Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia

Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia

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.

Episodes

May 27, 2022 68 min
What was in the water in Virginia Beach? Starting in the ’90s and peaking in the ’00s, Pharrell Williams, Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley and Missy Elliott—friends and family from the Tidewater Region—made nerdy pop normal on the charts. Their productions whirred, gurgled, pinged and rumbled—the handiwork of studio geeks—while their lyrics embraced the freaky: Missy demanding that you work it…Pharrell declaring he’s a hustler, baby…Timb...
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What was in the water in Virginia Beach? Starting in the ’90s and peaking in the ’00s, Pharrell Williams, Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley and Missy Elliott—friends and family from the Tidewater Region—made nerdy pop normal on the charts. Their productions whirred, gurgled, pinged and rumbled—the handiwork of studio geeks—while their lyrics embraced the freaky: Missy demanding that you work it…Pharrell declaring he’s a hustler, baby…Timb...
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In the 1970s, a song about protesting truckers topped the music charts in multiple countries, and kicked off a pop culture craze for CB radios. In early 2022, that same song became an anthem for a new trucker-led protest movement in Canada and the US. How did C.W. McCall’s “Convoy” come to exist, and what had it been trying to say?  For this episode, which was inspired by a listener’s question, we’ve updated a story that originally...
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April 29, 2022 58 min
Five years ago this month, Hit Parade launched on the Slate podcast network. What have we learned in that half-decade? And what episodes did you love the most? We asked you to vote—and the results may surprise you. Sure, you enjoyed our shows about Madonna, Nirvana, Whitney, Mariah, Bruce, Stevie and Janet. But even more than that, you loved our nerdy deep dives about the producers behind “Le Freak”…the rules for One-Hit Wonders…th...
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April 16, 2022 54 min
Five years ago this month, Hit Parade launched on the Slate podcast network. What have we learned in that half-decade? And what episodes did you love the most? We asked you to vote—and the results may surprise you. Sure, you enjoyed our shows about Madonna, Nirvana, Whitney, Mariah, Bruce, Stevie and Janet. But even more than that, you loved our nerdy deep dives about the producers behind “Le Freak”…the rules for One-Hit Wonders…th...
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April 1, 2022 62 min
The early ’70s was a great time for R&B queens on the charts: Roberta Flack. Dionne Warwick. Patti LaBelle. Chaka Khan. They had come through the ’60s—Dionne as a smooth pop-and-B star, Patti as a girl-group frontwoman, Roberta as a cabaret pianist—and found themselves in a new decade with limitless possibilities. Flack turned folk songs into chart-topping, Grammy-winning R&B. Warwick shifted from Brill Building pop to Phil...
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March 25, 2022 79 min
The early ’70s was a great time for R&B queens on the charts: Roberta Flack. Dionne Warwick. Patti LaBelle. Chaka Khan. They had come through the ’60s—Dionne as a smooth pop-and-B star, Patti as a girl-group frontwoman, Roberta as a cabaret pianist—and found themselves in a new decade with limitless possibilities. Flack turned folk songs into chart-topping, Grammy-winning R&B. Warwick shifted from Brill Building pop to Phil...
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February 25, 2022 66 min
Today on Hit Parade, we continue tracing the history of the remix. From Jennifer Lopez to Billie Eilish to Lil Nas X, the remix has become a ubiquitous part of contemporary pop chart battles. In part 2 we continue to story of how the remix became the defacto mode of reviving flagging singles, resulting in some of the most dominant pop songs of all time. Sign up for Slate Plus now to get episodes in one installment as soon as they&#...
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February 19, 2022 69 min
Today on Hit Parade, we trace the multifarious history of the remix: a musical term with a universe of meanings. Rethinks. Reboots. Reinventions. Re-recordings. Even instances where the so-called remix came before the supposed original. (How is that even possible?) In a way, the most pivotal “remix” in chart history was the one so transformative, it compelled a change in our understanding of what a remix even is. In part 1, we expl...
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January 28, 2022 62 min
In part two of our deep dive into Daryl Hall & John Oates' genre-defying streak on the pop charts, Chris Molanphy argues 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 sti...
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January 15, 2022 61 min
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: r...
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January 11, 2022 58 min
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...
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December 31, 2021 52 min
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 n...
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December 18, 2021 67 min
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 consu...
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December 3, 2021 80 min
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 ho...
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November 20, 2021 70 min
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 Bangl...
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October 29, 2021 63 min
In Part 2 of this episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy traces the lineage of ’90s bands like Green Day, Offspring and Blink‑182 to their descendants in ’00s emo artisans Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco and their skinny-jeans-wearing, smarty-pants contemporaries.   Podcast production by Asha Saluja with help from Rosemary Belson. We have a special announcement! This year is the 25th anniversary of Slate. And for a limited time, ...
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October 16, 2021 47 min
“Punk happened, past tense.” That’s what Boomer-era critics and true-believer punks told the younger generations. Punk’s whole reason for being was rejecting the mainstream. But punk wasn’t just a movement—it was also a genre. And 20 years after it first emerged, punk went from underground to overground, dominating the radio for the first time.   In this episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy traces how punk traveled from Sid Viciou...
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September 24, 2021 65 min
In Part 2 of our 50th episode of Hit Parade, we go back 50 years, celebrating the semicentennial of the year when, critics claim, “music changed everything.” The Quiet Beatle became the Favorite Beatle, when Mick Jagger sang lyrics even he regrets, when Carole King graduated from songwriter to singer-songwriter, and commercial juggernaut, when blaxploitation took over the charts and the Oscars, and when the radio was somehow awash ...
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September 10, 2021 74 min
At any given time, the music world is celebrating some anniversary, but 1971 has received more than its share of commemorations this year. And with good reason: Carole King. Marvin Gaye. Joni Mitchell. Sly Stone. Janis Joplin. The Who. All released their best work a half-century ago. For our 50th episode of Hit Parade, we go back 50 years, celebrating the semicentennial of the year when, critics claim, “music changed everything.” T...
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