By Lakshmi Hutchinson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Fascinating behind-the-music pod; some mature content.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this podcast.
Exposes listeners to genres of music they may have never heard before, and explains musical and production terms that may be unfamiliar (like what a musical director does). Hearing how songs are crafted, from the lyrics to the chords and beats, shows the process of songwriting.
Includes messages of creativity and teamwork. There are endless ways to write a song. There's strength in vulnerability. Collaboration can bring out the best in people and their creativity.
Positive Role Models
Many of the artists featured talk about positive collaboration and teamwork. Madonna and producer Stuart Price discuss bringing out the best in each other when they worked together and how they didn't need drinking or drugs to make a hit song. Artists show their different creative processes and prove that everyone has their own style and there's not right or wrong way to make a song. Each artist and producer demonstrates passion and love for their art. Some artists share how their music helped them get through a difficult situation in their life.
Musical artists of different races, genders, nationalities and ages are featured on this podcast. There are several artists from the LGBTQ+ community. A wide range of musical genres are represented, from hip hop to indie rock to Afrobeats. Janelle Monáe discusses being a queer Black woman in America, and how that has impacted her songwriting. The host, Hrishikesh Hirway, is the son of Indian immigrants. We hear from women who've been successful in their music careers even when others doubted them. Halsey talks about becoming a parent while not losing yourself as an independent woman.
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Violence & Scariness
Some song lyrics and interviews discuss thoughts of self-harm. This is often in the context of an artist dealing with trauma and coming out of a bad place. There are content warnings in the beginning of all episodes with these topics.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some songs (and discussions of songs) reference love, sex, and relationships.
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Some episodes contain swearing in the interviews or lyrics, including the use of "f--k", "s--t", slut and more. These episodes are marked explicit and the host gives a content warning at the start of the episode.
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Products & Purchases
Brief advertisements for things like car insurance or website hosts.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some references to alcohol and drug abuse in lyrics. Some of the musical artists talk about their own experiences with drugs, alcohol and substance abuse.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Song Exploder is a music-based podcast that inspired the Netflix docuseries of the same name as well as the Spanish-language podcast Canción Exploder. Each episode a musical artist or group shares how one of their songs was created from start to finish. From the lyrics to the beats to the chords, each episode's featured song is broken down and explained, with inspiring stories about collaboration and the songwriting process. There are strong themes of creativity, teamwork and perseverance throughout each episode. The show covers a wide range of musical genres (Afrobeats, jazz, indie rock, hip hop, and more) and highlights artists of different backgrounds like Arooj Aftab, who was the first Pakistani artist to win a Grammy, and Janelle Monáe, who discusses how being a queer Black woman has influenced her music. Some episodes may be suitable for listeners of all ages, while others (which have content warnings) may have strong language or contain references to substance abuse or thoughts of self-harm. This is a great show for adults and kids to listen to together.
Where to Listen
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What’s It About?
In each episode of SONG EXPLODER, a musical artist or band members break down exactly how one of their songs was made. The host, Hrishikesh Hirway, provides some background information on the song and artist, and then we hear the artist speak in detail about the songwriting process. Janelle Monáe shares how she initially records her ideas in a voice memo on her phone. Madonna and producer and DJ Stuart Price tell the story of their collaboration, and how she got ABBA's permission to sample one of their songs for her 2005 hit "Hung Up." Singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett shares the deeper meaning behind the lyrics of "Depreston." At the end of each episode, the song is played in full without interruption. Within the podcast there's a short sub-series called "Book Exploder", where authors share the writing process and inspiration behind their books.
Is It Any Good?
This is a fantastic podcast for people who appreciate music and songwriting, or for those who may enjoy hearing interesting stories told by the artists themselves. Song Exploder really stands out for its diversity. You'll hear from artists of different backgrounds, cultures, ages, and genders. Some speak about how their identity comes through in their music. Janelle Monáe discusses how being a queer Black woman in America has shaped her outlook and songwriting.
There's a diversity of musical genres represented, including hip-hop, classic rock, Afrobeats, and film scores. In one episode the members of Swedish indie band Peter Bjorn and John tell the hilarious story of their song "Young Folks," and how the famous whistling was just supposed to be a placeholder. Even if you don't know the artist or genre, once you hear the backstory you'll be excited to hear the song by the end of the episode.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how many of the solo artists featured on Song Exploder collaborate with others to achieve their artistic visions. How can working with a team help an artist? Can you recall a time when you worked with a team and they helped to inspire or motivate you?
Some of the musicians on the podcast are inspired by or even sample other artists. How do artists, as well as others who use songs in their content, make sure the original artists gets credit? Why is this important?
The Song Exploder podcast has now led to a Netflix show of the same name. How does listening to a podcast differ from watching a TV show for you?
This podcast promotes teamwork. Why is that an important character strength?
- Release date: January 1, 2014
- Genre: Music
- Average Run Time: 15 minutes
- Website: https://songexploder.net/
- Host: Hrishikesh Hirway
- Publishers: Radiotopia, PRX
- Pricing structure: Free
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Music and Sing-Along
- Character Strengths: Teamwork
- Last updated: March 24, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Listen
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