Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia
Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia
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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.
Turn Around, Bright Eyes, Part 1
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. Producers and songwriters have a major impact on how a finished pop song sounds, and feels. But it’s possible no hitmaking mastermind—not even Phil Spector—has had a more specific pop sound than Jim Steinman. His songs have an unmistakable signature: pounding pianos, revving motorcycles, sometimes literal thunder. And power-vocalists singing passionate lyrics that don’t always make sense but always sound like the fate of the world depends on this song. Chris Molanphy tells the story of a fervent, headstrong songwriter who fused with a singer who called himself Meat Loaf, creating a blockbuster song cycle called Bat Out of Hell. Steinman then went on to spread his pomp-rock to other artists: Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All.” Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.” Every song sounded like a hallelujah chorus and a Broadway show—even though Steinman’s actual Broadway show was a notorious flop. But nothing keeps Jim Steinman down. Forever’s gonna start tonight. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Oct 15
52 min
One and Done, Part 2
Hit Parade is back for non-Slate Plus listeners! Upcoming episodes will be split into two parts, released two weeks apart. For full episodes on the day of release, sign up for Slate Plus and you'll also get The Bridge, our trivia show and deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus. In part two of our one-hit wonders show, we propose three rules to identify a one-hit wonder, which is not as easy as it sounds: Dexys Midnight Runners? They’re a one-hit wonder. Men Without Hats? Nope, not fair. Lou Reed? Yes. Marky Mark? No. In this episode, Chris breaks it all down, explaining why “Take on Me” is a pop classic but A-ha are still only one-hitters in America. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Oct 1
52 min
One and Done, Part 1
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 deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus. “One-hit wonder” is a popular term in our culture—and not just in music: sportscasters, Wall Street analysts and news anchors all use it. But what does “one-hit wonder” actually mean on the pop charts? Hit Parade host Chris Molanphy has thought a lot about this—and he has rules to determine who’s really a one-hit wonder. They might surprise you: Dexys Midnight Runners? They’re a one-hit wonder. Men Without Hats? Nope, not fair. Lou Reed? Yes. Marky Mark? No. In this episode, Chris breaks it all down, explaining why “Take on Me” is a pop classic but A-ha are still only one-hitters in America. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Sep 17
52 min
The Bridge: Yacht Or Nyacht?
First, we have a few announcements about the future of Hit Parade—and it’s good news for both Slate Plus members and non-Plus listeners. While the economic challenges of COVID-19 certainly haven’t abated, Hit Parade has attracted enough new Plus members to allow us to take some episodes out from behind Slate’s paywall starting in September. Starting next month, full-length Hit Parade episodes will debut in the middle of the month, not the end (our next full-length episode drops on Friday, September 18). If you are a Plus member, you’ll hear the whole show all at once, the day it drops. If you are not a Plus member, you will receive the first half of the episode mid-month, with ads, and you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to hear the second half of the show, at month’s end. Finally, Hit Parade—“The Bridge” episodes will remain Plus-only. IAgain, thanks to many of you who signed up for Slate Plus just to hear Hit Parade, and of course the thousands of longtime Plus members. We plan to keep giving you the bonus content you expect. And a hearty welcome back to non-Plus listeners—we hope you’ll consider joining Slate Plus in the future, but you can also support Hit Parade by spreading the word about our episodes. And to sign up for Slate Plus to support the show, head over to slate.com/hitparadeplus. In this mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by J.D. Ryznar, “Hollywood” Steve Huey, and Dave Lyons, creators of the web series Yacht Rock and follow-up podcast Beyond Yacht Rock. Not only did they invent the very term that inspired the latest episode of Hit Parade, they have kept the fire alive by refining what the genre means. The Yacht Rockers and Chris discuss the enduring legacy of the term they created—from why the name stuck, to how it was perceived by the various artists whose music it defined. (Boz Scaggs is reportedly not happy.) They also reveal songs they’d re-rate against their signature Yachtski scale, songs commonly tagged Yacht that are actually “Nyacht,” and how they curate the boundaries of the genre. They even offer a Hit Parade–exclusive announcement about what’s next for their smooth creation. Finally, Chris quizzes a Slate Plus listener with some music trivia, gives her a chance to turn the tables on him, and previews next month’s full-length episode. Podcast production by Asha Saluja.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Aug 28
50 min
Wednesday Night Live: Music Trivia
Hey, Hit Parade listeners—we’ve got an unusual schedule for August. Today’s show is a recording of last week’s installment of Slate’s Wednesday Night Live, which was a live Hit Parade trivia edition. I was the host, and I got to quiz several Slate luminaries on Billboard chart brainteasers. We had a blast.  Then, later this month, in the place where we would normally bring you a full-length story, we’ll instead be doing a super-sized edition of our regular Hit Parade—“The Bridge” show. We’ll be following up last month’s Yacht Rock episode with some very special guests. You won’t want to miss it. Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Aug 14
4 min
What a Fool Believes Edition
Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, a scene and a sound cropped up on the West Coast: polished, perfectionist studio musicians who generated sleek, jazzy, R&B-flavored music. About a quarter-century later, this sound was given a name: Yacht Rock. The inventors of the genre name weren’t thinking about boats…well, unless the song was Christopher Cross’s “Sailing.” Yacht Rock was meant to signify deluxe, yuppified, “smooth” music suitable for playing on luxury nautical craft. Whatever you call it, this music really did command the charts at the turn of the ’80s: from Steely Dan to George Benson, Michael McDonald to Kenny Loggins, Toto to…Michael Jackson?! Believe it: even Thriller is partially a Yacht Rock album. This month, Hit Parade breaks down what Yacht Rock was and how it took over the charts four decades ago—from the perfectionism of “Peg,” to the bounce of “What a Fool Believes,” to the epic smoothness of “Africa.” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Jul 30
8 min
The Bridge: Lilith’s Winding Road
In this mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Jessica Hopper, acclaimed critic for publications like Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, GQ, The Guardian, Elle and Bookforum, and author of the books The Girls’ Guide to Rocking, The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic and Night Moves. Her deeply researched September 2019 piece for Vanity Fair, “Building a Mystery: An Oral History of Lilith Fair,” informed and helped inspire the latest episode of Hit Parade. Jessica and Chris discuss the reasons for the festival’s success against the odds, the legacy of its acts big and small, and what a future evolution of a Lilith Fair could look like. Next, Chris quizzes a very special Slate Plus listener with some music trivia: TJ Raphael, founding co-host and producer of “The Bridge.” TJ originally conceived of the Lilith Fair episode as she departed “The Bridge”—so Chris has invited her back to talk about her earliest memories of woman-fronted alt-rock. Then Chris finally puts TJ in the trivia hot seat.   Podcast production by Asha Saluja.  A special Hit Parade announcement: Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment.   As part of this effort, as of April 2020, Hit Parade episodes are available to Slate Plus members only. To listen to future episodes in full, you'll need to become a Slate Plus member. This is the best way to support our show and our work, and we hope you will pitch in if you can. Your membership will also give access to everything on Slate.com, you'll get ad-free versions of this and other shows, and you'll get bonus segments and bonus episodes of other Slate podcasts. Plus, once you become a member, you can sign up to do trivia with Chris Molanphy on Hit Parade—“The Bridge” episodes.   Please sign up today at slate.com/hitparadeplus. We thank you for your support. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Jul 17
7 min
Building a Herstory Edition
Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment. For decades—literally since Woodstock—female musicians had battled music-industry perceptions that amassing too many of them, on the radio or on the road, was bad for business. And yet, by the ’90s, women were vital to the rise of alt-rock and hip-hop on the charts: from Suzanne Vega to Queen Latifah, Tracy Chapman to Sheryl Crow, Natalie Merchant to Missy Elliott. Sarah McLachlan harnessed this energy into an all-woman tour she dubbed Lilith Fair. Its string of sellouts from 1997 to ’99 affirmed women’s clout in the decade of grunge-and-gangsta. But the festival was also criticized for its narrow focus and for branding “women’s music” as a genre. More than two decades later, Hit Parade assesses the legacy of Lilith on the charts and on the road—how its performers, attendees and musical descendants are helping to ensure the future is female. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Jun 29
7 min
The Bridge: Many Ways to be OutKasted
In this mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Dr. Regina Bradley, Assistant Professor of English and African Diaspora Studies at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, She is the author of the forthcoming book Chronicling Stankonia: The Rise of the Hip Hop South; cohost of the southern hip-hop podcast Bottom of the Map on WABE and PRX; and host of the recent YouTube series OutKasted Conversations. Gina and Chris discuss the most recent full-length episode of Hit Parade, OutKast’s roots in Atlanta’s decades-long funk tradition, and what they meant to Southerners who felt alienated not just by bicoastal hip-hop but also by Atlanta’s unequal progress on the challenges faced by its black residents. Next, Chris quizzes a Slate Plus listener with some music trivia, and the contestant turns the tables with a chance to try to stump Chris with a question of his own. Then, Chris teases the upcoming full-length episode of Hit Parade, which will look at Lilith Fair, the all-female festival tour in the late ’90s, how it reflected women’s role in alternative rock, and its legacy to this day.  A special Hit Parade announcement: Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment.   As part of this effort, as of April 2020, Hit Parade episodes are available to Slate Plus members only. To listen to future episodes in full, you'll need to become a Slate Plus member. This is the best way to support our show and our work, and we hope you will pitch in if you can. Your membership will also give access to everything on Slate.com, you'll get ad-free versions of this and other shows, and you'll get bonus segments and bonus episodes of other Slate podcasts. Plus, once you become a member, you can sign up to do trivia with Chris Molanphy on Hit Parade—“The Bridge” episodes.   Please sign up today at slate.com/hitparadeplus. We thank you for your support. Podcast production by Asha Saluja.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Jun 12
5 min
Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture Edition
A special Hit Parade announcement: Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment. As part of this effort, we're going to be making Full Hit Parade episodes available to Slate Plus members only. To listen to the episode in full, and episodes in future months, you'll need to become a Slate Plus member. This is the best way to support our show and our work, and we hope you will pitch in if you can. Your membership will also give access to everything on Slate.com, you'll get ad-free versions of this and other shows, and you'll get bonus segments and bonus episodes of other Slate podcasts. Plus, once you become a member, you can sign up to do trivia with Chris Molanphy on Hit Parade—“The Bridge” episodes. Please sign up today at slate.com/hitparadeplus. We thank you for your support. On this preview episode: Outkast is inarguably one of the most important acts in hip hop and pop music history, but their impressive chart runs, and the brand of Atlanta hip hop they championed, was far from inevitable. This is the story of Outkast and how they established Atlanta as a major center of hip hop culture in the United States while racking up some of the most unexpected hits in the history of popular music. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
May 28
7 min
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