Episodes
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...
Published 02/24/24
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...
Published 02/10/24
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...
Published 01/26/24
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...
Published 01/13/24
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...
Published 12/29/23
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...
Published 12/16/23
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...
Published 11/24/23
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...
Published 11/18/23
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...
Published 11/11/23
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...
Published 10/27/23
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...
Published 10/14/23
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...
Published 09/29/23
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...
Published 09/16/23
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...
Published 08/25/23
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...
Published 08/11/23
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...
Published 07/28/23
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...
Published 07/14/23
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...
Published 06/30/23
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...
Published 06/17/23
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....
Published 05/26/23
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....
Published 05/13/23
Before 1964, British bands couldn’t get anywhere on the U.S. charts. Then suddenly, after a certain Fab Four broke, they were everywhere. By 1965, they had locked down our Top 10. In 1981, a new generation of U.K. acts armed with synthesizers were largely shut out of the Hot 100 once again. But then a new video channel called MTV changed the game—helped by some very pretty men in dapper suits. By 1983, half of the U.S. Top 40 had a British accent. What did these two movements have in...
Published 04/28/23
Before 1964, British bands couldn’t get anywhere on the U.S. charts. Then suddenly, after a certain Fab Four broke, they were everywhere. By 1965, they had locked down our Top 10. In 1981, a new generation of U.K. acts armed with synthesizers were largely shut out of the Hot 100 once again. But then a new video channel called MTV changed the game—helped by some very pretty men in dapper suits. By 1983, half of the U.S. Top 40 had a British accent. What did these two movements have in...
Published 04/15/23
Alecia Moore was so fearless, they put an exclamation point in her name. Pink—a.k.a. P!nk—was full of bravado from the moment she broke at the turn of the millennium, singing a frothy style of teen pop&B. She was promoted as ethnically ambiguous and sold to white and Black audiences as a sassy Total Request Live starlet. She even joined an all-star remake of “Lady Marmalade.” But Pink felt misrepresented, even Missundaztood—so she recorded an album by that name, fusing rock guitar, dance...
Published 03/24/23