120 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 • 1.7K 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.

    At Last, My Legacy Has Come Along Edition Part 2

    At Last, My Legacy Has Come Along Edition Part 2

    What do you call a song that bombed on the charts back in the day, that now booms out of radios and streaming apps nationwide? Chris Molanphy has a name for these songs: legacy hits. Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Etta James’s “At Last.” The Romantics’ “What I Like About You.” Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime.”
     
    Many catalysts can change a song’s trajectory, from movie scenes to stadium singalongs, wedding DJs to evolving tastes. Sometimes the hivemind just collectively decides that this Whitney Houston hit, not that one, is her song for the ages.
     
    Join Chris as he explains how the charts sometimes get it wrong, and how legacy hits correct the record—and counts down 10 of his favorite flops-turned-classics.
     
    Podcast production by Kevin Bendis and Merritt Jacob.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 5 min
    At Last, My Legacy Has Come Along Edition Part 1

    At Last, My Legacy Has Come Along Edition Part 1

    What do you call a song that bombed on the charts back in the day, that now booms out of radios and streaming apps nationwide? Chris Molanphy has a name for these songs: legacy hits. Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Etta James’s “At Last.” The Romantics’ “What I Like About You.” Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime.”
     
    Many catalysts can change a song’s trajectory, from movie scenes to stadium singalongs, wedding DJs to evolving tastes. Sometimes the hivemind just collectively decides that this Whitney Houston hit, not that one, is her song for the ages.
     
    Join Chris as he explains how the charts sometimes get it wrong, and how legacy hits correct the record—and counts down 10 of his favorite flops-turned-classics.
     
    Podcast production by Kevin Bendis and Merritt Jacob.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr
    Still Billy Joel to Me Part 2

    Still Billy Joel to Me Part 2

    So, sure—Billy Joel’s first Top 40 hit, way back in 1974, was “Piano Man,” and the nickname stuck. But for a guy who became famous sitting behind 88 keys, few of his biggest hits are really piano songs. In fact, on all three of his No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, keyboards are not the primary instrument.
    The truth is, Joel isn’t the Piano Man, he’s the pastiche man. He has openly admitted to borrowing genre tropes, vocal styles, and even specific song hooks from his Baby Boom-era heroes, from Ray Charles to the Beatles to the Supremes. He’s been a jazzy crooner, a saloon balladeer, an anthem rocker, even a pseudo-punk. And on his most hit-packed album, he literally tried on a different song mode on every single—and was rewarded for it. This month, Hit Parade breaks down the uncanny success of pop magpie Billy Joel, the guy who would try anything for a hit: the next phase, new wave, dance craze, any ways.

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

    • 48 min
    Still Billy Joel to Me Part 1

    Still Billy Joel to Me Part 1

    So, sure—Billy Joel’s first Top 40 hit, way back in 1974, was “Piano Man,” and the nickname stuck. But for a guy who became famous sitting behind 88 keys, few of his biggest hits are really piano songs. In fact, on all three of his No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, keyboards are not the primary instrument.
    The truth is, Joel isn’t the Piano Man, he’s the pastiche man. He has openly admitted to borrowing genre tropes, vocal styles, and even specific song hooks from his Baby Boom-era heroes, from Ray Charles to the Beatles to the Supremes. He’s been a jazzy crooner, a saloon balladeer, an anthem rocker, even a pseudo-punk. And on his most hit-packed album, he literally tried on a different song mode on every single—and was rewarded for it. This month, Hit Parade breaks down the uncanny success of pop magpie Billy Joel, the guy who would try anything for a hit: the next phase, new wave, dance craze, any ways.

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

    • 1 hr 1 min
    Point of No Return Part 2

    Point of No Return Part 2

    After the so-called-but-not-really “death” of disco, dance music in the 1980s moved to its own beat. There was synthpop, electro, hi-NRG and house. But the scrappy genre that seemed to pull it all together was called freestyle—a breakbeat-tempo, Latin-flavored genre fortified with dizzying, proudly synthetic beats. Freestyle grew out of the clubs and streets of New York and Miami and briefly dominated ’80s dance-pop.

    Freestyle’s flagship artists were only medium-level stars: Shannon. Exposé. Lisa Lisa. Stevie B. Nu Shooz. Sweet Sensation. But these acts—most especially their yearning, floridly romantic, rhythmically hectic songs—punched above their weight on the charts and even affected the hits of superstars from Madonna to Duran Duran, Whitney Houston to Pet Shop Boys.

    Join Chris Molanphy as he defines the byways of this bespoke dance genre and traces how it bridged the disco era into the hiphop era.

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

    • 50 min
    Point of No Return Part 1

    Point of No Return Part 1

    After the so-called-but-not-really “death” of disco, dance music in the 1980s moved to its own beat. There was synthpop, electro, hi-NRG and house. But the scrappy genre that seemed to pull it all together was called freestyle—a breakbeat-tempo, Latin-flavored genre fortified with dizzying, proudly synthetic beats. Freestyle grew out of the clubs and streets of New York and Miami and briefly dominated ’80s dance-pop.

    Freestyle’s flagship artists were only medium-level stars: Shannon. Exposé. Lisa Lisa. Stevie B. Nu Shooz. Sweet Sensation. But these acts—most especially their yearning, floridly romantic, rhythmically hectic songs—punched above their weight on the charts and even affected the hits of superstars from Madonna to Duran Duran, Whitney Houston to Pet Shop Boys.

    Join Chris Molanphy as he defines the byways of this bespoke dance genre and traces how it bridged the disco era into the hiphop era.

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

    • 1 hr 3 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
1.7K Ratings

1.7K Ratings

smarmydave ,

Off the Charts

One of the best music-related podcasts; one of my favorite podcasts, period. Bravo to Chris M and all involved in the podcast’s production!

BB_UVE ,

So informative, so good!

I recently found this wonderful podcast series and am enjoying it from its beginning. I thought I knew a lot about rock/pop, but every episode has information that makes my eyes get big! Wonderfully researched, typical Slate high production values, and such a great escape!

ktodarling ,

Love it

What a great, well-researched podcast. I feel like I’m learning a lot about music. Thanks!

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