53 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

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.

    The Bridge: Legacy of the Elusive Chanteuse

    The Bridge: Legacy of the Elusive Chanteuse

    In this mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Rich Juzwiak, writer for Jezebel as well as Slate’s advice column How to Do It. The two discuss the most recent full-length episode of Hit Parade, a breakdown of how Mariah Carey’s seasonal hit “All I Want for Christmas Is You” finally hit No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, an improbable 25 years after its original release. Rich walks Chris through the history of Mariah fandom—both his own and her loyal “Lambs”—and how he appreciates her for her low moments as much as her pop peaks.

    Chris quizzes a Slate Plus listener with some music trivia, and the contestant turns the tables with a chance to try to stump Chris with a question of his own. Then, Chris teases the upcoming full-length episode of Hit Parade, which will look at the history of novelty and comedy hits on the charts. 

    While this episode is available to all listeners, our trivia round is open only to Slate Plus members. If you are a member—or once you become a member—enter as a contestant here.

    Want your question featured in an upcoming show? Email a voice memo to hitparade@slate.com.

    Podcast production by Asha Saluja.  
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 31 min
    Make My Wish Come True Edition

    Make My Wish Come True Edition

    Music fans in 2019 are gobsmacked that the No. 1 song in America is not only a Christmas song but a 25-year-old recording: Mariah Carey’s holiday perennial “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Even more amazingly, it’s the first Christmas song to top Billboard’s Hot 100 in 61 years, since “The Chipmunk Song” in December 1958. This leads to so many “whys”: Why were there no Christmas No. 1s for six decades? Why didn’t ’60s, ’70s and ’80s holiday classics like “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” “Feliz Navidad” and “Last Christmas” become Hot 100 hits? Why did Carey’s classic not chart in 1994, when it was released—and why did it only start charting in the 2010s and seem to get more popular every year this decade?
    In this special holiday edition of Hit Parade we answer all of these questions, and explain how virtually everything had to change about the music business for Mariah’s Christmas chestnut to reach No. 1: from Billboard chart rules, to digital music technologies, to even the tragic passing of a fellow music diva. It all combined to give Carey her incredible 19th No. 1 on the Hot 100—just one chart-topper away from the Beatles.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 14 min
    The Bridge: Queens Bey, Rih and Robyn Reign Different Kingdoms

    The Bridge: Queens Bey, Rih and Robyn Reign Different Kingdoms

    In this mid-month mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by The Bridge producer Asha Saluja to discuss the most recent full-length episode of Hit Parade, an exhaustive analysis of the top-charting singles of the 2010s. Chris tells Asha why Beyoncé, indisputably one of the decade’s most influential artists, didn’t make it into the episode. Then Chris and Asha talk about a few of their favorite singles of the decade--some made it onto the Billboard Hot 100, and others didn’t. Chris quizzes a Slate Plus listener with some music trivia, and the contestant turns the tables with a chance to try to stump Chris with a question of his own. Then, Chris teases the upcoming full-length episode of Hit Parade, which will be a look at Christmas music’s record on the Hot 100--including a record that just might be broken this year if a beloved holiday tune by a certain chart-running pop diva hits No. 1. And finally, Chris corrects the record on some mistakes he’s made in Hit Parade this year. Anyone remember “meekrat”? 

    While this episode is available to all listeners, our trivia round is open only to Slate Plus members. If you are a member—or once you become a member—enter as a contestant here.

    Want your question featured in an upcoming show? Email a voice memo to hitparade@slate.com.

    Podcast production by Asha Saluja.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 26 min
    Rolling in God’s Royal Uptown Road Edition.

    Rolling in God’s Royal Uptown Road Edition.

    All decades of pop music swing between trends and fads—but the 2010s was swingier than most. From the maximalist EDM of the early ’10s to the downbeat hip-hop of the late ’10s, the pop pendulum oscillated more widely than you may remember. The same decade that gave us Adele’s stately balladry, Katy Perry’s electro-froth and Taylor Swift’s country-to-pop crossover also gave us the Weeknd’s bleary indie-R&B and Drake’s moody rap. And Bieber—so. Much. Bieber.
    With just weeks to go before the end of 2019, Hit Parade walks through the last decade of the Hot 100, year by year, and asks: What was that? Arguably, what drove pop in the ’10s wasn’t just the production sounds of dance music or hip-hop but the technologies we used to consume music, as the shift from downloads to streams changed the contours of chart success. And in the end, one multigenre queen navigated these shifts better than most, finding pop love in a hopeless place.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 37 min
    The Bridge: Genre v. Generation, ’80s to ’10s

    The Bridge: Genre v. Generation, ’80s to ’10s

    In this mid-month mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Ned Raggett, freelance music writer for All Music Guide and The Quietus and expert on the ’80s U.K. bands celebrated on the most recent full-length episode of Hit Parade. Chris and Ned discuss what they call the “holy quartet” of British postpunk bands—The Cure, The Smiths, Depeche Mode and New Order—and Ned weighs in on the challenge of what to call this wave: Is it goth? mope-rock? Do these bands actually constitute a genre, or more of a generational cohort? Also, Chris quizzes a Slate Plus listener with some music trivia, and the contestant turns the tables with a chance to try to stump Chris with a trivia question of his own. And finally, Chris teases the upcoming full-length episode of Hit Parade, which will be a retrospective look at the 2010s. 

    While this episode is available to all listeners, our trivia round is open only to Slate Plus members. If you are a member—or once you become a member—enter as a contestant here.

    Want your question featured in an upcoming show? Email a voice memo to hitparade@slate.com.

    Podcast production by Asha Saluja.  
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 27 min
    Lost and Lonely Edition

    Lost and Lonely Edition

    If you were an angsty American teenager in the 1980s—whether in real life, or in a John Hughes movie—the rock you loved probably came from the United Kingdom, complete with droning vocals, brooding lyrics, goth hair, and black nail polish. The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, Joy Division/New Order, the Smiths: All these U.K. postpunk acts were hard-pressed to score American hits in the first half of the ’80s—the era of fun-loving New Romantic bands like Duran Duran. But to Gen X teens, Robert Smith, Siouxsie Sioux, and Morrissey were icons.
    By the end of the decade, however, these bands became American hitmakers, especially after Billboard launched the music bible’s first alternative rock chart. Depeche Mode sold out a California stadium. New Order dominated dancefloors. The Smiths’ Johnny Marr became a guitar god, Morrissey an MTV crush object. And finally, in 1989, the Cure—dark, doomy, and moody as ever—were challenging Janet Jackson for the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Just in time for Halloween, Hit Parade tells the story of how spooky, spidery, U.K. mope-rock became chart-conquering pop.
    Podcast production by Justin D. Wright.
    Hosted by Chris Molanphy
    Follow @cmolanphy on Twitter / https://www.twitter.com/cmolanphy 
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 25 min

Listeners Also Subscribed To

More by Slate Magazine