Hit Parade

At Last, My Legacy Has Come Along Edition

What is a “legacy hit”? A chart flop back in the day that’s now a classic—from “Tiny Dancer” to “What I Like About You.”

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Episode Notes

What do you call a song that bombed on the charts back in the day, that now booms out of radios and streaming apps nationwide? Chris Molanphy has a name for these songs: legacy hits. Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Etta James’s “At Last.” The Romantics’ “What I Like About You.” Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime.”

Many catalysts can change a song’s trajectory, from movie scenes to stadium singalongs, wedding DJs to evolving tastes. Sometimes the hivemind just collectively decides that this Whitney Houston hit, not that one, is her song for the ages.

Join Chris as he explains how the charts sometimes get it wrong, and how legacy hits correct the record—and counts down 10 of his favorite flops-turned-classics.

Podcast production by Kevin Bendis and Merritt Jacob.

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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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