Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia

Hit Parade | Music History and Music Trivia Podcast

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.

One and Done, Part 2
Hit Parade is back for non-Slate Plus listeners! Upcoming episodes will be split into two parts, released two weeks apart. For full episodes on the day of release, sign up for Slate Plus and you'll also get The Bridge, our trivia show and deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus. In part two of our one-hit wonders show, we propose three rules to identify a one-hit wonder, which is not as easy as it sounds: Dexys Midnight Runners? They’re a one-hit wonder. Men Without Hats? Nope, not fair. Lou Re...

One and Done, Part 1
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 deep dive into our subjects. slate.com/hitparadeplus. “One-hit wonder” is a popular term in our culture—and not just in music: sportscasters, Wall Street analysts and news anchors all use it. But what does “one-hit wonder” actually mean on the pop charts? Hit Parade host Chris Mola...

The Bridge: Yacht Or Nyacht?
First, we have a few announcements about the future of Hit Parade—and it’s good news for both Slate Plus members and non-Plus listeners. While the economic challenges of COVID-19 certainly haven’t abated, Hit Parade has attracted enough new Plus members to allow us to take some episodes out from behind Slate’s paywall starting in September. Starting next month, full-length Hit Parade episodes will debut in the middle of the month, not the end (our next full-length episode drops on Friday, September 18). If...


Wednesday Night Live: Music Trivia
Hey, Hit Parade listeners—we’ve got an unusual schedule for August. Today’s show is a recording of last week’s installment of Slate’s Wednesday Night Live, which was a live Hit Parade trivia edition. I was the host, and I got to quiz several Slate luminaries on Billboard chart brainteasers. We had a blast.  Then, later this month, in the place where we would normally bring you a full-length story, we’ll instead be doing a super-sized edition of our regular Hit Parade—“The Bridge” show. We’ll be following u...

What a Fool Believes Edition
Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, a scene ...

What a Fool Believes Edition
Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, a scene ...


The Bridge: Lilith’s Winding Road
In this mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Jessica Hopper, acclaimed critic for publications like Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, GQ, The Guardian, Elle and Bookforum, and author of the books The Girls’ Guide to Rocking, The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic and Night Moves. Her deeply researched September 2019 piece for Vanity Fair, “Building a Mystery: An Oral History of Lilith Fair,” informed and helped inspire the latest episode of Hit Par...

Building a Herstory Edition
Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment. For decades—literally since Woodstock—fem...

The Bridge: Many Ways to be OutKasted
In this mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Dr. Regina Bradley, Assistant Professor of English and African Diaspora Studies at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, She is the author of the forthcoming book Chronicling Stankonia: The Rise of the Hip Hop South; cohost of the southern hip-hop podcast Bottom of the Map on WABE and PRX; and host of the recent YouTube series OutKasted Conversations. Gina and Chris discuss the most recent full-length episode of Hit Parade, OutKa...


Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture Edition
A special Hit Parade announcement: Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment. As par...

The Bridge: Piano Man, Everyman
A special Hit Parade announcement: Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment. As par...

Still Billy Joel to Me Edition
A special Hit Parade announcement: Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment. As par...


The Bridge: Hits Don’t Lie
A special Hit Parade announcement: Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment. As par...

The Bridge: Hits Don’t Lie
A special Hit Parade announcement: Like many media organizations at the moment, Slate is getting hit pretty hard by what's going on with the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to continue doing our work, providing you with all our great podcasts, news and reporting, and we simply cannot do that without your support. So we're asking you to sign up for Slate Plus, our membership program. It's just $35 for the first year, and it goes a long way to supporting us in this crucial moment. As par...

La Vida Loca Edición
Hit Parade takes you back to the turn of the millennium when, for a couple of years, it seemed like a Latin pop star was topping Billboard’ Hot 100 every few weeks: Ricky Martin. Jennifer Lopez. Enrique Iglesias. Marc Anthony. Carlos Santana. Shakira. This wave of Latin crossover was hard-fought and a long time coming—from “La Bamba” to “Macarena,” Spanish-language hits in the 20th century had been treated like novelties by record buyers and radio programmers. The Latin boom of 1999 changed all that—but did...


The Bridge: Wesley on Whitney
In this mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Wesley Morris, Pulitzer Prize–winning critic, New York Times critic-at-large, and co-host of Still Processing. They discuss the most recent full-length episode of Hit Parade about the chart legacy of Whitney Houston, which was inspired in part by Wesley and his co-host Jenna Wortham’s analysis in Still Processing of Houston’s life, identity, and artistry. Wesley talks about his first memory of seeing Whitney on TV, his respect for the vers...

I'm Your Whitney Tonight Edition
Eight years after her passing—and 35 years after the release of her debut album—Whitney Houston is about to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Predictably, some rock fans have carped that Houston doesn’t belong in the Hall. But they are not the only ones who, historically, have complained about Houston’s bona fides. In the ’80s, at the apex of her success, black fans complained that Houston was courting white pop fans too eagerly, and forgetting her roots in gospel and R&B. On the charts, by c...

The Bridge: Living in an Amish Paradise
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 theorize about the secrets of Al’s success. (Want to see Nathan Rabin talk a...


The White and Nerdy Edition
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 perm-headed, mustachioed, accordion-playing parodist who called himself “Weird”...

The Bridge: Legacy of the Elusive Chanteuse
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 fandom—both his own and her loyal “Lambs”—and how he appreciates her for her...

Make My Wish Come True Edition
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 ’80s holiday classics like “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” “Feliz Navidad...


The Bridge: Queens Bey, Rih and Robyn Reign Different Kingdoms
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 decade--some made it onto the Billboard Hot 100, and others didn’t. Chris quizzes ...

Rolling in God’s Royal Uptown Road Edition.
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. And Bieber—so. Much. Bieber. With just weeks to go before the end of 2019, Hit P...

Rolling in God’s Royal Uptown Road Edition.
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. And Bieber—so. Much. Bieber. With just weeks to go before the end of 2019, Hit P...


The Bridge: Genre v. Generation, ’80s to ’10s
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 this wave: Is it goth? mope-rock? Do these bands actually constitute a genre, or...

Lost and Lonely Edition
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 fun-loving New Romantic bands like Duran Duran. But to Gen X teens, Robert Smit...

The Bridge: Rain Sounds and Moody Goths
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 sound today. Plus, Chris gives an inside scoop on the song template that Jac...


State of the World Edition
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 Control, Part 2 instead was a visionary LP that reinvented the socially consci...

The Bridge: Ladies of the Canyon and the Rhythm Nation
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 about the TV appearance responsible for keeping Joni Mitchell away from Woodstoc...

We Are Stardust, We Are Gold-Certified
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 Woodstock movie dominating the box office; the soundtrack album and a constellat...


The Bridge: Nostalgic for Number Ones
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 music trivia, and the contestant turns the tables with a chance to try to stum...

Without The Beatles
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...

The Bridge: Farewell, Lilith Fan
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, a music journalist for the past 25 years, with one of their own trivia question...


The Lullaby of Broadway Edition
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). And yet, in the 21st century, Broadway music has staged a cultural comeback: ...

The Bridge: The "Give My Regards" Edition
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 the past 25 years, with one of their own trivia questions. Chris is also joi...

The Invisible Miracle Sledgehammer Edition
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 took over pop music. By mid-decade, current and former members of Genesis—eve...


The Bridge: Monster Drums Edition
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 for the past 25 years, with one of their own trivia questions. If you’d like t...

The Posthumous Hits Edition, Live from Seattle
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 circumstances that brought everyone from Otis Redding to Janis Joplin, John Le...

Coming Soon: Hit Parade, Live in Seattle!
Join Chris Molanphy for an evening of stories and trivia, at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle Washington, Saturday, April 13th, 2019. Tickets are going fast at Slate.com/LIVE Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices...


The Everybody Say YEAH! Edition
When you think of Stevie Wonder’s legendary career, what chart-toppers come to mind? “Superstition,” right? Maybe “I Wish”? Okay, but what about the start of his career, on the Motown of the ’60s? You may not know that Wonder had only one Hot 100 No. 1 in his first decade—as “Little” Stevie Wonder—and it was truly exceptional, as in bizarre: a semi-improvised live recording of a “12 Year-Old Genius” refusing to leave a Chicago stage and say goodnight. Here’s the story of “Fingertips, Part 2,” and the years ...

The Bridge: Cover Queens and The Boy Wonder
Host Chris Molanphy reflects on the previous full length episode of the show, and invites one Slate Plus member to play some music trivia related to an upcoming episode. This month, Molanphy is joined at the mic by T. J. Raphael, senior producer of the Slate Podcast Network. Together, they discuss some of the best cover songs of all time from the likes of Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, and more. After a break, Molanphy is joined by one listener for some music trivia related to the next full-length episode ...

The Bad Moon on the Rise Edition
In just a couple of years, Creedence Clearwater Revival generated one of the most amazing runs of hits in American pop history: from “Proud Mary” to “Green River,” “Bad Moon Rising” to “Travelin’ Band.” Reportedly, they even outsold the Beatles in America in 1969. But for all their success with those John Fogerty–penned classics, CCR never held the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100. All of those hits were No. 2s: a dubious Billboard chart record they hold to this day, for most No. 2s without a No. 1. True, it was t...


The Bridge: R. Kelly and Music's #MeToo Reckoning
Hit Parade, the music history podcast from Slate, is back with a new episode of The Bridge. In this monthly mini-episode, Host Chris Molanphy reflects on the previous full length episode of the show, and invites one Slate Plus member to play some music trivia related to an upcoming episode. This month, Molanphy is joined at the mic by T. J. Raphael, senior producer of the Slate Podcast Network. Together, they discuss the sexual assault allegations facing artist R. Kelly, and whether the #MeToo movement will...

The Gaga is Born Edition
A Star Is Born, the movie Hollywood can’t stop remaking, is a fairy-tale about the American dream factory. But it has also, always, been a reflection of the woman in the lead role—and the latest version stars a woman who has been playing a role for more than a decade: Stefani Germanotta, a.k.a. Lady Gaga. When Gaga scored her first No. 1 hit, “Just Dance,” 10 years ago this month, critics thought her fame might be short-lived. But Gaga had a lot to say about The Fame, and within a year she had shifted the s...

Music Trivia: Grammys and Gaga Edition
Think you know music? Hit Parade, the music history podcast from Slate, is back with a new episode of The Bridge. In this monthly mini-episode of Hit Parade, Host Chris Molanphy reflects on the previous full length episode of the show, and invites one Slate Plus member onto the show to play some music trivia related to the upcoming episode. How does it all work? Contestants are asked three trivia questions, and the player also has the opportunity to turn the tables—they get a chance to try to stump Molanphy...


The Christmas is All Around Edition
In the UK, the No. 1 song the week of Christmas is a big deal. The media breathlessly covers the contest, and there are even wagers placed on what song will reach the top of the charts as pop stars and record labels jockey for position. While there are patterns to the kinds of songs that tend to do well in this perennial sweepstakes, often the winner is a fluke: Everything from Queen to the Flying Pickets to Bob the Builder has taken the crown. It was even parodied in the smash British Christmas comedy film...

Music Trivia: The Christmas Music Edition
Think you know music? Quiz yourself with the latest episode of Hit Parade: The Bridge. This month, Host Chris Molanphy is joined by Jessica Goldstein, the culture editor at ThinkProgress and a journalist whose work has appeared in Vulture and The Washington Post, among other places. Her October article in Entertainment Weekly, “Britney Spears wanted to be a star: An oral history of '...Baby One More Time,'” was an inspiration for the November episode of Hit Parade. Chris is also joined by one listener co...

The Give Me a Sign Edition
From a very young age, Britney Spears seemed destined for stardom. The kid from Louisiana had landed a role on the revived Mickey Mouse Club and styled herself as a belter of power ballads. But to score her first No. 1 hit, Spears would team up with an introverted Swedish songwriter named Max Martin. He was trying to write American R&B and instead, through Britney and her high-school dance formations, created a new template for über–American teen-pop. This month, we go inside the Stockholm music factory—and...


Music Trivia: ’90s Teen-Pop Edition
Think you know music? Quiz yourself with the latest episode of Hit Parade: The Bridge. This month, on the heels of the 2018 midterm elections, Host Chris Molanphy is joined by T. J. Raphael, senior producer for the Slate Podcast Network, to talk about musicians who make political endorsements. Chris is joined by one listener contestant to play some music trivia, which is all about '90s teen pop. If you’d like to be a contestant on an upcoming show, sign up for a Slate Plus membership here, and enter as a ...

The Oh. My. God. Becky Edition
In Hit Parade’s “Def Jams Edition,” we told you about rap’s first wave in the ’80s. But in this sequel (don’t believe the hype!) we enter the ’90s with still no No. 1 rap hits on the Hot 100—even though the music was starting to dominate both streets and stores: from conscious rappers like Public Enemy, to gangstas like N.W.A, to left-field innovators like De La Soul. It would take Billboard rebooting its charts in 1991 tallying record sales more accurately than ever with SoundScan data—for rap to get a fai...

Music Trivia: The '90s Hip-Hop Edition
Think you know music? Hit Parade is back with a new episode of The Bridge. This month, Chris Molanphy is joined by Slate's Mike Pesca. Together, they reflect on the last full-length Hit Parade episode, which was about The BeeGees, and look ahead to next month, which is all about ‘90s hip-hop. If you’d like to be a contestant on an upcoming show, sign up for a Slate Plus membership here, and enter as a contestant here. You can also enter to play if you’re already a Slate Plus member. Want your question fea...


The Nights on Broadway Edition
Those falsettos, those white suits, those toothy smiles: You think you know the Bee Gees. But their story goes back much further than the ’70s, and it’s full of twists. From their roots as an eclectic harmony band in Australia and their first wave of Beatlesque fame, through their domination of the disco revolution and their years as an punchline, the Bee Gees stayed alive because of the Gibb brothers’ harmonies and especially their impeccable songs. This month, Hit Parade traces the influence of the brothe...

Music Trivia: The Aretha Franklin Edition
Think you know music? Hit Parade is back with a new episode of The Bridge. This month, we honor Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, who died on August 16th. If you’d like to be a contestant on an upcoming show, sign up for a Slate Plus membership here, and enter as a contestant here. You can also enter to play if you’re already a Slate Plus member. Want your question featured in an upcoming show? Email a voice memo to [email protected]   Podcast production by Danielle Hewitt  Learn more about your ad c...

Madonna: The Veronica Electronica Edition (Encore)
In 1998, Madonna was at a career crossroads. After dominating the ’80s with hits like “Like a Virgin” and “Open Your Heart,” she spent the first half of the ’90s wavering between roles as a provocateur (Erotica, Sex) and adult-contemporary balladeer (“I’ll Remember,” “Take a Bow”). That’s when she took a sharp left turn, working with producers and deejays in the burgeoning electronica scene. If it even was a scene: The very term “electronica” was a music-business confection, and by 1997 it was more hype tha...


The Feat. Don’t Fail Me Now Edition
Guest performers have existed since, literally, the beginning of the pop charts—the first Billboard No. 1 hit had a featured vocal by Frank Sinatra. Throughout the rock era, some very starry guests have helped out with hits by everyone from the Beatles to Carly Simon to Chaka Khan. But for a long time, those guests received no credit at all. Today, their names are all over the pop charts. On this episode, we trace the evolution of the guest performer, from Mick Jagger to Bobby Brown to Cardi B.  Email: hitp...

The Deadbeat Club Edition, Part Two
In the second part of our two-part episode about the B-52’s and R.E.M.—the bands that put Athens, Georgia on the map, and helped define new-wave rock in the early ’80s—we trace how they transformed themselves from hipsters to hitmakers. One band waited years to graduate from an indie label to the majors. The other almost quit after an AIDS-related tragedy, before their pop breakthrough. By the end of the ’80s, their hits—from “Orange Crush” to “Stand,” “Channel Z” to “Love Shack”—brought them squarely into ...

The Deadbeat Club Edition, Part One
The B-52’s and R.E.M. don’t sound all that much like each other. One group were avatars of kitsch, fusing punk, girl-group and garage rock—even Yoko Ono—into a retro-nuevo style all their own. The other group were mysterious, elliptical, often indecipherable, but they reinvented jangly guitar and classic-rock influences to make a new kind of New Wave. Together, this pair of distinctive bands helped make Athens, Georgia the epicenter of alternative cool in the ’80s and ’90s. In part one of this two-part epis...


Music Trivia: The MTV and Alt-Rock Edition
The Bridge is back, and this time it's tackling some music trivia about the heyday of MTV, and some alt-rock favorites. Play along at home and quiz yourself by listening to The Bridge. If you’d like to be a contestant on an upcoming show, sign up for a Slate Plus membership, and then enter as a contestant here. You can also enter if you’re already a Slate Plus member. Want your question featured in an upcoming show? Email [email protected]  Podcast production by T. J. Raphael Learn more about your ad cho...

The Twerking and Chatrouletting Edition
Even before the launch of MTV, the music video has been making pop songs buzzworthy. And since the early ’80s, it has transformed also-rans into hitmakers—from the Buggles and Duran Duran to Peter Gabriel and a‑ha. But until the early 2010s, watching a video didn’t count on the Billboard charts. That all changed thanks to YouTube—and the biggest immediate beneficiary from the addition of video to the charts was a rising pop star, incubated on the Disney Channel, but looking to change her image. Miley Cyrus ...

Music Trivia: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Edition
Think you know music? Hit Parade, the pop-chart history podcast from Slate, is back with a new episode of The Bridge. In this monthly mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy answers some listener mail and invites one contestant onto the show to play some music trivia. Players also have the opportunity to turn the tables on him: They get a chance to try to stump Molanphy, a music journalist for the past 25 years, with their own trivia question. This month, The Bridge tackles the Rock & Roll Hall of ...


Hit Parade: The You Give Rock a Bad Name Edition
Bon Jovi are many things: platinum-selling, chart-topping and now, Hall of Fame–inducted. That angers music critics, who have been slagging off this band of hard-rock prom kings since the 1980s. Among the haters is Hit Parade host Chris Molanphy, who has loathed Bon Jovi since high school. But even he can’t deny it: Bon Jovi are hugely influential. In the wake of their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, Chris puts aside his animus to explain how the biggest band in hair metal have remained strangely rele...

Music Trivia: Welcome to Hit Parade—The Bridge
Think you know music? Hit Parade, the pop-chart history podcast from Slate, is rolling out a new feature. Every month, the show will test a listener contestant in a special mini episode called The Bridge.  Host Chris Molanphy will invite one person onto the show to play some music trivia, and contestants have the opportunity to turn the tables on him: They’ll get a chance to try to stump Molanphy, a music journalist for the last 25 years, with their own trivia question.  If you want to play along at home an...

Hit Parade: The Veronica Electronica Edition
In 1998, Madonna was at a career crossroads. After dominating the ’80s with hits like “Like a Virgin” and “Open Your Heart,” she spent the first half of the ’90s wavering between roles as a provocateur (Erotica, Sex) and adult-contemporary balladeer (“I’ll Remember,” “Take a Bow”). That’s when she took a sharp left turn, working with producers and deejays in the burgeoning electronica scene. If it even was a scene: The very term “electronica” was a music-business confection, and by 1997 it was more hype tha...


Hit Parade: The Def Jams Edition
Watching this year’s Grammy Awards, it’s clear hip-hop is the dominant genre in popular music. But back in the ’80s, it was an influential but still underground style looking fora place on the charts and  some mainstream respect. That is, until Run-DMC met Aerosmith. This month, how some out-of-favor ’70s rockers teamed up with the top crew in rap to remake an old hit—in the process, opening lanes for a trio of punks-turned-MCs, and a witty hip-hop lothario. We’re still feeling the reverberations today.  Le...

Hit Parade: The B-Sides Edition
Sometimes record executives and even the musicians themselves get it totally, completely wrong: thinking that throwaway, wacky song was destined for a single’s B-side, only to find it’s actually the No. 1 hit—from the Beatles to Beyoncé. At our first-ever live Hit Parade—recorded at The Bell House in Brooklyn, New York— host and trivia-meister Chris Molanphy and special guest Ted Leo break down some of the most improbable chart-toppers of all time.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adcho...

Hit Parade: The Silver Medalists Edition
On the Billboard Hot 100, two  can be the loneliest number. While having a No. 1 song can define an artist’s career, there’s far less glory in finishing one spot shy  of the top slot. Yet some No. 2 hits have gone on to become classics. This month, Chris Molanphy looks at three songs that still loom large in our culture: “Shop Around” by the Miracles; “We Got the Beat” by the Go-Gos; and “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices...


Hit Parade: The Queen of Disco Edition
Donna Summer was a hitmaker for two decades and a dancefloor deity for more than three. Her collaborations with Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte were formative in dance, electronic and rock music, influencing everyone from David Bowie and Blondie to Madonna and Moby. But the rock establishment was stinting in its appreciation—whether at Comiskey Park in 1979, or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the 2000s. This month, we examine how Summer became the Queen of Disco…and how she transcended that role altoget...

Hit Parade: Le Petty Prince Edition
In 2004, Prince joined Tom Petty onstage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony for what is now regarded as the institution’s greatest live performance. They were both first-ballot inductees—but their similarities go much deeper. On this month’s Hit Parade, we track the surprising parallels between two artists gone far too soon: from their fights with the music industry to their hits across genres and generations—and even the songs they gave to Stevie Nicks. Petty and Prince were category-defy...

Hit Parade: The Great War Against the Single Edition
Ever since the ’60s, the recording industry emphasized the album over the single. By the ’80s, they were milking as many hits as possible from an album to convince you to buy it—from Thriller to Hysteria.  But in the ’90s, labels changed tactics and tried to kill retail singles—promoting hits to radio that you could only buy on full-length albums. Why? They wanted consumers to shell out for more profitable CDs. As a result, musicians ranging from MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice, to Pearl Jam and Alanis Morissette...


Hit Parade: The Charity Megasingle Edition
In the mid-1980s, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and “We Are the World” gathered dozens of the biggest stars in music to put on a show for a good cause. The two songs spawned imitators, but today, the charity megasingle is a relic of pop music’s past, except around the holidays. This month, we examine how good intentions, pique, excess, and vanity led to the rise and fall of the do-gooder celebrity pop song.  Email: [email protected]   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices...

Hit Parade: The Imperial Elton and George Edition
When Elton John came out as bisexual in 1976, it was a really big deal. It was covered on the evening news. There were angry letters and a decline in sales. And for a generation of queer musicians, like George Michael, it was a lesson: Be careful what you reveal about your sex life to the public. On this episode, we look at the friendship, collaboration, and chart rivalry of the two British icons, who collided on the Billboard Hot 100 for one week in 1988—and later topped the chart together. Learn more abou...

Hit Parade: The Fab Four Sweep Edition
In episode two, Chris Molanphy takes a look at the historic week the Beatles swept the entire Billboard Top Five. You can see that chart right here. It’s a feat that’s never been repeated. But the Fab Four’s total domination of the pop charts was both a reflection of their massive popularity and a huge screwup by their American record label. Here’s the story of how Capitol Records nearly sabotaged the biggest rock band of all time.  Join Slate Plus! Members get bonus segments, exclusive member-only podcasts...


Hit Parade: Red, Red Wine Edition
In this debut episode, Chris Molanphy tells the story of “Red, Red Wine”: a song written in the 1960s by a certain journeyman singer-songwriter who loves a Hot August Night. Improbably, it became a reggae song, before the ’60s were even over—and then, even more improbably,  in the 1980s it was transformed into a lilting, toasting reggae-pop global smash. And it would have been a flop in America if it hadn’t been for an enterprising deejay, who ignored the record labels and picked his own hits. With this son...