Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia

Music #43Music History #3

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
  • olshanski
    Love of learning
    I am not a music buff, but I love learning. The Hit Parade podcasts are entertaining, fascinating, and engrossing. This is long-form journalism at its best. I find that the episodes about artists that I don’t care about are surprisingly the most interesting. I was not a fan of disco, yacht rock, or hip-hop, but I have grown to appreciate them after listening to these podcasts. I have been asked to save these to listen with my wife on road trips, but more often I listen to them on release and then a second time in the car with my wife. I pick up on additional details with the second listen, but it is hard not to spoil the episodes for my wife with surprising facts or insights that I learned from my “cheat” listen.
  • Renee in Tucson
    My favorite podcast
    I’m always waiting for the next episode - a consistently great listen.
  • The Crenz
    Transcends the podcast format
    At its best, such as the recent episode about Sam Cooke, this podcast offers insight into music history, along with a healthy dollop of informed criticism, at a level that meets or exceeds anything you can find. While not every episode is a home run, the quality is consistently high enough that if I could only listen to one podcast, this would be it.
  • S.F.G. #1
    Great podcast for unabashed music nerds
    I have a sore plus subscription JUST so I can have access to this show. Worth’s every penny. Deep dives, no snobbery here as Chris take about and through all genres, time periods and influences. This is a great podcast for music lovers, nerds, historians etc... one of my Top five across all podcasts.
  • Rich Loammiser
    Stilted delivery is tough to take
    Overall interesting, but Chris’ robovoice is so halting that it sounds like it’s made for English learners or 2-year-olds. Maybe I’m just used to people sounding like natural humans. It’s the spoken word version of the uncanny valley. It just feels wrong.
  • hmspinafore23
    Sam Cooke & One Night in Miami
    In this episode Hit Parade manages to combine chart and music history with some film screenplay analysis and put it all in the context of the civil rights era. Quite a feat and enjoyed it even more than usual!
  • Missie in TX
    Hit Parade - These are the Good Times
    Thank you for highlighting Chic! Nile Rodgers is one of my heroes. I had the pleasure of meeting him at EPCOT in ‘02 or ‘03 & he was wonderful. I grew up in the ‘80s & many of my favorite bands worked with him. When I first heard the story of Duran Duran & The Reflex, I was so disappointed. As a white kid that grew up just south of DC, I listened to everything. My mom lived for Doowop & Motown. We watched Soul Train. The executives at the record companies couldn’t have been more wrong! I was a huge alternative music fan, too which includes The Smiths. Guitar God Johnny Marr named his son after Nile! Record Execs really got it wrong as has the Rock Hall. Nile is in, but Bernard & Tony deserve to be in with him. Just ask Duran Duran; then again the Rock Hall has that wrong, too! Love your podcasts. It satisfies the music nerd in me! Keep up the great work! Thank you
  • Othemts
    Why is this song popular?
    Do you ever wonder why certain songs become hits? Chris Molanphy, a self-described pop chart analyst, breaks down the history, sociology, and the straight up strange factors behind the success of a song. Episodes focus on either the career of an artist/band or on a particular genre or trend in popular music. Molanphy is good at making the stories behind even songs that I hate sound absolutely fascinating. I highly recommend this podcasts to music fans and anyone interested in popular culture and history.
  • HayesTS
    Tremendous Podcast For Music Lovers
    I subscribe to a number of podcasts of all types and this is one of the very best. I think I get more excited seeing a new episode of this podcast than any of the others, because I know I'm going to learn the most intersting information about the artist or style of music featured in that episode. I can't even imagine the amount of research Chris Molanphy must conduct for each episode. His scripts are tightly written and the music clips he chooses illustrative and evocative. I've even enjoyed the episdoes on syles of music I didn't care all that much for. I was albe to hear them afresh and appreciate them in ways I didn't before. If you wonder whether you'll like this podcast, at least give one episode a try. I think you'll be hooked. This is a fabulous podcast!
  • brinx00
    Nicely researched
    The episodes are well-researched and I love hearing about the other music that was on the charts at the same as the artist(s) being covered. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of the podcast is done in a bit by the host. The strange halting way that he speaks drives me crazy and it’s really distracting. He is also literally the only person I have *ever* heard pronounce Nirvana’s album NEVER-mind. I don’t know why it bothers me so much but for the love of god it’s annoying.
  • powerdown
    AC/DC, Part 2
    Tedious and pointless.
  • Spektak1
    Fascinating and Absorbing
    A wonderful deep dive into popular music, one that I thoroughly enjoy, even when — especially when — the focus is on an artist or genre I don’t really follow.
  • kiyomi taguchi
    Love the music, enthralled by background
    A great deep dive into music that hit the charts and the mechanics, whims and characters that brought it there. Lots of music you know! and facts you didn’t. Great deadpan delivery.
  • Moneybawller
    I’ve been listening to this podcast for a few years and I think I’ve heard every episode at least once. All are great. But the two Chic episodes are by far the best. The first episode explains the origins of the group members, the formation, songwriting process, inspirations, and their chart success. Then goes on in the second episode to explain how it led to decades of collaborations, production, and songwriting with a huge array of other artists all over the pop landscape. I had no idea and I’m so glad to learn about it. I’m excited to dig deeper on my own to all the stuff that could only be mentioned in passing.
  • Mondane23
    Wow! This is a great podcast!
    If you love music or trivia, this is a podcast for you! Chris is outstanding with his descriptions and little tidbits about music! One of the best podcast period!
  • Island Girl from Texas
    Hit Parade
    Chris is an amazing reporter. His research, his details, his ability to weave history and insert musical interludes is simply delicious! I generally listen multiple times to episodes. Well done!
  • Socalax
    Genius - Love this Podcast!
    Chris is genius. His podcast is smart, witty and detailed. Every podcast takes you on a musical journey full of pathways and intersections exploring the edge of the genre, artist or topic he is sharing and deftly bringing it back to center. There are so many great ones, but don’t miss “The Great War Against the Single”, “One and Done”, and “The Imperial Elton and George Addition”. So far, “Turn Around Bright Eyes” chronicling Jim Steinman is my all time favorite - the level of research conducted for that podcast was simply amazing.
  • wms3487
    This is what podcasts should be
    This podcast is just so full of music tidbits I always wanted to know but didn’t know Existed to be learned. It’s so perfect to hear samples from the songs amid all the deep commentary. This podcast makes me want to go on a road trip so I can just listen for hours without distractions.
  • Mediaman44
    Discovered this treasure
    I just started listening over the weekend and I have listened to thirteen episodes. Great historical content
  • PrincipalSnyder
    Bright spot in my life
    So glad I discovered this podcast...it’s truly been a bright spot for me lately. It’s so fascinating to learn about this part of the music industry. I do love a good Fun Fact - no shortage of them here!
  • JardinCook
    Simply the Best
    This show alone is worth the cost of Slate Plus for anyone who enjoys listening to and learning about the hits of the past several decades.
  • Kdjshqjevdbd
    Always enjoy
    This is one of the best podcasts of the many I subscribe to. Always interesting. I love learning about what was happening behind the scenes in the subjects explored - things I certainly didn’t know or threads not seen. Thanks! I always look to the next!
  • KCGeoff
    Fantastic educational music podcast
    Highly HIGHLY recommended
  • DigDug2222222
    Great content - why the slow taking?
    I’ve heard Chris on lots of Slate podcasts and he has a normal conversational speed. On Hit Parade, when he’s presumably reading a script, he talks PAINFULLY slowly. And I can’t solve it by playing at 1.5x speed, because then all of the music clips get thrown off! Is this a Slate thing? I have the same issue with the latest season of Slow Burn. I listen to Josh every week and know how he talks - why did he run into molasses for Slow Burn?
  • jasonrak
    Great podcast, poor decision
    We will all come back. 99% of al other podcasts are running like usual. And Slate decides now is the time to ask people during a pandemic to pay for something that was free. Poor move. Can’t imagine many people have signed up to play. Such a shame. On to other podcasts, there are hundreds of thousands out there to accept my free time…
  • Amcsquared2
    Amazing and informative
    So I know we are all trapped in various phases of isolation. I can’t recommend Hit Parade by Slate Podcasts highly enough. Every month I listen and learn some more musical knowledge I had no idea about. Worth your time. The new eps require a subscription but previous are free. I subscribe to Slate because of this. Some fun facts -do you know who actually originally wrote and performed Red, Red Wine? (Of UB40 fame). Did you know Tegan and Sara performed at the ‘99 Lilith Fair before their first album ever came out? Facts taken from the first and last eps. Every time I listen I learn something about an area I am well informed about and it always expands my mind. Double thumbs up!
  • LaLa750
    The Show is Fantastic - Slate is Not
    I LOVED this show and the host. Well researched, interesting, really, just everything you want, even if you're not a music geek. I think I'd even happily pay for just this podcast - becaue it's THAT good, and I missed the Billy Joel episode! - but I'm not interestedin buying Slate. I think their journalism has devolved mostly into opinion.
  • earthco77
    Outstanding show
    I’ll make this short. Hit Parade is fantastic. But what isn’t fantastic is its recent descent behind the pay wall. Now I can’t listen to it. I modestly donate to a few podcast producers every month and if I had that option I’d do it for Slate Plus. But that option doesn’t exist.
  • OaklandAJB
    Now only available to paying members?
    I really, really love this podcast and can appreciate the economic fallout due to COVID. But charging for it is really sad given that Americans are also struggling financially right now too. Whack.
  • Ldcvgsv
    Awesome and definitive
    Love learning about music history and Chris is a freaking amazing expert! Cannot miss the Oh. My. god. Look. At. Her. Butt. Episode.
  • dstrohmeng
    Odd move
    It seems like most other podcasts are being generous during this situation, offering previous paid shows for free as bonuses, yet this one takes it all away. It was good while it lasted (except for the needless trivia segment during the bridge episodes). You always say that you have to be a member to participate, so why did you ask every single contestant if they were a member? They wouldn’t have been on if they weren’t.
  • clayore
    Audio essays about music are my heroin
    2020 Edit: regretfully I am changing my review to one star bc of the new paywall. Not interested in funding all the rest of the mediocre libs on Slate. Here’s what I originally wrote: I love listening to people knowledgeably speak about music. That’s probably why I’ve had some ill-advised relationships with musicians. Hit Parade gives me all the musicsplanation I crave with none of the drama. It’s well researched, well produced, and- for the sheer amount of information presented- incredibly concise. I look forward to each new episode and immediately crave more after I listen. If you like Song Exploder, you’re going to really enjoy Hit Parade. As a visual artist, it is endlessly fascinating to me to learn about the creativity, calculation, and cleverness involved in making pop music. I love gaining a deeper appreciation for these songs by learning about the commercial context in which they were made, and more closely paying attention to the constituent elements of the production. After the most recent episode, listening to Madonna is giving me actual shivers. Thanks Chris & keep it up!
  • mousedownmike
    Was Great, Now Paywalled
    This was a great podcast but now it’s just the shows in between the main podcast which is behind a paywall. It’s too bad Slate felt they needed to go this route. I hope to hear Chris Molanphy on an open podcast in the future.
  • MrMuggs1551
    Used to be great, hard pass on the pay wall.
    I used to look forward each month to the well-researched and presented take on the billboard charts, however, using a global pandemic as the opportune time to move the podcast to a subscription only model is certainly one way to give your audience the finger. No thanks Slate. Unsubscribed.
  • MR. Bob Dobalina S.F, CA
    So long Chris, you will be missed...
    Requiring those who look forward to Hit Paeade and Chris’ words, to pay, especially at this time, is sad. We’re all hoping for a few hours of escape from this insanity, some just cant justify the cost. I though hard about it and tried out the other slate content...no offense, but this is definitely your best. I get it, but I just cant do it, and on the Billy Joel-BILLY JOEL! episode, of all artists...darn it. Maybe Chris will do a fantastic piece about this time in music history. I’d love to afford to hear it. So long, friend.
  • G-Man 007
    I love this show! Worth three dollars a month? Quite possibly?
    I look forward to every episode and learn something new every time. While I was disappointed when the paywall was announced, I really have to think about it. Is this podcast worth three dollars a month? Considering you get a full episode and a bridge episode, and the entertainment value, quality, and amount of detail that Chris puts into each and every episode, I believe it might actually be worth it, if one can afford it. Not to say that everyone can, and people certainly have their right to be upset with the introduction of the pay wall. I’m pretty sure I will pay the $35, three dollars a month for two episodes, to still be able to hear this great content.
  • mikein20002
    Sorry I have to unsubscribe
    I have no ability to subscribe to anything new. Much as I like this podcast there’s a depression going on. Sorry the advertising can’t support it
  • Papa Stoltz
    Great podcast. Too bad about the paywall!
    This is absolutely my favorite music podcast, and I always appreciate the arc Chris is able to draw between genres and eras! My favorite episodes are undoubtedly the Lost and Lonely Edition & the Oh My God, Becky Edition! Brilliantly written, conceived and narrated! Unfortunately, because of the paywall, you’ve lost yet another listener. To have to pay for a podcast which also makes me listen to commercial content makes no sense to me, especially when there are countless others out there that don’t require me to do so.
  • Stoja9
    This WAS a great podcast
    A paywall during a pandemic is an insanely idiotic decision. And forcing people to pay $35!? I don't want the rest of Slate's content. This was one of the most entertaining and educational podcasts out there. Now it seems greed and shortsightedness have ruined it.
  • TheSongRemains
    A must for music lovers
    Great podcast and great host. Chris somehow bridges the gap between serious music journalist and avid music fan. I’ve listened with great enjoyment to every episode. Unfortunately, like many others in this review section, I will not be paying $35 to listen further to the only Slate content I access. It’s a huge bummer, and a big loss. I wish the host and the podcast well—it’s been fun.
  • 1645799874367
    So fun!
    My husband and I love listening to this in the car. I just subscribed to slate plus for this show. We love Chris’a professorisms—can’t wait for the imperial period to be mentioned each episode : ) would love to hear an episode on queen, buddy holly, or Paul Simon
  • Maurynna36
    Disappointed, hope paywall is temporary
    I refuse to give a poor rating due to the choice to move this podcast behind a paywall, but I do want to express my disappointment. This is the only slate podcast I listen to, I respect and enjoy all the work Chris et. all put into the production and realize that all that work isn’t for free, but I can’t justify the expense for one podcast that puts out 2 shows a month. Times are tough and we all have to do what we need to do to get by, but I do hope that a version of this show (with ads of course) comes back after the pandemic is behind us.
  • Pasqually P. Pieplate
    It’s a pandemic so fork over $35
    Love the show, hate the decision to go behind a paywall when people are most vulnerable.
  • palute
    Boo! on you for insisting on paying
    I have been a devoted listener from the beginning but this is the only Slate podcast I listen to regularly. Wrong of you & Slate to demand payment for podcasts right now.
  • DG Wolverine
    Great podcast but not worth $35
    This is my favorite podcast and I thought about paying the $35 this year to continue listening, but since this is the only content I listen to on Slate I decided it’s not worthy supporting this left biased company.
  • ModMom3
    Well this is a bummer
    I am so sorry to lose this podcast due to paywall. Hopefully it’s just temporary during this pandemic. It really has been one of my favorite listens and, Chris, you’re great. May the “haves” continue to enjoy and if you can, subscribe. I wish I could.
  • Nico-bella
    So Sad
    Thus was the first podcast I ever listened to. I have been a faithful listener and supporter since the beginning. I am now in the position of having to pay to listen and while Slate wants to cry the blues over the Covid situation, what makes them think individuals are in any better financial shape. For what it’s worth, none of the other podcasts I listen to ( and there are many, many of them) have decided to charge for content. I can’t afford to pay for a podcast in these difficult and uncertain times.
  • J A I A
    Love it, but not worth $3 /month
    When your listeners are suffering through this economic crisis, you decide to demand a $35 ransom for continued listenership? I have sampled other Slate content and it’s just not my cup of tea. A voluntary patreon paywall for some content would be understandable, but to do this now just is inconsiderate. Too bad, I did enjoy this podcast...
  • MWCherry
    This is the only podcast I listen to that is punishing people who can’t afford to pay. I get paying for additional content. But requiring people to start paying when so many are out of work is heartless. I wish you had done a separate announcement after this bridge episode because it’s now totally ruined.
  • Runner3:40
    Been listening since you started always enjoyed your in depth analysis and popular culture references... can you do something on Herb Alpert?
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