vulture festival 2023

Song Exploder Won’t Repeat Guests, Even U2

Photo: Getty Images for VOX Media

After exploding more than 250 songs over the course of nearly ten years, it’s about time that the Song Exploder podcast itself got exploded, and that’s exactly what host Hrishikesh Hirway did at Vulture Festival 2023. Speaking to Vulture writer and Good One host Jesse David Fox on November 11, Hirway broke down the minutiae of what goes behind each episode of the music podcast, which deconstructs popular songs by speaking to the artists behind them.

In this deconstructing of deconstruction, Hirway delved into how guests decide which song they’ll explode, adding that the podcast’s no-repeat-guest rule helps encourage them to choose wisely. “Is this the song you want to do, or is there another song that would be more interesting for you to talk about in this way? Because there won’t be another chance,” he said.

But what if U2, who spent their one free exploding pass in 2015 on their freshly released “Cedarwood Road,” came a-calling for a redo? “There have been some big guests where they’re like, We want to do another episode, and I have to say … it just feels like there are too many other people out there who I still haven’t heard from,” he said. “Even if Bono were to call, it’s like … by doing that it closes the door on whoever might have gotten that episode slot.” One love, one life, one Song Exploder episode.

Even if a huge artist agrees to deconstruct one of their huge songs, an episode doesn’t always materialize, since a prerequisite of the show is gaining access to the isolated multi-tracks of the original recording. “That’s where sometimes the conversation ends, because either they don’t exist anymore, or they aren’t willing to share them,” Hirway explains. “Some people are very private about that stuff, or they think that maybe somehow it’ll get proliferated from people listening to the podcast. I’m not really sure … My feeling is that it’s a great thing to share,” he says, pointing to his own experience in music production inspiring him to highlight the details that could otherwise go unnoticed. “I would work so hard on all the different parts … and then in the end, it’s going to be like this tiny little bit of frosting on the cake of the whole song. And I’m like, Is anybody gonna hear all the work that went into that? Wouldn’t it be cool if people could just hear all of that work?” And what better way to hear all that work than exploding it?

Song Exploder Won’t Repeat Guests, Even U2