Whether you are cleaning your home, driving, or doing Pilates, here are both new and trusted series to add to your playlist. Thought provoking podcasts that are funny, analytical, sexy and raw—there’s something for everyone.
Let’s start with some NPR classics.
1. NPR’s Invisibilia
Hosts Alix Spiegel, Hanna Rosin and Lulu Miller are the voices that our superegos need.
As the ultimate of all thought provoking podcasts, it explores all our underlying curiosities, those invisible notions of human nature and society that we place in the backburner. Or better yet, those thoughts we only release in our personal journals. You will be left with one comment after breezing through its four seasons: “Wow, I thought I was the only one!”.
Take the description of my favorite episode from the latest season, “Everything Good”: “We’re living in a polarized world, where picking a side is almost a requirement. But what happens in the space between?”.
It also doesn’t hurt that the hosts sound like your high school best friends. They are approachable, conversational, yet profoundly insightful. Those who crave concreteness, however, don’t be turned off. They bring tangibility to their discussions as well, putting a human face to philosophy, as they combine narrative with scientific facts.
Sometimes humorous, sometimes emotional and always human. Just listen. I promise.
2. NPR’s TED Radio Hour
Calling all TED Talk lovers and soul-searchers alike, there is no need to type “inspirational speeches” on YouTube any longer. You have discovered a shortcut.
The series compiles impactful talks based on their common theme. Instead of spending your time listening to a single insight at a time, you are getting layered perspectives from various talks in a matter of an hour. But not just any simple connection. It is always theme over topic. NPR synthesizes ideas and experiences across all spectrums, something a well-crafted YouTube playlist would fail to accomplish.
Consider the topic of solving for “x”. Sounds nerdy. Sounds mathy. Sounds like a real snooze fest. In actuality, the particular episode is rooted into something deeper, collecting insight from TED speakers who are percussionists, comedians, and comic book creators. You stop snoring. Instead, you begin to contemplate the meaning of variables in your life—in any context, for that matter.
I guess we can call ourselves pretty geeky now.
Lastly, let’s not forget our host Guy Ross. With the man giving you real Hank Green vibes, you cannot go wrong.
3. Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History
That unanimous five-star rating on Apple Podcasts is no joke. Gladwell was who I referring to when I said “sexy” in the beginning of this article. The man’s voice is like high-quality butter—more like lard, actually—silky smooth, raspy and captivating. But I digress.
This isn’t your normal history lecture. He delves into the seemingly insignificant tokens of both historical and current events, utilizing them to redefine facts and preconceived notions. He represents my favorite side of history: subjectivity. From politics, to philosophy, all the way to popular culture, Gladwell is here to spark a conversation among his listeners. He is forcing us to open up to alternate perspectives with a laugh, a sigh and an eyebrow raise.
Oh, you thought a misused semicolon is just a silly mistake in a 1000 page paper? Not to Gladwell. Listen to him explain its implications for 40 minutes. You will never carelessly use a semicolon again.
While you are at it, take notes on his advertising tactics. The man knows how to sponsor a brand! You wouldn’t even realize he’s going into a commercial because he knows how to speak to you. Smooth, smooth guy.
Now that you know what his voice sounds like, go read one of his five bestselling books. As you read every word in his velvet voice, you are in for a treat.
While I never seem to stop talking about the first three thought provoking podcasts, the last two series truly only need an introduction. *drop mic*
One of the few thought provoking podcasts unique of its kind, Dissect is recognized by The Guardian as one of “The 50 Best Podcasts of 2018”. Its title says it all. Cole Cuchna investigates the music production and every single lyric of R&B and hip hop’s most beloved artists. Each episode, one song. Each season, one artist. Cuchna will bring you into the workings of geniuses—showcasing their humanity, their prowess and their songs’ reflections of society.
Okay, enough with my commentary. I will just let the three-season breakdown speak for themselves:
- Season one: Kendrick Lamar and his Grammy-award winning album To Pimp a Butterfly
- Season two: Kanye West and his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
- Season three: Frank Ocean—all of him!
I know, game-changer.
5. Hannibal Buress: Handsome Rambler
Oh Hannibal, the representation of slapstick comedy gone bananas. You may know him from Adult Swim’s “The Eric Andre Show”, where he crashes into walls and then cries as he argues with his “wife”. Also mentioned in The Guardian article, his podcast is fortunately nothing short of w-e-i-r-d. Everything is so wrong that it’s right.
Unscripted, unfiltered and unmistakably Buress, he interviews celebrities, musicians (Chance the Rapper to be exact), and even Eric Andre himself, to join in on his seemingly nonsensical ideas.
Stupid? Never. Funny? Maybe not for everyone. Genius? Always.
Prepare to be confused.