Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia-logo

Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia

Slate

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.

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.

Location:

United States

Networks:

Slate

Description:

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.

Language:

English


Episodes

Tramps Like Us, Part 2

7/30/2021
In Part 2 of this episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy continues his analysis of the career and legacy of the legendary and sometimes-misunderstood Bruce Springsteen. In his second decade, Springsteen wasn’t just a hitmaker—he was the archetype: the symbol of flag-waving American rock, even when the song was less patriotism than protest. Advertisers, other pop stars, President Ronald Reagan—everybody glommed onto Bruce, and virtually all of them got him wrong. Just in time for summer, Hit...

Duration:01:14:54

Tramps Like Us, Part 1

7/16/2021
Bruce Springsteen has been a legend so long, it’s easy to forget that, for his first decade, he had trouble getting a hit. Yes, even the legendary “Born to Run”: It missed Billboard’s Top 20. And yet, several of Springsteen’s songs became big hits for others: the song with the misheard lyric about “a deuce” that went to No. 1 for a British band. The song he couldn’t finish that became a hit for a punk priestess. The song he refused to let his record label hear that became a massive hit for...

Duration:01:13:50

Say My Name, Say My Name, Part 2

7/2/2021
In Part 2 of this episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy continues his analysis of when singing became central to rap music. Rap has always been musical. But back in the day, rappers generally, well, rapped: talked in cadence over a beat. Fans judged MCs primarily by their rhymes and rhythms, not their melodies. Now? Rappers are mostly singers: MCs from Drake to DaBaby slip seamlessly in and out of melody. Some hits that appear on Billboard’s Rap charts feature literally no rapping. When did...

Duration:01:09:55

Say My Name, Say My Name, Part 1

6/18/2021
Let’s be clear: Rap has always been musical. But back in the day, rappers generally, well, rapped: talked in cadence over a beat. Fans judged MCs primarily by their rhymes and rhythms, not their melodies. Now? Rappers are mostly singers: MCs from Drake to DaBaby slip seamlessly in and out of melody. Some hits that appear on Billboard’s Rap charts feature literally no rapping. When did this change? In this episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy walks through the history of hip-hop—from Gil...

Duration:01:07:37

Blame It on the Feign, Part 2

5/28/2021
In Part 2 of this episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy continues his analysis of Milli Vanilli, the musical act that many of us who were around in 1989 listened to more than they might admit. They also have quite a legacy: a blend of pop, dance and rap that now seems commonplace but was still relatively novel then. If you’ve danced to Europop that fronts like hip-hop, you’re living in a world Milli Vanilli helped create. Chris Molanphy continues to break down the history of Milli Vanilli...

Duration:00:59:20

Blame It on the Feign, Part 1

5/20/2021
For a musical project that’s synonymous with deceit, Milli Vanilli sold an awful lot of records. They also have quite a legacy: a blend of pop, dance and rap that now seems commonplace but was still relatively novel in 1989. If you’ve danced to Europop that fronts like hip-hop, you’re living in a world Milli Vanilli helped create. In this episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy breaks down the history of Milli Vanilli mastermind Frank Farian’s musical career: from his days with Boney M, a...

Duration:01:12:47

Taylor’s Version of Country, Part 2

4/30/2021
In Part 2 of this episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy continues his analysis of Taylor: the country years, dissecting how she gradually, step by step, became the new queen of pop one irresistible song at a time. She went from interviewing bigger stars on MTV’s red carpet one year, to being the talk of the Video Music Awards the next—even before Kanye took that microphone away from her. He told Taylor he would let her finish, but the game was already over. Swift had the most played song in...

Duration:00:54:44

Taylor’s Version of Country, Part 1

4/16/2021
Taylor Swift’s new album is a reboot of an old album: Fearless, her 2008 chart-topping juggernaut that made her the biggest star on the Billboard charts. But Fearless (Taylor’s Version)—filled with banjos, steel guitars and fiddles—is also a reminder for those who forgot: Swift was once the top act in country music, too. From Dolly Parton to Shania Twain, the Chicks to Faith Hill, no country artist has ever crossed over to pop the way Taylor did, utterly dominating one genre before she took...

Duration:00:55:14

Don’t Know Much About History, Part 2

4/2/2021
In Part 2 of this episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy continues his analysis of the music of Sam Cooke. The Oscar-nominated film One Night in Miami… imagines the conversation between Cooke, Malcolm X, Cassius Clay and Jim Brown the night in 1964 they gathered to celebrate the soon-to-be Muhammad Ali’s heavyweight victory. Malcolm X challenges Sam Cooke to use his amazing voice to help “the struggle.” Little did he know Cooke had already recorded his civil‑rights masterpiece, “A Change Is...

Duration:00:54:40

Don’t Know Much About History, Part 1

3/23/2021
The Oscar-nominated film One Night in Miami… imagines the conversation between Sam Cooke, Malcolm X, Cassius Clay and Jim Brown the night in 1964 they gathered to celebrate the soon-to-be Muhammad Ali’s heavyweight victory. Malcolm X challenges Sam Cooke to use his amazing voice to help “the struggle.” Little did he know Cooke had already recorded his civil‑rights masterpiece, “A Change Is Gonna Come.” In this episode, Chris Molanphy sets the record straight on the man now called the King of...

Duration:00:54:29

The AC/DC Rule, Part 2

2/26/2021
In Part 2 of this episode of Hit Parade, Chris Molanphy continues to demonstrate a weird chart phenomenon he calls The AC/DC Rule. Hit Parade episodes are now split into two parts, released two weeks apart. For the full episode right now, sign up for Slate Plus and you'll also get The Bridge, our Trivia show and bonus deep dive. Click here for more info. What was the only No. 1 album by Jimi Hendrix? How about the first No. 1 by Billy Joel? Jackson Browne? Pat Benatar? Pearl Jam? Lady Gaga?...

Duration:01:18:36

The AC/DC Rule, Part 1

2/12/2021
Quick, what was the only No. 1 album by Jimi Hendrix? How about the first No. 1 by Billy Joel? Jackson Browne? Pat Benatar? Pearl Jam? Lady Gaga? In all cases, the answer isn’t obvious—it’s not the album you know best, the one with the most hits on it. It’s the album after that classic that goes to No. 1. And there’s no better example than AC/DC, the Australian-by-way-of-Scotland hard rock band that’s sold more than 20 million copies of Back in Black. But it was their next album (can you...

Duration:00:47:43

These Are the Good Times, Part 2

1/29/2021
Hit Parade is back for non-Slate Plus listeners! Upcoming episodes will be split into two parts, released two weeks apart. For the full episode right now, sign up for Slate Plus and you'll also get The Bridge, our Trivia show and bonus deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus. In Part 2 of this episode of Hit Parade, we continue the story of how Chic—cofounded by guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards—gave life to disco through the 1980s and beyond. Their “Good Times”...

Duration:01:23:53

These Are the Good Times, Part 1

1/19/2021
Hit Parade is back for non-Slate Plus listeners! Upcoming episodes will be split into two parts, released two weeks apart. For the full episode right now, sign up for Slate Plus and you'll also get The Bridge, our Trivia show and bonus deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus. How can you tell disco didn’t really die at the start of the 1980s? Because half of ’80s pop owed its sound to one of disco’s most seminal acts. Chic—cofounded by guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard...

Duration:00:59:00

Smells Like Christmas Spirit, Part 2

12/31/2020
Hit Parade is back for non-Slate Plus listeners! Upcoming episodes will be split into two parts, released two weeks apart. For the full episode right now, sign up for Slate Plus and you'll also get The Bridge, our Trivia show and bonus deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus. In Part 2 of this episode of Hit Parade, we continue the story of how Nirvana’s Nevermind ousted Michael Jackson’s Dangerous from the top of the Billboard album chart, Chris Molanphy examines the chart...

Duration:00:50:50

Smells Like Christmas Spirit, Part 1

12/14/2020
Hit Parade is back for non-Slate Plus listeners! Upcoming episodes will be split into two parts, released two weeks apart. For the full episode right now, sign up for Slate Plus and you'll also get The Bridge, our Trivia show and bonus deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus. When Nirvana’s Nevermind ousted Michael Jackson’s Dangerous from the top of the Billboard album chart, it made headlines in early 1992. Only, it didn’t really happen in ’92. What gave Nirvana the win...

Duration:00:35:36

Friends in Low Places, Part 2

11/27/2020
Hit Parade is back for non-Slate Plus listeners! Upcoming episodes will be split into two parts, released two weeks apart. For the full episode right now, sign up for Slate Plus and you'll also get The Bridge, our Trivia show and bonus deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus. Hit Parade continues the story of Garth Brooks. In the ’90s, he was country-authentic, ignored pop radio, and still utterly dominated the charts as the decade’s biggest multiplatinum megastar. Brooks took...

Duration:00:43:21

Friends in Low Places, Part 1

11/16/2020
Hit Parade is back for non-Slate Plus listeners! Upcoming episodes will be split into two parts, released two weeks apart. For the full episode right now, sign up for Slate Plus and you'll also get The Bridge, our Trivia show and bonus deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus. Today your Hit Parade marches to the week ending October 27th, 1990, when “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks was in its fourth week at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles and Tracks, the same week...

Duration:01:20:23

Turn Around, Bright Eyes, Part 2

10/30/2020
Hit Parade is back for non-Slate Plus listeners! Upcoming episodes will be split into two parts, released two weeks apart. For the full episode right now, sign up for Slate Plus and you'll also get The Bridge, our Trivia show and bonus deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus. In part 2 of our episode on Meatloaf maestro Jim Steinman: Chris Molanphy continues the story of how Steinman moved on from Meatloaf to emerge as a hitmaker for other artists like Bonnie Tyler with "Total...

Duration:00:56:12

Turn Around, Bright Eyes, Part 1

10/16/2020
Hit Parade is back for non-Slate Plus listeners! Upcoming episodes will be split into two parts, released two weeks apart. For the full episode right now, sign up for Slate Plus and you'll also get The Bridge, our Trivia show and bonus deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus. Producers and songwriters have a major impact on how a finished pop song sounds, and feels. But it’s possible no hitmaking mastermind—not even Phil Spector—has had a more specific pop sound than Jim...

Duration:00:50:42