Streams

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:

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.

Comment

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."

Comment

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. 

Comment

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.

Comment

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."

Comment

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.

Comment

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.

Comments [2]

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.

Comments [2]

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.

Comment

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?!?

Comment

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.

Comments [1]

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?!?

Comment

The Pogues, From Behind The Squeezebox; Arturo O’Farrill And The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra Plays Live

Thursday, May 08, 2014

In this episode: James Fearnley was (and is) the accordionist for the rollicking London Irish pub-punk band The Pogues. His new memoir shines offers new insight into the band's brotherly affinities and lead singer Shane MacGowan's wild genius.

Then: Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Apollo Theater, the 65th anniversary of his dad, Chico O'Farrill's historic Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite, and the release of their new album. That's a lot of celebrating. Hear the sprawling ensemble perform live in the Soundcheck studio..

And: NPR Music contributor Chris Molanphy turns our "That Was A Hit?!?" series on its head, with "That WASN'T A Hit?!?" In this segment, he discusses "Tempted," the ubiquitous, blue-eyed soul tune by British rockers Squeeze. The song broke the Hot 100 but failed to crack the Top 40 in both the US and UK.

Comment

That Was A Hit?!? Herman's Hermits Edition

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

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.

Comment

Remembering Kurt Cobain; That Was A Hit?!? Herman's Hermits; Regina Carter Plays Live

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

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.

Comment

That Was a Hit?!?: Blue Swede, 'Hooked On A Feeling'

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

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.

Comment

Los Lonely Boys Unplug; The Story Of 'Hooked On A Feeling'; Simone Dinnerstein Plays Bach

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

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.

Comments [1]

Beatles Quiz: American Hits

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

To celebrate the anniversary of the Beatles' arrival in America, test your knowledge of the Fab Four's performance on the Billboard charts.

Comment

Podcast: The Olympics Used To Have An Arts Competition; Take A Beatles Quiz; Helen Sung Plays Live

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

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.

Comment

That Was A Hit?!?: 'Kung Fu Fighting'

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

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.

Comment