If you’re a longtime podcast fan, chances are good that you (like me) freaked out when news dropped about juggernaut music streaming service Spotify purchasing the fledgling podcast company Gimlet in 2019. (Hey, change is scary!) Would the acquisition change the high-quality independent output that Gimlet was known for? Would your favorite niche podcast get scrapped in favor of something more crowd-friendly?
Turns out, the only change that has happened is that more cool podcasts have shown up alongside our perennial favorites, while said favorites now have more resources to do what they do well. Plus, there’s the added benefit that more of our favorite streaming content is available in the same app. Sometimes, change is good.
As you’d expect, there are way too many great Spotify podcasts for us to review them all, but here are the ones we’ve been particularly enjoying over the past year:
How’s Work? with Esther Perel
The inimitable couples therapist Esther Perel applies her keen insights on relationships to the workplace. Each episode is a real-life therapy session with a professional “couple” who is dealing with issues like starting or dissolving a company, navigating a professional stigma, or getting past communication and productivity problems. It’s fascinating to see how the same principles that make for a strong romantic partnership also apply to being a good coworker.
Music lovers, prepare to geek out. In each episode, Los Angeles musician Hrishikesh Hirway picks a popular song, calls up the artist, and has them dissect their tune like a frog in biology class. Everything from BPMs to lyrical content to where it fits in the artist’s journey gets discussed. This look behind the creative process is a great way to get more out of your best-loved albums, and an even better way to discover new favorites. If you’re passionate about music, you’ll find plenty to love about this podcast, not to mention plenty of tinder for fiery musical debates.
Produced by the investigative team behind HBO’s The Jinx, this true-crime podcast shines a light on the seedy underbelly of metropolitan power brokering. The first season, set in Providence, Rhode Island, focuses on the story of Providence’s beloved mayor Buddy Cianci, who transformed the city in his early years but quickly fell into the hands of the very greed and corruption he’d promised to eliminate. True accounts from mobsters, cops, and reporters relay tales of shocking violence and cruel manipulation that make The Sopranos look like kid stuff.
Yo, Is This Racist?
At last, there’s a place where we can take this important but socially unacceptable question. Based on the popular blog of Comedy Central writer Andrew Ti, this show sees Ti answering shockingly candid questions with equally shocking candor. Guiltily hilarious, frequently profane, and deeply enlightening, Yo Is This Racist? was lauded by Vox as a podcast that everyone should be listening to, and we have to agree. Not only will you get the targeted help you might need (no, a white guy should not dress up as Nick Fury for Halloween) but you’ll absorb some guiding principles that will help you be a better person.
Why Won’t You Date Me? with Nicole Byer
If you’ve ever thought about doing a High Fidelity-style audit of your love life, first, don’t, and second, subscribe instead to Why Won’t You Date Me? Comedian Nicole Byer launches a deep investigation into why she’s still single, despite having so much going for her. Byer bravely invites friends, fellow comedians, and yes, even exes onto the show to help her figure out why (true story) Match.com told her she was unmatchable. It’s funny, it’s sexy, it’s sometimes uncomfortable, and it helps answer the question we’ve all pondered when the romance well runs dry.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
Veteran political commentator Dan Carlin brings his years of experience and insight to a long-form discussion of historical periods and events, as well as their lasting impact on today’s global culture. If you snoozed through history in high school, Hardcore History will wake you up. Carlin unwraps the layers of sociopolitical intrigue and lobs ponderous questions that press home the urgent relevance of the past. When we say “long-form,” we’re not joking around — each episode is several hours long — but it’s also uniquely riveting, and not just because Carlin’s Deep Throat-style delivery makes you feel like you’re receiving a top-secret transmission. Trust us, you’ll be finding more reasons to run errands and more chores to get done, just so you can keep listening.
Single, dating, complicated, married — no matter where we are in our relationship status, we can all benefit from the sage advice and cathartic snark that Dan Savage is known for. For decades, the Seattle-based journalist has been doling out relationship advice with the toughest of tough-love. You may have read his column in The Stranger, but the podcast format offers a far more intimate setting for Savage’s inimitable personality to shine. Some of the callers’ situations will curl your hair with their tangled complications and sexual deviance, but Savage treats every romantic problem with the same affectionate contempt, making his often surprising advice relatable to everyone who is in love or wants to be.
Terrible, Thanks For Asking
Ever get tired of saying, “I’m fine,” when someone asks, “How are you?” So does Nora McInerny, and this podcast is her way of flipping the script. Loss, trauma, pain, physical and mental illness, death — it’s all here, laid out in the light of day for all to see. And strangely, when the pain of being human is examined in the company of those who share it, it feels a little less painful. TTFA features real-life stories from people who have experienced the same shit you have, as well as people who have endured things you can’t even imagine. Listening to them, however, is far from depressing. Instead, McInerny’s empathy, honesty, and humor manage to leave each episode on an unexpected high note. If you frequently feel like you’re dying on the inside, this show could help bring you back to life.
The Decade Wrapped
Given the immense volume of data that Spotify collects about its users’ musical preferences, it only seems right to use that data to create something worth hearing. Rather than yet another algorithmic playlist, Spotify went with a new original podcast that takes a closer look at artists, songs, and musical trends that dominated the past ten years, according to user data. Hosted by Eric Eddings of The Nod, The Decade Wrapped invites critics, comedians, influencers, and writers to offer their insights on things like how Nicki Minaj triggered a rise in female-driven pop or the cultural repercussions of Kendrick Lamar’s introspection-fueled To Pimp a Butterfly.
The Brilliant Minds Podcast
This Spotify Original podcast was inspired by an annual conference held in the company’s hometown of Stockholm, Sweden. Like the conference, Brilliant Minds brings together guests from the worlds of business, technology, art, music, and science to talk about how innovation and technology can function as a platform for a better future. Host Natalie Brzezinski, who serves as CEO of the Brilliant Minds Foundation, interviews worldwide thought leaders and creative minds with no agenda beyond spreading the seeds of great ideas in hopes of helping build a future where everyone can thrive.
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