Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Beyoncé performing at Coachella in 2018.
Beyoncé performing at Coachella in 2018.
Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images
PodmassPodmassIn Podmass, The A.V. Club sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends the previous week’s best episodes. Have your own favorite? Let us know in the comments or at podmass@avclub.com.

Cautionary Tales
The Rogue Dressed As A Captain

Illustration for article titled WBEZ’s iMaking Beyoncé/i examines the rise of an icon

Learning from other people’s mistakes is one of the easiest ways to save yourself from untold amounts of embarrassment and pain. But with thousands of years of human history to reflect on, it can be difficult to know which mistakes are worthy of consideration or what lessons there are to be learned. In his new podcast from the Pushkin Network, economist Tim Harford guides listeners through humanity’s foibles and fumbles in an effort to impart some wisdom that we can carry forward into the future. While the show affords plenty of opportunities to get a laugh at the expense of dupes who fell victim to convincing conmen or their own hubris, Harford always makes sure to dig deep into the psychological reasoning behind these mistakes. Through reenactments brought to life by a voice cast featuring Alan Cumming, Toby Stephens, and Malcolm Gladwell, listeners will learn about real-life screw-ups, their devastating consequences, and the lasting impact they’ve had on different cultures and communities. These stories serve as a good reminder that none of us are infallible and that we could all stand to learn a thing or two from cautionary tales. [Dan Neilan]

Detective Trapp
All The Missing & Circuits

Illustration for article titled WBEZ’s iMaking Beyoncé/i examines the rise of an icon

Christopher Goffard, the Los Angeles Times writer behind Dirty John, returns with another gripping true-crime series set in California, this time told from the point of view of a lead investigator. Julissa Trapp was talking to a classroom of middle schoolers when a text led her to an Anaheim trash-sorting plant and the biggest case of her career. Along the way, the story is interspersed with scenes of life on the force, from office rituals to religious debates with coworkers to her stand-ins as bait for the vice cops’ prostitution stings. Listeners get plenty of Trapp’s backstory—she was, for example, briefly kicked out of her home as a teenager—which she relays without much flinching. Her own pain prepares her to deal with the worst parts of her job that crop up during the case: the yards of putrid waste she combs through looking for evidence near a corpse, the horror coming from the other side of a phone call where a mother has just learned her daughter is dead. It’s all the traumatic but essential work Trapp must do before she can become the avenging angel to a group of murdered sex workers. [Zach Brooke]

Chapter III & Chapter IV

Illustration for article titled WBEZ’s iMaking Beyoncé/i examines the rise of an icon

Eight years after disappearing from her hometown as a high schooler, Danny (Chloe Grace Moretz) shows up on the doorstep of her closest childhood friend, Becca (Kelsey Asbille). As they catch up, it becomes clear that Danny doesn’t understand what she did to her friends and family by leaving. Despite appearing happy in photos on Instagram, she’s been disconnected from the people in her life due to a boyfriend who doesn’t allow her a phone or access to social media, posting the pictures of her online himself. In episode three, listeners hear an old recording of Danny in a high school therapy session that adds context to her current life. From the creators of Blackout and Carrier, Gaslight is QCODE’s latest suspense-riddled series. As usual, their sound design is immersive, and the entire cast is stellar. However, Gaslight stands out for how gut-wrenchingly relatable it is for anyone who has gotten lost in another person. This podcast has bite-sized episodes averaging 15 minutes each, with new episodes released daily. The entire series will be available to binge over Thanksgiving. [Nichole Williams]

I’m Listening: A Frasier Podcast With Anita Flores
The Worst Frasier Episodes

Illustration for article titled WBEZ’s iMaking Beyoncé/i examines the rise of an icon

Joining host Anita Flores in this episode is comedian Abbi Crutchfield. Flores acknowledges that while she often has to reach out to potential guests about participating, Crutchfield expressed interest in coming on the podcast on her own. Flores chose to focus on the sitcom’s worst episodes for this installment; as Crutchfield notes, when people love a TV show dearly, they get extremely passionate about the things they dislike about it. Listening to the pair go back and forth about Frasier, it makes sense that Flores didn’t need to convince Crutchfield to join her as a guest host: The latter’s enthusiasm for the show’s character dynamics, favorite and least favorite episodes, and appreciation of the series’ theatrical details more than qualify her as an authority perfectly suited to complement Flores’ expertise. [Jose Nateras]

Making Beyoncé
Girls Tyme

Illustration for article titled WBEZ’s iMaking Beyoncé/i examines the rise of an icon

WBEZ Chicago and the team behind 2018 hit Making Obama have returned with their new season, Making Beyoncé. Host Jill Hopkins (a past A.V. Club contributor) kicks things off by delving into the beginning of Beyoncé’s singing career. Interviews with Beyoncé’s parents and childhood friends confirm that she was shy, but that her stage presence was undeniable even from a young age. So why did her first shot at stardom, the girl group Girls Tyme, fall short? We get a glimpse of not just Beyoncé but also the musical landscape when she was growing up. With podcasts that focus on a singular celebrity who doesn’t often appear in the interviews (Making Obama didn’t include an appearance by the former president until the end), there’s a tendency to proliferate a parasocial type of dehumanization, seeing the celebrity as so powerful that they’re beyond privacy or even being treated as a person. Making Beyoncé isn’t perfect in this regard, but its measured journalistic sensibilities keep it from feeling aggrandizing or voyeuristic while still talking about, you know, Beyoncé. [Wil Williams]

Millennials Are Killing Capitalism
Noname’s Book Club

Illustration for article titled WBEZ’s iMaking Beyoncé/i examines the rise of an icon

As evidenced on the latest episode of Millennials Are Killing Capitalism, Chicago rapper Noname appears to be among a generation of young people looking to embrace a more radical politics. Joined by hosts Jay and Josh, Noname brings her own expertise to the show to talk about worker cooperatives, everything that the book Pedagogy Of The Oppressed by Brazilian philosopher Paulo Freire taught her, and more generally why capitalism sucks. She also explains the purpose of Noname’s Book Club and why she believes it’s important to purchase books by small businesses as opposed to Amazon. She also breaks down her critique of American exceptionalism on “Song 32.” Noname is passionate about her ideologies, and she expresses them freely with Jay and Josh, positioning herself as an empathetic person more than purely an artist. The dense conversation that Noname, Jay, and Josh bring to the table invites listeners to take notes and get organized. [Kevin Cortez]

Passable In Pink
Chapter 1: Arrival

Illustration for article titled WBEZ’s iMaking Beyoncé/i examines the rise of an icon

Hey, remember the ’80s? Audible certainly does, as it’s once again teamed up with author Mike Sacks (Stinker Lets Loose!) to bring to life his satirical take on the John Hughes extended universe. Featuring an all-star cast that includes Gillian Jacobs (Community) and Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Passable In Pink is like if a VHS copy of Sixteen Candles had spent the last 30 years warping inside of a hot car. Set in 1983, this funhouse mirror reflection of ’80s excess concerns high schooler Addie Stevens, whose thoughtless yuppie parents have forgotten that it’s the anniversary of her first period. This is the least of her problems, as she has also fallen head over heels for dreamboat Roland McDough, but their relationship could never work because Roland is rich and Addie’s family is only upper-middle-class. Sacks gleefully handles the tropes and problematic tendencies of Hughes’ adolescent operas and takes a particular delight in inventing increasingly bizarre teen lingo that wouldn’t feel out of place in a sci-fi novel. The dreamy synth soundtrack and pristine production immerse listeners in this hysterically over-the-top ode to the holy trinity of ’80s teendom: fashion, hormones, and prom. [Anthony D Herrera]

The Racist Sandwich Podcast
Avec Rien, On Peut Faire Quelque Chose (w/Dany Hellz Kitchen)

Illustration for article titled WBEZ’s iMaking Beyoncé/i examines the rise of an icon

Much has happened in the world of The Racist Sandwich Podcast this year. In February, hosts Soleil Ho and Zahir Janmohamed declared that the socially minded food show was going on indefinite hiatus, as Ho was hired as the restaurant critic at The San Francisco Chronicle, and Janmohamed was decamping to study fiction writing at the University of Michigan. After eight months, Racist Sandwich is back, with longtime producers Stephanie Kuo and Juan Ramirez assuming hosting duties going forward. This episode—only the second of the new batch—is a peach. It features Ramirez in conversation with mononymous French inmate Dany, who has found sanctuary behind bars through his love of cooking. The pair have a thoroughly engaging chat full of passion, philosophy, and a surprising degree of tension, as it is being conducted surreptitiously over Dany’s contraband cell phone. The phone isn’t the only thing Dany has smuggled into the prison, and listeners learn the surprisingly simple ways that he has gotten food items past guards. The episode rides on the combined strengths of Dany’s luminous personality and the joy of knowing that the show’s signature explorations at the intersection of food and culture are far from over. [Ben Cannon]

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