93 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
    • 4.8 • 83 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.

    Spirit of ’71, Part 1

    Spirit of ’71, Part 1

    At any given time, the music world is celebrating some anniversary, but 1971 has received more than its share of commemorations this year. And with good reason: Carole King. Marvin Gaye. Joni Mitchell. Sly Stone. Janis Joplin. The Who. All released their best work a half-century ago.
    For our 50th episode of Hit Parade, we go back 50 years, celebrating the semicentennial of the year when, critics claim, “music changed everything.” The Quiet Beatle became the Favorite Beatle, when Mick Jagger sang lyrics even he regrets, when Carole King graduated from songwriter to singer-songwriter, and commercial juggernaut, when blaxploitation took over the charts and the Oscars, and when the radio was somehow awash in Osmonds. It wasn’t a perfect year—but Hit Parade host Chris Molanphy is fond of ’71 for personal reasons.
     Podcast production by Asha Saluja with help from Rosemary Belson.

    Sign up for Slate Plus now to get episodes in one installment as soon as they're out. You'll also get The Bridge, our trivia show and bonus deep dive. Click here for more info.  
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 14 min
    What a Fool Believes, Part 2

    What a Fool Believes, Part 2

    In part 2 of this episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy continues his deep dive on Yacht Rock, the retroactive genre label for the sleek, jazzy, R&B-flavored sound that cropped up in the late '70s and early '80s amongst polished, perfectionist West Coast studio musicians.
    Whatever you call it, this music really did command the charts at the turn of the ’80s: from Steely Dan to George Benson, Michael McDonald to Kenny Loggins, Toto to…Michael Jackson?! Believe it: even Thriller is partially a Yacht Rock album. This month, Hit Parade breaks down what Yacht Rock was and how it took over the charts four decades ago—from the perfectionism of “Peg,” to the bounce of “What a Fool Believes,” to the epic smoothness of “Africa.”

    This episode was released in August 2020 exclusively for Slate Plus listeners. Sign up for Slate Plus now to get episodes in one installment as soon as they're out. You'll also get The Bridge, our trivia show and bonus deep dive. Click here for more info.  
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 48 min
    What a Fool Believes, Part 1

    What a Fool Believes, Part 1

    In the late ’70s and early ’80s, a scene and a sound cropped up on the West Coast: polished, perfectionist studio musicians who generated sleek, jazzy, R&B-flavored music. About a quarter-century later, this sound was given a name: Yacht Rock. The inventors of the genre name weren’t thinking about boats…well, unless the song was Christopher Cross’s “Sailing.” Yacht Rock was meant to signify deluxe, yuppified, “smooth” music suitable for playing on luxury nautical craft.
    Whatever you call it, this music really did command the charts at the turn of the ’80s: from Steely Dan to George Benson, Michael McDonald to Kenny Loggins, Toto to…Michael Jackson?! Believe it: even Thriller is partially a Yacht Rock album. This month, Hit Parade breaks down what Yacht Rock was and how it took over the charts four decades ago—from the perfectionism of “Peg,” to the bounce of “What a Fool Believes,” to the epic smoothness of “Africa.”

    This episode was released in August 2020 exclusively for Slate Plus listeners. Sign up for Slate Plus now to get episodes in one installment as soon as they're out. You'll also get The Bridge, our trivia show and bonus deep dive. Click here for more info.  
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr
    Tramps Like Us, Part 2

    Tramps Like Us, Part 2

    In Part 2 of this episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy continues his analysis of the career and legacy of the legendary and sometimes-misunderstood Bruce Springsteen. In his second decade, Springsteen wasn’t just a hitmaker—he was the archetype: the symbol of flag-waving American rock, even when the song was less patriotism than protest. Advertisers, other pop stars, President Ronald Reagan—everybody glommed onto Bruce, and virtually all of them got him wrong. Just in time for summer, Hit Parade takes on the Boss, pop star. How did Bruce Springsteen invent his persona and find his truth?
    Podcast production by Asha Saluja.

    Hit Parade episodes are now 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. Click here for more info.  
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 14 min
    Tramps Like Us, Part 1

    Tramps Like Us, Part 1

    Bruce Springsteen has been a legend so long, it’s easy to forget that, for his first decade, he had trouble getting a hit. Yes, even the legendary “Born to Run”: It missed Billboard’s Top 20. And yet, several of Springsteen’s songs became big hits for others: the song with the misheard lyric about “a deuce” that went to No. 1 for a British band. The song he couldn’t finish that became a hit for a punk priestess. The song he refused to let his record label hear that became a massive hit for the Pointer Sisters. The hit he almost gave away to the Ramones.
     
    In his second decade, on the other hand, Springsteen wasn’t just a hitmaker—he was the archetype: the symbol of flag-waving American rock, even when the song was less patriotism than protest. Advertisers, other pop stars, President Ronald Reagan—everybody glommed onto Bruce, and virtually all of them got him wrong. Just in time for summer, Hit Parade takes on the Boss, pop star. How did Bruce Springsteen invent his persona and find his truth?

    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. Click here for more info.  

    Production by Asha Saluja, with help from Rosemary Belson.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 15 min
    Say My Name, Say My Name, Part 2

    Say My Name, Say My Name, Part 2

    In Part 2 of this episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy continues his analysis of when singing became central to rap music. Rap has always been musical. But back in the day, rappers generally, well, rapped: talked in cadence over a beat. Fans judged MCs primarily by their rhymes and rhythms, not their melodies.
    Now? Rappers are mostly singers: MCs from Drake to DaBaby slip seamlessly in and out of melody. Some hits that appear on Billboard’s Rap charts feature literally no rapping. When did this change?
    Part 2 takes a close look at an integral pivot point in this progression: when Beyoncé changed the game by singing with triple-time flow like the baddest MC.
     
    Podcast production by Asha Saluja.

    Hit Parade episodes are now 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. Click here for more info.  
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 9 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
83 Ratings

83 Ratings

bkkguy ,

Genius

Favourite pod. Chris knows his stuff but delivers nostalgia and facts with care and lov and engagement. I’ve lost count of music I’ve discovered or rediscovered via this pod. Music is rejected is reconsidered and genres i though I knew - Chris brings new insights.
Love it.

Snappettysnap ,

Incredible

Such a compelling show. Put together in such an original and intelligent way. I wait on tenterhooks for the next episode. It’s so brilliant. Yay!

J S Allan ,

Sorry Slate, I’m out!

Absolutely no need to hold your listeners to ransom. Everyone is suffering during these unprecedented times and asking listeners to pay $35 a year for content that has, up to now, been free, is not the answer.
I’m in the UK and organisations like The Guardian often have donation drives...any one who wants to or, more importantly, can afford to is free to donate whatever they can. Maybe that’s a more appropriate strategy at this time.
I love Chris and this podcast, but I won’t be paying for it...sorry.
S Allan - London / UK

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