts strewn throughout the book are easy to remember so that you could listen to whatever the top songs of the time are and not easily come to dismiss them.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    This was so good! Super interesting and I'm not even a music person. The book breaks down several well known pop songs and dissects them, explaining why they're so popular from a musical perspective. Super cool and had me instantly interested. Highly recommend! This was so good! Super interesting and I'm not even a music person. The book breaks down several well known pop songs and dissects them, explaining why they're so popular from a musical perspective. Super cool and had me instantly interested. Highly recommend!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    This is packed with fun information on music theory and history. Now to catch up on the podcast episodes!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brianna

    Really interesting read. It's fun to listen the songs after each chapter dissects it. Really interesting read. It's fun to listen the songs after each chapter dissects it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sophia

    If you choose to read this, make sure you listen to the Spotify playlist of all the songs mentioned as you read. I found this book informative overall, though its commentary ranged from fascinating and accessible to opaque and overly technical to self-important.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    Very similar to podcast so can be a bit redundant if you have already listened to it. A good intro to some music theory and how it applies to pop music.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Eskay

    i definitely enjoyed this book - but it's very much music theory for dummies. thankfully i am a dummy. if you have a wide breath of knowledge about music theory you may find sloan and harding explaining what a chord is a little basic but this is a great, well written and informative book for those beginning our music theory journey. i definitely enjoyed this book - but it's very much music theory for dummies. thankfully i am a dummy. if you have a wide breath of knowledge about music theory you may find sloan and harding explaining what a chord is a little basic but this is a great, well written and informative book for those beginning our music theory journey.

  17. 5 out of 5

    G

    I really enjoy the podcast and so I was primed to be a fan of the book. It has some strengths that the podcast can't have (visual representations of musical components) and some weaknesses — the somewhat facile nature of the analysis. But as an introduction it's quite fun. The short chapters mean that it doesn't feel like time wasted if you already know what rhythm is, for example. I really enjoy the podcast and so I was primed to be a fan of the book. It has some strengths that the podcast can't have (visual representations of musical components) and some weaknesses — the somewhat facile nature of the analysis. But as an introduction it's quite fun. The short chapters mean that it doesn't feel like time wasted if you already know what rhythm is, for example.

  18. 4 out of 5

    K

    For a book that grew from a music podcast, this surpassed expectations. There are many astute observations here, and due to the ease of access and navigability, I will be using it in my teaching. Like the podcast, Nate Sloan (musicologist) and Charlie Harding (songwriter) are at their best when they dive into the sounds from the unique perspectives of their day-jobs. This book is alternatively funny and deep, and I'm grateful that it was published just as I need to start thinking about how to te For a book that grew from a music podcast, this surpassed expectations. There are many astute observations here, and due to the ease of access and navigability, I will be using it in my teaching. Like the podcast, Nate Sloan (musicologist) and Charlie Harding (songwriter) are at their best when they dive into the sounds from the unique perspectives of their day-jobs. This book is alternatively funny and deep, and I'm grateful that it was published just as I need to start thinking about how to teach some aspects of music theory to novices. It's not too long, and it features a pretty decent bibliography that works as a starting place for those wishing to dive in more deeply. As much as I like this book, one thing that it makes abundantly clear is that pop music theory needs more voices besides straight white men in the most prominent venues. Due to the regular references to Western Art Music history, it's clear that Sloan was trained in historical musicology and that he regularly teaches about these things. I delighted in the parallels they draw between the songs in question and towering figures in music history like Josquin, Bach, and Rameau. That is a political choice that I like. However, they were much less astute when it came to non-Western parallels or what certain sonorities might signify to anyone that isn't like them, especially women and queer folks. A really good example of this is their discussion of Britney Spears (and Max Martin) -- a virtuosic discussion of her music without much of a discussion of the weird relationship between men who produce and write for much younger women in ways that often strips them of agency. This is most clear in the story of Kesha, but it's also there with Spears who hasn't had any personal or musical autonomy in well over a decade. What's more, they cite a lot of women in music theory and musicology, but they avoid the main arguments that these scholars make when it comes to gender and sexuality. Odd. As a feminist, I'm uncomfortable with a book about the merits of pop that doesn't take the sexism of the pop music world seriously as a factor. Why make time for Bach and not this? Similarly, I was uncomfortable with the lack of discussion of sampling non-Western sources like the 'oud in Justin Timberlake's "What Goes Around... Comes Around." I understand that the darker aspect of what is happening in these songs isn't the topic of the chapter in question, but there's no substantive discussion of issues like these in the book and they are a part of what's happening in the songs and my students are sure to notice. In my mind, their silence on these issues is something the reveals their privilege and the types of gatekeeping in podcasting and publishing for a large audience. While it's a bummer, it's certainly going to give me many things to teach when I use this book. It's also making me want to write a book of my own. So thanks guys. One final note: the illustrations by Iris Gottlieb are so great. If nothing else, they make the book worth your time. There are many more stunning discussions to see here. Blind spots aside, I'm grateful for it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Anderberg

    “Pop represented the final frontier, the forbidden pleasure. And when we, Nate and Charlie, broke down the walls and let pop into our lives, everything changed. . . . It turned out that the only thing preventing us from enjoying pop was our own bias against it.” Nate and Charlie, longtime podcast hosts, aren’t your average music aficionados. Nate is a musicology professor with PhD and Charlie is a long-time music journalist and songwriter. If you were to picture the type of book they’d write, I c “Pop represented the final frontier, the forbidden pleasure. And when we, Nate and Charlie, broke down the walls and let pop into our lives, everything changed. . . . It turned out that the only thing preventing us from enjoying pop was our own bias against it.” Nate and Charlie, longtime podcast hosts, aren’t your average music aficionados. Nate is a musicology professor with PhD and Charlie is a long-time music journalist and songwriter. If you were to picture the type of book they’d write, I can pretty much guarantee it wouldn’t be this one. Over the course of 20 popular songs from the last couple decades, they break down not only what exactly makes catchy pop songs so popular, but also why they’re actually high-quality pieces with real musical qualities. Woven in throughout is a bit of the history of pop music (going back centuries), explanations of various musical terms and theories, and fun/ridiculous illustrations. They got me hooked right away with an introduction about “Call Me, Maybe” and an early chapter about Taylor Swift, who I have an unabashed love for. Other songs include “Hey Ya,” Sia’s “Chandelier,” “Oops . . . I Did It Again,” and plenty more that you’ll recognize. My own confession and connection to this book is that I love pop music. If music is playing in my house, it’s usually Pandora’s “Today’s Adult Hits,” which is basically pop + Mumford. Halsey, Biebs, even Post Malone are regularly stuck in my head. So while I’m someone who would obviously enjoy this book, anyone who loves music will have fun with it too. While Nate and Charlie openly acknowledge plenty of the inanities of pop music, they note: “there are also genuine artists among the bunch, and that is who we have sought to represent in these pages.” One complaint: the authors do get rather technical at times. I skimmed over some of the music theory portions to get to the funny bits (“Just as [Derulo] argues that booty is a universal language, so we can argue that we are all melodic polyglots.”) and the explorations of why certain things are popular or not. A really fun, light-hearted, educational, and enjoyable book all around. Consider it a unique gift for the person who wants a smart explanation of why pop music can be so enthralling and catchy. The only reason it gets 3 stars vs 4 is because I think the audience for this one is pretty niche.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I felt like I should leave a review here after reading so many musicians tear it down as being too basic. I'm a very experienced musician (~15 years) and songwriter (~6-7 years), who has taken several formal music theory courses and devoured many books and other resources on the subject, and I still thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was highly detailed and packed a ton of information and LOTS of variety into a compact format. Yes, it's true that every chapter had definitions and explanations that I felt like I should leave a review here after reading so many musicians tear it down as being too basic. I'm a very experienced musician (~15 years) and songwriter (~6-7 years), who has taken several formal music theory courses and devoured many books and other resources on the subject, and I still thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was highly detailed and packed a ton of information and LOTS of variety into a compact format. Yes, it's true that every chapter had definitions and explanations that were quite basic that I already knew, but I didn't find it tedious to skip over those at all. It was like a paragraph here, a few sentences there, and the terms were always in bold, very easy for my eyes to just pass over. As each chapter wore on, they usually got into more advanced concepts, analysis, comparisons, and context. My advice to any musicians is to stick with it, skip over those parts and certainly don't let yourself get offended and miss out on the real value in it - the authors are not trying to patronize you, they're merely trying to remain accessible to the uninformed reader. It doesn't mean there isn't also more advanced information that you can enjoy too. For what it's worth/for a bit of context, I have never listened to their podcast but as a songwriter who wants my songs to be as good as possible, I read/listen to as much content about music theory and song analysis as I can get my hands on. I should also say I'm the type of person who actually learns best through reading, and I usually dislike getting information from videos or podcasts. I guess it makes sense that if you *don't* learn best through reading, maybe you wouldn't like a book like this. Anyway I kind of took a multimedia approach to it - I definitely don't recommend reading it without listening to the parts indicated (they give handy timestamps!), you likely won't get much out of it that way unless maybe you've listened to the songs many times before. I will say that, while I know a lot about music theory and song structure, I don't listen to a lot of modern pop music, so it was a bit of an education in that for me too. About half of the songs, I had never even heard of while I was pretty familiar with a few of them. So I kept Spotify and YouTube open the entire time, and whenever a song or video was mentioned, I listened/watched it (even if I already knew the song). I feel like I learned quite a bit about what makes modern pop music so appealing, its patterns and innovations, and learned some new techniques that I can apply myself. It doesn't bother me that they added those basic definitions, which make the book accessible to general audiences who might love music but have never taken a music theory course and don't want to. I'm glad those people are able to get something out of it too!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Matt Chisling (MattyandtheBooks)

    Okay, so you love Kelly Clarkson (like I do). Okay, so you think "We Found Love" by Rihanna was important to pop music (like I did). Okay, so "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen hasn't left your head since 2011 (like me). Despite loving what millions of others have loved, you still can't put a finger on why the music is important. Critics don't seem to get the tunes you love. You somehow feel your taste is inferior to your friends. This is the book for you to add to your list. The genre of pop mus Okay, so you love Kelly Clarkson (like I do). Okay, so you think "We Found Love" by Rihanna was important to pop music (like I did). Okay, so "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen hasn't left your head since 2011 (like me). Despite loving what millions of others have loved, you still can't put a finger on why the music is important. Critics don't seem to get the tunes you love. You somehow feel your taste is inferior to your friends. This is the book for you to add to your list. The genre of pop music has been largely ignored by scholars and authors - a shame given its significance on millions of lives each and every day. And, sure, some of pop music is formulaic, derivative swill. But a lot of it - especially a lot of the biggest tunes - really have a lot more to say than first meets the ear. And, ultimately, what does make certain pop music superior than its contemporaries? Music journalist Charlie Harding and musicologist Nate Sloan - also known as the co-hosts of the Switched On Pop podcast - have built a career out of poking at prodding at pop tunes to explore both their musical and cultural significance. Their first book, aptly named after their namesake podcast, explores basic building blocks of music (timbre, pitch, melody) through eighteen of the biggest pop songs of the 2000s. Geared toward a pop music fan, the book allows the reader to learn about what makes music music by using songs they know and love as illustrations. The writing is casual in tone but rigorous in nature. If you love pop music, you're bound to appreciate it in a whole new way after reading this book. If you aren't a pop music fan, well, maybe this book is will give you a new way to look at (and listen to) the tunes have shaped the generations around you.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Landhuis

    Written by the musicologist and songwriter who host the eponymous podcast, this book is an incredible overview of pop music theory and production that uses these foundational concepts to help explain what makes some of the biggest hits of the 2000s and 2010s so great. The book also provides great historical context, citing examples from Gregorian chant to Beethoven to Tin Pan Alley to demonstrate the lineage of a category of music often dismissed as frivolous. And even with all that it's fun and Written by the musicologist and songwriter who host the eponymous podcast, this book is an incredible overview of pop music theory and production that uses these foundational concepts to help explain what makes some of the biggest hits of the 2000s and 2010s so great. The book also provides great historical context, citing examples from Gregorian chant to Beethoven to Tin Pan Alley to demonstrate the lineage of a category of music often dismissed as frivolous. And even with all that it's fun and easy to read even for someone with minimal musical knowledge, with playful illustrations to go along with the text. Highly recommended for any pop music lover, and even skeptics who wonder what it is about "Call Me Maybe" that makes it so damn catchy.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    Wow. I know zilch about music, but I guess I’d describe myself as... music curious? Anyways, this is the perfect book to scratch that itch. If you know nothing about music, but want someone to explain basic concepts in funny, concise, relatable ways, this is the book. For me, it’s just a bonus that these marvellous lessons are explained in the context of a series of pop songs. I’ve always a little shame about loving pop, but no more. This book explains how rich even the most bubblegum pop song r Wow. I know zilch about music, but I guess I’d describe myself as... music curious? Anyways, this is the perfect book to scratch that itch. If you know nothing about music, but want someone to explain basic concepts in funny, concise, relatable ways, this is the book. For me, it’s just a bonus that these marvellous lessons are explained in the context of a series of pop songs. I’ve always a little shame about loving pop, but no more. This book explains how rich even the most bubblegum pop song really is.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    A light and easy intro to music theory explained in a way where I can actually hear and remember things. I deeply appreciate how the chapters aren't just word-for-word transcripts of the podcasts when it comes to songs they have already covered, unlike the Lore books. If you want something that's hxc music theory that goes suuuuper deep into the construction of each song, this might be a bit light for you. However, if you want an intelligent yet highly readable look into pop music with a beautif A light and easy intro to music theory explained in a way where I can actually hear and remember things. I deeply appreciate how the chapters aren't just word-for-word transcripts of the podcasts when it comes to songs they have already covered, unlike the Lore books. If you want something that's hxc music theory that goes suuuuper deep into the construction of each song, this might be a bit light for you. However, if you want an intelligent yet highly readable look into pop music with a beautiful dose of humour, this is a brilliant read!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    A wonderfully accessible yet scholarly examination of pop music. As in their podcast, Nate and Charlie break down pop hits, using one song per chapter as an example of a musical principle. Whether you’re well-versed in music theory or have never studied music in your life, these two do an excellent job of explaining concepts in a way that is entertaining and interesting to either end of the spectrum. Highly recommend both the book and the podcast—it’s particularly diverting at this point in time A wonderfully accessible yet scholarly examination of pop music. As in their podcast, Nate and Charlie break down pop hits, using one song per chapter as an example of a musical principle. Whether you’re well-versed in music theory or have never studied music in your life, these two do an excellent job of explaining concepts in a way that is entertaining and interesting to either end of the spectrum. Highly recommend both the book and the podcast—it’s particularly diverting at this point in time!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    I love the Switched on Pop podcast so I was very excited to read this book. They break down 16 different pop songs using each to illustrate the musical concepts that are the building blocks of not just pop songs but music itself. Like the discussions in the podcast the book was very informative and made me think about the songs they were discussing in entirely new ways. They also have some really clever illustrations to describe what they're talking about. If you're a music fan I highly recommen I love the Switched on Pop podcast so I was very excited to read this book. They break down 16 different pop songs using each to illustrate the musical concepts that are the building blocks of not just pop songs but music itself. Like the discussions in the podcast the book was very informative and made me think about the songs they were discussing in entirely new ways. They also have some really clever illustrations to describe what they're talking about. If you're a music fan I highly recommend this book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christa Sigman

    I am so glad I received this book as a gift for Christmas. Having read it cover to cover now I want to go back and really listen and analyse each piece along with the graphics and information in each chapter. I also highly recommend the podcast by the same name. I am a huge Nate and Charlie fan. The only thing that would make my book better is if they would come to NYC, meet me for coffee, and sign it!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paige Kaliski

    I'm a fan of the podcast, and was a fan of this book! There were multiple times where I was shocked because I learned something new about a song I'd probably heard a million times in my life (The mixed meter in Hey Ya!, the fact that MIA sampled the Clash). I definitely found myself wanting more, especially since on the Kindle the book actually ends around 65% because of the index and references, so I came to the end and was still expecting a lot more. I'm ready for a deeper dive next time. I'm a fan of the podcast, and was a fan of this book! There were multiple times where I was shocked because I learned something new about a song I'd probably heard a million times in my life (The mixed meter in Hey Ya!, the fact that MIA sampled the Clash). I definitely found myself wanting more, especially since on the Kindle the book actually ends around 65% because of the index and references, so I came to the end and was still expecting a lot more. I'm ready for a deeper dive next time.

  29. 4 out of 5

    p

    I was excited to read this book and learn more about why pop music is popular, especially because it's my favorite genre! But ultimately, I zoned out a lot during this book. Some of the analysis was interesting, but it was too technical for me. I am okay enjoying pop music because it's fun, and without knowing the technical aspects behind it. This is more of a book for trying to convert pop snobs. I was excited to read this book and learn more about why pop music is popular, especially because it's my favorite genre! But ultimately, I zoned out a lot during this book. Some of the analysis was interesting, but it was too technical for me. I am okay enjoying pop music because it's fun, and without knowing the technical aspects behind it. This is more of a book for trying to convert pop snobs.

  30. 5 out of 5

    James

    I'd rather listen to selective episodes of the podcast. For a music book about how pop music works, I'd strongly recommend Ben Ratliff's "Every Song Ever" instead. I really liked the explanation of "Love on Top" and the Taylor Swift drop but was bored as usual by Max Martin and didn't need the explanation of sampling and "Paper Planes" at all. I'd rather listen to selective episodes of the podcast. For a music book about how pop music works, I'd strongly recommend Ben Ratliff's "Every Song Ever" instead. I really liked the explanation of "Love on Top" and the Taylor Swift drop but was bored as usual by Max Martin and didn't need the explanation of sampling and "Paper Planes" at all.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...