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Song Exploder

Author: 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.
202 Episodes
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Selena Gomez is a singer, songwriter, and actress, who’s spent most of her life in the public eye. She started her acting career as a child, and put out her first albums as a teenager. She’s had three number one albums and eight Top 10 hits, and in 2017, Billboard named her Woman of the Year. At one point, she was the most followed person on Instagram, and the details of her life are constantly discussed in tabloid headlines. So, when your private life is that public, how do you write a song about something as personal as heartbreak? Selena teamed up with the Grammy-winning production duo Mattman & Robin, who she’d worked with before. And she turned to her longtime songwriting collaborators, Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter. Julia Michaels is also a Grammy-nominated artist in her own right, and Justin Tranter, also a Grammy nominee, was named BMI’s 2017 Pop Songwriter of the Year. The three of them have written 10 songs together, including this one, “Lose You to Love Me.” The song came out in October 2019, and went on to become Selena’s first number-one hit. It went double-platinum in the US, and was named one of the best songs of the year by Vulture and Billboard. In this episode, Selena, Julia and Justin break down how the song came to be, from the first writing session to the final production touches from Finneas. songexploder.net/selena-gomez
On August 28, 2020, actor Chadwick Boseman died. He was only 43 years old. Unbeknownst to many, even some of his closest collaborators, he’d been battling colon cancer since 2016. His family released a statement, and in it, they said, "It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther." After hearing the news, I went back and re-watched the movie, and I don’t know, it was a completely different experience this time. I went and listened to the score again, and that had changed for me, too. So, I wanted to back and share this episode from 2018, about a piece of the film’s score by composer Ludwig Göransson. It’s one of my favorites, and since it first aired, Ludwig went on to win the Grammy and Oscar for the Black Panther score. I hope you enjoy this re-visiting this episode, and I hope it makes you remember how great Black Panther is, and how great Chadwick Boseman is in it, in a role that defined a career that was way too short. · · ·  Marvel’s Black Panther was released in theaters on February 16, 2018, and in just a few weeks, it made over a billion dollars worldwide. It’s already broken some box office records and it looks like it’s going to break some more. The score for the film was created by Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson. His film and tv credits include Creed and New Girl. He’s also Grammy-nominated producer, who’s worked most often with rapper Childish Gambino. In this episode, Ludwig takes apart one of his pieces from Black Panther. The track is called "Killmonger," and it’s the theme for Erik Killmonger, a character played by Michael B. Jordan. Black Panther is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, and coming up, Ludwig tells the story of doing research and making recordings in Africa, and how he incorporated that into the score for the film. For more, visit songexploder.net/black-panther
Kelly Lee Owens - On

Kelly Lee Owens - On

2020-09-0922:251

Kelly Lee Owens is an electronic music producer and songwriter originally from Wales. She’s released two critically acclaimed albums and done remixes for Björk and St. Vincent. Her most recent album is is called Inner Song. It came out in August, following what Kelly described as the hardest three years of her life. In this episode, she takes apart her song "On," and explains how its tone and shifts mirrored her journey processing her own trauma. songexploder.net/kelly-lee-owens
Black Pumas - Colors

Black Pumas - Colors

2020-08-2618:133

Black Pumas formed in Austin, Texas in 2017, when singer Eric Burton met producer Adrian Quesada. Their self-titled debut was released in June 2019, and got them a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. In this episode, they break down their hit song “Colors,” which Eric started writing ten years ago, when he was first learning how to play guitar. songexploder.net/black-pumas
The 1975 are a band from Manchester, England, made up of Matty Healy, Adam Hann, Ross MacDonald, and George Daniel. They started playing music together in 2002, when they were teenagers. Since then, they’ve released four albums, won three Brit awards, and gotten two Grammy nominations. Their most recent album, Notes on a Conditional Form, came out in May 2020. In this episode, Matty and George break down how they made the song “The Birthday Party.” songexploder.net/the-1975
Waxahatchee - Fire

Waxahatchee - Fire

2020-07-2918:483

Katie Crutchfield is a singer and songwriter from Birmingham, Alabama. She’s been making music under the name Waxahatchee since 2010. Her fifth album, Saint Cloud, came out this past March. Pitchfork named it Best New Music, and The Guardian called it the best album of the year so far. In this episode, Katie breaks down how she made the song “Fire." songexploder.net/waxahatchee
Khruangbin is a band from Houston, Texas, who first formed in 2010. NME called them the "low key superstars" of psychedelic music. They’ve released three albums. The most recent, which came out in June 2020, is called Mordechai. In the past, most of Khruangbin’s songs have been instrumental, or if they did have vocals, they'd be minimal. Their new album is different. It features vocals prominently, and in this episode, the three of them explain their philosophy on vocals and their process on writing lyrics. I spoke to each of them to get their perspective on how they made the song "So We Won’t Forget." songexploder.net/khruangbin
The Netflix original series Dark debuted in December 2017. It’s a really mysterious, mind-bending German science fiction show with a unique tone. A big part of that tone is announced every episode with the music in the show’s opening title sequence. It’s the song “Goodbye,” by German electronic artist Apparat, the solo project of Sascha Ring. This song actually came out years ago, on the 2011 Apparat album The Devil’s Walk. Since then, before it was used as the theme song for Dark, it’s been featured in a bunch of films and commercials, and notably, in the Season 4 finale of Breaking Bad. The final season of Dark just came out last week, so I wanted to find out how the show’s theme music was made. “Goodbye” features vocals from Anja Plaschg, an Austrian artist who makes music under the name Soap&Skin. In this episode, Sascha and Anja break down how the song was created. songexploder.net/apparat
The rappers Prodigy and Havoc met when they were still in high school in New York. Havoc grew up in Queensbridge, the biggest public housing projects in the country, and as a teenager, Prodigy lived there for a while, too. The two of them formed Mobb Deep in 1991. In 1995, they put out their second album, The Infamous. It was a success when it came out, but in the 25 years since then, the influence of the album has only grown. Complex named it one of the 10 best rap albums of the 90s, and Pitchfork gave the album a rare perfect score, 10 out of 10. The Washington Post called it a “masterpiece” of hardcore rap, and in Slate, it was called one of the best albums of the ‘90s, and one of the best hip-hop albums ever made. Their biggest song from the album was “Shook Ones, Pt. II.” Havoc made the now-legendary beat that he and Prodigy rap over. To celebrate the 25th anniversary, Havoc told me the story of how the whole song came together. Prodigy passed away in 2017, from complications due to sickle-cell anemia, a debilitating disease he’d battled his entire life. But the legacy of Mobb Deep lives on. A new, expanded, 25th anniversary edition of The Infamous just came out in April. songexploder.net/mobb-deep
Instead of a new episode this week, revisiting this episode originally published in May 2017. Please consider donating to local and national organizations engaged in the work of racial equality. Here are some links: American Civil Liberties Union NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Community Bail Funds Michael Kiwanuka is a singer/songwriter from London. His second album, Love and Hate, came out in 2016, and was named one of the Best Albums of the Year from the BBC, NME, The Guardian, GQ, and more. One of the songs on the album was used as the theme for the hit HBO series Big Little Lies. In this episode, Michael breaks down the song "Black Man in a White World." songexploder.net/michael-kiwanuka
100 gecs - Money Machine

100 gecs - Money Machine

2020-05-2018:002

100 gecs is a duo, made up of Laura Les and Dylan Brady. In 2016, they put out an EP called 100 gecs, and three years later, they released their first album, called 1000 gecs. It was named the Best Album of 2019 in Vice and in The New York Times. It was also on year-end lists in Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Stereogum and more. Dylan lives in Los Angeles, and Laura in Chicago—they work remotely, sending files back and forth to each other. In this episode, the two of them break down how they made the song "Money Machine." songexploder.net/100-gecs
Laura Marling is a singer and songwriter from London. She won the Brit Award for Best British Female Solo Artist—she’s been nominated five times for that, along with the Mercury Prize, and the Grammy for Best Folk Album. Since 2008, she’s released seven albums. The most recent album is called Song for Our Daughter. It’s also the name of the song that she takes apart in this episode. songexploder.net/laura-marling
Tame Impala is the project of Kevin Parker, a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer from Perth, Australia. Since putting his first EP in 2008, Tame Impala has been nominated for two Grammys and won eight of Australia’s ARIA Awards. Multiple albums of his have been named best of the year. As a producer, he has collaborated with Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, The Weeknd, and more. The most recent Tame Impala album is The Slow Rush, which came out in February 2020. For this episode, Kevin chose to take apart the song, "It Might Be Time." songexploder.net/tame-impala
FKA twigs is a singer, songwriter, and producer from London. She’s released three EPs and two albums. Her most album, Magdalene, came out in November, 2019, and was named one of the best albums of the year by Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Time, NME, and more. For this episode, twigs chose the song "Mirrored Heart" from Magdalene. She wrote and produced it in Los Angeles with a few collaborators, but it’s an intensely personal song. songexploder.net/fka-twigs
Nathaniel Rateliff is a singer and songwriter from Colorado. He’s released four solo albums, and two with his band, the Night Sweats. Those two Night Sweats albums were produced by Richard Swift, who passed away in 2018. In a statement, his family said that he "suffered from alcohol addiction, and it’s ultimately what took his life." Nathaniel Rateliff’s new solo album, And It’s Still Alright, was supposed to be produced by Richard Swift as well, but Richard died before they could work together again. In this episode, Nathaniel breaks down the title track, which was inspired by his own complicated relationship with alcohol, and by his friendship with Richard Swift. songexploder.net/nathaniel-rateliff
Eric Nam - Love Die Young

Eric Nam - Love Die Young

2020-03-1121:1912

Eric Nam is a Korean-American pop singer from Atlanta. He’s currently lives in Seoul, South Korea, where he found fame as a K-pop star. He was named “2016 Man of the Year” by GQ Korea, and Forbes named him one of their “30 under 30 Asia.” But his success in Korea has been complicated a little by what he wanted to do with his career versus what he felt he was allowed to do. As his career as an artist has evolved, he’s gotten closer and closer to making the music he wants to make. In November 2019, Eric released Before We Begin — his first album entirely in English. In this episode, Eric Nam and producer Rabitt break down a song from that album called “Love Die Young.” songexploder.net/eric-nam
Sophie Allison makes music under the name Soccer Mommy. Her debut album came out in 2018, when she was 20 years old, and the New York Times named it one of the best album of the year. Her second album, Color Theory, comes out this week, and it includes this song, "Circle the Drain." In this episode, she takes "Circle the Drain" apart and explains how it was influenced by songs from her childhood. songexploder.net/soccer-mommy
Caribou - Home

Caribou - Home

2020-02-1219:422

Dan Snaith has been making Caribou records since 2001. He won Canada’s Polaris music prize in 2007, and this month, he’s releasing the seventh Caribou album, Suddenly. In this episode, Dan breaks down the song “Home.” He talks about how he managed to get past several moments of creative uncertainty to figure out the final track. songexploder.net/caribou
Vagabon - Water Me Down

Vagabon - Water Me Down

2020-01-2919:003

When Laetitia Tamko started making the second Vagabon album, she really wanted to produce the entire thing on her own. It would be a new sound, and producing was still a relatively new skill to her, but she wanted to tackle it head on, and do it all herself. On this song, though, "Water Me Down," Laetitia actually has a co-producer, Eric Littman. It’s the one exception to her otherwise entirely self-produced album. In this episode, she breaks down how she and Eric made the song, and why it was worth making that exception. songexploder.net/vagabon
Semisonic - Closing Time

Semisonic - Closing Time

2020-01-1526:3417

The song “Closing Time” by the American rock band Semisonic came out in March 1998. It hit #1 on the Alternative charts, and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Song. It gets played in stadiums, Weird Al covered it, and it’s the last song of the night in countless bars. Since then, Dan Wilson, the lead singer and songwriter of Semisonic, has become a powerhouse songwriter who has written or co-written for artists like John Legend and Taylor Swift. And he’s won Grammys for his songwriting with the Dixie Chicks and Adele. But over two decades ago, Dan and his bandmates John Munson and Jacob Slichter were in Minneapolis, getting ready to start work on their second album, Feeling Strangely Fine. In this episode of Song Exploder, Dan breaks down how that process led to "Closing Time." songexploder.net/semisonic
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Comments (167)

Luke Oaks

one of my favorite songs of The Lumineers

Sep 25th
Reply

Prasad K.Shetty

loved this . thank you :)

Jul 4th
Reply

Kristal Mendez

LOVE this song! And the show is top tier

Jul 2nd
Reply (2)

Franky Romá

Thank you for this episode, I could listen to Laura Marling for ever!

Jun 17th
Reply

مهرداد مهدوی

great

May 15th
Reply

Chris Middlemass

wow, those chords are such a rip off from High by Feeder

Apr 14th
Reply

imsummerlicorice wu

love your songs!!!

Apr 2nd
Reply

shyn

I can feel her soul in each of her songs

Mar 29th
Reply

EY Lee

Didn't think to find Eric Nam here. Great episode👍

Mar 18th
Reply

HananJas

i love you Eric ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️

Mar 11th
Reply

Mick ó Reilly

Hhgbh

Mar 5th
Reply

Ron Severtis

This is definitely my favorite episode of this pod. granted, I love HoC. But the 'explosion' of the melody and composition and background are truly something special. Nice work Hrishikesh.

Jan 27th
Reply

Michael Glaun

Great episode! So much emotion shared by Robyn. Aweome song. 😁

Sep 6th
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Ja'Kayla Hill

so many life lessons and gems dropped in this segment, very beautiful. i'm inspired 🙏🏾💗

Aug 12th
Reply (1)

John Hollowell

this song itself is beautiful, and then you add the try story of the song and it adds a depth that you can get only from the lyrics themselves.

Jun 15th
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Byron Drake

I love the song and the musicality of it, it's just so good.

Jun 4th
Reply (1)

Byron Drake

Amazing, I didn't realize what this song had to tell as a story.

Jun 4th
Reply

Isabelle Tailhades

Ta chanson est super

May 11th
Reply

Shashank Bhargava

I love this episode!

Apr 23rd
Reply

Oleg Petrunchak-Fesenko

💎

Apr 23rd
Reply
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