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In this mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Julian Velard, musician and inspiration for Chris’s most recent full-length episode, about hitmaker Billy Joel. As a Jewish, New York–based piano player, Julian admits that Joel remains the most relevant touchpoint in his career to this day—and that he’s fought an existential battle with the song “Piano Man.” Chris and Julian wonder how a modern pop landscape might reward (or litigate) Joel’s tendency toward pastiche, and they discuss his ultimate legacy—to critics, to lovers, to haters and other piano men.
Next, Chris quizzes a Slate Plus listener with some music trivia, and the contestant turns the tables with a chance to try to stump Chris with a question of his own. Then, Chris teases the upcoming full-length episode of Hit Parade, which will look at the Southward journey of rap music in the late ’90s and early ’00s, spurred by chart-topping Atlanta rappers OutKast.
Chris Molanphy, a 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.