Chris Molanphy is a pop-chart columnist, feature writer and critic. His work has appeared in NPR Music's The Record, Pitchfork, Slate, RollingStone.com, Billboard and CMJ. Chris is also a frequent guest on National Public Radio (Soundcheck, All Things Considered, Gabfest Radio, Planet Money, On the Media). He created the chart-analysis column “100 & Single,” published most recently at the Village Voice (Twitter hashtag #100andsingle).
Chart analyst Chris Molanphy explains how Herman's Hermits -- a band more popular in America than their native England -- scored two "number ones" during a truly competitive year for pop.
In this episode: Twenty years ago today, Kurt Cobain -- the lead singer for influential ‘90s rock band Nirvana -- was found dead in his home from a self-inflicted gunshot. He was 27. Seattle music writer Charles R. Cross, who has authored several books about Kurt Cobain, reflects on the lasting impact of the young artist.
Then: Charts guru Chris Molanphy explains how two songs by Herman's Hermits hit No. 1 in 1965 -- “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and “I’m Henry VIII, I Am,” as part of Soundcheck's series That Was A Hit?!?
And: Hear jazz violinist Regina Carter reach back to her roots with her band as they perform songs from her latest album, Southern Comfort, in the Soundcheck studio.
While "Hooked On A Feeling" is a great song, the five-year journey to reach a No. 1 on the charts is so improbable, it's amazing it ever happened. Chris Molanphy explains the long-winding evolution of the Blue Swede hit.
In this episode: Power trio Los Lonely Boys plays a distinctive brand of what they call “Texican rock ‘n’ roll.” Hear the three Garza brothers perform songs from their new album, Revelation, in a stripped-down acoustic session in the Soundcheck studio.
Then: Chris Molanphy tells the story of Blue Swede's song "Hooked On A Feeling" and its long-winding journey to No. 1, as part of Soundcheck's series, That Was a Hit?!?:
And: Simone Dinnerstein stunned the classical music world with her hit recording of J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations back in 2007. Since then she's played with the NY Philharmonic, made a record with songwriter Tift Merritt, and signed with a major record label. Hear the Brooklyn pianist perform works from her latest Bach-centric album in the Soundcheck studio.
To celebrate the anniversary of the Beatles' arrival in America, test your knowledge of the Fab Four's performance on the Billboard charts.
In this episode: Dr. Bill Guegold, Olympics music historian, talks about the history of the grand musical themes that we Americans associate with the games; the long-extinct Olympic arts competitions that used to award medals to composers; the Russian Police Choir; and more.
Then: All this week, Soundcheck is asking you to pick a side: The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? (Make your case in the comments here, on Twitter at @Soundcheck or leave a voicemail at 866-939-1612.) But no matter your loyalty, everyone can participate in our Beatles chart quiz, devised by writer Chris Molanphy. Given a pair of classic Fab Four songs, pick the one that charted higher in the U.S.
And: Pianist Helen Sung’s story is a tale of two genres: classical and jazz. Growing up in Texas, she studied classical piano – and went to college intending to become a concert pianist. But it was a Harry Connick Jr. concert, of all things, that opened her eyes and her ears to jazz – and her path took a dramatic turn. Helen recently made her major label debut with her new release called Anthem For A New Day, and we hear some of it live.
Carl Douglas' 1974 song "Kung Fu Fighting" was such an unlikely smash that Soundcheck features it in the intro theme for our occasional series "That Was A Hit?!?" But the song itself has gone unexplored...until now.
In this episode: Author Philipp Meyer’s epic novel, The Son, ended up on best-of 2013 lists from The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post. Tackling big themes about the American West, race relations and oil, the book follows multiple generations of the McCullough family in Texas. Today, Meyer -- a former derivatives trader -- tells us how The Clash and union anthems like “Which Side Are You On?” got him thinking about a creative life beyond Wall Street.
Carl Douglas scored a No. 1 hit in 1974 with a catchy, but not-quite-politically-correct track called “Kung Fu Fighting.” Pop chart obsessive Chris Molanphy explains how the birth of disco and the death of Bruce Lee created a perfect storm for this truly weird hit.
And: Jonathan Wilson channels the “Laurel Canyon Sound” on his latest record, Fanfare. Hear the singer-songwriter performs songs from his new album live in the Soundcheck studio.
In 2013, not one black artist scored a No. 1 single, while white artists even sat atop the R&B chart for most of the year. Pop chart analyst Chris Molanphy and Daily Beast columnist Keli Goff help us understand how and why 2013 was so unprecedented.
In this episode: For the first time in Billboard chart history, no black artists topped Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart in all of 2013. Perhaps even more shocking: For 44 out of 56 weeks of 2013, white artists topped the R&B chart. We look at how and why this happened with pop chart writer Chris Molanphy and political analyst and writer Keli Goff.
Then: Born in Benin, based in Brooklyn, but a true citizen of the world, singer Angelique Kidjo numbers Desmond Tutu and Bill Clinton among her friends. She plays songs from her latest album Eve live in the Soundcheck studio, talks about her new memoir about a life in music and as a UNICEF ambassador.
And: Last week, rapper Rick Ross sued the pop band LMFAO over a lyric in their mega-hit “Party Rock Anthem” -- “Every day I’m shufflin’” -- because it’s similar to his famous lyric “Every day I’m hustlin’.” Soundcheck talks with our copyright go-to, intellectual property lawyer Jonathan Reichman (a.k.a. The Copy Cat) about whether Ross has any legal ground to stand on.
In this episode: Soundcheck's week-long look back at the year in music of 2013 continues. First, Caryn Ganz, editorial director of RollingStone.com, shares her favorite music of 2013.
Then, a very special 2013 edition of Soundcheck's ongoing series That Was a Hit?!? with chart-obsessed contributors Mario Correa and Chris Molanphy -- who predict which of this year’s smash hits will be ridiculed 20 years from now -- by music snobs in their flying cars.
And more of our favorite in-studio performances from the past year.
Despite a heavy promotional push, Lady Gaga's new album ARTPOP hasn't performed as well as expected sales-wise. Is something amiss in Gaga land?
Our series That Was a Hit?!? is all about improbable chart success -- generally, of a single song that unexpectedly rose to the top. Today, music writer Chris Molanphy joins us to talk about trumpeter Herb Alpert, whose entire career full of surprises.
The incredibly successful musician and record label founder ruled the 1960's with five No. 1 albums -- second only to The Beatles. By the end of the '70s, Alpert had scored two No. 1 hits on the Billboard Top 20: "This Guy's In Love With You" (with the Tijuana Brass) and "Rise."
Chris Molanphy, chart columnist and NPR Music contributor, calls the summer of '93 a "dog's breakfast of assorted stuff." We're not exactly sure what that means -- but he says it's a good thing. On the charts, "there were two songs that dominated that summer -- one was by Janet Jackson, 'That's The Way Love Goes,'" he says. "And the other was a light reggae cover of the Elvis Presley classic 'Can't Help Falling In Love' by the reggae band UB40."
Join Soundcheck all week as we revisit albums, singles and watershed moments that sizzled in the summer of 1993. Hear about landmark releases from Liz Phair, Biz Markie, Sheryl Crow, Smashing Pumpkins, Bjork, Nirvana, PJ Harvey and more.
In this episode: Pop diva Kylie Minogue stops by to talk about a new single, "Skirt," a new book chronicling the evolution of her fashion through a 25-year career, and her upcoming album.
Plus: Known for their “digital shorts” on Saturday Night Live, the hip hop parody trio The Lonely Island released a new album that debuted in the top ten of Billboard’s album chart. New York Magazine pop critic Jody Rosen joins us to talk about the state of pop parody.
And: Our series “That Was a Hit?” continues with Chris Molanphy and a look at a song that surprisingly wasn't a hit – Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.”
Every so often, we turn our series “THAT Was A Hit?!?” on its head with Soundcheck frequent guest Chris Molanphy, calling it instead, “That WASN’T A Hit?!?” We look back at songs that, although we may now think of them as hits, actually weren't hits at all. Today, we look at Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide."