Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia-logo

Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia

Slate

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.

Location:

United States

Networks:

Slate

Description:

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.

Language:

English


Episodes

Hello, Gorgeous Edition Part 2

2/23/2024
Barbra Streisand: star of stage and screen. Oscar-winner, film director and TV producer. Culture warrior and meme generator. Yes, all that—but don’t get it twisted: Barbra’s legend rests in her catalog of hit songs—and that voice. Even as culture vultures consume her recent doorstop of a memoir My Name Is Barbra, what’s getting overlooked are Streisand’s awesome musical benchmarks, especially on the Billboard charts. All of those records Taylor Swift has been setting on the album chart, and Billie Eilish on the Grammys? Babs got there first. At a time when rock was ascendant and showtunes were on the wane, Streisand set her own pop agenda, scoring brassy hits that weren’t trendy but topped the charts anyway. She became a pop star, Broadway legend and box-office commander practically simultaneously. Join Chris Molanphy as he tells the story of the original Queen of All Media and explains how she racked up all those hits your mom loved (be honest, you know them too) and made “memories, like the corners of [your] mind.” Trust us: It’ll be like buttah. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:40:45

Hello, Gorgeous Edition Part 1

2/9/2024
Barbra Streisand: star of stage and screen. Oscar-winner, film director and TV producer. Culture warrior and meme generator. Yes, all that—but don’t get it twisted: Barbra’s legend rests in her catalog of hit songs—and that voice. Even as culture vultures consume her recent doorstop of a memoir My Name Is Barbra, what’s getting overlooked are Streisand’s awesome musical benchmarks, especially on the Billboard charts. All of those records Taylor Swift has been setting on the album chart, and Billie Eilish on the Grammys? Babs got there first. At a time when rock was ascendant and showtunes were on the wane, Streisand set her own pop agenda, scoring brassy hits that weren’t trendy but topped the charts anyway. She became a pop star, Broadway legend and box-office commander practically simultaneously. Join Chris Molanphy as he tells the story of the original Queen of All Media and explains how she racked up all those hits your mom loved (be honest, you know them too) and made “memories, like the corners of [your] mind.” Trust us: It’ll be like buttah. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:04:42

And the Grammy Goes to… Edition Part 2

1/26/2024
Do you watch the Grammy Awards every year and groan, or even yell at the screen? Hit Parade host Chris Molanphy sure does. But he has a weird hot take: The Grammys are better off not trying to be cool. They should reward the popular stuff—especially younger people’s music. Where the Recording Academy actually goes wrong is rewarding the old stuff—legendary artists long past their prime, from Frank Sinatra to Eric Clapton, Steely Dan to Beck. The Grammy wins remembered most fondly are artists at the peak of their chart prowess: Carole King. Stevie Wonder. Michael Jackson. George Michael. Lauryn Hill. Adele. Taylor Swift (and more Taylor…and more Taylor…and more…). When did the Grammys get it most right—and wrong? (Was the Toto win really so bad?) And how can they become more relevant? (Hint: much more rap.) Join Chris Molanphy as he offers a chart nerd’s take on the Recording Academy and offers guidelines for good Grammy governance, just before the 2024 awards. It’s an episode right in the Nick of Time. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:52:53

And the Grammy Goes to… Edition Part 1

1/12/2024
Do you watch the Grammy Awards every year and groan, or even yell at the screen? Hit Parade host Chris Molanphy sure does. But he has a weird hot take: The Grammys are better off not trying to be cool. They should reward the popular stuff—especially younger people’s music. Where the Recording Academy actually goes wrong is rewarding the old stuff—legendary artists long past their prime, from Frank Sinatra to Eric Clapton, Steely Dan to Beck. The Grammy wins remembered most fondly are artists at the peak of their chart prowess: Carole King. Stevie Wonder. Michael Jackson. George Michael. Lauryn Hill. Adele. Taylor Swift (and more Taylor…and more Taylor…and more…). When did the Grammys get it most right—and wrong? (Was the Toto win really so bad?) And how can they become more relevant? (Hint: much more rap.) Join Chris Molanphy as he offers a chart nerd’s take on the Recording Academy and offers guidelines for good Grammy governance, just before the 2024 awards. It’s an episode right in the Nick of Time. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:53:14

Second-Chance Hits Edition Part 2

12/29/2023
In 2023, several hits from years ago—sometimes decades—made it to No. 1 on Billboard’s pop charts after falling short the first time: Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer.” The Weeknd’s “Die for You.” Miguel’s “Sure Thing.” And, most improbably but delightfully, Brenda Lee’s 65-year-old holiday bop “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” What’s going on here? A lot of it has to do with the ways streaming, YouTube and TikTok have changed the charts. But the truth is, the second-chance hit is as old as the charts themselves From David Bowie to Prince, Sonny and Cher to Guns n’ Roses, the Miracles to the Moody Blues, there are certain songs the music biz won’t give up on. To say nothing of all those holiday perennials, from “Monster Mash” to “Last Christmas.” Join Chris Molanphy as he explains why certain songs keep coming back and counts down a dozen favorite second-chance hits. If it first they don’t succeed, chart, chart again. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:54:20

Second-Chance Hits Edition Part 1

12/15/2023
In 2023, several hits from years ago—sometimes decades—made it to No. 1 on Billboard’s pop charts after falling short the first time: Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer.” The Weeknd’s “Die for You.” Miguel’s “Sure Thing.” And, most improbably but delightfully, Brenda Lee’s 65-year-old holiday bop “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” What’s going on here? A lot of it has to do with the ways streaming, YouTube and TikTok have changed the charts. But the truth is, the second-chance hit is as old as the charts themselves From David Bowie to Prince, Sonny and Cher to Guns n’ Roses, the Miracles to the Moody Blues, there are certain songs the music biz won’t give up on. To say nothing of all those holiday perennials, from “Monster Mash” to “Last Christmas.” Join Chris Molanphy as he explains why certain songs keep coming back and counts down a dozen favorite second-chance hits. If it first they don’t succeed, chart, chart again. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:00:04

Ride ’til I Can’t No More Edition Part 2

11/24/2023
When it crash-landed on the charts in 2019, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” felt new and old at the same time: a savvy, TikTok-fueled viral hit that summarized a century of cross-cultural collisions between R&B, rap and country. It was also unexpectedly huge—a record 19 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100—and controversial, as Billboard magazine pulled the song from its Hot Country Songs chart, prompting a reckoning on race and the very definition of country music. “Old Town Road” wasn’t just a reckoning—it was a culmination. As a hard-to-categorize hit, it called back to cross-genre experiments by everyone from Ray Charles and the Rappin’ Duke to Bubba Sparxxx and even Jason Aldean. As a viral smash, its antecedents date back to “The Twist,” right through “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” and “Harlem Shake.” In honor of his new book Old Town Road (now in bookstores!) join Chris Molanphy as he walks through the many predecessors to “Old Town Road” and explains why can’t nobody tell Lil Nas X nothin’. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:55:25

The Bridge: Can’t Tell Me Nothin’

11/17/2023
In this special mini-episode of Hit Parade, recorded live on at Housing Works bookstore in New York City, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Dan Charnas—author of the New York Times bestseller Dilla Time, The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, and the acclaimed The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop. They discuss Chris’s new book Old Town Road—how he came to write it, what made the song exceptional, and how decades of chart and genre history led to Lil Nas X’s breakthrough. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:57:08

Ride ’til I Can’t No More Edition Part 1

11/10/2023
When it crash-landed on the charts in 2019, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” felt new and old at the same time: a savvy, TikTok-fueled viral hit that summarized a century of cross-cultural collisions between R&B, rap and country. It was also unexpectedly huge—a record 19 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100—and controversial, as Billboard magazine pulled the song from its Hot Country Songs chart, prompting a reckoning on race and the very definition of country music. “Old Town Road” wasn’t just a reckoning—it was a culmination. As a hard-to-categorize hit, it called back to cross-genre experiments by everyone from Ray Charles and the Rappin’ Duke to Bubba Sparxxx and even Jason Aldean. As a viral smash, its antecedents date back to “The Twist,” right through “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” and “Harlem Shake.” In honor of his new book Old Town Road (now in bookstores!) join Chris Molanphy as he walks through the many predecessors to “Old Town Road” and explains why can’t nobody tell Lil Nas X nothin’. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:56:33

This Ain’t No Party?! Edition Part 2

10/27/2023
HEY! HO! LET’S GO!! Is this chant: (a) a movement of disaffected hipsters, (b) walkup music for a baseball player, or (c) a really catchy bop? How about all of the above? The legendary New York nightclub CBGB was the birthplace of punk. But it was also the future of pop: the Ramones, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Blondie. To varying degrees, these acts either became hitmakers, tried to reshape their music for the charts, or influenced generations of future multiplatinum stars. Honestly? Their music was pretty infectious from the jump, even if it was too advanced for the ’70s hit parade. The music we called punk contained multitudes: the improvisatory jazz-rock of Television. The demented anthems of the Ramones. The quirky funk of Talking Heads. The stylistic eclecticism of Blondie—who scored four No. 1 hits in four different genres. Join Chris Molanphy on a journey back to New York’s dirty days to try to answer: When did CBGB punk morph into chart pop? Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:04:44

This Ain’t No Party?! Edition Part 1

10/13/2023
HEY! HO! LET’S GO!! Is this chant: (a) a movement of disaffected hipsters, (b) walkup music for a baseball player, or (c) a really catchy bop? How about all of the above? The legendary New York nightclub CBGB was the birthplace of punk. But it was also the future of pop: the Ramones, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Blondie. To varying degrees, these acts either became hitmakers, tried to reshape their music for the charts, or influenced generations of future multiplatinum stars. Honestly? Their music was pretty infectious from the jump, even if it was too advanced for the ’70s hit parade. The music we called punk contained multitudes: the improvisatory jazz-rock of Television. The demented anthems of the Ramones. The quirky funk of Talking Heads. The stylistic eclecticism of Blondie—who scored four No. 1 hits in four different genres. Join Chris Molanphy on a journey back to New York’s dirty days to try to answer: When did CBGB punk morph into chart pop? Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:08:48

Insert Lyrics Here Edition Part 2

9/29/2023
If an instrumental tops the charts, it’s probably an earworm: “Tequila.” “Wipeout.” “Dueling Banjos.” “The Hustle.” “Feels So Good.” “Chariots of Fire.” “Axel F.” You can probably whistle or hum several of those from memory. But do you remember the artists? All were one-hit wonders. By and large, instrumental hits throughout chart history were flukes. But there were exceptions: a trumpet player from Los Angeles who pretended to be Latin, made up a fake mariachi band, put sexy models on his album covers and topped the charts almost as much as the Beatles. Or, a try-hard, perm-headed soprano saxophone player from Seattle, who turned holding his breath while playing dizzying runs of notes into an athletic feat. How do songs without words become hits? Why were Herb Alpert and Kenny G so good at it? Why did instrumentals fall off the charts after the ’80s—and who is bringing them back? (Hint: think oontz-oontz-oontz.) Join Chris Molanphy as he throws away the lyric sheet and explains how a catchy melody can be worth a thousand words. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:41:28

Insert Lyrics Here Edition Part 1

9/15/2023
If an instrumental tops the charts, it’s probably an earworm: “Tequila.” “Wipeout.” “Dueling Banjos.” “The Hustle.” “Feels So Good.” “Chariots of Fire.” “Axel F.” You can probably whistle or hum several of those from memory. But do you remember the artists? All were one-hit wonders. By and large, instrumental hits throughout chart history were flukes. But there were exceptions: a trumpet player from Los Angeles who pretended to be Latin, made up a fake mariachi band, put sexy models on his album covers and topped the charts almost as much as the Beatles. Or, a try-hard, perm-headed soprano saxophone player from Seattle, who turned holding his breath while playing dizzying runs of notes into an athletic feat. How do songs without words become hits? Why were Herb Alpert and Kenny G so good at it? Why did instrumentals fall off the charts after the ’80s—and who is bringing them back? (Hint: think oontz-oontz-oontz.) Join Chris Molanphy as he throws away the lyric sheet and explains how a catchy melody can be worth a thousand words. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:02:26

Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture Edition Part 2

8/25/2023
Talk about ’90s rap, and most music fans will throw around the word “gangsta” and talk about the East Coast–West Coast feud that tragically brought down Biggie and Tupac. But one rap group, OutKast, quite literally rose above the fray: At the 1995 Source Awards, while East and West were bickering with each other, OutKast’s André Benjamin took the mic and told the rap faithful that hip-hop’s future was in the South. For the next quarter century, he was proved indisputably correct. OutKast brought about this sea change by conceiving of hip-hop as everything music: funk, soul, pop, club, even country and indie all found their way into André and Big Boi’s music. By the time of their final studio album, they had pulled away almost fully from pure rap—and were rewarded with their biggest hits ever, a No. 1 smash each for Big Boi and André. Including that immortal jam that taught you, the fellas and the ladies—including all Beyoncés and Lucy Lius—what’s cooler than being cool. Podcast production by Benjamin Frisch and Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:36:24

Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture Edition Part 1

8/11/2023
Talk about ’90s rap, and most music fans will throw around the word “gangsta” and talk about the East Coast–West Coast feud that tragically brought down Biggie and Tupac. But one rap group, OutKast, quite literally rose above the fray: At the 1995 Source Awards, while East and West were bickering with each other, OutKast’s André Benjamin took the mic and told the rap faithful that hip-hop’s future was in the South. For the next quarter century, he was proved indisputably correct. OutKast brought about this sea change by conceiving of hip-hop as everything music: funk, soul, pop, club, even country and indie all found their way into André and Big Boi’s music. By the time of their final studio album, they had pulled away almost fully from pure rap—and were rewarded with their biggest hits ever, a No. 1 smash each for Big Boi and André. Including that immortal jam that taught you, the fellas and the ladies—including all Beyoncés and Lucy Lius—what’s cooler than being cool. Podcast production by Benjamin Frisch and Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:51:30

Lenny on Mars Edition Part 2

7/28/2023
What do Lenny Kravitz, a hitmaker primarily in the ’90s and ’00s, and Bruno Mars, a 2010s–20s hitmaker, have in common? It turns out, a lot: Each man has a wide-ranging ethnic and musical background, with early exposure to unusual sides of showbiz. Each has scored hits in a variety of styles. They are admirers of each other’s work and have even performed live together. But the main thing Lenny and Bruno have in common is their skill—some might say habit—of borrowing tropes and styles from hitmakers of the past. Kravitz from the very start of his career emulated the rock stylings of his heroes, like John Lennon and Sly Stone. And Bruno Mars—talk about an Unorthodox Jukebox: His career has been a parade of hits whose sound has spanned from the Police to Rick James to Michael Jackson. Are they cultural appropriators, or genius style chameleons? Join Chris Molanphy as he chronicles two premier pop stylists of the last 30 years who wore genres like costumes and rebooted oldies into modern hits. Don’t believe them? Just watch. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:47:37

Lenny on Mars Edition Part 1

7/14/2023
What do Lenny Kravitz, a hitmaker primarily in the ’90s and ’00s, and Bruno Mars, a 2010s–20s hitmaker, have in common? It turns out, a lot: Each man has a wide-ranging ethnic and musical background, with early exposure to unusual sides of showbiz. Each has scored hits in a variety of styles. They are admirers of each other’s work and have even performed live together. But the main thing Lenny and Bruno have in common is their skill—some might say habit—of borrowing tropes and styles from hitmakers of the past. Kravitz from the very start of his career emulated the rock stylings of his heroes, like John Lennon and Sly Stone. And Bruno Mars—talk about an Unorthodox Jukebox: His career has been a parade of hits whose sound has spanned from the Police to Rick James to Michael Jackson. Are they cultural appropriators, or genius style chameleons? Join Chris Molanphy as he chronicles two premier pop stylists of the last 30 years who wore genres like costumes and rebooted oldies into modern hits. Don’t believe them? Just watch. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:02:48

Yes We Can Can Edition Part 2

6/30/2023
Today, the Pointer Sisters are mostly remembered for their flurry of ’80s hits, especially the “Excited” one about losing control and liking it. But their musical history is far more varied: jazz standards? Civil rights–era funk? Country music? Yacht rock? The Pointers applied their impeccable sibling harmonies to all of it. Billboard ranks the Pointer Sisters behind only the Supremes, TLC, and Destiny’s Child among hitmaking girl groups. Yet their versatility has gone relatively unheralded—from the Grammy they won in a country category, to the Bruce Springsteen demo they turned into a smash, to the kiddie bop they recorded for Sesame Street. How did the Pointers score so many hits in so many idioms? Join Chris Molanphy as he gives the Pointer Sisters their due as harmonizing innovators and genre-defying hitmakers. Here at Hit Parade, we jump (for their love). Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. This Pride Month, make an impact by helping Macy’s and The Trevor Project on their mission to fund life-saving suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth. Go to macys.com/purpose to learn more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:40:52

Yes We Can Can Edition Part 1

6/16/2023
Today, the Pointer Sisters are mostly remembered for their flurry of ’80s hits, especially the “Excited” one about losing control and liking it. But their musical history is far more varied: jazz standards? Civil rights–era funk? Country music? Yacht rock? The Pointers applied their impeccable sibling harmonies to all of it. Billboard ranks the Pointer Sisters behind only the Supremes, TLC and Destiny’s Child among hitmaking girl groups. Yet their versatility has gone relatively unheralded—from the Grammy they won in a country category, to the Bruce Springsteen demo they turned into a smash, to the kiddie bop they recorded for Sesame Street. How did the Pointers score so many hits in so many idioms? Join Chris Molanphy as he gives the Pointer Sisters their due as harmonizing innovators and genre-defying hitmakers. Here at Hit Parade, we jump (for their love). Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. This Pride Month, make an impact by helping Macy’s and The Trevor Project on their mission to fund life-saving suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth. Go to macys.com/purpose to learn more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:51:04

Champagne Supernova Edition Part 2

5/26/2023
In the ’90s, U.K. rock was by Britons, for Britons. The music of the U.K. indie, Madchester and shoegaze scenes fused together into a new wave of guitar bands with punk energy, laddish lyrics and danceable grooves. They called it Britpop. In the motherland, Britpop set the charts alight: Blur faced off against Oasis. Pulp poked fun at the class system. Suede sold androgyny, and Elastica repackaged ’70s art-punk as ’90s pop. But with rare exception, these hits didn’t translate in America. There was no Third British Invasion in the ’90s—with the exception of that one inscrutable Oasis song about a “Wonderwall.” Why did Britpop fire up Old Blighty and flop with the Yanks? Join Chris Molanphy as he tries to define Britppop—was it a scene? a sound? a movement?—and explains how the music boomed and busted faster than a cannonball. Podcast production by Kevin Bendis. Make an impact this Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month by helping Macy’s on their mission to fund APIA Scholars. Go to macys.com/purpose to learn more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:58:23