How we deconstructed pop music and ignited the video explainer revolution


You know that saying, "writing about music is like dancing about architecture"? 

That’s precisely the notion that Vox’s phenomenal YouTube series, “Earworm,” challenged head-on, and it led to something truly remarkable. This series dives deep into the stories behind popular songs, deconstructing them through principles of music theory and giving them context in the larger culture.

Amazing visuals, phenomenal writing, conversational delivery, and a clear passion for the subject matter are some of the elements that made this series such a success and cemented its place front-and-center as a major influence in the spread of explainer videos.


From the very beginning, producer Estelle Casswell and the Vox team had a very clear idea as to what this needed to be. The personality and general tone of the series had been laid out in Estelle’s original pitch for the series and gave us a path to follow. 

You gotta remember, at this point in 2019, there wasn’t the clear understanding of what an “Explainer” is that we have now. Our task was to strike the perfect balance between beautiful visuals and a conversational approach, always keeping in mind the overarching goal of breaking down these complex concepts into something easy to understand by a general audience, something they could get excited about.


How to translate sound into motion, then?
How to truly dance about architecture?

Wasn’t easy; took a ton of creativity, hard work, and the perfect timing. 

For example, for our episode on the history of repetition in music, we poured endless hours into animating every single beat of dozens of rap songs and their lyrics. If a single beat was off, the whole thing would crumble. That's the level of precision we're talking about.

Our aim was to make complex music theory accessible to everyone, whether a novice or an expert, so for each episode the plan was to start with the basics and gradually introduce complexity, leading our viewer by the hand in a way that wasn’t patronizing and that would neither bore them or scare them. It was all about helping people see music in a whole new light.

Added to all this was the time pressure of a three-week production schedule for each of these super-detailed eight-to-thirteen minute videos.

It was a race and a challenge, but one we were up for.


It’s no overstatement to say that was one of the most rewarding projects we’ve ever been involved in. The lessons we learned span the spectrum of storytelling and journalistic rigor, to the importance of clear communication and organization during production.

To this day, we still get notes from fans and colleagues in the industry about this series. 

It has truly become a major force in our development as a creative team and as a business.


2x Emmy Nominations
- Outstanding New Approaches: Lifestyle and Culture

- Outstanding Graphic Design and Art Direction





Juan E Bedolla
Founder & Creative Director

© Cantera Studio 2023
Sunset Blvd. 
Los Angeles, CA.