By Jack Rico
Podcasts have become the new hot medium in media. Its highly engaging approach reaches right into your ears and sequesters itself into the cornerstones of your mind. Many people use it to learn, laugh, explore the unknown or just catch up with what’s happening in the world. It’s all out there and it’s all free. Below are six of my personal favorite podcasts that I listen to frequently. Hope you find them as interesting as I do. If you have any recommendations you think I should listen to, please leave your suggestions on the comments below. Would love to hear them!
Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin: This was the first podcast I got hooked on and the first time I discovered Alec Baldwin was more than just a was a terrific actor, he was an excellent interviewer. What makes his interviewing style so special is that he is a celebrity interviewing celebrities. That level of uniqueness allows for the interviews to be immediately uncommon and interesting. When the guests are not Tinseltown’s elite, notable poets, politicians and CEO’s seem to engage with him as enthusiastically due to his star status. Alec sounds unscripted, off-the-cuff, extracting answers from interviewees regular journalists can’t. It is as an enjoyable and enlightening a show as you can listen to.
Best episode: Listen to Alec’s interview with Billy Joel. It’s the best interview on the Long Island music icon I’ve heard.
TED Radio Hour: My ears were changed forever. This podcast, distilling TED talk themes on why we lie, the meaning of work and topics of the likes, is self-help improvement at its best. Whoever their audio engineer is, provides an artistic sonic elegance to the show that is a brain analeptic. Guy Raz, the quintessential host next-door, possesses an unusual friendly voice. It’s somewhere caught between a teenager hitting puberty and Scooby Doo’s Shaggy. Nevertheless, it’s full of sincerity and empathy and Raz knows how to get the most out of his guests. The result is an educational odyssey into the human psyche that could change the way you currently see the world around you.
Best episode: If you’re someone looking to tap into your creativity, listen to “The Source of Creativity”. It’s an engrossing look at how we can become more creative exactly when we need it.
PopCast: This New York Times podcast hosted by the eloquent pop music critic Jon Caramanica, provides the most cerebral analysis on music as you’ve never heard it before. Let me put it this way, you’ll never hear these academic conversations on popular music on FM radio. To me, this podcast is not meant for the masses, it’s meant for intellectuals looking for understanding on the artistic whims of musicians. Caramanica is an encyclopedia of music knowledge and when he’s joined by the likes of the rest of New York Times panel (Jon Pareles, Joe Coscarelli, Caryn Ganz, Ben Sisario), it can melt your brain… in a fulfilling and illuminating way. I really can’t listen to another music podcast. They’ve ruined other music podcasts for me.
Best episodes: If you want to understand how the music industry ticks and how the most popular and money-making musicians operate, then listen to “Will the Grammy Awards End with a Big Surprise” and “Bruno Mars and The Weeknd, The Past as Muse”. They are all you need.
Pop Culture Happy Hour: This NPR show is strictly for pop culture nerds. And like the New York Times’ Popcast, it is also a cerebral program that is extremely informative, almost professorial. Host Linda Holmes, editor of NPR’s entertainment blog “Monkey See” and the rest of her NPR colleagues, ruminate and deliver on-point observations and analysis on everything from TV, movies, comic books, music and et al. Because of them, I have given TV shows a second shot or re-discovered a film from a whole angle. Same will happen to you.
Best episode: “Hamilton: An American Musical” took 49 minutes to anatomize the uber-phenomenon that was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece. It was a masterclass on distilling how greatness is created.
The Dinner Party Download: Love the cleverness of this program hosted by comedians Rico Gagliano and Brendan Francis Newnam. It’s based on the elements that make up a dinner party. You start by meeting people, telling jokes, listening to music and chatting of current topics. They use that template to structure the show and its flow is just enjoyable. The result is an experience that feels fresh, entertaining and memorable, much like a really good dinner party in Brooklyn.
Best episode: #357 which includes guests Guillermo del Toro, Dave Barry, Jamila Woods. Not only is it a great line-up, Jamila Woods’ musical playlist sent me down a rabbit hole which I still haven’t been able to get out of.
How I Built This: Inspirational and attuned to the intangible elements of entrepreneurship. That’s how I would describe this podcast. If you ever needed motivation to start your own business or have an idea that you think will be a hit, then this is a must listen. It’s hosted by Guy Raz, who also does TED Radio Hour, and uses high-quality audio sophistication to tell these iconic business stories of passion, struggle and overcoming the odds. They almost sound like mini audio-documentaries. Some of the companies he’s already had on the show are the founders of Instagram, Vice, AOL and Zumba to name a few.
Best Episode: Instagram was their second show and I haven’t stopped listening.
Highly Relevant with Jack Rico: If you haven’t heard our podcast yet, I do a weekly recap of the most highly relevant pop culture stories currently on the lips of US Latinos. Movie reviews, music playlists, interviews with celebrities, conversations with fellow journalists about the topics we can’t stop talking about in English or Spanish. It’s for those Hispanics who live a bicultural and bilingual lifestyle and who love to have their finger on the pulse of the American and Latino entertainment scene.
Best Episode: Listen to episode 22 with guests Jose-Díaz Balart from Telemundo and NBC News and singer Tommy Torres. It’s the best description in audio of what being a US Latino is all about.