66 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.

    What a Fool Believes Edition

    What a Fool Believes Edition

    Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment.
    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.”
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    • 8 min
    The Bridge: Lilith’s Winding Road

    The Bridge: Lilith’s Winding Road

    In this mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Jessica Hopper, acclaimed critic for publications like Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, GQ, The Guardian, Elle and Bookforum, and author of the books The Girls’ Guide to Rocking, The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic and Night Moves. Her deeply researched September 2019 piece for Vanity Fair, “Building a Mystery: An Oral History of Lilith Fair,” informed and helped inspire the latest episode of Hit Parade. Jessica and Chris discuss the reasons for the festival’s success against the odds, the legacy of its acts big and small, and what a future evolution of a Lilith Fair could look like.

    Next, Chris quizzes a very special Slate Plus listener with some music trivia: TJ Raphael, founding co-host and producer of “The Bridge.” TJ originally conceived of the Lilith Fair episode as she departed “The Bridge”—so Chris has invited her back to talk about her earliest memories of woman-fronted alt-rock. Then Chris finally puts TJ in the trivia hot seat.
     
    Podcast production by Asha Saluja. 

    A special Hit Parade announcement: Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment.
     
    As part of this effort, as of April 2020, Hit Parade episodes are available to Slate Plus members only. To listen to future episodes in full, you'll need to become a Slate Plus member. This is the best way to support our show and our work, and we hope you will pitch in if you can. Your membership will also give access to everything on Slate.com, you'll get ad-free versions of this and other shows, and you'll get bonus segments and bonus episodes of other Slate podcasts. Plus, once you become a member, you can sign up to do trivia with Chris Molanphy on Hit Parade—“The Bridge” episodes.
     
    Please sign up today at slate.com/hitparadeplus. We thank you for your support.





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    • 7 min
    Building a Herstory Edition

    Building a Herstory Edition

    Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment.
    For decades—literally since Woodstock—female musicians had battled music-industry perceptions that amassing too many of them, on the radio or on the road, was bad for business. And yet, by the ’90s, women were vital to the rise of alt-rock and hip-hop on the charts: from Suzanne Vega to Queen Latifah, Tracy Chapman to Sheryl Crow, Natalie Merchant to Missy Elliott.
    Sarah McLachlan harnessed this energy into an all-woman tour she dubbed Lilith Fair. Its string of sellouts from 1997 to ’99 affirmed women’s clout in the decade of grunge-and-gangsta. But the festival was also criticized for its narrow focus and for branding “women’s music” as a genre. More than two decades later, Hit Parade assesses the legacy of Lilith on the charts and on the road—how its performers, attendees and musical descendants are helping to ensure the future is female.
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    • 7 min
    The Bridge: Many Ways to be OutKasted

    The Bridge: Many Ways to be OutKasted

    In this mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Dr. Regina Bradley, Assistant Professor of English and African Diaspora Studies at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, She is the author of the forthcoming book Chronicling Stankonia: The Rise of the Hip Hop South; cohost of the southern hip-hop podcast Bottom of the Map on WABE and PRX; and host of the recent YouTube series OutKasted Conversations. Gina and Chris discuss the most recent full-length episode of Hit Parade, OutKast’s roots in Atlanta’s decades-long funk tradition, and what they meant to Southerners who felt alienated not just by bicoastal hip-hop but also by Atlanta’s unequal progress on the challenges faced by its black residents.

    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 Lilith Fair, the all-female festival tour in the late ’90s, how it reflected women’s role in alternative rock, and its legacy to this day. 

    A special Hit Parade announcement: Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment.
     
    As part of this effort, as of April 2020, Hit Parade episodes are available to Slate Plus members only. To listen to future episodes in full, you'll need to become a Slate Plus member. This is the best way to support our show and our work, and we hope you will pitch in if you can. Your membership will also give access to everything on Slate.com, you'll get ad-free versions of this and other shows, and you'll get bonus segments and bonus episodes of other Slate podcasts. Plus, once you become a member, you can sign up to do trivia with Chris Molanphy on Hit Parade—“The Bridge” episodes.
     
    Please sign up today at slate.com/hitparadeplus. We thank you for your support.

    Podcast production by Asha Saluja. 


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    • 4 min
    Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture Edition

    Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture Edition

    A special Hit Parade announcement: Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment.
    As part of this effort, we're going to be making Full Hit Parade episodes available to Slate Plus members only. To listen to the episode in full, and episodes in future months, you'll need to become a Slate Plus member. This is the best way to support our show and our work, and we hope you will pitch in if you can. Your membership will also give access to everything on Slate.com, you'll get ad-free versions of this and other shows, and you'll get bonus segments and bonus episodes of other Slate podcasts. Plus, once you become a member, you can sign up to do trivia with Chris Molanphy on Hit Parade—“The Bridge” episodes. Please sign up today at slate.com/hitparadeplus. We thank you for your support.
    On this preview episode: Outkast is inarguably one of the most important acts in hip hop and pop music history, but their impressive chart runs, and the brand of Atlanta hip hop they championed, was far from inevitable. This is the story of Outkast and how they established Atlanta as a major center of hip hop culture in the United States while racking up some of the most unexpected hits in the history of popular music.
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    • 7 min
    The Bridge: Piano Man, Everyman

    The Bridge: Piano Man, Everyman

    A special Hit Parade announcement: Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment.
    As part of this effort, we're going to be making Hit Parade episodes available to Slate Plus members only., including the one previewed here. To listen to it in fuyou'll need to become a Slate Plus member. This is the best way to support our show and our work, and we hope you will pitch in if you can. Your membership will also give access to everything on Slate.com, you'll get ad-free versions of this and other shows, and you'll get bonus segments and bonus episodes of other Slate podcasts. Plus, once you become a member, you can sign up to do trivia with Chris Molanphy on Hit Parade—“The Bridge” episodes. 
    Please sign up today at slate.com/hitparadeplus. We thank you for your support.

    In this Bridge episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Julian Velard, musician and inspiration for Chris’s most recent full-length episode, about hitmaker Billy Joel. As a Jewish, New York–based piano player, Julian admits that Joel remains the most relevant touchpoint in his career to this day—and that he’s fought an existential battle with the song “Piano Man.” Chris and Julian wonder how a modern pop landscape might reward (or litigate) Joel’s tendency toward pastiche, and they discuss his ultimate legacy—to critics, to lovers, to haters and other piano men. 
    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 Southward journey of rap music in the late ’90s and early ’00s, spurred by chart-topping Atlanta rappers OutKast. 

    Podcast production by Asha Saluja. 


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    • 3 min

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