Chris Molanphy

Chris Molanphy is a pop-chart columnist, feature writer and critic. His work has appeared in NPR Music's The RecordPitchforkSlateRollingStone.com, Billboard and CMJ. Chris is also a frequent guest on National Public Radio (Soundcheck, All Things ConsideredGabfest RadioPlanet Money, On the Media). He created the chart-analysis column “100 & Single,” published most recently at the Village Voice (Twitter hashtag #100andsingle).



Chris Molanphy appears in the following:

Unfinished Business

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Bands like Pixies, Pavement and Sleater-Kinney might reunite for money, unfulfilled glory or a renewed creative spark. But can album sales help us measure how much they have been missed?


Commerce Vs. Consumption: A Revolutionary Rethink Of Billboard's Album Chart

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

For decades, the Billboard 200 album chart has measured one thing: the sale of albums. Now that the streaming era is upon us, the chart's formula is changing.


Idina Menzel Performs Live; Creative Partnerships; That Was A Hit?!?: Fergie Edition

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Idina Menzel of 'Frozen" performs, creative collaborations are explored and we air That Was A Hit?!?: Fergie Edition.  


How Fergie Changed The Way We Looked At Lady Lumps

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

As part of the ongoing series, That Was A Hit?!?, Soundcheck looks the unlikely success of two Fergie singles that laid the groundwork for her solo career.


That Was A Hit?!?: Little Stevie Wonder, 'Fingertips'

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

As part of the ongoing series, That Was A Hit?!?, Soundcheck looks at how Stevie Wonder's early hit "Fintertips" set him on the trajectory to become the influential artist he is today.


Moby's Post-Apocalyptic Photography; That Was A Hit?!? On Little Stevie Wonder; Twin Peaks Plays Live

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Moby discusses his new photography exhibit. Looking at the unlikely success of Little Stevie Wonder's first No. 1 hit. Adult Jazz performs in the Soundcheck studio.


The Right Way To Complain About The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

Sunday, October 19, 2014

There are plenty of things about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's induction process that are worthy of complaint, but the most common gripe isn't one of them.


In A World... With Lake Bell; Tumi Molekane Performs Live; That Was A Hit?!? On Prince's 'Batdance'

Friday, October 10, 2014

Actress Lake Bell talks about her directorial debut, In A World. South African rapper Tumi Molekane plays in the Soundcheck studio. Looking back at Prince's song from Batman.

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That Was A Hit?!?: Enigma, 'Sadeness'

Friday, September 12, 2014

Chris Molanphy charts the unexpected and long-lasting popularity of Enigma's 1990 release, which stayed on the Billboard charts for five years and sparked a revival of Gregorian chants.


Bob Mould Plays Live; '20,000 Days' In The Life Of Nick Cave; That Was A Hit?!? Enigma Edition

Friday, September 12, 2014

The former Husker Du and Sugar frontman Bob Mould plays live in the Soundcheck studio; a new documentary about the enigmatic Nick Cave; the unexpected success of Enigma's "Sadeness."


Summer '94: The Enduring Legacy Of Portishead’s Cinematic ‘Dummy'

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Chris Molanphy, pop chart columnist, contributor to Pitchfork looks back at Portishead's trip-hop debut, Dummy, as part of Soundcheck's Summer '94 series. 


Senior Moments On The Charts; Benmont Tench Plays Live; Josephine Baker's 'Rainbow Tribe'

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chris Molanphy gives a quiz about middle-aged artists (like Tom Petty and “Weird Al” Yankovic) who are scoring No. 1 albums for the first time.


Joe Boyd On Nick Drake; Beth Orton Plays Live; That Wasn't A Hit?!?

Friday, August 01, 2014

With John Schaefer on vacation this week, Soundcheck is turning to special guests to fill the host chair and revisiting some of our favorite interviews and studio performances.

First: More than 40 years ago the record producer Joe Boyd helped turn the songs of the late English musician Nick Drake into musical masterpieces. Boyd reflects on that music and talks about his tribute album to the songwriter, Way To Blue: The Songs of Nick Drake.

Then: Beth Orton made her name in the ‘90s by setting her folk songs to electronics and beats, creating the genre eventually dubbed "folktronica." Hear her along with husband Sam Amidon, and pianist Thomas “Doveman” Bartlett play songs off of her latest record, Sugaring Season.

Pop charts analyst Chris Molanphy turns the tables on our occasional series about surprising hits, That Was a Hit?!?, by sharing a now-ubiquitous pop song that flopped when it was first released, Squeeze's song "Tempted."


That Was A Hit?!?: Warren G, 'Regulate'

Monday, July 21, 2014

In our occasional series That Was A Hit?!? pop chart analyst and contributor to NPR Music and Slate Chris Molanphy returns to our studio to tell the story of 1994's summer smash "Regulate" by Warren G and Nate Dogg.


Summer '94: The Peak Of Modern Rock

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pop chart analyst Chris Molanphy talks about the rise of modern rock and how it became an alternative radio format; how musicians like Trent Reznor and Eddie Vedder were forced into the top 40 spotlight; and about the influence that this "alternative" genre has had on music over the last 20 years.

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That Wasn't A Hit?!?: The Isley Brothers, 'Shout!'

Friday, June 13, 2014

In this edition of "That Was A Hit?!?" we look back at a hit...that wasn't.  Although we may now think of The Isley Brothers' "Shout!" as a classic, it was never formally considered a hit. Writer Chris Molanphy tells John Schaefer why.

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Jenny Lewis Plays Live; The Spirit Of 1976; Brazilian Soccer Songs

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

In this episode: Singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis rose to prominence as the vocalist for the guitar pop band Rilo Kiley. Her latest solo album, The Voyager, was six years in the making, and features production work from Beck and Ryan Adams, among others. Hear Lewis and her band play a few new songs and an old classic, live in the Soundcheck studio.

Plus: Host John Schaefer shares a couple of Brazilian songs written specifically about soccer, a.k.a. "the beautiful game," as part of our lead-up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.  

And: Veteran music journalist David Browne recently released an e-book detailing why 1976 was “the year the counter-culture became the culture.” Featuring appearances by Steve Jobs, Jimmy Carter, Rocky, Saturday Night Live, and Boston (the band), Browne argues that it was a watershed year in music history.


That Was A Hit?!?: The Tornados, 'Telstar'

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Charts analyst Chris Molanphy shares the story of an unusual instrumental hit from 1962, The Tornados' "Telstar," as part of Soundcheck's series That Was A Hit?!?


Matisyahu's Spiritual And Musical Evolution; That Was A Hit?!? On Telstar; The Death Of The Movie Musical

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

In this episode: Matisyahu, the self-proclaimed "Hasidic reggae superstar," found success and earned countless fans of both classic reggae and the Jewish community. Matisyahu reflects on the changes in his life, the evolution in his spirituality and music, plus he and his band performs songs from his latest album, Akeda, in the Soundcheck studio.



Then: Charts analyst Chris Molanphy shares the unusual and dark story of an instrumental hit from 1962, The Tornados' "Telstar," as part of Soundcheck's series, That Was A Hit?!?

And: In a six-month period in the 1960s, three movie musicals premiered: Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady, and The Sound Of Music. Each would sweep across American movie theaters, Billboard charts, and awards shows. They effectively killed the movie musical, according to the recent book, Roadshow: The Fall Of Film Musicals In The 1960's.

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Sharon Van Etten Plays Live; NY Philharmonic's Biennial; Enigma's 'Sadeness' Was A Hit?!?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

In this episode: Since she last visited Soundcheck, Sharon Van Etten has opened up for The National, toured as a backup singer with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and recorded a Bruce Springsteen cover at the Stone Pony. Hear the singer-songwriter and her band perform songs from her just-released fourth album, Are We There, in the Soundcheck studio.

Then: New York Philharmonic music director and conductor Alan Gilbert talks about dreaming up the first-ever NY Phil Biennial, which kicks off this week. We take a listen to some of the new music that will be showcased.

And: Charts guru and writer Chris Molanphy explores the puzzling success of another chart-topping single -- this time, the sexy New Age, Gregorian chant-laden “Sadeness” by Enigma -- as part of our series That Was A Hit?!?