Song Exploder

Song Exploder

Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. Each episode features an artist discussing a song of theirs, breaking down the sounds and ideas that went into the writing and recording. Hosted and produced by Hrishikesh Hirway.... Show More

Episodes

September 23, 2020 19 min

Selena Gomez is a singer, songwriter, and actress, who’s spent most of her life in the public eye. She started her acting career as a child, and put out her first albums as a teenager. She’s had three number one albums and eight Top 10 hits, and in 2017, Billboard named her Woman of the Year. At one point, she was the most followed person on Instagram, and the details of her life are constantly discussed in tabloid headlines.

So, ...

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September 16, 2020 21 min

On August 28, 2020, actor Chadwick Boseman died. He was only 43 years old. Unbeknownst to many, even some of his closest collaborators, he’d been battling colon cancer since 2016. His family released a statement, and in it, they said, "It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther." After hearing the news, I went back and re-watched the movie, and I don’t know, it was a completely different ...

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September 9, 2020 20 min

Kelly Lee Owens is an electronic music producer and songwriter originally from Wales. She’s released two critically acclaimed albums and done remixes for Björk and St. Vincent. Her most recent album is is called Inner Song. It came out in August, following what Kelly described as the hardest three years of her life. In this episode, she takes apart her song "On," and explains how its tone and shifts mirrored her journey pro...

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August 26, 2020 17 min

Black Pumas formed in Austin, Texas in 2017, when singer Eric Burton met producer Adrian Quesada. Their self-titled debut was released in June 2019, and got them a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. In this episode, they break down their hit song “Colors,” which Eric started writing ten years ago, when he was first learning how to play guitar.

songexploder.net/black-pumas

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August 12, 2020 18 min

The 1975 are a band from Manchester, England, made up of Matty Healy, Adam Hann, Ross MacDonald, and George Daniel. They started playing music together in 2002, when they were teenagers. Since then, they’ve released four albums, won three Brit awards, and gotten two Grammy nominations. Their most recent album, Notes on a Conditional Form, came out in May 2020. In this episode, Matty and George break down how they made the song “The...

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July 29, 2020 17 min

Katie Crutchfield is a singer and songwriter from Birmingham, Alabama. She’s been making music under the name Waxahatchee since 2010. Her fifth album, Saint Cloud, came out this past March. Pitchfork named it Best New Music, and The Guardian called it the best album of the year so far. In this episode, Katie breaks down how she made the song “Fire."

songexploder.net/waxahatchee

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July 15, 2020 25 min

Khruangbin is a band from Houston, Texas, who first formed in 2010. NME called them the "low key superstars" of psychedelic music. They’ve released three albums. The most recent, which came out in June 2020, is called Mordechai.

In the past, most of Khruangbin’s songs have been instrumental, or if they did have vocals, they'd be minimal. Their new album is different. It features vocals prominently, and in this episode,...

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The Netflix original series Dark debuted in December 2017. It’s a really mysterious, mind-bending German science fiction show with a unique tone. A big part of that tone is announced every episode with the music in the show’s opening title sequence. It’s the song “Goodbye,” by German electronic artist Apparat, the solo project of Sascha Ring. This song actually came out years ago, on the 2011 Apparat album The Devil’s Walk. Since t...

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June 17, 2020 20 min

The rappers Prodigy and Havoc met when they were still in high school in New York. Havoc grew up in Queensbridge, the biggest public housing projects in the country, and as a teenager, Prodigy lived there for a while, too. The two of them formed Mobb Deep in 1991.

In 1995, they put out their second album, The Infamous. It was a success when it came out, but in the 25 years since then, the influence of the album has only grown. Com...

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Instead of a new episode this week, revisiting this episode originally published in May 2017. Please consider donating to local and national organizations engaged in the work of racial equality. Here are some links:

  • American Civil Liberties Union

  • NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

  • Community Bail Funds

  • Michael Kiwanuka is a singer/songwriter from London. His second album, Love and Hate, came out in 2016, and was named one of t...

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    May 20, 2020 16 min

    100 gecs is a duo, made up of Laura Les and Dylan Brady. In 2016, they put out an EP called 100 gecs, and three years later, they released their first album, called 1000 gecs. It was named the Best Album of 2019 in Vice and in The New York Times. It was also on year-end lists in Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Stereogum and more. Dylan lives in Los Angeles, and Laura in Chicago—they work remotely, sending files back and forth to each oth...

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    Laura Marling is a singer and songwriter from London. She won the Brit Award for Best British Female Solo Artist—she’s been nominated five times for that, along with the Mercury Prize, and the Grammy for Best Folk Album. Since 2008, she’s released seven albums. The most recent album is called Song for Our Daughter. It’s also the name of the song that she takes apart in this episode.

    songexploder.net/laura-marling

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    April 22, 2020 16 min

    Tame Impala is the project of Kevin Parker, a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer from Perth, Australia. Since putting his first EP in 2008, Tame Impala has been nominated for two Grammys and won eight of Australia’s ARIA Awards. Multiple albums of his have been named best of the year. As a producer, he has collaborated with Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, The Weeknd, and more. The most recent Tame Impala album is The Slow Rush...

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    April 8, 2020 20 min

    FKA twigs is a singer, songwriter, and producer from London. She’s released three EPs and two albums. Her most album, Magdalene, came out in November, 2019, and was named one of the best albums of the year by Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Time, NME, and more.

    For this episode, twigs chose the song "Mirrored Heart" from Magdalene. She wrote and produced it in Los Angeles with a few collaborators, but it’s an intensely personal ...

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    Nathaniel Rateliff is a singer and songwriter from Colorado. He’s released four solo albums, and two with his band, the Night Sweats.

    Those two Night Sweats albums were produced by Richard Swift, who passed away in 2018. In a statement, his family said that he "suffered from alcohol addiction, and it’s ultimately what took his life." Nathaniel Rateliff’s new solo album, And It’s Still Alright, was supposed to be produced b...

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    March 11, 2020 20 min

    Eric Nam is a Korean-American pop singer from Atlanta. He’s currently lives in Seoul, South Korea, where he found fame as a K-pop star. He was named “2016 Man of the Year” by GQ Korea, and Forbes named him one of their “30 under 30 Asia.”

    But his success in Korea has been complicated a little by what he wanted to do with his career versus what he felt he was allowed to do. As his career as an artist has evolved, he’s gotten closer...

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    February 26, 2020 20 min

    Sophie Allison makes music under the name Soccer Mommy. Her debut album came out in 2018, when she was 20 years old, and the New York Times named it one of the best album of the year. Her second album, Color Theory, comes out this week, and it includes this song, "Circle the Drain." In this episode, she takes "Circle the Drain" apart and explains how it was influenced by songs from her childhood.

    songexploder.net/s...

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    February 12, 2020 18 min

    Dan Snaith has been making Caribou records since 2001. He won Canada’s Polaris music prize in 2007, and this month, he’s releasing the seventh Caribou album, Suddenly.

    In this episode, Dan breaks down the song “Home.” He talks about how he managed to get past several moments of creative uncertainty to figure out the final track.

    songexploder.net/caribou

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    January 29, 2020 18 min

    When Laetitia Tamko started making the second Vagabon album, she really wanted to produce the entire thing on her own. It would be a new sound, and producing was still a relatively new skill to her, but she wanted to tackle it head on, and do it all herself. On this song, though, "Water Me Down," Laetitia actually has a co-producer, Eric Littman. It’s the one exception to her otherwise entirely self-produced album. In this ...

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    January 15, 2020 25 min

    The song “Closing Time” by the American rock band Semisonic came out in March 1998. It hit #1 on the Alternative charts, and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Song. It gets played in stadiums, Weird Al covered it, and it’s the last song of the night in countless bars.

    Since then, Dan Wilson, the lead singer and songwriter of Semisonic, has become a powerhouse songwriter who has written or co-written for artists like John Le...

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