83 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 • 1.4K 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.

    Taylor’s Version of Country, Part 1

    Taylor’s Version of Country, Part 1

    Taylor Swift’s new album is a reboot of an old album: Fearless, her 2008 chart-topping juggernaut that made her the biggest star on the Billboard charts. But Fearless (Taylor’s Version)—filled with banjos, steel guitars and fiddles—is also a reminder for those who forgot: Swift was once the top act in country music, too. From Dolly Parton to Shania Twain, the Chicks to Faith Hill, no country artist has ever crossed over to pop the way Taylor did, utterly dominating one genre before she took over another.
     
    In this episode, Chris Molanphy focuses on Taylor: the country years, dissecting how she gradually, step by step, became the new queen of pop one irresistible song at a time. She went from interviewing bigger stars on MTV’s red carpet one year, to being the talk of the Video Music Awards the next—even before Kanye took that microphone away from her. He told Taylor he would let her finish, but the game was already over. Swift had the most played song in the USA.
     
    Podcast production by Asha Saluja, with help from Rosemary Belson.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 55 min
    Don’t Know Much About History, Part 2

    Don’t Know Much About History, Part 2

    In Part 2 of this episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy continues his analysis of the music of Sam Cooke. The Oscar-nominated film One Night in Miami… imagines the conversation between Cooke, Malcolm X, Cassius Clay and Jim Brown the night in 1964 they gathered to celebrate the soon-to-be Muhammad Ali’s heavyweight victory. Malcolm X challenges Sam Cooke to use his amazing voice to help “the struggle.” Little did he know Cooke had already recorded his civil‑rights masterpiece, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
     
    In his too-brief career—seven years as a gospel star, then seven more as a chart-conquering superstar—Sam Cooke took a remarkable journey: from the pathbreaking pop of “You Send Me,” to the wistful R&B of “(What a) Wonderful World,” to the yearning romance of “Bring It on Home to Me,” to—of course—the now-legendary “Change Is Gonna Come.” Meet the man who defined what soul music was and could be.
     
    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.

    Podcast production by Asha Saluja.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 54 min
    Don’t Know Much About History, Part 1

    Don’t Know Much About History, Part 1

    The Oscar-nominated film One Night in Miami… imagines the conversation between Sam Cooke, Malcolm X, Cassius Clay and Jim Brown the night in 1964 they gathered to celebrate the soon-to-be Muhammad Ali’s heavyweight victory. Malcolm X challenges Sam Cooke to use his amazing voice to help “the struggle.” Little did he know Cooke had already recorded his civil‑rights masterpiece, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
     
    In this episode, Chris Molanphy sets the record straight on the man now called the King of Soul. In his too-brief career—seven years as a gospel star, then seven more as a chart-conquering superstar—Sam Cooke took a remarkable journey: from the pathbreaking pop of “You Send Me,” to the wistful R&B of “(What a) Wonderful World,” to the yearning romance of “Bring It on Home to Me,” to—of course—the now-legendary “Change Is Gonna Come.” Meet the man who defined what soul music was and could be.
     
    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.

    Podcast production by Asha Saluja.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 53 min
    The AC/DC Rule, Part 2

    The AC/DC Rule, Part 2

    In Part 2 of this episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy continues to demonstrate a weird chart phenomenon he calls The AC/DC Rule.

    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.

    What was the only No. 1 album by Jimi Hendrix? How about the first No. 1 by Billy Joel? Jackson Browne? Pat Benatar? Pearl Jam? Lady Gaga?
     
    In all cases, the answer isn’t obvious—it’s not the album you know best, the one with the most hits on it. It’s the album after that classic that goes to No. 1. And there’s no better example than AC/DC, the Australian-by-way-of-Scotland hard rock band that’s sold more than 20 million copies of Back in Black. But it was their next album (can you name it?) that topped the Billboard album chart.
     
    Just as less-good movie sequels open better at the box office than classic first installments, follow-up albums often chart higher than their slow-growing but hit-packed predecessors. Some of the rock and pop legends who fell prey to this chart phenomenon might surprise you…might just leave you shook all night long.
     
    Podcast production by Asha Saluja.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 18 min
    The AC/DC Rule, Part 1

    The AC/DC Rule, Part 1

    Quick, what was the only No. 1 album by Jimi Hendrix? How about the first No. 1 by Billy Joel? Jackson Browne? Pat Benatar? Pearl Jam? Lady Gaga?
     
    In all cases, the answer isn’t obvious—it’s not the album you know best, the one with the most hits on it. It’s the album after that classic that goes to No. 1. And there’s no better example than AC/DC, the Australian-by-way-of-Scotland hard rock band that’s sold more than 20 million copies of Back in Black. But it was their next album (can you name it?) that topped the Billboard album chart.
     
    Chris Molanphy has coined a term for this weird chart phenomenon: He calls it The AC/DC Rule. Just as less-good movie sequels open better at the box office than classic first installments, follow-up albums often chart higher than their slow-growing but hit-packed predecessors. Some of the rock and pop legends who fell prey to this chart phenomenon might surprise you…might just leave you shook all night long.
     
    Podcast production by Asha Saluja.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 46 min
    These Are the Good Times, Part 2

    These Are the Good Times, Part 2

    Hit Parade is back for non-Slate Plus listeners! Upcoming episodes will be 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 into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus.

    In Part 2 of this episode of Hit Parade, we continue the story of how Chic—cofounded by guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards—gave life to disco through the 1980s and beyond. Their “Good Times” bassline spawned a slew of copycats, from “Rapper’s Delight” to “Another One Bites the Dust” to “Rapture.” And as if that wasn’t enough, over the next decade, the Chic masterminds became the secret sauce for a range of cutting-edge pop acts, producing and writing for everyone from Diana Ross and David Bowie to Madonna, Duran Duran and the B-52’s. Nile Rodgers even scored a hit in the 2010s with a pair of French robots who “got lucky” with another take on the Chic groove.

    Podcast production by Asha Saluja.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 23 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
1.4K Ratings

1.4K Ratings

hmspinafore23 ,

Sam Cooke & One Night in Miami

In this episode Hit Parade manages to combine chart and music history with some film screenplay analysis and put it all in the context of the civil rights era. Quite a feat and enjoyed it even more than usual!

Missie in TX ,

Hit Parade - These are the Good Times

Thank you for highlighting Chic! Nile Rodgers is one of my heroes. I had the pleasure of meeting him at EPCOT in ‘02 or ‘03 & he was wonderful. I grew up in the ‘80s & many of my favorite bands worked with him. When I first heard the story of Duran Duran & The Reflex, I was so disappointed. As a white kid that grew up just south of DC, I listened to everything. My mom lived for Doowop & Motown. We watched Soul Train. The executives at the record companies couldn’t have been more wrong! I was a huge alternative music fan, too which includes The Smiths. Guitar God Johnny Marr named his son after Nile! Record Execs really got it wrong as has the Rock Hall. Nile is in, but Bernard & Tony deserve to be in with him. Just ask Duran Duran; then again the Rock Hall has that wrong, too! Love your podcasts. It satisfies the music nerd in me! Keep up the great work! Thank you

Othemts ,

Why is this song popular?

Do you ever wonder why certain songs become hits? Chris Molanphy, a self-described pop chart analyst, breaks down the history, sociology, and the straight up strange factors behind the success of a song. Episodes focus on either the career of an artist/band or on a particular genre or trend in popular music. Molanphy is good at making the stories behind even songs that I hate sound absolutely fascinating. I highly recommend this podcasts to music fans and anyone interested in popular culture and history.

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