102 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
    • 4.7 • 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.

    Rock ’n Soul, Part 1

    Rock ’n Soul, Part 1

    Daryl Hall and John Oates: Their songs were earworms, their videos cheap and goofy. John Oates’s mustache and Daryl Hall’s mullet are relics of their time. And…for about five years, their crazy streak on the pop charts was comparable to Elvis, the Beatles and the Bee Gees.
    They were also more cutting-edge than you may realize, essentially inventing their own form of cross-racial new wave after spending the ’70s trying everything: rock, R&B, folk, funk, even disco. At their Imperial peak in the early ’80s, Hall and Oates commanded the pop, soul and dance charts while still getting played on rock stations. And decades later, when the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ignored them, it was Black artists—rappers and soul fans—who pushed them in.
    Join Chris Molanphy for a dissection of the Philly duo who invented “rock ’n soul” and made their dreams come true.

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

    • 1 hr 1 min
    One Year: Hey Macarena!

    One Year: Hey Macarena!

    Hey Hit Parade fans! Here's an episode from another show we think you’ll like. 
    Slate's history podcast One Year introduces you to people and ideas that changed American history, one year at a time. The new season of One Year covers 1995, a year when homegrown terrorists attacked Oklahoma City and America went online. This episode is about “Macarena”—yes, that “Macarena,” the song and the dance that became the defining left-field pop happening of the mid-’90s. This bilingual song by a pair of Spaniards, and a couple of Miami DJs they’d never met, brought joy to millions, and it topped the charts for months, winding up Billboard’s No. 1 hit of 1996—over smashes by Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men and Celine Dion. And then, just as quickly, “Macarena” became a cultural pariah.
    If you like this episode, follow One Year wherever you get podcasts.
    One Year is produced by Josh Levin, Evan Chung, and Madeline Ducharme. Additional production help from Cheyna Roth. Mixing by Merritt Jacob.
    Slate Plus members get to hear more about the making of One Year. Get access to extra episodes, listen to the show without any ads, and support One Year by signing up for Slate Plus for just $1 right now.

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

    • 58 min
    Chestnut Roasters, Part 2

    Chestnut Roasters, Part 2

    In part 2 of this holiday episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy dives deep into radio, streaming and Billboard chart data of some your favorite holiday hitmakers to compare their long legacies to the majority-merry ways they are consumed today. And none has been more condensed by Christmas than another artist who was once famous enough to go by her first name: Brenda. A ’60s chart dominator and double–Hall of Famer, Brenda Lee is now mostly known for that tune about Christmas tree rockin’. How did the legendary “Little Miss Dynamite” become Santa’s little helper? And will she ever pass Mariah and go back to No. 1?

    Podcast production by Asha Saluja.

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

    • 52 min
    Chestnut Roasters, Part 1

    Chestnut Roasters, Part 1

    Bing. Nat. Dean. John and Paul. Darlene. Mariah. Ariana. Musicians so famous, with so many classic hits, you don’t even need their last names. Now here are a few more, with fewer hits: Vince Guaraldi. José Feliciano. Donny Hathaway. The Waitresses. What do all of these acts have in common? Years from now, each of them may be known primarily for a single holiday chestnut. In fact, in the streaming era, some of them already are consumed largely in December.

    In this holiday episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy dives deep into radio, streaming and Billboard chart data to compare these acts’ long hitmaking histories to the majority-merry ways they are consumed today. And none has been more condensed by Christmas than another artist who was once famous enough to go by her first name: Brenda. A ’60s chart dominator and double–Hall of Famer, Brenda Lee is now mostly known for that tune about Christmas tree rockin’. How did the legendary “Little Miss Dynamite” become Santa’s little helper? And will she ever pass Mariah and go back to No. 1?

    Podcast production by Asha Saluja.

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

    • 1 hr 7 min
    Be the One to Walk in the Sun, Part 2

    Be the One to Walk in the Sun, Part 2

    In Part 2 of this episode, Chris Molanphy continues his analysis of how Cyndi Lauper, Aimee Mann, and The Bangles, three contemporary female acts with rock foundations and pop sensibilities, progressed out of their distinctive rock scenes and into the spotlight. They found critical and commercial acclaim and remain influential decades later, in a variety of media, from Hollywood to Broadway. What forces were they up against, and how did they fight to define themselves? 
    Podcast production by Asha Saluja.

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

    • 1 hr 20 min
    Be the One to Walk in the Sun, Part 1

    Be the One to Walk in the Sun, Part 1

    Thirty-five years ago, in the fall of 1986, women with rock foundations and pop sensibilities were doing quite well on the charts. Three acts in particular were drawing sizable attention—and they were all singing on the same album: Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors, which featured backing vocals by the Bangles and ’Til Tuesday’s Aimee Mann.
    It turns out these women had more than that brief coincidence in common. Lauper, Mann and the Bangles came up at the same postpunk, new-wave moment in ’80s pop. And they fought many of the same battles: record-label machinations…a media that stoked rivalries, whether or not they existed…and a sexist music industry that repeatedly underestimated their skills. In this Hit Parade episode, Chris Molanphy recounts how these women emerged from distinctive rock scenes––from punk-era New York and Boston, to L.A.’s Paisley Underground—then outgrew them. They found critical and commercial acclaim and remain influential decades later, in a variety of media, from Hollywood to Broadway. What forces were they up against, and how did they fight to define themselves? 
    Podcast production by Asha Saluja.

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

    • 1 hr 10 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
1.6K Ratings

1.6K Ratings

Louiemagg ,

Keeps getting better

I discovered Hit Parade a couple years ago, and I can’t shake it! Normally podcasts start to feel tired after a while, but to my ears, Chris is at his prime. The writing is full of well-researched anecdotes and tasty tidbits of information, each with all the perfect adjectives. The editing is sublime, with a cadence of text/song that always feels right. Chris knows exactly how much of a song to play, in order to satisfy the ear, but never over-stay its welcome.

Through Hit Parade, I learn so much about not only music and the music industry, but also life itself! Each episode feels like a journey. The current episode on Hall & Oates is a perfect example. I knew every hit of theirs, and I surely once owned an LP of theirs (I’m 50). But just a couple minutes into the ep, I soon realized that I knew NOTHING about them. And their story is fascinating! Seriously — it should be a movie, or a stage musical. It’s at LEAST as interesting as “Jersey Boys” — and with more hit songs, I’d venture.

Another example of Chris being at the top of his craft are the two recent episodes on holiday music. I spent the whole 2 hours listening CLOSELY (for the first time) to all these “background” tunes I thought I knew, and being wowed by often shocking industry-themed facts about their relative success. Chris actually makes a convincing case that the Beatles will one day, for future generations, only be known by their Xmas tunes. Huh? Well, listen the the show folks!

Anyway, I could go on, but the only people still reading are probably the show’s creators. LOL

If Chris ever wants to delegate some of the editing of the show (or another), I’m an accomplished TV editor with some emerging pockets of extra time (as the kids get older). I’d be happy to help. Three ONE OH, for nine se7en, 3773. - Louie

arpolo ,

Pop music history at it’s best!

Carefully intertwined accounts of pop music history that build up to crescendo, mixed with interesting behind the scenes stories, Music and excellent narrative.

DC Czarina ,

Just stumbled onto this podcast today…

With the episodes about Yacht Rock, a genre I thought I knew well. Boy was I wrong! Such fun to listen to, bop along with, reminisce about. A great pod for anyone with even a passing interest in pop! Have already recommended to three other music-loving people.

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