144 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 Podcasts

    • Music
    • 4.8 • 1.8K 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.

    Insert Lyrics Here Edition Part 1

    Insert Lyrics Here Edition Part 1

    If an instrumental tops the charts, it’s probably an earworm: “Tequila.” “Wipeout.” “Dueling Banjos.” “The Hustle.” “Feels So Good.” “Chariots of Fire.” “Axel F.” You can probably whistle or hum several of those from memory. But do you remember the artists? All were one-hit wonders. By and large, instrumental hits throughout chart history were flukes.

    But there were exceptions: a trumpet player from Los Angeles who pretended to be Latin, made up a fake mariachi band, put sexy models on his album covers and topped the charts almost as much as the Beatles. Or, a try-hard, perm-headed soprano saxophone player from Seattle, who turned holding his breath while playing dizzying runs of notes into an athletic feat.

    How do songs without words become hits? Why were Herb Alpert and Kenny G so good at it? Why did instrumentals fall off the charts after the ’80s—and who is bringing them back? (Hint: think oontz-oontz-oontz.) Join Chris Molanphy as he throws away the lyric sheet and explains how a catchy melody can be worth a thousand words.

    Podcast production by Kevin Bendis.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 2 min
    Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture Edition Part 2

    Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture Edition Part 2

    Talk about ’90s rap, and most music fans will throw around the word “gangsta” and talk about the East Coast–West Coast feud that tragically brought down Biggie and Tupac. But one rap group, OutKast, quite literally rose above the fray: At the 1995 Source Awards, while East and West were bickering with each other, OutKast’s André Benjamin took the mic and told the rap faithful that hip-hop’s future was in the South. For the next quarter century, he was proved indisputably correct.
    OutKast brought about this sea change by conceiving of hip-hop as everything music: funk, soul, pop, club, even country and indie all found their way into André and Big Boi’s music. By the time of their final studio album, they had pulled away almost fully from pure rap—and were rewarded with their biggest hits ever, a No. 1 smash each for Big Boi and André. Including that immortal jam that taught you, the fellas and the ladies—including all Beyoncés and Lucy Lius—what’s cooler than being cool.
    Podcast production by Benjamin Frisch and Kevin Bendis.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 36 min
    Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture Edition Part 1

    Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture Edition Part 1

    Talk about ’90s rap, and most music fans will throw around the word “gangsta” and talk about the East Coast–West Coast feud that tragically brought down Biggie and Tupac. But one rap group, OutKast, quite literally rose above the fray: At the 1995 Source Awards, while East and West were bickering with each other, OutKast’s André Benjamin took the mic and told the rap faithful that hip-hop’s future was in the South. For the next quarter century, he was proved indisputably correct.
    OutKast brought about this sea change by conceiving of hip-hop as everything music: funk, soul, pop, club, even country and indie all found their way into André and Big Boi’s music. By the time of their final studio album, they had pulled away almost fully from pure rap—and were rewarded with their biggest hits ever, a No. 1 smash each for Big Boi and André. Including that immortal jam that taught you, the fellas and the ladies—including all Beyoncés and Lucy Lius—what’s cooler than being cool.
    Podcast production by Benjamin Frisch and Kevin Bendis.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 51 min
    Lenny on Mars Edition Part 2

    Lenny on Mars Edition Part 2

    What do Lenny Kravitz, a hitmaker primarily in the ’90s and ’00s, and Bruno Mars, a 2010s–20s hitmaker, have in common? It turns out, a lot: Each man has a wide-ranging ethnic and musical background, with early exposure to unusual sides of showbiz. Each has scored hits in a variety of styles. They are admirers of each other’s work and have even performed live together.

    But the main thing Lenny and Bruno have in common is their skill—some might say habit—of borrowing tropes and styles from hitmakers of the past. Kravitz from the very start of his career emulated the rock stylings of his heroes, like John Lennon and Sly Stone. And Bruno Mars—talk about an Unorthodox Jukebox: His career has been a parade of hits whose sound has spanned from the Police to Rick James to Michael Jackson.

    Are they cultural appropriators, or genius style chameleons? Join Chris Molanphy as he chronicles two premier pop stylists of the last 30 years who wore genres like costumes and rebooted oldies into modern hits. Don’t believe them? Just watch.


    Podcast production by Kevin Bendis.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 47 min
    Lenny on Mars Edition Part 1

    Lenny on Mars Edition Part 1

    What do Lenny Kravitz, a hitmaker primarily in the ’90s and ’00s, and Bruno Mars, a 2010s–20s hitmaker, have in common? It turns out, a lot: Each man has a wide-ranging ethnic and musical background, with early exposure to unusual sides of showbiz. Each has scored hits in a variety of styles. They are admirers of each other’s work and have even performed live together.

    But the main thing Lenny and Bruno have in common is their skill—some might say habit—of borrowing tropes and styles from hitmakers of the past. Kravitz from the very start of his career emulated the rock stylings of his heroes, like John Lennon and Sly Stone. And Bruno Mars—talk about an Unorthodox Jukebox: His career has been a parade of hits whose sound has spanned from the Police to Rick James to Michael Jackson.

    Are they cultural appropriators, or genius style chameleons? Join Chris Molanphy as he chronicles two premier pop stylists of the last 30 years who wore genres like costumes and rebooted oldies into modern hits. Don’t believe them? Just watch.


    Podcast production by Kevin Bendis.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 2 min
    Yes We Can Can Edition Part 2

    Yes We Can Can Edition Part 2

    Today, the Pointer Sisters are mostly remembered for their flurry of ’80s hits, especially the “Excited” one about losing control and liking it. But their musical history is far more varied: jazz standards? Civil rights–era funk? Country music? Yacht rock? The Pointers applied their impeccable sibling harmonies to all of it.

    Billboard ranks the Pointer Sisters behind only the Supremes, TLC, and Destiny’s Child among hitmaking girl groups. Yet their versatility has gone relatively unheralded—from the Grammy they won in a country category, to the Bruce Springsteen demo they turned into a smash, to the kiddie bop they recorded for Sesame Street.

    How did the Pointers score so many hits in so many idioms? Join Chris Molanphy as he gives the Pointer Sisters their due as harmonizing innovators and genre-defying hitmakers. Here at Hit Parade, we jump (for their love).

    Podcast production by Kevin Bendis.





    This Pride Month, make an impact by helping Macy’s and The Trevor Project on their mission to fund life-saving suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth. Go to macys.com/purpose to learn more. 
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 40 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
1.8K Ratings

1.8K Ratings

Godozo ,

Greater than the Growing Sum of Its Parts

I have been listening to this podcast for years now, and to me the best thing – above the amazing width that the host uncovers in what would seem to be a shallow, disposable subject – is how he builds on past subjects and podcasts, interlinking everything so that the whole slowly develops into a whole that is greater than the ever-growing sum of its various, occasionally contradictory parts.

Chambersstevens ,

Amazing!

I listen to a fair number of music podcast! But this one is on a whole other level! Keep up the good work!

Whoever7538 ,

Get a new host

I love popular music history but the sanctimonious, self-congratulatory host of this series ruins this podcast. Skip it until they replace this hack.

Top Podcasts In Music

The Joe Budden Network
Interval Presents
SiriusXM
Nicki Minaj • ThatBarbDre
Barstool Sports
Friday Night Karaoke

You Might Also Like

Vulture
Rolling Stone | Cumulus Podcast Network
The Drive | Hubbard Radio
Slate Podcasts
Sound Opinions
Slate Podcasts

More by Slate Magazine

Slate Podcasts
Slate Podcasts
Slate Podcasts
Slate Podcasts
Slate Podcasts
Slate Podcasts