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20 minutes | Jun 16, 2021
Sparks - This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us
Sparks are the brothers Ron and Russell Mael, a legendary duo from Los Angeles. Over the last 50 years, they’ve released 25 albums. They’ve collaborated with Giorgio Moroder and Franz Ferdinand, and they’ve influenced bands like Joy Division, Faith No More, Björk, and countless others. Director Edgar Wright, whose films include Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Baby Driver, and Scott Pilgrim vs the World, has made a documentary about the band called The Sparks Brothers. It premiered at Sundance, and comes out in theaters on Friday, June 18th. In this episode, Ron and Russell break down their hit, “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us," which came out in 1974, and changed their careers forever. To learn more, visit songexploder.net/sparks Radiotopia's annual fundraiser is going on right now! To support Song Exploder and the mission of independent, creative story-telling through creator-owned shows, please donate at radiotopia.fm/donate.
22 minutes | Jun 2, 2021
Arlo Parks - Black Dog
Arlo Parks is a singer and songwriter from London. In January 2021, she released her debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams. It hit number three on the UK charts, and she won this year’s BRIT award for Breakthrough Artist. Last year, NME called her song "Black Dog" the year’s "most devastating song." In this episode, Anaïs breaks down “Black Dog," which she made with producer Gianluca Buccellati. ("But I just call him Luca.") Here’s Arlo Parks on Song Exploder. If you’re thinking about suicide, or if you have a friend who is, or if you just need someone to talk to right now, you can get support by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by texting HOME to 741-741, which is the Crisis Text Line. If you're outside of the U.S., check out the list of international hotlines at suicide.org. For more about “Black Dog,” visit songexploder.net/arlo-parks
23 minutes | May 19, 2021
Imagine Dragons - Follow You
Imagine Dragons are a Grammy-winning band from Las Vegas. They’ve sold over 20 millions albums so far, and they were the most streamed band on Spotify in 2018. In March of this year, they released the song “Follow You." Singer Dan Reynolds started the song at home, and then later, the band took it to the studio Shangri-La, to record parts of it with legendary producer Rick Rubin. In this episode, Dan breaks down the song, which tells a deeply personal story of his relationship to his wife. For more, visit songexploder.net/imagine-dragons
23 minutes | May 5, 2021
girl in red - Serotonin
Marie Ulven is a singer, songwriter, and producer from Norway, who makes music under the name girl in red. She just released her debut album in April 2021, but she already has a big fanbase and she’s gotten a lot of critical acclaim from two EPs and singles that she’s released online, including a couple that went gold. The New York Times included her work in their best songs of the year in both 2018 and 2019, and she was nominated for Best Newcomer at the Norwegian Grammys. "Do you listen to girl in red?" has also become code on TikTok, a kind of shibboleth, to ask if someone’s a lesbian. In this episode, Marie breaks down the song "Serotonin," a song that started as a video she posted to her own TikTok in the early days of lockdown in 2020. You’ll hear the original version she recorded on her own, before collaborating with Norwegian Grammy-winning producer Matias Téllez, and later, with Grammy-winning artist and producer Finneas O’Connell, in order to finish the song. For more, visit songexploder.net/girl-in-red
21 minutes | Apr 21, 2021
Porter Robinson - Get Your Wish
Porter Robinson is a Grammy-nominated electronic artist and DJ from North Carolina. In 2014, his first album hit #1 on Billboard’s Dance chart, and he was named MTVU’s Artist of the Year, and one of the top DJs in the world — but then, he got stuck. He didn’t release his second album for seven years, until March 2021. In this episode, he talks about what he was grappling with in those intervening years, and how all of that became part of his song "Get Your Wish." For more, visit songexploder.net/porter-robinson
25 minutes | Apr 7, 2021
Lianne La Havas - Can't Fight
Lianne La Havas is a singer and songwriter from London. She’s been nominated for a Grammy and a Brit award, and in 2020, she released her third album. In this episode, she breaks down her song "Can’t Fight," and traces its evolution — along with her own evolution – over several years. For more, visit songexploder.net/lianne-la-havas.
28 minutes | Mar 24, 2021
Jon Batiste - We Are
Jon Batiste is a pianist, songwriter, and composer from New Orleans. He’s been nominated for multiple Grammys, and just won the Golden Globe and got an Oscar nomination for the soundtrack to the Pixar film Soul, which he composed along with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Jon is also a recipient of the American Jazz Museum’s lifetime achievement award, and on weeknights, you can see him as the bandleader on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In March 2021, he put out his new album, We Are. But the title track from it came actually came out much earlier, last year, in June 2020. In this episode, Jon talks about how he drew from his roots, at a very personal level — and at a cultural, historical level — and wove all of it into the song. For more, visit songexploder.net/jon-batiste.
24 minutes | Mar 10, 2021
Glass Animals - Heat Waves
Glass Animals is a band from Oxford, England. They’ve released three albums since forming back in 2010. One of their biggest hits is the song "Heat Waves," which came out in June 2020. It was certified Gold in several countries, and Platinum in Australia, where it hit #1. Dave Bayley is the singer, songwriter, and producer of the band. He won the UK’s Music Producers Guild award for "Self-Producing Artist of the Year," and he’s produced songs for other artists, as well. In this episode, Dave tells the story of making "Heat Waves," over several months. First, on his own, and then later with his bandmates, Joe Seaward, Ed Irwin-Singer, and Drew MacFarlane. For more, visit songexploder.net/glass-animals.
25 minutes | Feb 24, 2021
Sasha Sloan - Until It Happens To You
Sasha Sloan is a singer and songwriter based in Nashville. She put out her debut album, Only Child, last year. Before that, she’d written songs for artists like Katy Perry, John Legend, and Charli XCX, and she’s been a featured guest vocalist on songs by electronic artists Odesza and Kygo. Sasha made her album with her boyfriend, producer Henry Allen, aka King Henry, whose other production credits include songs by Beyoncé and Diplo. In this episode, Sasha, along with Henry, tells the story of making her song "Until It Happens to You." For more, visit songexploder.net/sasha-sloan.
23 minutes | Feb 10, 2021
PJ Morton - Say So (feat. JoJo)
PJ Morton is a singer, songwriter, and producer. He’s the first artist ever to be nominated for a Grammy for the Best R&B album three years in a row. In 2020, he won the Grammy for Best R&B song for his track, "Say So," which is a duet with the singer JoJo, a platinum-selling artist in her own right. But that version of "Say So" almost didn’t come to exist. In this episode, PJ takes us through his original voice memos, the demos, and the isolated pieces of the final studio recording, as he tells the story of how the track was created, then disappeared, and then got re-created—and ended up becoming one of his biggest songs. For more, visit songexploder.net/pj-morton.
27 minutes | Jan 27, 2021
HAIM - Summer Girl
HAIM is a band from Los Angeles, made up of the sisters Danielle, Este, and Alana Haim. They’ve released three albums, and they’ve been nominated for three Grammys. Over the years, they’ve worked extensively with Grammy-winning producer Ariel Rechtshaid. Danielle and Ariel share the emotional backstory of the song “Summer Girl,” from HAIM’s third album, Women in Music Pt. III. In this episode, they break down their experience creating the song, along with Este Haim and the song’s co-producer and co-writer Rostam. For more, visit songexploder.net/haim.
21 minutes | Jan 13, 2021
Yusuf / Cat Stevens - Father and Son
The legendary singer/songwriter Yusuf / Cat Stevens released his first album in 1967. He’s a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and his albums have sold millions. In 2020, he released Tea for the Tillerman², a re-imagining of his hit 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman. In the song “Father & Son,” he sings a duet between the two title characters, doing both voices. But in the 2020 version, he approached this song in a kind of astonishing way—he recorded the part of the father, but for the part of the son, he used a live recording of himself from 1970, taken from a show he played at The Troubadour in Los Angeles. So the two parts are still both sung in his voice, but 50 years apart. In this episode, the 200th episode of Song Exploder, Yusuf / Cat Stevens tells the story of how he created, and then re-created “Father & Son.” For more, visit songexploder.net/yusuf-cat-stevens.
25 minutes | Dec 16, 2020
Common - A Riot In My Mind
Common is a Grammy- and Oscar-winning rapper, actor, and activist from Chicago. He’s been making records since 1992, and in October, he released his thirteenth album, A Beautiful Revolution. In this episode, he breaks down how he made the song “A Riot In My Mind,” along with a handful of collaborators, including Lenny Kravitz and a cameo from Chuck D. songexploder.net/common
20 minutes | Dec 2, 2020
Jewel - You Were Meant For Me
Jewel is a singer-songwriter from Homer, Alaska, who’s received four Grammy nominations and sold over 30 million albums worldwide. Her debut album, Pieces of You, came out in 1995, and a 25th anniversary edition was released in November 2020. That album contains the hit song "You Were Meant for Me," but it turns out it wasn’t a runaway success—not at first. In this episode, Jewel traces the history of making “You Were Meant For Me,” starting with the demo, and moving through all the different versions that were made along the way. songexploder.net/jewel
28 minutes | Nov 18, 2020
Billie Eilish - Everything I Wanted
Billie Eilish started releasing music when she was 14 years old. Her debut album came out last year, when she was 17. It debuted at Number 1 on Billboard, went triple platinum, and won five Grammys. Billie made that record with her brother and creative partner, producer Finneas O’Connell, in their parents’ house in Highland Park, Los Angeles. While working on that album, they also started writing this song, “Everything I Wanted,” which came out as a single in November 2019. It was Billie’s second top ten hit, and it went double platinum, too. In this episode, you’ll hear some of the original voice memos Billie and Finneas made while writing, and the two of them explain why the song was almost never finished. songexploder.net/billie-eilish
32 minutes | Nov 11, 2020
Re-issue: Phoebe Bridgers - Scott Street
This episode is a little different. It’s a re-issue of Phoebe Bridgers’ Song Exploder episode from January 2019, along with a brand new segment where she and I talk about dealing with writer’s block. Phoebe Bridgers is a singer-songwriter from Los Angeles. In September 2017, she released her debut album, Stranger in the Alps. One of the breakout songs from that album was “Scott Street,” a song Phoebe co-wrote with her drummer, Marshall Vore. Coming up first in this episode, Phoebe and Marshall break down how that song went from an unfinished cassette recording, to an acoustic demo, and then finally to the album version. And then, after that, after you hear "Scott Street" in its entirety, Phoebe and I talk about writer’s block: what causes it for her, and how’s she’s dealt with it. So stick around after the full song to hear that conversation. songexploder.net/phoebe-bridgers
24 minutes | Nov 4, 2020
Deftones - Ohms
Deftones are a Grammy-winning band from Sacramento who’ve sold over ten million albums. Their ninth album, Ohms, came out this year, on September 25th, 2020. In this episode, singer Chino Moreno breaks down how the title track came together, and how they literally went back to where things started in order to create it. songexploder.net/deftones
24 minutes | Oct 21, 2020
Run the Jewels - JU$T
Rapper Killer Mike and rapper/producer El-P first met in 2011. They both had established rap careers, but they entered a new era when they started making music together as Run the Jewels in 2013. They’ve been nominated for a Grammy, and they released their fourth album, RTJ4, in June 2020. Like all of their albums, they made it available to download for free. In this episode, El-P and Killer Mike break down the song "JU$T," which features guest vocals from their frequent collaborator, Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine, and guest vocals from Pharrell Williams. songexploder.net/run-the-jewels
20 minutes | Oct 7, 2020
Dua Lipa - Levitating
Dua Lipa is a Grammy-winning singer and songwriter from London. Her second album, Future Nostalgia, came out in March 2020. It hit #1 on the charts in thirteen countries, and it was shortlisted for the UK’s Mercury Prize. Dua co-wrote the song "Levitating" with some of her closest collaborators, including producer Stephen Kozmeniuk, AKA Koz. In this episode, Dua and Koz break down “Levitating” and how Dua’s childhood memories shaped its sound. songexploder.net/dua-lipa
22 minutes | Sep 23, 2020
Selena Gomez - Lose You to Love Me
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
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