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Song Exploder

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Song Exploder

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.
 
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Everything Everywhere All at Once is a sci-fi comedy independent film that came out in the spring of 2022. It’s a huge hit that made over $100 million at the box office. It’s already been named the best movie of the year by several publications and awards organizations. The movie stars the legendary actress Michelle Yeoh, and was directed by the Da…
 
Omah Lay is a Nigerian singer, songwriter, and producer. He’s one of the young stars of Afrobeats, the West African genre that's become a global phenomenon. His new album Boy Alone features a collaboration with Justin Bieber. But for this episode, Omah talked to me about the song “Never Forget.” Boy Alone was Omah’s late father's nickname, and the …
 
The final episode of Book Exploder is with author James McBride. He was born in New York City and raised in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Houses housing projects until the age of seven. That housing project became the setting for his novel, Deacon King Kong. In 2015, President Obama awarded him with the National Humanities Medal, and in 2021, Deacon King Kon…
 
In 2002, Sam Beam’s first album as Iron & Wine was released on Sub Pop Records. He’d given them a bunch of demos, and rather than have him re-record these songs, they released the demos themselves. Since then, he’s put out five more full-length albums and been nominated for multiple Grammys. For this episode, Sam looked back at the making of his so…
 
George Saunders has won the Booker Prize, and he’s the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant. He won the Folio Prize for his collection of short stories, Tenth of December, which includes the short story “Victory Lap.” In this episode, Susan and George talk about a passage from “Victory Lap.” “Victory Lap” is about two teenagers, Alison and Kyle, a…
 
Santigold is a singer, songwriter, and producer. She’s put out 4 albums since 2008, and she’s been featured as a collaborator on songs with Jay-Z, Beastie Boys, Diplo, and more. In this episode, Santi takes apart her song "Ushers of the New World," from her 2022 album Spirituals. She made it with some other collaborators she’s worked with before, i…
 
Celeste Ng is an American writer and author of three novels. Her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, was published in 2017 and became a #1 New York Times bestseller. A television adaptation of the novel, starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, premiered in 2020. Little Fires Everywhere is set in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and centers around …
 
King Princess is the project of Mikaela Straus, a singer, songwriter, and producer from Brooklyn. She’s a platinum-selling artist, and she put out her second album in July, 2022. The last track on the album is the song "Let Us Die." Rolling Stone called it "the banger of the year." In this episode, Mikaela breaks down the song, along with two of he…
 
Tayari Jones is the author of four novels. She won the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus. Her novel An American Marriage was an Oprah's Book Club Selection, and was longlisted for the National Book Award. She won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary W…
 
Panic! at the Disco is the Grammy-nominated project of Brendon Urie, who originally started it as a band with his high school friends from Las Vegas in 2004. In the eighteen years since, Panic! at the Disco has won American Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, iHeartRadio Music awards, and more. In August 2022, Brendon released the seventh Panic! …
 
Carmen Maria Machado is the award-winning author of In the Dream House, a memoir where each chapter has its own vivid style of storytelling. It won the Folio Prize in 2021, and was named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, The New Yorker, and NPR. In the Dream House depicts Carmen’s experiences in an abusive relationship, and i…
 
(This is a re-issue of Björk’s episode from December 2015.) In January 2015, Björk released Vulnicura. She described it as "a complete heartbreak album." And in November, she released Vulnicura Strings, a companion album that stripped away the electronics. In this episode, Bjork breaks down the making of both the original version of the song "Stone…
 
Michael Cunningham is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours. He’s the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. The Hours was published in 1998, and in addition to the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, it won the PEN/Faulkner Award. The book was later adapted into an Oscar-winning film starring Nicole…
 
Madonna is the best-selling female recording artist of all time. She has twelve albums that have gone multi-platinum. She’s won seven Grammys, and has had fifty songs reach number 1 on the Billboard Dance chart. That’s more number 1s than anyone in any category, ever. In this episode, she talks about one of those number 1s: “Hung Up,” from her 2005…
 
Min Jin Lee is the author of the best-selling novel Pachinko. She’s a Guggenheim Fellow, and the recipient of South Korea's Manhae Grand Prize for Literature. In Pachinko, she tells a sweeping, multi-generational story of a Korean family that moves to Japan. Pachinko is an international best-seller, named one of the best books of 2017 by the New Yo…
 
Kae Tempest is a songwriter, rapper, an award-winning poet, and best-selling novelist. They’ve been nominated for the UK’s Mercury Prize and Brit Award. Their most recent album is The Line is a Curve, which came out earlier this year. It was executive produced by legendary producer Rick Rubin. Kae made the album alongside their longtime collaborato…
 
Introducing a new miniseries: Book Exploder, where authors break down a passage from one of their books, and discuss the creative process that went into writing it. Every other week, in between episodes of Song Exploder, you’ll hear from a new author, in conversation with host Susan Orlean. But for this first episode of the series, Susan is intervi…
 
Sudan Archives is a singer, songwriter, producer, and violinist. She grew up in Cincinnati before moving to LA. Her music has been called "viscerally gorgeous" by The Guardian, and "stunning" by Pitchfork, who gave her in ‘Best New Music.’ This year, she’s releasing her second album, and one of the tracks on it is "Selfish Soul." She told me the id…
 
Maia from mxmtoon released her first EP in 2018. She was 18 years old, recorded it in her bedroom, and self-released it. It went on to be streamed over 100 million times. This year, she put out her second album, Rising, and in this episode, she breaks down her song "Mona Lisa." She told me about how different it is from the songs she used to write …
 
Monica Martin is a singer and songwriter based in Los Angeles. Before that, she was based in Madison, Wisconsin, where she was part of the indie rock band Phox. She’s been a featured guest vocalist on songs by James Blake and Vulfpeck. In this episode, Monica breaks down her song “Go Easy, Kid,” along with the tracks’s producer, Khushi. She talks a…
 
Maren Morris is a Grammy-winning, multi-platinum artist. She’s also won multiple country music awards, including CMAs for Female Vocalist of the Year, and Single of the Year in 2020, but her feelings about the country music industry are kind of complicated, as she discusses in this episode. She breaks down her song "Humble Quest," which is the titl…
 
Rick Astley is a singer and songwriter from England, whose debut single, "Never Gonna Give You Up," became an international smash hit. The song came out in July 1987 and won the BRIT Award for “British Single of the Year.” It hit number one in 25 countries, and Rick Astley was nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist. And then, 20 years after the…
 
Kevin Morby is a singer and songwriter based in Kansas City. He’s put out seven albums since 2013, including his most recent one, This is a Photograph, which just came out last week. For this episode, I talked to Kevin about the title track from This is a Photograph. It’s a story about his family, the pandemic, and memories of times that have happe…
 
Arooj Aftab is a singer and composer based in Brooklyn. She grew up in Saudi Arabia, but her family is from Pakistan. And earlier this year, she made history by becoming the first Pakistani artist to win a Grammy. Her song, “Mohabbat" won the Best Global Music Performance Grammy, and she was nominated for Best New Artist. "Mohabbat" was first relea…
 
This week, I want to introduce you to another podcast that I make, called Partners. It’s a show about partnerships that was born out of Song Exploder. I’ve made a bunch of episodes with bandmates, or co-writers, or an artist and a producer who worked together, all these stories where the songs were the result of a really special collaboration. And …
 
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