By John Saeger
Hrishikesh Hirway has made his mark as a podcast host, musician, and television composer. All three of his artistic endeavors blend together on the new Netflix series Song Exploder. Inspired by his podcast of the same name, Hirway’s show elevates his exploration of the creative process.
The podcast edition of Song Exploder began in 2014. The series is a must-listen for music nerds looking to glean some insight into an artist’s creative process. Hirway has hosted conversations with artists ranging from Solange to The Lumineers. Each episode provides an accessible look behind the curtain that does not leave non-musicians lost in the technicality of Pro Tools or other recording mediums.
Starting in October of 2020, Song Exploder is now a Netflix series that provides a more complete glimpse at how music is made. As good as Hirway’s podcast is, adding the visual element turns each episode into a mini-documentary. What was a brilliant filler for a commute cannot compete with the spectacular camerawork that adds another layer to the show. Watching the glow on the face of Alicia Keys as she puts a song together or R.E.M. recall the process behind “Losing My Religion” is a tremendous viewing experience.
Song Exploder is not that dissimilar from another Netflix series. Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee allows viewers to spend a little time with some of the most creative minds in comedy. While lacking beautiful shots of hot coffee pouring into mugs, the shows similarly provide viewers with a sense of each artist. The range of the episodes in each program also keeps the content fresh.
The first run of the show has artists from a variety of musical backgrounds. Rock, hip-hop, broadway, and R&B are all featured in the first season. New and old work is examined in each episode. By not devoting time to the minutiae of deep cuts and B-sides, the series allows for a more targeted snapshot of music.
The first season episodes For Song Exploder are:
- Alicia Keys and Sampha, “3 Hour Drive”
- Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Wait For it”
- R.E.M., “Losing My Religion”
- Ty Dolla $ign, “LA”
The shows end with a video of each song. This creative stamp is not that dissimilar to HBO’s Sonic Highways, a series that wrapped each episode with a Foo Fighters performance and a script of its lyrics. Casual viewers can drop in on any episode without worrying about continuity and just enjoy artists talking about their work.
Like the podcast, the Song Exploder streaming series has a little something for everyone. It is a plus edition to the Netflix catalog that begs to be renewed for a second season. Aside from full-length documentaries, there is a dearth of regular music programming on the streaming service that Song Exploder fills in spectacularly.
Find Song Exploder Online:
About the Author: John Saeger is a music and film writer from Philadelphia. Since 2017 he has been writing his pop-culture blog Long After Dark, a site dedicated to the arts in the City of Brotherly Love and beyond. Email / Twitter