Episodes
What do you call a song that bombed on the charts back in the day, that now booms out of radios and streaming apps nationwide? Chris Molanphy has a name for these songs: legacy hits. Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Etta James’s “At Last.” The Romantics’ “What I Like About You.” Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime.”   Many catalysts can change a song’s trajectory, from movie scenes to stadium singalongs, wedding DJs to evolving tastes. Sometimes the hivemind just...
Published 09/30/22
What do you call a song that bombed on the charts back in the day, that now booms out of radios and streaming apps nationwide? Chris Molanphy has a name for these songs: legacy hits. Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Etta James’s “At Last.” The Romantics’ “What I Like About You.” Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime.”   Many catalysts can change a song’s trajectory, from movie scenes to stadium singalongs, wedding DJs to evolving tastes. Sometimes the hivemind just...
Published 09/17/22
So, sure—Billy Joel’s first Top 40 hit, way back in 1974, was “Piano Man,” and the nickname stuck. But for a guy who became famous sitting behind 88 keys, few of his biggest hits are really piano songs. In fact, on all three of his No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, keyboards are not the primary instrument. The truth is, Joel isn’t the Piano Man, he’s the pastiche man. He has openly admitted to borrowing genre tropes, vocal styles, and even specific song hooks from his Baby Boom-era heroes,...
Published 08/26/22
So, sure—Billy Joel’s first Top 40 hit, way back in 1974, was “Piano Man,” and the nickname stuck. But for a guy who became famous sitting behind 88 keys, few of his biggest hits are really piano songs. In fact, on all three of his No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, keyboards are not the primary instrument. The truth is, Joel isn’t the Piano Man, he’s the pastiche man. He has openly admitted to borrowing genre tropes, vocal styles, and even specific song hooks from his Baby Boom-era heroes,...
Published 08/12/22
After the so-called-but-not-really “death” of disco, dance music in the 1980s moved to its own beat. There was synthpop, electro, hi-NRG and house. But the scrappy genre that seemed to pull it all together was called freestyle—a breakbeat-tempo, Latin-flavored genre fortified with dizzying, proudly synthetic beats. Freestyle grew out of the clubs and streets of New York and Miami and briefly dominated ’80s dance-pop. Freestyle’s flagship artists were only medium-level stars: Shannon. Exposé....
Published 07/29/22
After the so-called-but-not-really “death” of disco, dance music in the 1980s moved to its own beat. There was synthpop, electro, hi-NRG and house. But the scrappy genre that seemed to pull it all together was called freestyle—a breakbeat-tempo, Latin-flavored genre fortified with dizzying, proudly synthetic beats. Freestyle grew out of the clubs and streets of New York and Miami and briefly dominated ’80s dance-pop. Freestyle’s flagship artists were only medium-level stars: Shannon. Exposé....
Published 07/16/22
For decades, British alt-pop goddess Kate Bush had never had a Top 10 hit in America. Now, in 2022, she finds herself in the Hot 100’s Top Five—and television got her there. Her classic “Running Up That Hill” is featured prominently in the latest season of Netflix’s hit ’80s horror fantasy show Stranger Things. This puts Bush in a long lineage of hits spawned or made bigger by TV, dating all the way back to Davy Crockett and Peter Gunn, through Hawaii Five-O and Happy Days, and peaking in...
Published 07/01/22
For decades, British alt-pop goddess Kate Bush had never had a Top 10 hit in America. Now, in 2022, she finds herself in the Hot 100’s Top Five—and television got her there. Her classic “Running Up That Hill” is featured prominently in the latest season of Netflix’s hit ’80s horror fantasy show Stranger Things. This puts Bush in a long lineage of hits spawned or made bigger by TV, dating all the way back to Davy Crockett and Peter Gunn, through Hawaii Five-O and Happy Days, and peaking in...
Published 06/18/22
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…Timbaland bringing sexy back. Join host Chris Molanphy as he...
Published 05/27/22
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…Timbaland bringing sexy back. Join host Chris Molanphy as he...
Published 05/21/22
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 aired in 2017, but that could not be more relevant today....
Published 05/13/22
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…the college-rockers from Athens, Ga.…the man behind Meat...
Published 04/29/22
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…the college-rockers from Athens, Ga.…the man behind Meat...
Published 04/16/22
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 Philly soul. LaBelle threw her insane voice at rock, funk and...
Published 04/01/22
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 Philly soul. LaBelle threw her insane voice at rock, funk, and...
Published 03/26/22
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're out. You'll also get The Bridge, our trivia show and bonus...
Published 02/25/22
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 explore the experimental origins of the remix and its slow but...
Published 02/19/22
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 still getting played on rock stations. And decades later, when the...
Published 01/28/22
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: rock, R&B, folk, funk, even disco. At their Imperial peak...
Published 01/15/22
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-field pop happening of the mid-’90s. This bilingual song by a pair of...
Published 01/11/22
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 now mostly known for that tune about Christmas tree rockin’....
Published 12/31/21
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 consumed largely in December. In this holiday episode of Hit...
Published 12/18/21
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 how did they fight to define themselves?  Podcast production by...
Published 12/03/21
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 Bangles came up at the same postpunk, new-wave moment in ’80s pop....
Published 11/20/21