58 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
    • 4.8, 1.2K 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.

    La Vida Loca Edición

    La Vida Loca Edición

    Hit Parade takes you back to the turn of the millennium when, for a couple of years, it seemed like a Latin pop star was topping Billboard’ Hot 100 every few weeks: Ricky Martin. Jennifer Lopez. Enrique Iglesias. Marc Anthony. Carlos Santana. Shakira. This wave of Latin crossover was hard-fought and a long time coming—from “La Bamba” to “Macarena,” Spanish-language hits in the 20th century had been treated like novelties by record buyers and radio programmers.
    The Latin boom of 1999 changed all that—but did it go far enough? How did we get from the slick Spanglish of “Livin’ la Vida Loca” to the Spanish-first success of “Despacito” and “Mi Gente”? And how did Ritchie Valens and João Gilberto prepare America for J.Lo and Shakira triumphing at the Super Bowl?
    Podcast production by Justin D. Wright.
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    • 1 hr 37 min
    The Bridge: Wesley on Whitney

    The Bridge: Wesley on Whitney

    In this mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Wesley Morris, Pulitzer Prize–winning critic, New York Times critic-at-large, and co-host of Still Processing. They discuss the most recent full-length episode of Hit Parade about the chart legacy of Whitney Houston, which was inspired in part by Wesley and his co-host Jenna Wortham’s analysis in Still Processing of Houston’s life, identity, and artistry. Wesley talks about his first memory of seeing Whitney on TV, his respect for the versatility of her voice, and his commiseration with her sometimes-cold reception by Black fans. 
    Next, 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 Latin pop crossover on the American charts. 
    While this episode is available to all listeners, our trivia round is open only to Slate Plus members. Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work.
    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

    • 29 min
    I'm Your Whitney Tonight Edition

    I'm Your Whitney Tonight Edition

    Eight years after her passing—and 35 years after the release of her debut album—Whitney Houston is about to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Predictably, some rock fans have carped that Houston doesn’t belong in the Hall. But they are not the only ones who, historically, have complained about Houston’s bona fides. In the ’80s, at the apex of her success, black fans complained that Houston was courting white pop fans too eagerly, and forgetting her roots in gospel and R&B.
    On the charts, by contrast, Whitney Houston’s achievements are indisputable. But they also might be underrated. Houston’s chart records offer a window into exactly how she crossed over…and whether she deserved the backlash. In this episode, Chris Molanphy walks step by step through Whitney’s storied chart records—including a couple that have gone unheralded—that help explain why she was a seminal, singular figure among black female crossover stars, from Aretha and Diana to Beyoncé.
    Podcast production by Justin D. Wright.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 30 min
    The Bridge: Living in an Amish Paradise

    The Bridge: Living in an Amish Paradise

    In this mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Nathan Rabin, podcaster and writer of two books about “Weird Al” Yankovic. They discuss the most recent full-length episode of Hit Parade, a history of novelty songs on the Billboard charts culminating with the oeuvre of the most successful parody musician ever. Nathan shares the history of his Al fandom and eventual book-length collaboration, and Chris and Nathan theorize about the secrets of Al’s success.
    (Want to see Nathan Rabin talk about Weird Al in person? Join him in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 22, 2020, at 3:30 p.m. PST at Dynasty Typewriter—tickets here.)
    Next, 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 record-breaking career of the late Whitney Houston—now a Rock Hall inductee.
    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

    • 30 min
    The White and Nerdy Edition

    The White and Nerdy Edition

    Sped-up voices. Wacky instruments. Songs about cavemen, bathtubs, bikinis and mothers-in-law. From the very birth of rock-and-roll, novelty songs were essential elements of the hit parade. Right through the ’70s—the age of streaking, CB radios, disco and King Tut—novelty songs could be chart-topping hits. But by the corporate ’80s, it was harder for goofballs to score round-the-clock hits on regimented radio playlists.
    Until one perm-headed, mustachioed, accordion-playing parodist who called himself “Weird” rebooted novelty hits for the new millennium. A video jokester before YouTube, he just might have ushered in the age of the meme. So join Hit Parade this month as we walk through the history of novelty hits on the charts—most especially if M.C. Escher is your favorite M.C.
    Podcast production by Justin D. Wright.
    Follow @cmolanphy on Twitter


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    • 1 hr 28 min
    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

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
1.2K Ratings

1.2K Ratings

BeachBumParis ,

Is there a playlist somewhere where we can get the full tracks that are discussed on the episode?

I listne to the podcast, do my housework, shake it, and say YEAH" right out loud!

russelldoll ,

Great show!

Great information and great listening!

Pozzima77 ,

What’s Up with the Sound Editing?

Good information and awesome concept, but all the song tracks are so far in the background you can barely hear them. It’s obnoxious.

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