Popcast: Expanding Your Musical Horizons Since 2014

A Podcast Review


Cover Image from the New York Times

In a world of online content, Popcast reigns supreme. When listening to Popcast, a podcast by the New York Times, you can listen to some of the most opinionated people in the world rant about the latest pop culture phenomena while gaining a new appreciation for popular (and unpopular) music. The official description for Popcast on Apple Music is “Popcast…covers the latest in popular music criticism, trends and news”. Despite its name, Popcast does not limit itself to pop. The host, Jon Caramanica, a pop music critic for the New York Times and his guests discuss everything from Tame Impala (“The Unrelenting Space Jams of Tame Impala”, uploaded March 8th, 2020) to blasting rap music (“What Music Should I Listen to in a Crisis”, March, 2020).
Never fear running out of Popcast episodes or not being able to find one you like. There are 271 episodes, dating back to July 31st, 2014. Earlier episodes are hosted both by Caramanica and Ben Ratliff, another music journalist for the New York Times, who left the New York Times and Popcast in 2016 in order to write and teach. Popcast updates every week on Sunday, with episodes ranging from thirty minutes to an hour (and sometimes even longer).
In each episode, Caramanica calls in a few experts to speak on his chosen subject. Some episodes are overviews on artists, such as “Dua Lipa, Dance Pop Crusader” (April, 2020). Some focus on one album, such as “Would Prince Have Wanted His Rough Drafts Made Public? ” (December, 2019), and others discuss music in culture, such as “How Tik Tok is Killing the Radio Songwriter” (January, 2020). My current favorites are “Cardi B Arrives at the Top” (April, 2018) and “What Music Should I Listen to in a Crisis?” (March, 2020). In “Cardi B Arrives at the Top” Caramanica and his guests (Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, Caryn Ganz, Naomi Zeichner, and Joe Coscarelli) provide a view into Cardi’s debut album Invasion of Privacy. They discuss expectations for the album, the other artists featured on it, and how Cardi has evolved since her earlier EPs. In “What Music Should I Listen to in a Crisis?” Caramanica calls several friends and speaks to each briefly about what songs are perfect for our current situation. By the end of the episode, you’ve been treated to more than ten songs and ten conversations about the role of music in a crisis. Even if you don’t get much out of either of these episodes, at least you have a solid playlist for the next week.
No matter the subject, Caramanica and his guests provide informative, thought-provoking information that leads you deeper into how music is made, advertised, sold, and how it is important in the landscape of our society. Many of Caramanica’s guests are his friends as well as experts in their fields, so Popcast feels less like listening to an interview and more like you’re sitting in someone’s living room, listening to old friends have a conversation (especially in “Cardi B Arrives at the Top” when Julianne Escobedo Shepherd describes jumping up and down on her bed the first time she listened to Invasion of Privacy). It’s open and welcoming, and the guests express both the facts and their own opinions, looking at music from every angle.
Overall, Popcast is a solid podcast for any mood. It combines music with discussion, thus making it an easier transition to podcasts if you aren’t used to listening to someone talk for 45 minutes. The conversation is made interesting by guests who not only discuss the facts of a subject but provide their personal opinions on it. The wide variety of music genres and subjects that Popcast covers means it has something for everyone, and even if you don’t listen to every episode, you can find one you like. The next time you’re doing dishes, folding laundry, taking a walk, or just want to do something that doesn’t involve staring at a screen, scroll through the episodes of Popcast on Spotify, Apple Music, or nytimes.com to find one on your favorite artists or current music news.