The 9 Best Music Podcasts

Best Music Podcasts 2023

There aren’t many things we can confidently say are universal. Not even being obsessed with Keanu Reeves. Music might be one of the only things that most people, no matter their background, feel connected to — and yet, music is also deeply personal. We will always squabble about which genres are superior, which artists are nothing but talentless wannabes. We even disagree about which critics to trust, with some hanging on Pitchfork‘s every word (or 0 to 10 rating), while others find them to be pretentious snobs. With all these conflicting opinions, it can be hard to see music as something that unifies us… but think of it this way: if music wasn’t integral to so many of our lives, nobody would bother arguing about it.

Podcasts are a natural platform for these passionate conversations, harmonizing song and debate in a medium that hasn’t been seen since, well, radio. Most of the best music podcasts have experience on their side, their hosts and producers boasting several projects under their belt. Ultimately, the shows on this list accomplish one of two things: they bring you closer to your favorite music or help you discover something new. Most of these music podcasts, I’m pleased to say, do both.

60 Songs That Explain the ’90s

There’s nothing The Ringer does better than create fan communities around its shows. 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s is no exception. Each episode dives into a classic song from this influential decade, asking where a sound came from and where it took us next. Hosted by Rob Harvilla, the show contends that the 1990s was a watershed decade in the history of music. With the internet’s current penchant for nostalgia, 60 Songs captures the contemporary zeitgeist uniting Millennials and Gen Z through their love for Paramore and Britney Spears. No wonder the series came back after its initial run for sixty more songs.

For the complete ‘90s experience, listen to Break Stuff: The Story of Woodstock ‘99 as a companion piece. The limited series amplifies Harvilla’s thesis that the 90s were a period of significant musical influence, both a synergy of musical genre and a conflict between raw emotion and Big Label control.

For fans of: Singing Daft Punk in your car to avoid responsibilities

Song Exploder

Behind every song is a story. That’s the premise of Song Exploder, one of the most popular and highly regarded music podcasts out there. And for good reason. Song Exploder captivates you with the stories behind hit singles and deep cuts alike in the artists’ own words, a simple idea that has proven so effective, it’s become a Netflix show.

Song Exploder is the brainchild of Hrishikesh Hirway, the talented host and producer behind other hit podcasts including The West Wing Weekly and Home Cooking. Despite being a musician himself, Hirway never takes center stage in his projects; rather, his signature editing style means that his presence is all but removed from the show. This technique allows for smooth, atmospheric storytelling with genuine multi-genre appeal. Whether you want to dive deep into your favorite song, or learn to appreciate a new artist, a jump into the show’s extensive archive is a rewarding experience.

For fans of: Rick Rubin’s discography

Dissect

From Kanye West’s Yeezus to Blonde by Frank Ocean, Dissect is a podcast that analyzes some of the most important albums of our day. Host Cole Cuchna performs his extensive research through a simple format of one album per season, one song per episode. To “dissect” your favorite record is an act of love, but considering the word also means to “methodically cut something up in order to understand its internal parts,” you can’t deny the morbid connotations. There’s a fine line between celebrating something and tearing it apart, but Dissect‘s approach to musical analysis allows these albums to expand beyond their original meaning.

For its current run, Dissect has changed its usual format. In these “mixtape” seasons, the show explores several tracks that convey a similar theme. Much of the magic remains, though fans of the original model will miss the in-depth analysis.

For fans of: Knowing where the samples came from

Disgraceland

Original ideas can be hard to come by, especially in podcasting. So how’s this for a hook: a music podcast that’s all about true crime. If you’re skeptical, be assured that Disgraceland is no gimmick. This long-running podcast has an extensive archive and numerous awards to prove its bona fides, not to mention an episode list with titles too good not to be click-bait. Dear listener, they’re not. Host Jake Brennan is sincere when he promises the most unbelievable stories about our favorite artists. Jennifer Hudson and a triple homicide. Taylor Swift’s stalkers. Ringo Starr and the Mexican Federales. You’ve got to hear these stories to believe them.

Brennan’s scripts are tightly composed, his delivery laugh-out-loud funny. Is he the Raymond Chandler of podcasting? I can’t see a better contender. Accompanied by pacy background music and top-notch editing, this is a show that sounds best coming through your headphones on your daily commute. Its irresistible rhythm and engaging storytelling make it one of the best-hidden gems in podcasting.

For fans of: “asking questions” about John Lennon’s death

Ongoing History of New Music

The music industry might be filled with pomp and glitter, but Ongoing History of New Music charts its progress with clarity, simplicity and great editing. Host Alan Cross covers all genres in his open-ended study of an industry that ranges from the birth of hip-hop to movie theme songs. Cross makes connections that most would typically overlook, yet these topics prove to be unexpectedly relevant, such as his two-part episode on the politics of music streaming. If you’re a fan of podcasts like Philosophize This!, this show may well become a staple of your feed.

For fans of: Having opinions about vinyl

Daeback Show w/ Eric Nam

For those who aren’t in the know, daeback means “that’s awesome” in Korean. It’s a phrase often used by characters on K-dramas and conveniently sums up the general feeling surrounding K-Pop’s ascension into the American mainstream. It was only a matter of time before the music phenomenon led by groups like BTS broke into the world of podcasting, too.

Enter Daeback Show w/ Eric Nam, a show that’s made for fans of the genre and pretty much nobody else. But despite its specificity, the show maintains a buoyant energy even after a hundred episodes. Born and raised in Atlanta, Nam is the perfect host for a bilingual podcast with huge appeal for diehard K-Pop fans, accustomed as they are with their idols switching between English and Korean in their music. With a smooth voice and charming energy, “podcast host” seems the obvious path for Nam’s career. No doubt, this won’t be the last we see of him.

For fans of: Skipping work to get BTS tickets

Bandsplain

Never understood the appeal of Metallica? What about Radiohead? Tell me I’m not the only one who wonders about the popularity of Kate Bush. Not content with our ignorance, Bandsplain is here to tell us why those cult artists and iconic bands are set to go down in history — and they’ve curated an essential playlist for each episode, just to make sure we get it.

Host Yasi Salek invites a circle of experts onto each episode to argue their case. And for the most part, I’m totally convinced. Part of The Ringer’s growing podcast network, Bandsplain is a music and talk show hybrid that makes the most of being a Spotify exclusive by studding each three-hour episode with track after track of great music. Their crusade might be pedantic, but we should admire this show as a worthy alternative to traditional FM broadcasting.

For fans of: Judging people wearing band tees for “fashion”

Switched On Pop

Ever wondered what made ABBA a global phenomenon? Perhaps you ponder the sudden rise in lyrical lawsuits associated with Gen Z artists? These are the types of questions that occupy the minds behind Switched On Pop, a colorful pop music podcast from Vox and New York Magazine. Hosted by songwriter Charlie Harding and musicologist Nate Sloan, there’s no better duo to break down the trends happening in popular music. But what makes their conversational style truly compelling is the way Harding and Sloan take clips from songs and break down their technical details, before working out how these catchy hooks influenced other areas of music. Only Switched On Pop has convincingly compared the lyrics of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” to those of BTS and Troye Sivan, making it ideal entertainment for those looking to spice up lackluster dinner parties with pop music facts.

For fans of: Praising production value, as if we care

Hit Parade

Hit Parade is a show that goes coast-to-coast and genre-to-genre to ask what makes a good song really sing. With a delightful dose of deadpan humor and the usual high-quality production we can expect from a Slate podcast, Hit Parade reflects on current affairs as an anchor to its bi-monthly trips down music’s memory lane.

Take the episode on country star Garth Brook’s hit “Friends in Low Places.” This chart-topping single wasn’t a fluke, with genre experimentation and playtime on mainstream radio stations contributing to his success. It’s a pattern we see in America’s current embrace of K-Pop, over twenty years later. Ultimately, a song takes more than just talent, luck or timing to make it a smash hit, but what makes Hit Parade a smash podcast is simple. The show is producing the music content you didn’t know you wanted, with a production value that other podcasts forget is needed.

For fans of: Beating your dad at music trivia

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Alice Florence Orr is a staff writer and assistant editor for Podcast Review. She is based in Edinburgh. You can connect with her on Twitter or read her work on aliceflorenceorr.com