76 episodes

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.

Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia Slate Magazine

    • Music History
    • 4.9 • 140 Ratings

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.

    Smells Like Christmas Spirit, Part 2

    Smells Like Christmas Spirit, Part 2

    Hit Parade is back for non-Slate Plus listeners! Upcoming episodes will be split into two parts, released two weeks apart. For the full episode right now, sign up for Slate Plus and you'll also get The Bridge, our Trivia show and bonus deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus.
    In Part 2 of this episode of Hit Parade, we continue the story of how Nirvana’s Nevermind ousted Michael Jackson’s Dangerous from the top of the Billboard album chart, Chris Molanphy examines the chart dynamics that not only ushered in the grunge era but also invented a new music sales strategy, the post-Christmas album, and how that trend has been shaped and changed by the rise of rap, and the surprise album drop.
    Podcast production by Benjamin Frisch.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 49 min
    Smells Like Christmas Spirit, Part 1

    Smells Like Christmas Spirit, Part 1

    Hit Parade is back for non-Slate Plus listeners! Upcoming episodes will be split into two parts, released two weeks apart. For the full episode right now, sign up for Slate Plus and you'll also get The Bridge, our Trivia show and bonus deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus.
    When Nirvana’s Nevermind ousted Michael Jackson’s Dangerous from the top of the Billboard album chart, it made headlines in early 1992. Only, it didn’t really happen in ’92. What gave Nirvana the win happened right after Christmas ’91. Teenagers who were home for the holidays voted with their gift cards, and they gave Kurt Cobain’s band the win over the King of Pop. This month, Chris Molanphy examines the chart dynamics that not only ushered in the grunge era but also invented a new music sales strategy, the post-Christmas album.
    Podcast production by Benjamin Frisch.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 34 min
    Friends in Low Places, Part 2

    Friends in Low Places, Part 2

    Hit Parade is back for non-Slate Plus listeners! Upcoming episodes will be split into two parts, released two weeks apart. For the full episode right now, sign up for Slate Plus and you'll also get The Bridge, our Trivia show and bonus deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus.
    Hit Parade continues the story of Garth Brooks. In the ’90s, he was country-authentic, ignored pop radio, and still utterly dominated the charts as the decade’s biggest multiplatinum megastar. Brooks took on chart competitors from Guns n’ Roses to Madonna to Mariah Carey and bested them all … until he tried taking on the Beatles. (And we’re still scratching our heads over that Chris Gaines thing.) 
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 42 min
    Friends in Low Places, Part 1

    Friends in Low Places, Part 1

    Hit Parade is back for non-Slate Plus listeners! Upcoming episodes will be split into two parts, released two weeks apart. For the full episode right now, sign up for Slate Plus and you'll also get The Bridge, our Trivia show and bonus deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus.
    Today your Hit Parade marches to the week ending October 27th, 1990, when “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks was in its fourth week at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles and Tracks, the same week his album No Fences instantly went gold and platinum, affirming that he was country music’s biggest star. Soon enough, Brooks would become —more than any rock star, rapper or pop diva—the archetypal artist of the SoundScan era. On part 1, we explore country music's boom and bust 1970's and 80's before diving into the world that made Garth Brooks megastardom possible.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 20 min
    Turn Around, Bright Eyes, Part 2

    Turn Around, Bright Eyes, Part 2

    Hit Parade is back for non-Slate Plus listeners! Upcoming episodes will be split into two parts, released two weeks apart. For the full episode right now, sign up for Slate Plus and you'll also get The Bridge, our Trivia show and bonus deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus.
    In part 2 of our episode on Meatloaf maestro Jim Steinman: Chris Molanphy continues the story of how Steinman moved on from Meatloaf to emerge as a hitmaker for other artists like Bonnie Tyler with "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and Celine Dion with “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”. At the height of his power, he had more credits in the top 40 than Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 57 min
    Turn Around, Bright Eyes, Part 1

    Turn Around, Bright Eyes, Part 1

    Hit Parade is back for non-Slate Plus listeners! Upcoming episodes will be split into two parts, released two weeks apart. For the full episode right now, sign up for Slate Plus and you'll also get The Bridge, our Trivia show and bonus deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus.
    Producers and songwriters have a major impact on how a finished pop song sounds, and feels. But it’s possible no hitmaking mastermind—not even Phil Spector—has had a more specific pop sound than Jim Steinman. His songs have an unmistakable signature: pounding pianos, revving motorcycles, sometimes literal thunder. And power-vocalists singing passionate lyrics that don’t always make sense but always sound like the fate of the world depends on this song.
    Chris Molanphy tells the story of a fervent, headstrong songwriter who fused with a singer who called himself Meat Loaf, creating a blockbuster song cycle called Bat Out of Hell. Steinman then went on to spread his pomp-rock to other artists: Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All.” Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.” Every song sounded like a hallelujah chorus and a Broadway show—even though Steinman’s actual Broadway show was a notorious flop. But nothing keeps Jim Steinman down. Forever’s gonna start tonight.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 52 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
140 Ratings

140 Ratings

Flyseyes1512 ,

Love your Brutal Honesty

Chris. Love the way you didn’t bow to the pressure of the “kiss my ass” industry and fake your way thru the Bon Jovi expose. How can a band that is universally despised be so successful? I’m you your camp. Love your summary of the Hair Metal Brigade. It was my era and bought back some great memories. Thanks.

RadDude32 ,

one of the best

if you like music history, this is an engaging show!

Moidysgirl ,

Never disappoints

The latest episode was a revelation. I can’t say I’m a fan of Genesis or Phil Collins - I think that’s about the over exposure that Chris talked about in the episode. But the way in which Chris told the story gave me a newfound respect for the work, the strength and depth of the hits and even got my toes tapping and head bobbing a few times. I cannot recommend this podcast enough. Chris’ depth of knowledge shines through and he comes across as personable and just a fan of music. You don’t have to be a fan of the artist he’s talking about to get a lot out of the episode (I’m looking about you Miley Cyrus!) Start with any episode but do go back to hear the beginning ones about The Beatles and Red Red Wine - totally fascinating.

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