The Ultimate Guide to Music Analysis on the Internet
I love music. I don't just love listening to music, I enjoy understanding the thought process behind the lyrics, the history and the references. I spend time finding out how the beat was constructed and the creative process that led to the creation of this body of work.
Because of this hobby, I have compiled a list of my favourite websites, podcasts and YouTube channels that focus on music analysis, artist interviews and music history.
Starting off with the OG, Genius has taken the music world by storm. It is THE place to go to if you want music lyrics. The great thing about Genius is that it created a community of people who interpret lyrics and share their interpretations. It also allowed artists to add their thought process and verify theories about the songs.
It is worth noting that Genius is not focused on a specific genre, making it a great website for everyone!
For example, on Kendrick Lamar’s money trees, every verse is analysed and cross-referenced to other relevant work. A video of the producer, DJ Dahi, is also embedded to explain the beat. Not only that, tweets and excerpts from news headlines are also embedded to create a more complete image of the artwork.
Another example is Hotel California by The Eagles. This classic is analysed by contributors and interview snippets with Don Henley are included.
Genius is great because they expanded this idea of understanding lyrics to Spotify where the concept of ‘Go Behind the Lyrics’ was born. In this integration, facts and notes from the artist are shown while the song is playing. This creates an artist-listener relationship and adds a layer of depth to the song.
Below is a playlist with all the songs where the ‘Go Behind The Lyrics’ concept was implemented (it is 261 hours long!).
Reddit is not a website for music, it’s a website for pretty much everything. I like going to Reddit to read fan theories about albums and the meaning behind them. I read 2 really interesting theories on Reddit about The Weeknd’s Trilogy and Childish Gambino’s 3.15.20.
Because of Reddit’s structure, you can go to subreddits where people with similar interests discuss topics.
The podcast category is probably my favourite. I personally use Spotify to listen to podcasts but most of the podcasts mentioned below can be found on other platforms.
Dissect is a music analysis podcast hosted by Cole Cuchna. In each season of the podcast, an album or body of work is dissected and analysed from start to finish. Not only that, the visuals that accompany the album (if available) are also analysed to give a holistic view of the art and the thought process behind it.
I personally listened to most seasons of Dissect but my absolute favourite season is Season 3 where Cole Cuchna dissected Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange and Blond (or Blonde).
The level of depth and research that the podcast goes into definitely takes the listener on a journey that encompasses history, culture, literature and beyond.
MIC/LINE is a podcast hosted by Emmanuel Maduakolam. In his podcast, Emmanuel delivers in-depth interviews with artists where they discuss inspiration, challenges and their lives.
The first episode I listened to was an interview with 6LACK, an American singer, rapper and song-writer. They discussed everything from inspiration for creating music, how having a child affected 6LACK and the Atlanta rap scene.
*Note: 6LACK is pronounced BLACK
Maduakolam has a unique way of connecting with his guests and having a conversation that flows naturally and does not feel forced or scripted. I really enjoy listening to his interviews. Although the purpose is not to analyse or understand the music, learning more about the artist and their life creates new meaning to the music.
Song Exploder is a podcast hosted by Hrishikesh Hirway. In Song Exploder, musicians take apart their songs and explain how they were made.
I came across Song Exploder when I was trying to understand the music and lyrics behind Tame Impala’s latest album, The Slow Rush. On the specific episode I listened to, Kevin Parker took apart ‘It Might Be Time’, one of the songs in The Slow Rush.
I really like that Hirway focuses on the construction of the beat as much as the lyrics. After listening to that episode, I listened to the same song again and felt like I was listening to it for the first time!
*Note: Song Exploder is also available on Netflix
1. Nathan Zed
Nathan Zed makes videos about many things, including music. His take on it is very interesting as he analyses things that many consider secondary to the music itself, such as album covers, album sequencing and many other similar topics.
In his music-related videos, he presents examples to support his idea in a very relatable and engaging way.
2. Shawn Cee
I recently discovered Shawn Cee’s channel as it was recommended to me by the YouTube algorithm (because all I do is watch music analysis videos).
Shawn’s channel is mainly song and album reviews. He is always up to date with what’s new, specifically in the hip-hop and RnB scenes.
My favourite thing about Shawn Cee’s channel is that the minute something big happens in music, you can expect a video about it within a few days. He is always quick to cover new stories and review albums, making it really interesting to see if you agree on an album/song or have different views on it.
Pitchfork is a YouTube channel dedicated to documenting music. In their ‘About’ section on YouTube, they describe their channel as:
“With programming ranging from Exclusively Produced Music Videos, Short Films, Documentaries, Animation, Live Streaming Concerts / Festivals, and Episodic Series, Pitchfork TV is the destination for music lovers of all kinds.”
I came across Pitchfork when looking for videos on Masego’s Tadow. Pitchfork’s video was the first in the search results. I love how most of their videos with artists don't feel like an interview but rather a conversation between the artist and the viewer. The artist can talk freely about the inspiration behind their work and the visuals (e.g. audio signal shown in thumbnail below) help deliver the artist’s vision more clearly.
What makes music so beautiful is that it is up to the interpretation of the listener. In my opinion, listening to and understanding other people’s interpretations creates an additional layer of depth and connection to the music.
Do you have a favourite music-related website, podcast or YouTube channel?