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Song Exploder

Hrishikesh Hirway

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Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. Each episode features an artist discussing a song of theirs, breaking down the sounds and ideas that went into the writing and recording. Hosted and produced by Hrishikesh Hirway.
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Shania Twain is a singer and songwriter from Ontario, Canada. She’s the only female artist to have had three consecutive Diamond albums  —  albums that have each sold over ten million copies. In fact, her 1997 album Come On Over is the best-selling album by a female solo artist of all time. One of the most iconic songs from that iconic album is "Yo…
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Danny Brown started his career in 2007 by handing out mixtapes in Detroit, where he’s from. In 2011, he put out his acclaimed second album, XXX. Since then, he’s collaborated with rappers like Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky and JPEGMafia, but he’s also worked with electronic bands like Purity Ring and The Avalanches, and he did a verse on a remix for K…
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Rhiannon Giddens has released five solo albums since 2015. Before that, she was a member of the Grammy-winning band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops. She is now also the artistic director of the Silkroad Ensemble, the musical supergroup that Yo-Yo Ma founded. Rhiannon Giddens is one of those people where I feel like they have to start inventing new aw…
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I wanted to revisit an episode about one of my favorite songs from 2021, “Black Dog” by Arlo Parks. A few months after this episode originally came out, Arlo Parks won the Mercury Prize for Album of the Year. She was also nominated for two Grammys: Best New Artist and Best Alternative Album. Since then, she released a new album called My Soft Machi…
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Green Day is a punk band from the East Bay in California. Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool have been playing music together since 1987. They’ve sold over 90 million records. They’ve won four Grammys, including twice for Best Rock Album. They put out their first album in 1990, and their second album, Kerplunk!, in 1991. And then, they m…
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The first episode of Song Exploder, about The Postal Service song "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight," came out 10 years ago, in January 2014. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the podcast, we're doing what bands do, and putting out a deluxe, expanded edition of our very first release: this version features a new interview, new insights, and new…
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For the last episode of the year, I got the chance to drive up to Northridge, California, and have a conversation with Dave Grohl. We talked about the Foo Fighters song “The Teacher,” which is an epic, 10-minute-long song. Dave told me it’s the most important piece of music he’s ever written, because it’s dedicated to his mother, Virginia, who pass…
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Raye is a singer, songwriter and producer from London. Besides being an artist in her own right, she’s also been a songwriter for other artists since she was a teenager. She’s co-written songs for Beyoncé, Charli XCX, and Ellie Goulding. In 2023, she released her debut album, My 21st Century Blues. The first single, “Escapism," became her first son…
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Sampha is a singer, songwriter and producer from London. His first album, Process, won the Mercury Prize in 2017. He’s collaborated with artists like the XX, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Solange. If you saw the Song Exploder Netflix show, Sampha was in the Alicia Keys episode, for the song they did together as a duet. This year, in October 2023, Samp…
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I think one of the hardest things there is to do in music is to write a love song that expresses something real. I read that the song "Liar" by Paramore was written by Hayley Williams, the singer of the band, about her longtime bandmate Taylor York, and about the feelings she started to realize she’d had for him. Paramore has been a band for over 2…
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Kesha is a singer and songwriter from Los Angeles. She put out her first song in 2009, and it was a huge #1 hit in the US and 13 other countries. She’s had 10 top-ten singles on the Billboard charts, and sold millions of albums. She got famous for songs that were about partying, and breaking the rules, and having fun. But this year, in May 2023, sh…
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Alvvays is from Toronto. Their first album came out in 2014, and they’ve put out two other albums since then. In Canada, they’ve won the Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year, and all three of their albums have been shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. Their first song was also one of their biggest hits. It’s called "Archie, Marry Me." R…
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Laufey is a singer and songwriter originally from Iceland. She studied piano and cello as a kid. When she was 15, she was a guest soloist with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. She went to Berklee College of Music in Boston, and that’s when she started writing songs. While she was still a student, she had a number one hit on Icelandic radio. Her firs…
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This summer, in June 2023, Janelle Monáe put out her fourth album, The Age of Pleasure. Listening to it made me want to revisit her Song Exploder episode, from 2018. One thing on Song Exploder that I personally love is when we get to hear an artist’s raw voice memo, from the moment when they’re first coming up with a song idea. This episode has one…
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The "Skip Intro" button first got introduced to us through Netflix in 2017, and, I know, a lot of people use it – including me. But, if I can get into old-man, back-in-my-day mode for a second, I have so much fondness for the opening theme music for so many shows. It’s a chance to set the mood for everything that you’re about to see. One of the int…
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It can be hard to be in a band, or really, in any kind of group where there’s creative collaboration, and you’re supposed to act like it's a democracy. Because what do you do with an idea that you love, if nobody else believes in it? That question is a big part of this episode with Local Natives. Local Natives is a band from Southern California. Th…
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Bakar is a singer and songwriter from London. In 2018 he put out his first release, Badkid. A year later, he put out the EP, Will You Be My Yellow?, and this September, he’s releasing his second full-length album, Halo. One of Bakar’s tracks from the EP and the upcoming album is a song called "Hell N Back," which went platinum, and hit number one o…
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