110 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 • 1.6K 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.

    Decoder Ring: "We Got Ourselves a Convoy"

    Decoder Ring: "We Got Ourselves a Convoy"

    In the 1970s, a song about protesting truckers topped the music charts in multiple countries, and kicked off a pop culture craze for CB radios. In early 2022, that same song became an anthem for a new trucker-led protest movement in Canada and the US. How did C.W. McCall’s “Convoy” come to exist, and what had it been trying to say? 
    For this episode, which was inspired by a listener’s question, we’ve updated a story that originally aired in 2017, but that could not be more relevant today. Slate producer Evan Chung is going to take us through the history of this bizarre number-one smash, an artifact from a time when truckers were also at the center of the culture. It touches on advertising, hamburger buns, and speed limits but also global conflict, sky-rocketing gas prices, and aggrieved, protesting truck drivers. 
    Some of the voices you’ll hear in this episode include Bill Fries, advertising executive; Chip Davis, singer and songwriter; and Meg Jacobs, historian and author of Panic at the Pump.
    This episode of Decoder Ring was written and produced by Evan Chung and Willa Paskin with help from Elizabeth Nakano. Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is our Technical Director.
    If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at DecoderRing@slate.com.
    If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism.
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    • 36 min
    I Got Five on It Part 2

    I Got Five on It Part 2

    Five years ago this month, Hit Parade launched on the Slate podcast network. What have we learned in that half-decade? And what episodes did you love the most? We asked you to vote—and the results may surprise you. Sure, you enjoyed our shows about Madonna, Nirvana, Whitney, Mariah, Bruce, Stevie and Janet. But even more than that, you loved our nerdy deep dives about the producers behind “Le Freak”…the rules for One-Hit Wonders…the college-rockers from Athens, Ga.…the man behind Meat Loaf…the smooth players behind Yacht Rock…and that explainer about why you had to pay top dollar for CDs in the ’90s with only one good song.

    Join host Chris Molanphy as he shares his founding principles for Hit Parade, and counts down your 20 favorite shows. Happy fifth birthday to us! We’re finally old enough for kindergarten.

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

    • 58 min
    I Got Five on It Part 1

    I Got Five on It Part 1

    Five years ago this month, Hit Parade launched on the Slate podcast network. What have we learned in that half-decade? And what episodes did you love the most? We asked you to vote—and the results may surprise you. Sure, you enjoyed our shows about Madonna, Nirvana, Whitney, Mariah, Bruce, Stevie and Janet. But even more than that, you loved our nerdy deep dives about the producers behind “Le Freak”…the rules for One-Hit Wonders…the college-rockers from Athens, Ga.…the man behind Meat Loaf…the smooth players behind Yacht Rock…and that explainer about why you had to pay top dollar for CDs in the ’90s with only one good song.

    Join host Chris Molanphy as he shares his founding principles for Hit Parade, and counts down your 20 favorite shows. Happy fifth birthday to us! We’re finally old enough for kindergarten.

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

    • 54 min
    Killing Me Softly Part 2

    Killing Me Softly Part 2

    The early ’70s was a great time for R&B queens on the charts: Roberta Flack. Dionne Warwick. Patti LaBelle. Chaka Khan. They had come through the ’60s—Dionne as a smooth pop-and-B star, Patti as a girl-group frontwoman, Roberta as a cabaret pianist—and found themselves in a new decade with limitless possibilities. Flack turned folk songs into chart-topping, Grammy-winning R&B. Warwick shifted from Brill Building pop to Philly soul. LaBelle threw her insane voice at rock, funk and glam. And a relative newcomer, Rufus frontwoman Chaka Khan, followed in their footsteps, commanding the band and converting to disco, then electro. By the ’80s, all four women were ready for a major chart victory lap.

    Join host Chris Molanphy as he traces four parallel careers that expanded the definition of soul from the ’60s through the ’80s and beyond. These soul sisters, flow sisters, bold sisters…killed us softly, walked on by and were, finally, every woman.

    Podcast production by Kevin Bendis.

    Host
    Chris Molanphy
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 2 min
    Killing Me Softly Part 1

    Killing Me Softly Part 1

    The early ’70s was a great time for R&B queens on the charts: Roberta Flack. Dionne Warwick. Patti LaBelle. Chaka Khan. They had come through the ’60s—Dionne as a smooth pop-and-B star, Patti as a girl-group frontwoman, Roberta as a cabaret pianist—and found themselves in a new decade with limitless possibilities. Flack turned folk songs into chart-topping, Grammy-winning R&B. Warwick shifted from Brill Building pop to Philly soul. LaBelle threw her insane voice at rock, funk, and glam. And a relative newcomer, Rufus frontwoman Chaka Khan, followed in their footsteps, commanding the band and converting to disco, then electro. By the ’80s, all four women were ready for a major chart victory lap.

    Join host Chris Molanphy as he traces four parallel careers that expanded the definition of soul from the ’60s through the ’80s and beyond. These soul sisters, flow sisters, bold sisters…killed us softly, walked on by and were, finally, every woman.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 19 min
    We Invented the Remix Part 2

    We Invented the Remix Part 2

    Today on Hit Parade, we continue tracing the history of the remix. From Jennifer Lopez to Billie Eilish to Lil Nas X, the remix has become a ubiquitous part of contemporary pop chart battles. In part 2 we continue to story of how the remix became the defacto mode of reviving flagging singles, resulting in some of the most dominant pop songs of all time.
    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.   
    Podcast production by Benjamin Frisch
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 6 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
1.6K Ratings

1.6K Ratings

Lord Tedford ,

High Five!

Congratulations on celebrating your 5th anniversary, and thank you for putting out a podcast that is as entertaining as it is informative.

As other listeners have said, some of my favorite episodes have been the ones that on the surface were about acts that I usually wouldn't give a second thought. What keeps me listening is how you tie each act to its place in the greater context of musical history, and how you illustrate the arc of each act.

Here's to another five years of solid music journalism. Keep on marching on the one!

Maymey ,

Love the podcast, but hate the hate

I’ve listened to every episode. Overall, I love the podcast, but I’m getting tired of Chris repeatedly talking about how much he hates Bon Jovi and other artists. It’s getting tiresome. It makes him seem petty and small. Not sure what’s to be gained by offending many of his listeners. Stick to the charts and the great stories. That’s what you do best. No need to rip on artists you don’t like.

Guinea pig88 ,

Awesome, Awesome Podcast!

Over the last few weeks since I’ve discovered this podcast, I appreciate it even more having heard pretty much every episode at this point. Chris does a masterful job writing and producing these shows and as a Casey Kasem fan who is about the same age as Chris, I very much appreciate the tip of the hat to Casey as well. Something I look forward to each month now!

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