Hit Parade

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The Bridge: All Hail the Queens

Danyel Smith, author of a new book about Black women in pop, says legends Dionne, Gladys, and Patti still aren’t getting their due.

Episode Notes

In this mini-episode of Hit Parade, host Chris Molanphy is joined by Danyel Smith, longtime music journalist and editor, and author of the new book Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop. Smith explains how her passion for music was fueled by seeing a pint-size Janet Jackson onstage in the ’70s and playing records by everyone from Nancy Wilson to Chaka Khan. We’ll hear how Smith saw Dionne Warwick forge an egalitarian partnership with white songwriters and eventually become a pop auteur; how Roberta Flack sang songs with stories, but Lauryn Hill expressed story with the tone of her voice; and how Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle rebelled against the Motown model and forged personae that Smith calls “the epitome of free.”

Next, Chris quizzes a Slate Plus listener with some music trivia, gives him a chance to turn the tables with a question of his own, and previews next month’s full-length episode. Slate Plus members can sign up for a chance to be our trivia contestant on a future episode here.

Podcast production by Kevin Bendis.

About the Show

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.

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Host

  • Chris Molanphy is a feature writer and critic who writes widely about music and the pop charts.

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