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Podcast Review: ‘Song Exploder’

I didn’t want listen to someone give me their opinion of music. I wanted to listen to artists who actually made the music.

Rachel Cross

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Editor’s note: As part of CMN’s ongoing music journalism program, we asked our team of music writers to choose a single episode of a podcast about music to review . The choices were electric and interesting. Check out all the podcast reviews by browsing our music section


I’m not a podcast person.

It took my boyfriend’s persistence and a direct assignment from my editor before I finally clicked on the Podcast tab in Spotify for the first time. Once I decided to dive in, I had no idea where to go. I probably clicked on a dozen podcasts, listening for two minutes or so, before I found myself clicking on a new one.

One was too crude, one too catty. I wanted to learn, not listen to gossip. I wanted a perspective on music that I couldn’t get from just listening to a song on my own or simply talking about it with my friends.

And then I found Song Exploder.

Maybe it was the simplicity of their profile picture or the fact that their name didn’t have the word “suck” in the title. Either way, it was the first podcast that didn’t have me reaching for the skip button within five minutes.

There is something about host Hrishikesh Hirway. His voice is relaxing and smooth in a way that caught my attention, yet I could tell he was going to offer more than just the sound of his own voice. During a brief intro, Hirway gave me the answer to the question I didn’t even know I was asking: Exactly what his podcast has to offer — and that was exactly what I was looking for.

A place where musicians explain their process and how they create a song. That’s when I realized all the issues I had with the dozen podcasts I’d clicked on prior to Song Exploder. I didn’t want listen to someone give me their opinion of music. I wanted to listen to artists who actually made the music.

I already know how a song makes me feel — I want know what the artist was feeling and what inspired them to create.

“Order of Operations” by Big Boi was the first episode I heard. It was a song I’d never heard by and artist I’d never heard of. I was sold in the first two minutes.

It’s was everything Hirway’s intro has promised me. I heard Big Boi himself breaking apart the track. Where he was at in his life when he wrote it. What pieces he wrote first and inspired him to write it. What instruments he used to make each sound.

When I thought it couldn’t get it any better, Hirway answered my prayers one last time and played the dissected song from start to finish.

I’ve been hooked on Song Exploder ever since.

When I went to clock in to work the next day, instead of my normal shuffle playlist I went strait to Song Exploder. I went through the the list of episodes and couldn’t help clicking on ever artist I recognized from Bleacher to the The Killers to Julien Baker to Gorillaz. I made through half my shift before I realized I had seamlessly started listening to new songs and artists I’d never heard of.

And now, the next time my co-workers are talking about all of their favorite podcasts I’ll actually have one to share myself. Song Exploder has opened my mind to the world of podcasts, and while it’s still the only one I listen to, maybe now I’ll actually give the podcasts my friends recommend a chance.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Rachel is a Journalism and Communications major student in Southern California. She has also studied briefly at Arizona State University. She started her journalism career in high school where she attended and competed in 3 consecutive years at the JEA/NSPA National Higher Journalism Convention. Currently, Rachel is working to finish her degree, and in her free time she enjoys hiking, going to the beach, and fueling her love for coffee and books.

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