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.... Show More

Episodes

February 14, 2020 30 min

In this mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Nathan Rabin, podcaster and writer of two books about “Weird Al” Yankovic. They discuss the most recent full-length episode of Hit Parade, a history of novelty songs on the Billboard charts culminating with the oeuvre of the most successful parody musician ever. Nathan shares the history of his Al fandom and eventual book-length collaboration, and Chris and Nathan... Read more

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January 31, 2020 88 min

Sped-up voices. Wacky instruments. Songs about cavemen, bathtubs, bikinis and mothers-in-law. From the very birth of rock-and-roll, novelty songs were essential elements of the hit parade. Right through the ’70s—the age of streaking, CB radios, disco and King Tut—novelty songs could be chart-topping hits. But by the corporate ’80s, it was harder for goofballs to score round-the-clock hits on regimented radio playlists. Until one pe... Read more

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In this mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Rich Juzwiak, writer for Jezebel as well as Slate’s advice column How to Do It. The two discuss the most recent full-length episode of Hit Parade, a breakdown of how Mariah Carey’s seasonal hit “All I Want for Christmas Is You” finally hit No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, an improbable 25 years after its original release. Rich walks Chris through the history of Mariah... Read more

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December 23, 2019 74 min

Music fans in 2019 are gobsmacked that the No. 1 song in America is not only a Christmas song but a 25-year-old recording: Mariah Carey’s holiday perennial “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Even more amazingly, it’s the first Christmas song to top Billboard’s Hot 100 in 61 years, since “The Chipmunk Song” in December 1958. This leads to so many “whys”: Why were there no Christmas No. 1s for six decades? Why didn’t ’60s, ’70s and ’... Read more

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In this mid-month mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by The Bridge producer Asha Saluja to discuss the most recent full-length episode of Hit Parade, an exhaustive analysis of the top-charting singles of the 2010s. Chris tells Asha why Beyoncé, indisputably one of the decade’s most influential artists, didn’t make it into the episode. Then Chris and Asha talk about a few of their favorite singles of the decad... Read more

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All decades of pop music swing between trends and fads—but the 2010s was swingier than most. From the maximalist EDM of the early ’10s to the downbeat hip-hop of the late ’10s, the pop pendulum oscillated more widely than you may remember. The same decade that gave us Adele’s stately balladry, Katy Perry’s electro-froth and Taylor Swift’s country-to-pop crossover also gave us the Weeknd’s bleary indie-R&B and Drake’s moody rap.... Read more

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In this mid-month mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Ned Raggett, freelance music writer for All Music Guide and The Quietus and expert on the ’80s U.K. bands celebrated on the most recent full-length episode of Hit Parade. Chris and Ned discuss what they call the “holy quartet” of British postpunk bands—The Cure, The Smiths, Depeche Mode and New Order—and Ned weighs in on the challenge of what to call thi... Read more

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October 31, 2019 85 min

If you were an angsty American teenager in the 1980s—whether in real life, or in a John Hughes movie—the rock you loved probably came from the United Kingdom, complete with droning vocals, brooding lyrics, goth hair, and black nail polish. The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, Joy Division/New Order, the Smiths: All these U.K. postpunk acts were hard-pressed to score American hits in the first half of the ’80s—the era of fu... Read more

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October 11, 2019 27 min

In this monthly mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Aisha Harris, culture editor for The New York Times’ Opinion section. Aisha and Chris discuss the Janet Jackson album Rhythm Nation 1814, the topic of the  most recent full-length episode of Hit Parade. Aisha tells Chris about her early Jackson fandom, picks her all-time favorite Janet songs, and offers her opinion on the relevancy and influence of Janet’s... Read more

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September 27, 2019 75 min

In the mid-1980s, Janet Jackson broke away from her world-famous, hit-making family and, with her Control album, rebooted both her career and pop style in the New Jack Swing era. The challenge was following it up—and Jackson and her producers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, didn’t make it easy on themselves. In 1989, they produced an ambitious album with a portentous title: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814. But what could have been C... Read more

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In this monthly mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Asha Saluja, operations manager for Slate Podcasts and new producer of these monthly mini-episodes. Asha tells Chris about an episode of Hit Parade about a certain pop queen–turned–EDM goddess that bridged two seemingly unrelated parts of her personal music history. Chris gives Asha the scoop on the anecdote from the last full-length Hit Parade episode abo... Read more

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August 30, 2019 77 min

Are you tired of hearing how awe-inspiring the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was 50 years ago for 400,000 lucky hippies in Bethel, New York? Imagine how the people of 1969 felt—specifically the millions who couldn’t go. Yet, in the age before YouTube and social media, the rest of America did catch Woodstock fever—weeks, months, even a year or more later—and they made stars out of many of the performers. By 1970, not only was the Woo... Read more

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August 16, 2019 26 min

In this monthly mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Tom Breihan, senior editor at Stereogum and writer of their long-term blog project “The Number Ones,” a chronological review of every song that’s hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Tom gives Chris his reviews of the three Lennon-McCartney hits Chris discussed in the last full-length Hit Parade episode. Plus, Chris quizzes a Slate Plus listener with some m... Read more

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July 26, 2019 71 min

This month, Hit Parade explores the legacy of songs by The Beatles topping the charts...without The Beatles. This is the story of how a discarded Beatles song, a superstar vanity cover, and a bizarre disco medley managed to top the charts with Beatles songwriting credits, but without the fab four.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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July 19, 2019 27 min

How much do you know about the women rockers who dominated the '90s? Find out in the latest episode of Hit Parade: The Bridge. In this monthly mini-episode of Hit Parade, Host Chris Molanphy is joined by T. J. Raphael, senior producer of the Slate Podcast Network. Together, they quiz one listener contestant with some music trivia. The player also has the opportunity to turn the tables: They get a chance to try to stump Molanphy... Read more

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June 27, 2019 78 min

Musical theater is one of America’s greatest cultural products—and in the mid–20th century, it also dominated the Billboard charts, from My Fair Lady to West Side Story. But the rise of rock and roll in the ’60s sidelined showtunes on the radio. And even when Broadway tried to rock—from Hair to Jesus Christ Superstar—a new generation grew wary of characters breaking into song (unless they were animated mermaids, teapots or lions). ... Read more

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Think you know music? Hit Parade, the music history podcast from Slate, is back with a new episode of The Bridge. In this mini-episode of Hit Parade, Host Chris Molanphy is joined by T. J. Raphael, senior producer of the Slate Podcast Network. Together, they quiz one listener contestant with some music trivia. The player also has the opportunity to turn the tables: They get a chance to try to stump Molanphy, a music journalist for ... Read more

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When a band member leaves to go solo, usually it means the band’s best days are over. That’s what everybody thought when Peter Gabriel left Genesis in the ’70s. Except not only did the band survive—fronted by drummer-turned-singer Phil Collins, they got bigger. Then Collins went solo…except he didn’t ditch Genesis. In fact, his success made them bigger—one of the definitive pop bands of the 1980s, as Collins’s monstrous drum sound ... Read more

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May 17, 2019 25 min

Think you know music? Hit Parade, the music history podcast from Slate, is back with a new episode of The Bridge. In this mini-episode of Hit Parade, Host Chris Molanphy is joined by Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding of the podcast Switched on Pop. Together, they quiz one listener contestant with some music trivia. The player also has the opportunity to turn the tables: They get a chance to try to stump Molanphy, a music journalist fo... Read more

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Spin̈al Tap was right: Death sells. When musical icons die, their songs and albums climb the charts all over again—sometimes, a legendary artist even scores his or her only No. 1 hit. In this very special episode recorded live from the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, Hit Parade pours one out for the legends who topped the charts from beyond the grave. Chris is joined by some of America’s top music writers to discuss the unusual c... Read more

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