Song Exploder

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Song Exploder
Song Exploder.png
A podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made
Hosted by
GenreMusic podcast
  • Christian Koons
  • Hrishikesh Hirway (Exec.)
No. of episodes229[1] (list of episodes)
Original releaseJanuary 1, 2014 (2014-01-01) – present
WebsiteSong Exploder

Song Exploder is a music podcast created by Hrishikesh Hirway, who hosted it from its 2014 inception until late 2018 and again from December 2019 onwards. In January 2019, Thao Nguyen became a guest host for the year, with Christian Koons serving as producer, and Hirway moving to executive producer. The biweekly show features musicians talking about the creative process behind an individual song while "deconstructing" the song into its component parts. As of 2021, the show's team is composed of host and producer Hirway, illustrator Carlos Lerma, and Music Clearance Director Kathleen Smith.

The podcast launched on the Maximum Fun network, became independent in February 2015 and joined Radiotopia in June 2015.[2][3]


Each episode begins with the host introducing the show's featured musician (or musicians) and giving a brief history of the musical act or television program with which they are associated. The artist then discusses the creative process used in the creation of a particular song. This may include anything from songwriting to recording to post-production. The discussion is interspersed with short clips of separate tracks from the song isolated to illustrate the topics being discussed – for example, the drum track might be played to demonstrate how a particular beat was used in the song. The episode ends by playing a recording of the featured song in its entirety.[4] Hirway edits his side of the conversation out of the recording with the purpose of condensing the contents of the podcast around the song's creation and how the artist brought it to life.


Song Exploder has explored the music of: U2, Metallica, Alicia Keys, Norah Jones, Fleet Foxes, R.E.M., Arcade Fire, Fleetwood Mac, Sheryl Crow, and Dua Lipa, among many more.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]

The podcast has also deconstructed the theme music of: House of Cards, Downton Abbey, and Game of Thrones.[14][15][16]

Furthermore, Song Exploder has analysed the La La Land, Moonlight, and Black Panther film scores.[17][18][19]

In addition to theme music and film scores, the podcast has taken an in-depth look at the Watch Dogs video game music and The Daily podcast theme.[20][21]


The show receives generally positive reception and has been featured at the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, Noise Pop Festival, and Moogfest.Vulture said, "Song Exploder is probably the best use of the podcast format ever," and named it one of the Top 10 Podcasts of 2015.[22] It was also named Best of iTunes in 2015,[23] and Quartz named it the Best Podcast of 2015, saying, "It is possibly the most perfect podcast, really."[24] Pete Naughton of The Daily Telegraph called Song Exploder an "excellent podcast" and placed it on his list of top music podcasts in August 2014.[25] The A.V. Club praised the podcast's "beautiful production and thoughtful editing" in June 2014.[26] It has also received favorable reviews from Spin, Gizmodo, Slate, and The Atlantic.[27]

Creator Hirway has mentioned Song Exploder at prestigious conferences like the Google Design Conference and AIGA Design Conference. In 2016, the Sydney Opera House hosted a Song Exploder Residency.

The show won the 2016 and 2017 Academy of Podcasters award for best music podcast.


Award Year Category Result Ref.
Academy of Podcasters 2015 Music & Commentary Finalist [28]
2016 Won [29]
2017 Music Won
iHeartRadio Podcast Awards 2019 Best Music Podcast Nominated [30]
2020 Nominated [31]
2021 Nominated [32]
2022 Won [33]

TV show[edit]

On September 17, 2020, a television series based on the podcast was announced, which premiered on October 2, 2020 on Netflix,[34] with 4 episodes:

Series overview
SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
Volume 14October 2, 2020 (2020-10-02)
Volume 24December 15, 2020 (2020-12-15)

Volume 1 (2020)[edit]

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
11"Alicia Keys: 3 Hour Drive"October 2, 2020 (2020-10-02)
Far from her newborn son, Alicia Keys collaborates with Sampha, who has just lost his mother. Together, they give a longing melody life.
22"Lin-Manuel Miranda: Wait for It"October 2, 2020 (2020-10-02)
In his quest to capture Aaron Burr's voice, Lin-Manuel Miranda finds his lines on the subway. Many breathless choruses later, can he relate to Burr?
33"R.E.M: Losing My Religion"October 2, 2020 (2020-10-02)
No obvious chorus plus a lead mandolin and handclaps equals the least likely chart-topper of the '90s. R.E.M. looks back at the life-changing track.
44"Ty Dolla $ign: LA"October 2, 2020 (2020-10-02)
Ty Dolla $ign pens a verse in minutes, picks up multiple instruments and brings in Kendrick Lamar and Brandy for this moving love song to his city.

Volume 2 (2020)[edit]

No. in
TitleOriginal air date
51"Dua Lipa: Love Again"December 15, 2020 (2020-12-15)
When a bad breakup spills into the studio, Dua Lipa finds release in high-drama strings, throwback analog synths and memories of her parents' faves.
62"The Killers: When You Were Young"December 15, 2020 (2020-12-15)
Eager to beat the sophomore album slump, the Killers dusted off three chords to capture their desert home of Las Vegas — and mine for pop anthem gold.
73"Nine Inch Nails: Hurt"December 15, 2020 (2020-12-15)
Broken-down sounds, damaged vocals and naked emotion make a chilling coda to a blockbuster LP as Trent Reznor talks about transforming pain into art.
84"Natalia Lafourcade: Hasta la Raíz"December 15, 2020 (2020-12-15)
After stepping back from stardom, Natalia Lafourcade rediscovers her roots, which are planted deep in Veracruz and the rhythm of huapango folk music.

Episode list[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Song Exploder". Song Exploder.
  2. ^ "Thanks to Song Exploder & The Memory Palace". Jesse Thorn: Tumbler. February 16, 2015. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  3. ^ "Song Exploder Joins Radiotopia - PRX". Public Radio Exchange. June 11, 2015. Archived from the original on July 6, 2018. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  4. ^ "Breaking a Song Apart, Note by Note". National Public Radio. All Things Considered. September 18, 2014. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  5. ^ "Episode 42: U2". Song Exploder. June 30, 2015.
  6. ^ "Episode 93: Metallica". Song Exploder. January 6, 2017.
  7. ^ "Episode 101: Norah Jones". Song Exploder. March 30, 2017.
  8. ^ "Episode 109: Fleet Foxes". Song Exploder. June 22, 2017.
  9. ^ "Episode 125: R.E.M." Song Exploder. December 20, 2017.
  10. ^ "Episode 134: Arcade Fire". Song Exploder. April 25, 2018.
  11. ^ "Episode 150: Fleetwood Mac". Song Exploder. December 5, 2018.
  12. ^ "Episode 161: Sheryl Crow". Song Exploder. June 12, 2019.
  13. ^ "Episode 194: Dua Lipa". Song Exploder. October 7, 2020.
  14. ^ "Episode 7: House of Cards". Song Exploder. April 1, 2014.
  15. ^ "Episode 37: Downton Abbey". Song Exploder. May 6, 2015.
  16. ^ "Episode 40: Game of Thrones". Song Exploder. June 11, 2015.
  17. ^ "Episode 92: La La Land". Song Exploder. December 21, 2016.
  18. ^ "Episode 95: Moonlight". Song Exploder. January 30, 2017.
  19. ^ "Episode 131: Black Panther". Song Exploder. March 14, 2018.
  20. ^ "Episode 15: Brian Reitzell". Song Exploder. August 6, 2014.
  21. ^ "Bonus Episode: The Daily from The New York Times". Song Exploder. February 6, 2019.
  22. ^ Quah, Nicholas (December 11, 2015). "The 10 Best Podcasts and 10 Best Podcast Episodes of 2015". Vulture. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  23. ^ Kelley, Seth (December 9, 2015). "Apple's iTunes Best of 2015 list for podcasts includes a ton of LA-based favorites". Time Out. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  24. ^ Staff, Quartz (December 30, 2015). "The Casties: Quartz's awards for the best podcasts of 2015". Quartz. Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  25. ^ Naughton, Pete (August 26, 2014). "The best music podcasts". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on February 21, 2018. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  26. ^ "Ice T's Final Level joins the 'masses, talks Manslaughter and Maya Angelou". The A.V. Club. The Onion. June 16, 2014. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  27. ^ "Press". Song Exploder. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  28. ^ "2015 AofP Winners and Finalists". Academy of Podcasters. Podcast Movement. 2015. Archived from the original on October 14, 2016.
  29. ^ "Academy of Podcasters: Past Winners". Academy of Podcasters. Archived from the original on October 3, 2017.
  30. ^ "2019 iHeartRadio Podcast Awards: Full List of Winners". iHeart. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  31. ^ "2020 iHeartRadio Podcast Awards: Full List of Winners". iHeart. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  32. ^ "2021 iHeartRadio Podcast Awards: Full List of Winners". iHeart. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  33. ^ "2022 iHeartRadio Podcast Awards: See The Full List of Winners". iHeart. Retrieved 2022-04-27.
  34. ^ ""Song Exploder" - Official Trailer". The Futon Critic. September 17, 2020.

External links[edit]