The Bridge: Like the Legend of the Phoenix
Chris Molanphy: Hey, everybody, this is Chris Molanphy, host of Hit Parade Slate’s podcast, The Pop Chart History. Welcome to the Bridge. This, of course, is Justin Timberlake with his 2006 number one hit, Sexy Back, featuring its producer and co songwriter Tim Timberland mosley dropping manic vocals after each verse. Timberland calls out each part of the song in a wacky voice, including both the bridge and the chorus. Because Tim’s shout out of the bridge is in the lineage of such R&B hits as James Brown’s Get Up. I feel like being a sex machine and Destiny’s Child’s say my name as on James Brown’s hit on Sexy Back. Tim’s Take Them to the Bridge is both a command and a rhythmic element all its own, which makes it a natural to lead off this episode of Hit Parade.
Speaker 2: The Bridge young woman is a sexy, young.
Chris Molanphy: Sexy young woman, and these mini episodes, Bridge, are full length monthly episodes. Give us a chance to expand on those episode topics and enjoy some trivia. This month, I’m honored to have a scholar and a man of many talents as my guest. Jason King is the chair of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He is a Canadian-American scholar, journalist, author, musician, deejay, performer, producer, songwriter, radio and video host.
Chris Molanphy: And he has written everywhere from Pitchfork and Slate to Vibe and Billboard in his leadership capacity at the Clive Davis Institute, Jason has brought numerous guests to the Tisch School, from Pharrell Williams to Nile Rodgers, Q-Tip to Alicia Keys. And on the legal side, he has served as a music marketing and branding expert for such artists as Timberland. Honestly, if I ran down all of his many credentials, we’d be here all day. Jason is seriously the ultimate music scholarship renaissance man, so why don’t we just bring him in? Jason King, welcome to the bridge.
Speaker 3: Thank you, Chris. Happy to be here. Totally like blushing. If you could see me with the you know, with that intro. But thank you.
Chris Molanphy: You’ve earned every bit of it.
Chris Molanphy: Speaking of your impressive role, particularly at the Tisch School, I know that you had considerable interactions with the subjects of my most recent hit Parade episode, including with Pharrell and Tim. I want to ask what they’re like, if you don’t mind sharing.
Speaker 3: Sure. Timberland. I don’t know. Well, I’ve met him before, but I don’t know him well. I worked as a marketing branding expert on a legal case that went on for a couple of years. The Big Pimpin case of him and Jay-Z.
Chris Molanphy: Oh, yeah.
Speaker 3: That was that was quite something.
Chris Molanphy: Can you summarize is that summarize it all for our audience.
Speaker 3: In a nutshell. They were both being sued by the alleged creators of a sample that runs throughout Big Pimpin. That’s a big part of it. Gigi and you and the creators are Egyptian and they were being sued for that. And essentially my role was to come in as a marketing and branding expert, which is to basically say, you know, beyond the sample, there’s lots of other things that go into adding or creating value for a song than just a sample. Sure, jury members may not know that, right? They might just listen to it and say, oh, yeah, the sample is everywhere, so it’s worth 70% of the song or whatever it is. So my job is to come in and say, you know, who is Timberland? Who is Jay-Z? What does their what kind of brands do they have? How do those brands how can you, you know, value those brands? And what role do they play in the valuation of a song like Big Pimpin?
Chris Molanphy: Well, and then that’s an interesting segway to a guy like Pharrell, who, of course, has his own run ins with legalities. And I don’t know, you want to say sampling because this is the most famous case about him was not actually a sampling case in terms of the Blurred Lines case, which I do talk about in this episode.
Speaker 3: So, I mean, Pharrell, I have interacted with much more. He was an artist in residence and I brought him as an artist in residence to NYU for their 50th anniversary year for the Tisch School of the Arts, where I work. And I did a number of events with him, did an interview, kind of doing an overview of his career. And, you know, he’s amazing. He’s just as amazing as he appears. He’s thoughtful, he’s smart, he’s, you know, highly present, very in the moment. He can be protective and private, especially of his family, his friends.
Speaker 3: But the thing I would say about Pharrell is, you know, he’s more tapped in than probably anyone else I know. And, you know, what does that mean tapped into? I think he’s so connected to vibration and to frequency, he kind of just feels his way through the world. And in this interview I did with him, he would like give himself to Mr. Magoo, the cartoon character who’s kind of just stumbling through things. And, you know, he’s. Being super humble. And he’s referring to things like, you know, the Daft Punk collaboration that he did where, you know, he was just basically coming in and doing some top line writing. And then they took the demos that he did and they released those as the songs and they became global hits.
Speaker 2: Like The Legend of the Thing. Ends with beginning.
Speaker 3: And so he didn’t intend for it necessarily. So he kind of stumbled into it by accident. But of course, there’s lots of intentionality there. And, you know, he’s somebody he’s very strategic as well. And so it’s a mixture of those kinds of things. But I just feel like he’s so tapped in whether, you know, we’re talking about Daft Punk or that his work with Kendrick Lamar or Ariana Grande or SZA, like he just seems to keep connecting to all of these vibrations of what’s current and popular and hot. And he’s like an amazing tastemaker.
Speaker 4: Still actively mining that to me, I’m sure, don’t you? We as women we.
Chris Molanphy: Just he really is.
Chris Molanphy: And you know, I was trying in my episode to talk about the elements of what some have called the Virginia Beach Sound, the Tidewater tick rhythm. What do you hear in certainly Pharrell’s work and maybe how the sound of since you’ve talked about timberlands sound how timberlands sound distinct is distinguished from, say, the Neptunes sound, that kind of thing.
Speaker 3: First of all, you know, the thing I’ll say about about their sound sounds. I just don’t think there’s a monolithic sound, right? There’s like total diversity to the sound. And, you know, Pharrell could move between, like, the clips doing grinding or like, you know, a Britney Spears track to like front, which is more jazzy and kind of introspective.
Speaker 5: You know, we are low level modern.
Speaker 3: You know, there’s something like milkshake and then, you know, Timberland also. I mean, he’s just, you know, he could do mirrors for Justin Timberlake and then he can do, you know, the rain for Missy Elliott. There’s a huge amount of of of diversity to the sound. And, you know, also say the thing about like what makes their sound unique has to do with the time. It has to do with the the context, you know, when they emerged into the music marketplace.
Speaker 3: And so just thinking of, you know, some of the kind of like the disco funk of Mary J. Blige or Notorious B.I.G. Or like Bad Boy and Track Masters and like Hitman and TLC or Monica or So for real. Like when you think about the pop and urban scene, then girls, you. And then suddenly you have this Virginia Beach sound, which is darker, weirder, more unconventional computer and synth generated. Right. Like lots of this music is coming out of a computer. Very sounding futuristic. Avant garde, electronic.
Speaker 3: Of course, all of this is happening at the advent of digital recording tools, ProTools and so on. And they’re using samplers like the and Sonic, as are ten, the MPC 3000. Right. Like it’s a very odd, whimsical, capricious computer generated music, largely computer generated music. That doesn’t sound like anything else. It sounds metallic and clanging and I don’t know, like just whimsical and sci fi and unusual and.
Speaker 5: But I love the.
Speaker 3: Idea that left of center and so, you know, I think that’s how I would define that Virginia Beach sound of that by the late 19 late 1990s sound that came right before Y2K. That was the major difference for me. And also just, you know, rhythmically, right. There were some things there that just it didn’t sound like anything else that was on on the radio of its time. And I remember the first time I heard up Jumps the Boogie by Timberland and Magoo.
Speaker 2: I’m on this track like.
Speaker 5: Of up like water.
Speaker 3: And it’s an amazing record. But I have to say, the first time I heard it, I was like, I don’t like this because it was sound. It seemed so slow. Like it turned that it turned and I mean, it’s like, so slow is like what’s happening in loops.
Chris Molanphy: It kind of it loops up and kind of sneaks up. It’s a.
Speaker 3: Great word. Like loping, lurching. It’s like a lurching, weird beat. Has a strange kind of character to it, a stumble to it. And Ken sounded like nothing else on the radio.
Speaker 2: But the check in. And John Pete Moran cut that.
Speaker 4: Off in the memory back.
Speaker 3: Then. I remember viscerally disliking it until I learned how to dance to it. And then I was like, Oh, now I love it, right? Because it’s like, it requires like different kind of movement. It’s like bounce movement, you know? But that’s the thing I would say is different about their music. If you have to separate, you know, Timberland or the Neptunes music or Timberland Pharrell’s music, I mean, Timberland, you know, he’s a kind of improviser who like starts with usually starts with like beatboxing to make his tracks or like drum programming. And his drum programming was just slightly jittery and fidgety and, you know, the incredible, like, double time percussion, but like half time beats those like, snares. The grooves are so deep and in the pocket. So you listen to something like one minute, man, right? Just like literally lurches and moves and has, like, a physical character to it.
Chris Molanphy: So I kind.
Speaker 5: Of live like me. Show me what you have.
Speaker 3: Because I know you could tell his drum programming from the Neptunes early on. So I was listening. Listening to Ali is one in a million, for instance.
Speaker 4: But don’t you understand?
Speaker 3: It’s like it’s a quiet storm, but then the high hats are going at like double speed. It’s like a dot matrix printer out of control or something. Like, it’s super weird, right?
Chris Molanphy: What a wonderful way to describe it. I love.
Speaker 3: That. I mean, how do you describe these things? Right. You have like you have to go to weirdness and say Pharrell and Chad of the Neptunes. You know, their chords were a little bit more studied. You know, they met in school. So I think of something like fronting or change clothes for Jay-Z, there’s a kind of jazzy ness change.
Speaker 2: You won’t see fresh water for the transition to the top of the global business exchange.
Speaker 3: You know, you can clearly hear that they’re sitting down to think about like what chords would work here. There’s also a kind of nostalgia in some of the Neptunes music. When you think of something like Shake asked by Mystikal, it’s like James Brown, right?
Chris Molanphy: Or It’s a James Brown record, right? At all intents and purposes.
Speaker 5: Shake Shack this summer, when you’re working.
Speaker 2: With attention for your players and fans right now.
Speaker 3: When the place to be. Or even like I just want to love you. Give it to me. That’s like Rick James or Slave for You is Prince. I don’t hear those kind of nostalgic references as explicitly in Timberland. Maybe he would do like the Knight Rider theme for Clock Strikes remix, but then it’s like it’s futuristic. I get I don’t think he’s doing it because he’s, you know, harkening back to the eighties like it’s current.
Chris Molanphy: That’s a great point.
Speaker 3: But then, you know, you’ll also see, like, happy for Pharrell because.
Speaker 2: If you.
Speaker 6: Feel like. Come along if.
Speaker 2: You feel.
Speaker 3: Like which again was not intended for him to be the lead singer on and to release, but he ended up, you know, being on it and having one of the biggest hits of his career. I feel like that’s too up for Timberlake. Like, I can’t see Timberland being on that track or doing it, you know, not not to say anything against Happy or Pharrell, it’s just to say it just doesn’t that doesn’t feel like timberland’s world at all. If there’s a difference between the kind of work that they would produce into the, you know, out in the world.
Chris Molanphy: And you also mentioned timberland’s drum sound. And the drum sound for the Neptunes is very distinct and often live. I mean, like they will they will play a trap kit live in the studio. And it’s got a very dry, almost brittle sound, which I find fascinating.
Speaker 6: Now, the thing that brings us back to.
Chris Molanphy: It’s like the last an electronic thing on the record. Everything else is synthesized. And yet these drums are like very present and in your face.
Speaker 3: That’s a really good point. And, you know, thinking of N.E.R.D. To write the fact that they. There’s a rock element to what they do.
Speaker 6: I’m coming on the top.
Speaker 3: Timberland has broached Rock in some of his work, but never like full on in that way. So there’s there is a live element, I think, to the Neptunes and to some of Pharrell stuff that it’s not that it’s not present in Timberland’s work, but it’s just in a different way. And largely, I think, as you mentioned, around the drums and percussion.
Chris Molanphy: You know, they’ve also worked with a stunning range of artists and cross-pollinated their respective sounds with both new discoveries. I mean, this was new when Pharrell started working with her and then, you know, big superstars like, you know, Madonna, they both worked with Madonna. What do you think makes them such adaptable collaborators?
Speaker 3: You know, when you look back to some of those early interviews with Timberland, he was already interested in world domination from day one. Yeah, I think that, you know, I remember reading about him in Vibe magazine probably in 1996, like before Ginuwine, the album came out. And, you know, he was just talking about like, I’m going to unleash all of this stuff on the world. I’m going to take it over. And it’s like all hyperbolic language, but it’s kind of true, like what he and the Neptunes did and largely what the South did.
Speaker 3: If you can consider Virginia Beach part of the South, you know, they like moved the dial of pop music way toward like digital computerized black music sounds, especially after a lot of the boy band girl pop of the late nineties. And, you know, they brought in this kind of southern black whimsical music to the center of pop, and then everyone else had to sort of respond to that. For the next couple of decades. So, you know, seriously, like whether it’s Justin Timberlake or whether it’s Britney Spears or whether we’re talking about Nelly Furtado is big, you know, branding transformation.
Speaker 4: To get in the world, get lost in it had a run in that’s what I mean.
Chris Molanphy: Is to a total pivot.
Speaker 3: Right. Everybody was pivoting and what they were doing right is they wanted to kind of take over the world of pop music and they wanted to be at the center and have the world of pop revolve around them. So I think that’s a big part of it in terms of how they were open and receptive to all collaborators, right. Like, you know, they could do anything with almost anyone and they could find what made that artistic, but they could also attach their own sound to it in a way that was really powerful.
Chris Molanphy: That’s the thing I find most interesting, honestly, is that there was this period, especially in the aughts, between that peak period for the Neptunes and that peak period for women, the mid-decade, where on the one hand it was all these different artists, and yet somehow you still knew this sounds like a Neptunes record or this sounds like a Tim record. You know, it had their their sauce on it somehow. And that adaptability is what kind of impressed me.
Speaker 3: It’s incredible. I mean, you think of something like Hollaback Girl, you know, Gwen Stefani, and it’s like, oh, well, that doesn’t sound like anything she did before. Doesn’t sound right. Unusual for what she would do, but it’s definitely whimsical. It’s definitely left of center. And yet it’s to me, one of her best tracks ever. And it’s totally weird. Like it’s just a weird track on every level. If lyrically you.
Chris Molanphy: Might call it Bananas Van.
Speaker 3: And if you could do that, we could say that again is a. They were like post genre before so many other people were shot or before the kind of YouTube era of like cuisine, art, music, where you cut everything up and mix it all up. They were doing that way in advance.
Chris Molanphy: I want to bring Missy into the conversation because it seems to me that she is kind of Timberland’s muse, yet she’s a producer in her own right. She’s a songwriter, obviously. She’s an iconoclast and she’s doing something. It seems to me that no rapper before or since has really done in her flow, her presentation, her iconography. Where do you see her falling on the timeline and her influence?
Speaker 3: I mean, Missy’s influence is everywhere. I mean, she along with Timberland, along with the Neptunes, you know, they helped explode the kind of vocabulary of 21st century pop. And I think there’s never been a black female singer songwriter, producer M.C., who’s been able to experiment with sound, who’s been able to create the kind of sonic fantasies that she’s been able to create in her music and to do it all in the context of this like pop hit machine.
Speaker 4: I know we got Puyallup, y’all hanging up books and stuff to make it work.
Speaker 3: Like those. The avant garde, the weird, the whimsical, the capricious. But in the context of pop and make pop hits. So I don’t I think she’s totally unparalleled. Right. Even as a woman who’s a producer of her own music performer, singing, emceeing, all of that, I think as a rapper, her timing, her intonation, her vocal syncopation, her humor, it’s like virtuoso. It’s as interesting as anything Timberland is doing with the beats, you know, like and that’s not even to mention all of her visual, like, brilliance and genius. She’s, you know, she’s somebody we should be talking about in the same conversation that we talk about a Bowie or anybody else. Right? Their ability to kind of synthesize all of this stuff visually and musically and create these images that we’ve never seen before. Thinking also about the confidence that she had has had around her body. Right. Right. As a kind of alternate.
Chris Molanphy: Even rapping about it. I mean, you have got a.
Speaker 4: Cute face, chunky waist, 68 inch shape in both ways. And make it do what?
Speaker 3: Absolutely. So kind of alternative diva model.
Speaker 3: So when you asked about influence, I mean, would there be Andre 3000 outcast in the exact way that there is, you know, without Missy? I mean, they came around at the same moment, but he gets a lot more whimsical.
Chris Molanphy: That’s a good point. He gets freakier, actually, kind of post message.
Speaker 3: He really does with.
Chris Molanphy: Tanks and no chains and whips.
Speaker 6: I did something that to him stop and double time. The boy next door with the three.
Speaker 3: M.I.A.
Speaker 4: We want them gone. We want.
Speaker 3: That. We want Gaga. I think owes a debt.
Speaker 6: Rah rah, rah, rah, rah, rah. Mama Gaga.
Speaker 3: Nicki Minaj. Azealia Banks. Bree Runway.
Speaker 4: Rosalia The Mummy.
Speaker 3: Me and Lil Nas X will be talking about Lil Nas X without Missy Lizzo. You know, Missy’s misses the bomb. There’s never been any other figure like Missy. And yet I also feel like she’s undervalued and underrecognized.
Chris Molanphy: I agree. So my read on the three of these folks is that each of them is in a different place career wise and spiritually. Pharrell is, it seems to me, a perpetual workhorse. I mean, you would know better than me, and he’s still in the mix. Tim seems to have settled into something like an elder statesman role, but I never want to count him out. And Missy, I don’t know if we’re ever going to get another album from her, but, you know, should we assume all three of them could still produce a banger at any moment? I kind of half expect it.
Speaker 3: Yeah. I mean, I’ll join you in. Just saying I would never count any of them out. And, pharrell, you’re right. He’s like a nonstop wellspring of creativity who just keeps going from head to head and, you know, Ariana Grande, a jack harlow. Like, he just keeps working, and he just he almost emblematic his creativity itself. He embodies it. Timberland, I think, hasn’t really got his due in some ways in terms of his craft and what he brought to pop music. But he’s, you know, even though he’s not creating as many hits on the charts today, like verses, you know, was one of the biggest hits of the pandemic. Right. And just in terms of thinking of the format that he created, the platform that he and Swizz beats created around that.
Chris Molanphy: That’s an important point, which I failed to make in my episode, which is the verses was half his brainchild effectively, right?
Speaker 3: Absolutely right. And it was also a brilliant use of his back catalog. And all art is back catalogs. But, you know, just thinking of him as a kind of archivist in that sense and the way that verses has like made people kind of rethink the archive of music of certain kind of music.
Speaker 5: When I call Swiss as a Swiss, you remember that idea he was working on? We did a 97, yet I said, We all stuck in the house. Let’s do it. Let’s do that. Let’s do it now. Let’s do it right now. Right now. And I think it was that moment of surrender and then we just said, let’s do it. And we just jumped in and did it. And we had 30,000 followers that day. But those 30,000 turned out to be 30 million because it influenced the world.
Speaker 3: So he deserves his due. Missy, you know, she’s battled physical ailments, illness, but she’s still active. I mean, there’s that track with Lizzo. She’s done other stuff recently and she’s she maintains a presence on the scene. But, you know, the reality as you know, Chris, the life cycle of any artist or superstar is short. So they’ve already like if they never did anything else, their stamp would be there forever. On the course of having changed the course of pop music.
Chris Molanphy: Jason I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that you were present at the creation of an amazing moment between Pharrell Williams and the rising star Maggie Rogers. Can you talk briefly about that? Sure.
Speaker 3: That was that was a masterclass that I had worked on, and that was part of Pharrell’s residency. And he was going to do a masterclass live, which basically meant that he was going to sit down, listen to students music, but he didn’t know much else about it. And I remember him even walking into the room and saying, What am I doing here exactly? And I was like, Just don’t worry, don’t worry. And so in that video, like, I do the intro, and then the next thing we do is we cut to the scene in the actual classroom itself, which is a studio which where I was.
Speaker 5: The same thing all over again. This next person has as much heart as any human being I’ve ever known. I’m quite serious, Mags. Maggie Rogers.
Speaker 2: It’s easy for me to.
Speaker 3: And, you know, it was amazing just to sit there and watch him listen to folks music and just be totally open to the experience and just hear what they are working on. And we all felt the same way in that room when Maggie’s music came on. I was actually the one who picked that song. Students had submitted music and she was in my class and she had submitted music, and she had just worked on that track.
Speaker 4: Music, I mean.
Speaker 3: But that was what she submitted. And I picked that one along with the other two songs. And was.
Chris Molanphy: This light on or was this a different.
Speaker 3: This is Alaska. Remember Alaska? And it was like brand new kind of music that she was working on at the time. It wasn’t typical of the kind of thing that she had done before, and I loved it just instantly. I love the groove of it, the feeling of it, and he responded obviously in real time to it, in a way that was like powerful. Oh. But we didn’t think anything of it after that. Like we finished the video. I remember, you know, telling people, like, we should really get this video online. And, you know, his company, you know, uploaded it. And that was kind of like the last we heard of it. And then suddenly it just became a viral thing. Somebody put it on Reddit and it turned into something else. But it was just another one of those happy accidents, you know, that Pharrell became involved with. Who knows what’s going to come out of it? But let’s just do something and put Pharrell in front of students and see what happens. So it was super exciting and great.
Speaker 2: I have 000 notes for that. And I’ll tell you why is because you’re doing your own thing. It’s singular. It’s like when the Wu-Tang Clan came out, like, no one can really judge it. You either liked it or you didn’t, but you couldn’t compare it to anything else. And that is such a special quality.
Chris Molanphy: And it was a catalyst for for Maggie’s entire career, basically. I mean, it was kind of a star is born moment for her.
Speaker 3: Yeah. From the time that that she was working on that song and when that masterclass hit until she was doing her, you know, graduation pitch where our students have to go in front of a group of invited industry leaders and sort of pitch their work like that must have been just a couple of months. And by that time she had so many offers coming in. It’s not something anyone could have engineered. Nobody could have, like, figured it out. But it just happened. And it was it was just an amazing moment. And, yes, she’s gone on to become, you know, such a superstar. And, you know, Pharrell’s at the center of that in so many ways.
Chris Molanphy: And what I love about that anecdote is how yet again, you can never pigeonhole Pharrell, right? You he comes at music in this very pure way, and he has this very pure reaction to what he’s hearing. And he’s a catalyst for, you know, this important moment in an artist’s career.
Speaker 3: I think so. And I think, you know, I always think of this term. Claire AUDIENCE So it’s related to the term clairvoyance, which means obviously people who can see into the future, but there are people who can hear into the future. And I think he hears into the future. He hears things that are not there yet and he hears ideas that other people would just say whatever. But he just for some reason attaches to them. And those ideas become much bigger. And they they generate outward into the world and they become things unto them, unto themselves. And he somehow manages to be along for that. Right. It’s really it’s fascinating.
Chris Molanphy: It’s inspiring.
Speaker 3: It is.
Chris Molanphy: Well, I just want to thank you again, Jason, for taking the time to join us. This has been extremely educational and helpful. You always have so much going on. What’s the best way for folks to keep up with you.
Speaker 3: Just on Instagram or Facebook? My handle is at Jason King says, and I’m always happy to communicate and talk with people that way.
Chris Molanphy: Well, Jason, thanks so much for joining us on Hit Parade The Bridge.
Speaker 3: Chris, happy to join. Thanks so much.
Speaker 2: A people east side like is ACL like you.
Speaker 6: You going to have to? Because I’m getting mad. You want to take 20 minutes and I have got to get gas.
Chris Molanphy: Now comes the time in Hit Parade, the bridge where we do some trivia. And joining us from New York, New York, the city, so nice. They named it twice. It’s Don. Hey, Don.
Speaker 5: Hey, Chris. How you doing?
Chris Molanphy: I’m great. How are you.
Speaker 5: Doing? Well today.
Chris Molanphy: So I understand that, like me, you were a pretty big fan of Casey Kasem dating as far back as the seventies. Do I have that right?
Speaker 5: Yeah, I was. Some of my earliest music memories are listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 in. You know, when I was like 11 or 12 years old, it was a Sunday night ritual with me and my mom. We’d turn it on at 6:00 and listen to the whole thing. And I’d like right in a notebook and, you know, keep track of all the songs and stuff like that. So yeah, I started out pretty young American and Top 40.
Speaker 2: Here at number two and move it up. Stevie Wonder with you. Haven’t done that.
Chris Molanphy: We? You know, the writing in the notebook part sounds very familiar to me. When I started listening in the eighties, I did the same thing. And it’s interesting to me that it was a nighttime ritual for you, because in in New York City in the eighties, it was a Sunday morning thing.
Chris Molanphy: But you were you were in a different place back in the seventies, I guess.
Speaker 5: Yeah. I lived in I lived in Los Alamos, New Mexico. And we got to get it from KQED in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as Casey Kasem would often point out.
Chris Molanphy: Well, that must have been exciting. Yeah. Well, and before we plunge right into the trivia, I, of course, want to thank you for being a Slate Plus subscriber. We only opened these trivia rounds to our plus members. So if you plus member would like to be a trivia contestant, visit Slate.com slash hit parade, sign up.
Chris Molanphy: All right, Don, I think you know how this works. I’m going to ask you three trivia questions. The first will be a callback to our most recent full length episode of Hit Parade. And the next two will be a preview of our next episode. And then at the end, you’re going to get a chance to ask me a question. Are you ready for some trivia?
Speaker 5: Ready to go?
Chris Molanphy: All right. Rock and roll. Here we go. Question one In our last episode, I mentioned several artists that Pharrell Williams and Timberland both produced tracks for on the same album. Which of these albums is not one of them? A madonna hard candy. B Jay-Z The Black Album. C Justin Timberlake. Justified. Or. D Britney Spears. Britney.
Speaker 5: I’m trying to recall. Um, I did see a was Madonna, right?
Chris Molanphy: That’s right.
Speaker 5: I think it was a.
Chris Molanphy: And I’m afraid that is incorrect. The correct answer is D Britney Spears Britney album, The Neptunes Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo produced the track I’m a Slave for You on that Britney Spears album. But Timberland did not work with her. All right. Oh, for one. But here goes with the preview trivia. And you have an opportunity to turn it around. Ready for some preview trivia?
Speaker 5: Yes, I am.
Chris Molanphy: All right. Question to all of these mid-eighties post disco singles first hit Billboard’s Dance Club chart between 1983 and 85. Which one cracked the top ten on the hot 100? The big pop chart. First a Shannon. Let the music play. B, Madonna. Borderline C expose a point of no return. Or D, Lisa. Lisa and Colt Sham. I wonder if I take you home.
Speaker 5: That’s tough. Think about that. I’m trying to recall my I’m not exactly an AIDS expert, but I think I’m going to go with Lisa. Lisa and culture.
Chris Molanphy: And I’m sorry. The correct answer was a Let the Music Play by Shannon Shannon’s biggest hit, broken to the top ten in February 1984. It is widely considered the first hit of the dance pop subgenre known as freestyle. All right, no problem. We got one more trivia question raised. Question three.
Speaker 5: Yeah, I’m ready.
Chris Molanphy: All right. All of these artists associated with the freestyle genre scored number ones on the hot 100. But who was the only one to hit the top with a song that was not a ballad? A Lisa. Lisa and Colt Sham be exposed. C Sweet sensation or D Stevie B.
Speaker 5: I’m going to go with. Of course.
Chris Molanphy: And I’m sorry you kind of got stuck with Lisa. Lisa, the correct answer is a Lisa. Lisa. Although Lisa. Lisa and call James. Number one hits head to toe and lost in emotion. We’re closer to retro Motown than freestyle. They were uptempo expose Stevie B and Sweet Sensation all broke with high energy club songs, but then hit number one on the hot 100 with ballads.
Chris Molanphy: Oh, gosh, Don, I’m so sorry. That’s all right. You got blanked. Probably not your category. You said you were an eighties expert.
Speaker 5: Yeah, not my sweet spot. I’m a seventies guy.
Chris Molanphy: So here’s the good news. You have an opportunity to turn the tables on me and, you know, get your revenge now. So do you have a question for me?
Speaker 5: Yes, I do. Let’s see. For the 12 weeks from one 1875 through four or 575, there were 12 different number one songs bookending these this 12 week stretch were number one songs by Elton John, each of which were number one for two weeks, which were the two songs, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and Island Girl Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me And Somebody Saved My Life Tonight, which is b, c, Lucy in the sky with diamonds and Philadelphia freedom or D, Philadelphia freedom. An island girl.
Chris Molanphy: That’s an excellent question, and I love that those are mostly 75 number ones. I think the only outlier among your answers is don’t let the Sun Go Down on me. Which went to number two is an Elton song and later went to number one in a duet with George Michael Way Ahead in 1992, because I covered this in our Elton and George episode of Hit Parade way back at the beginning of the show. I’m pretty sure the answer is See Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and Philadelphia freedom.
Speaker 5: You are correct.
Chris Molanphy: Yeah, that was an interesting moment for Elton because he was releasing all these one off singles and then they got left off of the the album. He debuted at number one with that year. Captain Fantastic on the Brown Dirt Cowboy. So go figure.
Speaker 5: Yeah.
Chris Molanphy: Well, that’s your sweet spot, obviously. Yeah, I can tell when you were the biggest chart fan, so I appreciate that question. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to take a little victory lap there. And Don, despite the trivia results, I hope you enjoyed being on this episode of Hit Parade The Bridge.
Speaker 5: Yeah, I had a great time, Chris. I appreciate it. Thank you.
Chris Molanphy: Thank you.
Chris Molanphy: So as those last two trivia questions indicated, our next episode is going to be about the history of the subgenre known as freestyle. Now our latest episode about Pharrell, Timberland and Missy touched on the history of new track swim, freestyle, predated and overlapped with new jack swing, but it had its own distinct identity. Freestyle is, you might say, a liminal genre that falls between electro at the beginning of the eighties and New Jack swing in the late eighties. And it’s roughly contemporaneous with house music. It dominated pop radio in the eighties, largely in cities, especially those with large Latin populations like Miami and New York. And I must say, as a New Yorker, I am probably more keyed into freestyle than others might be.
Chris Molanphy: However, even if you are nowhere near the East Coast, nowhere near those cities, if you follow the charts in the eighties, you heard these artists, Shannon, Lisa, Lisa expose a Stevie B Suite sensation. These acts scored National Top ten or even number one records. But the quirk of freestyle was how it crossed over to go fully pop. Some of the music’s most exciting elements were toned down, which is funny to say about such a pop genre. Still freestyle punched above its weight in the eighties. At its peak, Billboard gave it essentially its own chart.
Chris Molanphy: Also, big artists associated with more mainstream success from Madonna to the Pet Shop Boys. Crossed paths with freestyle producers or scored hits mining the freestyle sound with Pride Month coming up, it felt appropriate to go deep on a club sound that was driven by subcultures and embraced by LGBTQ audiences in particular. So that’s going to be the topic of our next Hit Parade episode coming in mid-June. This episode of Hit Parade, The Bridge was produced by Kevin Bendis. And I’m Chris Molanphy. Keep on marching on the one.