Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia

Music #65Music History #6

What makes a song a smash? Talent? Luck? Timing? All that—and more.

Chris Molanphy, pop-chart analyst and author of Slate’s “Why Is This Song No. 1?” series, tells tales from a half-century of chart history. Through storytelling, trivia and song snippets, Chris dissects how that song you love—or hate—dominated the airwaves, made its way to the top of the charts and shaped your memories forever.

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Recent Reviews
  • ACY SG
    Pure Pleasure
    This is my favorite podcast. Every episode theme is inspired, and each one is a fascinating discussion structured in such a way that I can't stop listening. As a fellow Gen-X-er, I find myself revisiting old songs with renewed insight and appreciation, and understanding more recent pop music better. Can't let changing times leave us aging hipsters behind! Bridge episodes are not as gripping, but overall I love this podcast, as others do, at an obsessional level.
  • Hal newcome
    Chris Molanphy is my dad
    I love Hit Parade and especially Chris’ insight. He made me able to love Old Town Road.
  • Fairly grim
    Hit Parade
    Music nerdiness at its best. Please pick one to play and you will be entertained, not only by the content but also by the host !
  • 87bonnev
    Great podcast! Fun & educational!
    I look forward to these every month,
  • Willuplease
    Best podcast ever
    I am completely obsessed with this podcast! It is compulsively listenable. I love music but don’t know much about the mechanics of it or the industry, so I really like learning about those issues. And I love the doses of nostalgia (remember Bad Boys by Wham! ??) and broader cultural commentary. Please keep making episodes!
  • alivenaz
    Interesting and well-researched
    I really like the narrative style of this podcast and I always learn something new.
  • Henkel19
    Music Lover’s Delight
    Excellent podcast for any music lover! Provides great insight into the complexities of the music industry. Wish the episodes occurred more frequently.
  • discriminating music fan
    Every single episode has been a pleasure. Fantastic way to approach music history and remember all the music I have love through the years. I always learn something new and fascinating. Also, unlike other podcast with both voice and music, the production and editing are superb. Great sound quality and voice work without the uneven volume I ha e heard on other complicated music podcasts. Thanks so much. Please keep the episodes coming. More discussions on one hit wonders, novelties that made the charts, artists with dual careers as Both performers and song writers would be great topics.
  • jbeno12
    This is a great podcast. Very well-researched & structures. You can tell Chris puts a ton of effort into the content. Really confused, though, by the fact that he completely ignored Beyoncé’s impact on the 2010s in the latest episode. This is extremely odd for someone so detailed. I thought he was going to bring it up at the end, when he said, “ I specifically didn’t mention this person the whole time” then said Rihanna had the biggest impact on 2010. Yes, that’s an opinion, but literally no mention of the craftsmanship & cultural impact of Lemonade? I’m completely confounded.
  • Ocean1185
    For anyone who loves music history and wants to know more....
    ...this podcast is for you! It’s fantastic. I love learning about the evolution of music and the about artists who create that music. Each episode I have listened to, so far, has provided me with new insights and I am constantly saying to myself while listening, “Wow, I didn’t know that!” And for those ragging on the host, I beg to differ. Nothing he does takes away from the quality of this show. While he doesn’t talk like an overly earnest radio DJ (thank god), remember, he is a writer; thus he is more thoughtful and deliberate when it comes to the way he expresses himself. He’s really more like a college professor teaching a class on music history than anything else. For me, his style of delivering information isn’t off-putting at all. There’s no way that should get in the way of giving this podcast a try.
  • Pink momma monkey52
    Best pop music history podcast
    Anyone who loves music, history and pop culture will find something to love. This is my #1 podcast recommendation for anyone who asks. Please never stop making this podcast, Chris!!
  • parishilton42069
    Really great!
    Probably my favorite music podcast!
  • 90 Minute Man
    Love Music?...Listen!!!
    If you love music, artists, or anything to do with the music business, this is the quintessential podcast. So much knowledge is shared in each episode. The bonus for me is learning to appreciate genres that I haven’t even cared about previously! If Chris speaks too slowly for you, play the episode at 2x speed. For me, it doesn’t distract from the content (you can always slow it down to hear a song snippet more completely).
  • Ron NJ
    I thought I knew a lot!!!
    Every episode is full of facts that I never knew. Chris is a true pop music genious.
  • rnrmel
    A must listen!
    Love, love this podcast. Love the history behind the charts. I usually don’t replay episodes, but I will be playing The Lost and Lonely Edition again!!
  • Cookieeis
    My ears!
    It’s a great show, very entertaining and informative, great music and music history- but the host. speaks. so. slowly. (more so.lately) and. enunciates. so. completely. that it’s torture on my ears. What’s up with that?
  • manofmusic12
    For the music lover!
    I’ve nearly knocked out the entire series in less than two weeks. Excellent research and insight on an artist’s influence on others.
  • Okrossi
    There’s nothing more to do but listen
    The research the clios and the delivery. Talk about artist influence in music: Podcasters this show would be your reference.
  • feengully
    Music Lovers Will Enjoy Going Behind the Music
    For a few hours every week, I have to do some online searches, and so spend much of that time catching up on my favourite podcasts. As soon as the latest episode of Hit Parade is released, I ensure it jumps to the top of the queue. I have enjoyed virtually all of episodes, and marvel at the amount of research and detail that goes into producing each of them. Highly recommended generally, and especially for people who consider themselves music lovers
  • ElleT2286398
    State of the World!
    Simply amazing episode on Ms. Janet Jackson! I am such a fan of the show and fan of Janet. It was wonderful for the two to merge. Wonderful job on this episode and the background of the historic album Rhythm Nation! One of my favs! Awesome!!
  • crhchk
    Wonderfully engaging podcast that looks at a range of artists and songs from a fresh angle and provides well researched context about the path they took to the top. Even when I’m not particularly fond of the artist, there’s always enough historical detail with which to connect. Nice work Mr. Molanphy!
  • G-Man 007
    Such a great show!
    Love this show. I learn something new every episode. Thank you!!!
  • Phil0Sophia
    Well researched, but host sounds robotic.
    I wish I can enjoy this podcast, but I can’t get past how robotic the host sounds. He comes across obsessing over enunciating every word spoken over the content he conveys. As much as I enjoy pop music history, his delivery grates on me and don’t find it’s worth the effort. Music is such a personal medium, and hearing about it should sound like you’re listening to a conversation among (fun) friends.
  • Songwriter - B Ross
    This is unbelievable...... Thank you
    Absolutely amazing. I grew up reading liner notes (which I miss), studying music production and the art of musical creation. I was directed to this podcast by a coworker and have found my latest drug.
  • Zaums
    Dense and entertaining
    As someone who grew up aspiring to be a music journalist, this taps into my particular flavor of geekery. My only "complaint" is sometimes I think I'm losing my mind, because he recaps previous sections word-for-word (or closely), which is a great educational tactic but throws me off with the repetitiveness. Whatever, it's still near perfect.
  • Cynthia Rucker
    You’ll Listen As Soon As It Drops
    It’s music and history with just a little smidgen of industry gossip. Even if you don’t care for the subject of the podcast ( Bon Jovi, anyone?), Chris will make it so entertaining that you’ll listen to the end. By a far length the best podcast I listen to, and I listen to a lot of podcasts.
  • ReskeOne
    Music + History = Amazing Podcast
    Without question- the best podcast I’ve ever heard. The podcast format is perfect for splicing interesting information with clips of songs you know and love or songs that you didn’t know you loved. The depth of research and presentation is so great that even when the topic or featured artist is not someone that interests me- I still find the episode fascinating and learn something new....often about artists that I have liked and followed for years. Definitely worth a listen.
  • Nitro89
    The Gees episode hooked me, now I'm going back through and listening to them all. So well researched, so well written, so well narrated, so well produced. Funny, sad, heartwarming, enlightening, endlessly entertaining.
  • Mdbrownmdbrown
    I can’t stop listening!
    Chris Molanphy brings a new perspective to the music I thought I knew. The cultural, commercial, and personal influences that come together to create a hit song. The show has also introduced me to artists I hadn’t appreciated before.
  • Lovely Misfit
    One of my favorite podcasts anywhere
    One of the podcasts that keeps my interest more than any other. Music, history, politics and more all rolled into one.
  • Littlehut13
    Yea for Broadway!!
    Great show overall but I was so excited to listen to the Broadway episode! Very informative! You’ve got great kids! Loved hearing Tom’s song.
  • HangzhouHarry
    . Chris explains all of your cultural music history!! Fascinating!!
    Chris can explain ... and make sense of your entire life in music. It is nothing short of a revelation to come to understand all the connections between artists and producers, bands and performers, song writers and musicians! Anytime, anyplace, if you have a chance to read or hear some thing that Chris Molanphy has to say - don’t miss it!!!
  • Loves all music types
    Have always loved this but dude NO!!!
    I have always loved this podcast and considered subscribing to Slate, however, the end of the last episode on Broadway musicals was like turning up to your best friend’s place for a fun dinner party only to have them trot out their kids to sing and perform for you. NO!!!! It is always embarrassing and you shouldn’t force your kids onto folks. While I love the show, it put me off Chris big time. This was his imperial move that might hint that success has clouded his (and producers) judgement Sorry to be so harsh. Otherwise, love the show
  • listenup1969
    Most Excellent
    Thanks for such a fun and informative podcast.
  • NJinLA
    Did he just say...
    ...meek rat?
  • iankizublair
    Chart genius
    This show teases a ridiculous amount of meaning out of the Billboard Hot 100, definitely more than I thought was possible! Loved the episodes on the Bee Gees, Britney/swedish hit making, and Ray of Light.
  • Schmup
    Thank you for your Donna Summer cast
    I was in tears by the end. Thank you for giving her her due.
  • shellyspodcast
    Great Show!
    I’m a music fan, but have never been a nerd about it. As someone who nerds out about the things I *do know a lot about, it’s a pleasure to just sit back and let Chris’s music knowledge wash over me. Well done!
  • PabloEastBay
    Fantastic overview of an unlikely chart monster.
    Chris Molanphy does his homework, and we are all the better for it. His narrative lays it out the trajectory of Genesis (@the mothership”) in a very entertaining, and easy to follow way. The music nerd in me (which is, to be fair, most of me) cheered when he made the sonic connections such as how Phil’s noisegated drums on Gabriel’s Intruder and how that led to In The Air Tonight. I will now be subscribing to all of Chris’s podcasts. Paul Myers Berkeley, CA
  • HokieinTexas
    Love it!
    My very favorite podcast. Only one that I listen to as soon as it drops. Bits of great music woven in amongst interesting stories and history of pop music. Love it.
  • tenndu89
    Love the pop history lesson
    Don’t care for Genesis, Gabriel, or Collins but LOVE reliving pop music history. One clarification needs to be made. Chris references Collins playing on Robert Plant’s ‘Pictures at Eleven’ album from ‘82 as ‘In the Mood’ plays in the background. This song is actually on Plant’s ‘83 album ‘The Principle of Moments’ though Collins played on both albums.
  • Beebels
    Pop appreciation
    I just love this show — the storytelling, the pace, the musical cues just so. Most of the musicians covered are so ubiquitous that it’s hard to imagine a fresh take on them, but this podcast is so fresh.
  • Llama WoodJ
    Thorough, Informative and Entertaining
    So much information in each episode. Even for the artists you think you know pretty well, you're guaranteed to learned something new. But that studiousness does not sacrifice the entertainment value of each episode.
  • Mpmooo
    Best Podcast Ever for a Pop Junky
    My favorite podcast - well researched, witty, funny and an absolute joy to listen to. The stories that Chris uncovers behind the songs and artists, always peak my interest and teach me something new. Keep the new episodes coming. Future Episode Idea: Bruce Springsteen’s search for a #1 Hit.
    Smart Enlightening Entertaining
    Chris is so intelligent. Not only does he know music, but his writing is so intellectual.
  • bribriny
    1. If you are a chart junkie..this is a must..don't even question subscribing. 2. If you love music, and the stories behind the hits, see #1 3. Just download this well researched and totally fascinating podcast! 4. Thanks Chris for taking the time for these fascinating stories! 5. Just download this podcast...nuff said!
  • BeachBumParis
    This is the best of Saturday morning for me
    I listne to the podcast, do my housework, shake it, and say YEAH" right out loud!
  • Race Roberts
    Always delivers
    Anyone who can make me enjoy an hour discussing Donna Summer, Bee Gees and Bon Jovi are magicians. This podcast is phenomenal.
  • TopherJohnG
    If you love music at all
    This is an amazing podcast. I am new to it, having devoured the first 6 or so episodes. A deep dive into what makes a pop hit and a pop icon you should give a listen!
  • Hanalert
    As fun as it is insightful
    An addictive and enlightening podcast. It put the music back in music criticism. His love of music is infectious and immensely listenable.
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