Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia

Music #34Music History #8

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
  • Maymey
    A favorite for years, now too political
    I loved this podcast for years, but as time went on he injected his politics more frequently. I don't want to hear that, from ANY side. It's too bad that EVERYTHING needs to be political.
  • JMVinthe617
    Great podcast!
    Fascinating history of pop music and the artists!
  • quintanna-roo
    Love this podcast!
    Have loved this podcast for a long time! Chris is thorough in his research and I love the music samples, makes for a great listening experience. I always come away having learned something new and more songs added to my library. Keep up the great work!!!
  • skypewilliams
    Great show, well-researched, straight to the point, the music plays as it relates to the story and the host isn’t subjecting us to a comedy routine, very very good and entertaining podcast
  • Peterjb100
    I haven’t listened to many episodes, but the two-part history of punk rock, “This ain’t no party…” is outrageously thorough. A deep dive into the origin and meaning of “punk.”
  • Ajxkcnens
    Chart Nerds Unite
    I’ve been listening since day one, and this is one podcast that I’ll never get tired of. Every episode is so thoroughly researched and expertly re-contextualizes the artist up for discussion. Never phoned in, includes all the song clips you hope it will… just the best.
  • kevbot217
    A Distressingly Binge-able Show
    I’m a massive Springsteen fan, so I jumped into this podcast because of the pair of Springsteen episodes. From there, I discovered there were other episodes I wanted - the Billy Joel one, the one about the declining interest in the single, more and more. It’s never just an overview of an artist’s career - it’s usually the influences, the chart analytics, and what came next. Chris Molanphy’s engaging delivery has something to do with that, too. Soon, I was listening to episodes whose subject matter wasn’t all that familiar to me - the country, rap, and soul episodes, including a 2-hour deep dive into the band (and business) Chic. Soon, I was hooked enough to subscribe to Slate , so I could get my greedy ears on more episodes. Currently, I’m burning through episodes at a clip of 3 a day and I’m going to run out soon enough. As much as I want them to come out more frequently, I’m glad Molanphy and crew take the time to research and produce each episode this well. The best podcast I’ve discovered this year.
  • safshasha
    Fixed - Older episodes not loading
    I solved the below problem by deleting Apple Podcasts off my iPhone and reinstalling from the App Store. I’ve lost my listening history, but I’m so glad the problem is fixed. Again, extremely weird that this issue only affected Slate Podcasts I *love* Hit Parade. It is by far my favorite podcast, as someone who grew up watching Billboard Hot 100 chart videos, itching for my childhood vh1 video countdowns. Something I’ve noticed across this and another podcast by Slate I adore, “Decoder Ring” — older episodes are no longer loading over my data connection. I have a backlog to get through, and I keep getting “This episode is temporarily unavailable.” This even happened to me in another podcast app, Overcast (the episodes just never load). Podcasts from other creators are loading just fine. Instead of streaming or downloading from my iPhone over data on a whim, I have to download the episodes over Wi-Fi to listen later. Even downloading on my data connection on the Podcasts app isn’t working! (edit: eventually downloading over Wi-Fi stopped working too, which led me to deleting and reinstalling the app) Really hope someone reads this and can help me out. I’ve been listening to Hit Parade for over 5 years and I cannot recommend it enough! I will come back and revise this to 5 stars once I got things back to normal.
  • BklynNJ
    Too many ads, not a fan of the host’s style
    Way too many ads, host talks too slowly, which makes him sound condescending. His tone is just really off-putting. Would not recommend.
  • Godozo
    Greater than the Growing Sum of Its Parts
    I have been listening to this podcast for years now, and to me the best thing – above the amazing width that the host uncovers in what would seem to be a shallow, disposable subject – is how he builds on past subjects and podcasts, interlinking everything so that the whole slowly develops into a whole that is greater than the ever-growing sum of its various, occasionally contradictory parts.
  • Whoever7538
    Get a new host
    I love popular music history but the sanctimonious, self-congratulatory host of this series ruins this podcast. Skip it until they replace this hack.
  • Chambersstevens
    I listen to a fair number of music podcast! But this one is on a whole other level! Keep up the good work!
  • LivRosin
    No kidding—once I started listening to this podcast, I couldn’t stop. Twelve solid hours! I appreciate how Chris provides social context and examples so even if the episode is not about my genre of music, I stay interested. I’ve shared it with friends and family, too. Since I’m almost 60, the podcast takes me on walks down memory lane, but my daughter loves it, too. Give it a listen—you’ll be glad you did!
  • Jeff Durso
    Simply the best
    Hands down, this is one of the all time best podcasts!! Chris’ music knowledge is absolutely incredible. I consider myself a Billboard geek, but what I know pales in comparison!! I learn so much each and every episode and they’re fun too!
  • thiswillkillthat
    Absolutely pleasure
    Week after week, that show impresses and amazes me. Deep dives into some of the best music ever made covering all genres and categories. Absolutely brilliant and an absolute pleasure to listen to.
  • Penned Podcast
    As Britney Says: Gimme More!
    I’ve been listening to Hit Parade since it first started and it’s by far one of my favorite podcasts. I LIVE for Chris Molanphy’s musical knowledge and deadpan dad jokes. I cannot wait for the day when I can flex what I’ve learned from Hit Parade at a bar’s trivia night!
  • elleyhey
    Fave podcast
    By far my fave podcast. Intelligent, informative, entertaining. very well put together. kudos.
  • NancyL13
    A must listen!
    Anyone with even a passing interest in music history would thoroughly enjoy this podcast. I only wish they would do a playlist of all the songs discussed on each episode that I could download after!
  • Almost geezer
    Make your brain bigger
    Mid fifties guy, this podcast nails i!
  • TlC0302
    Good but a little stiff
    It’s a good podcast. If you love music and are interested in what makes one song or genre a “hit” on the charts, how music is influenced, etc this podcast is very informative. The host is incredibly knowledgeable but very dry. It might be better if he had a co host who was a bit looser, funnier. Or maybe an after show for those of us hankering for more humor? Hearing him talk about rap and R&B is inherently funny as it’s like listening to a very white professor/uncle discuss hip hop culture. He does truly love music and appreciates that popular music is worthy when many music critics downplay what charts. I especially love the episodes about Bon Jovi where the host unabashedly hates the band but clearly understands that many people do appreciate them. He validated my fandom of Chic and the influence of Nile Rodges & Bernard Edwards. I look forward to more episodes - the year end 2022 episodes count down all of the year end #1s since Billboard started and it was clear to me that there is so much left to uncover, dissect and discuss about popular music. I’m looking forward to many more years of this podcast. Thank you Chris for what you’ve done so far and what will come.
  • Dppellegrini
    The best
    Just the best most well done podcast . I try to never miss an episode
  • ebidebby
    Right up my alley
    Such a good podcast. Amazingly researched, well-written, and calmly delivered. I have been a fan of top 40 countdowns since my childhood in the 90a, and I still enjoy following pop music. I really appreciate Chris’s scholarly take on countdowns and music history, and each episode is fascinating. Even episodes that feature genres that aren’t my favorites are great. I especially enjoyed the Point of No Return episode for a deep dive into Freestyle music.
  • benfishbus
    Unexpectedly unique
    I have never thought much about the Billboard charts - not in my peak pop-listening years (middle school) nor my later music-buying years. Yet I am fascinated by Chris Molanphy’s scholarly, charts-based approach to analyzing musical hits that is both educational and fun to listen to.
  • Clanberry
    Top of the Pods
    Chris Molanphy is a master of writing for audio. The pod's economical layering of music clips with Molanphy's calm, concentrated delivery make for a transporting listening experience. Hit Parade and its bonus episodes for subscribers are not the only reason I subscribe to Slate Plus, but this one show is worth it alone. It also helps me discover and rediscover music. Molanphy's work combines a music expert's enthusiasm and knowledge with a genial voice, and a universe of popular music ranging from this week to the late 1950s. I love hearing him talk to music critics and listeners who call in to bonus episodes because he's smart, modest, kind, broad-minded, and trustworthy.
  • Bennett F
    Great Listen
    Keep marching! We love it.
  • smarmydave
    Off the Charts
    One of the best music-related podcasts; one of my favorite podcasts, period. Bravo to Chris M and all involved in the podcast’s production!
  • BB_UVE
    So informative, so good!
    I recently found this wonderful podcast series and am enjoying it from its beginning. I thought I knew a lot about rock/pop, but every episode has information that makes my eyes get big! Wonderfully researched, typical Slate high production values, and such a great escape!
  • ktodarling
    Love it
    What a great, well-researched podcast. I feel like I’m learning a lot about music. Thanks!
  • FanchickLana
    Very informative and in-depth. Kind of wish he had another host or different guests to bounce off of, from time to time, though.
  • torajima77
    Every time he says, “I hope you enjoyed this episode of Hit Parade…”
    …I respond out loud, “I did.”
  • Ben Brenner
    Masterful Story Telling of 20th Century Popular Music
    As someone who has often felt completely illiterate about cultural history of 20th century popular music, Hit Parade has been a powerful "litterating" agent and as a result listening to each episode is an absolute joy. Written and hosted by Chris Molanphy, Slate's music critic. The podcast highlights chart-topping songs over the 86 years of Billboard. Don't be put off by the topic or Chris's dry delivery. He's a fantastic story teller and every month he paints a masterful picture of a specific artist (or group of artists) and their journey from obscurity to chart success (and often back again). I love this approach because as you listen to more episodes you begin to see the stories interweave and play off each other, as each artist seeks success. This month's two part show on Billy Joel, has been particularly interesting. I've heard his songs thousands of times, but because his music is so diverse, I often never associated it to a single artist. The podcast talks about each of his albums, how Joel became successful, and what it took for him to stay at the top despite often being panned by critics. Highly Recommend!
  • DJ Helladef
    Point Of No Return - Finally! Freestyle from the 80's is documented and respected!!
    I have been waiting for what may as well be an entire lifetime for 80's Freestyle Music, its artisits, producers, songs, and influence on mainstream pop artists and their music personnas. Your delivery and refusal to leave off any tidbit of history and recognizing how artistic contributions, big and small, collectively impact those that follow. Thank you so much for such a well researched, detailed, and thoughtfully produced piece of music history, even iff the music industry fails miserably at recognizing Freestyle's importance in influencing their pop music money makers.
  • astaire13
    Best music podcast
    Bingeing the podcast after hearing you on Pop Pantheon podcast last year . Thank you for posting the full Billy Joel podcast which was missing on the ITunes feed until today .
  • Dune Duken
    Best music podcast
    Easily the best music podcast I’ve ever listened to. Possibly the best podcast period. Lovingly and thoughtfully researched and written. Chris gives everything a chance, takes everyone’s artistry seriously, but never comes off as humorless.
  • Dredunn2
    Great show. I love that his knowledge on r&b,funk, disco and hip hop is just as good as his knowledge on rock and pop. He doesn’t stray away from the more urban genres. This guy knows his stuff, and just when I thought i knew everything as far as music and trivia, Chris teaches me so much more. Great show, great episodes
  • Happy Joyous and Free
    Point of No Return - Wow - You Nailed This.
    I wasn't subscribing at the time, but listening occasionally to your podcast Hit Parade and decided to listen again and WOW! You nailed this genre and time period flawlessly. It's almost as if you were in the clubs in the 80's and 90's, Freestyle evolution perfectly laid out, Shannon, Let the Music Play, so big, then the 90's...wow. I was there and you took me there again. I am now a subscriber.
  • sdhett1966
    Pure Gold.
    I love this. Chris is giving us a whole new appreciation for our favorite hits.
  • Milwaukee Old-Timer
    Absolutely fantastic
    Just a wonderful, wonderful show!! I hope it goes on forever…
  • The Goldins
    One of my faves!
    My husband introduced me to Hit Parade about 3 years ago. It has quickly become one of the podcasts I look forward to the most. I love that I get to learn more of the backgrounds on the songs and artists I love. I have learned so much about tons of different artists. I share this podcast with anyone who will listen. Thank you, Chris Molanphy, for starting this podcast I enjoy so much.
  • Lord Tedford
    High Five!
    Congratulations on celebrating your 5th anniversary, and thank you for putting out a podcast that is as entertaining as it is informative. As other listeners have said, some of my favorite episodes have been the ones that on the surface were about acts that I usually wouldn't give a second thought. What keeps me listening is how you tie each act to its place in the greater context of musical history, and how you illustrate the arc of each act. Here's to another five years of solid music journalism. Keep on marching on the one!
  • jonzarch
    Robotic slow voice…
    Why. Does. He. Speak. As. If. There. Is. A. Period. In. Between. EVERY. FREAKING. WORD?? Even speeding it up doesn’t help as he sounds like a soulless robot and the music becomes distorted. I highly encourage him to be more natural, it seems like he’s got interesting things to say…
  • Guinea pig88
    Awesome, Awesome Podcast!
    Over the last few weeks since I’ve discovered this podcast, I appreciate it even more having heard pretty much every episode at this point. Chris does a masterful job writing and producing these shows and as a Casey Kasem fan who is about the same age as Chris, I very much appreciate the tip of the hat to Casey as well. Something I look forward to each month now!
  • JJDJulesDuff
    One of the best podcasts I’ve ever listened to
    ‘These are the Good Times’ episodes 1 & 2 are life changing. Thank you for creating this content.
  • Janelleam
    A must for music lovers
    I can't get enough of this show. Every episode is full of great music and great stories. I love the way Chris links songs, musicians and genera to their moment in history.
  • JeepWhite
    Re: Killing Me Softly Pt.1
    Really enjoyed the show, Chris. But you cited Kenny Nolan and Bob Gaudio as the songwriters of “Lady Marmalade.” Wasn’t Bob Crewe the actual co-writer?
  • Elmo Pete
    Makes me want more
    Chris is a treasure. The podcast makes me want to hear an album of all the song snippets. Royalties likely too costly. The Bee Gees, Hall and Oats, Springsteen and todays four fantastic women and all the rest are worth second and third listens.
  • Psyched2knit
    Such a great escape!
    This is such a great show. It’s a real deep dive to learn fascinating things that you didn’t even realize that you wanted to know. It is great to learn so much. I love it!
  • Sunita Tummala
    This podcast is such an engrossing & meticulous dive into pop chart history. It is so fantastic. Each episode is woven together so wonderfully. You just want to hear more & more. Chris does an awesome job of taking the listener along on a fantastic journey. Highly recommend for any music enthusiast. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Louiemagg
    Keeps getting better
    I discovered Hit Parade a couple years ago, and I can’t shake it! Normally podcasts start to feel tired after a while, but to my ears, Chris is at his prime. The writing is full of well-researched anecdotes and tasty tidbits of information, each with all the perfect adjectives. The editing is sublime, with a cadence of text/song that always feels right. Chris knows exactly how much of a song to play, in order to satisfy the ear, but never over-stay its welcome. Through Hit Parade, I learn so much about not only music and the music industry, but also life itself! Each episode feels like a journey. The current episode on Hall & Oates is a perfect example. I knew every hit of theirs, and I surely once owned an LP of theirs (I’m 50). But just a couple minutes into the ep, I soon realized that I knew NOTHING about them. And their story is fascinating! Seriously — it should be a movie, or a stage musical. It’s at LEAST as interesting as “Jersey Boys” — and with more hit songs, I’d venture. Another example of Chris being at the top of his craft are the two recent episodes on holiday music. I spent the whole 2 hours listening CLOSELY (for the first time) to all these “background” tunes I thought I knew, and being wowed by often shocking industry-themed facts about their relative success. Chris actually makes a convincing case that the Beatles will one day, for future generations, only be known by their Xmas tunes. Huh? Well, listen the the show folks! Anyway, I could go on, but the only people still reading are probably the show’s creators. LOL If Chris ever wants to delegate some of the editing of the show (or another), I’m an accomplished TV editor with some emerging pockets of extra time (as the kids get older). I’d be happy to help. Three ONE OH, for nine se7en, 3773. - Louie
  • arpolo
    Pop music history at it’s best!
    Carefully intertwined accounts of pop music history that build up to crescendo, mixed with interesting behind the scenes stories, Music and excellent narrative.
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