These days it feels like everyone and their mother has launched one of the “best podcasts ever”—with each comically niche (and distinctly millennial) topic being dissected through the medium. Wondering how to care for your succulents? There’s a podcast for that. Keen to break down every caffeine-fuelled pop-culture reference in Gilmore Girls? The Gilmore Guys are here for you. Trying to figure out which case of natural wine to order? You’ve got options, my friend.
The only problem, as ever, is narrowing down the best podcasts to listen to from the countless series out there—and there are some truly great podcasts worthy of your attention right now. Take 1619, a genius exploration of the many ways in which the slave trade has shaped American society, or Where Should We Begin?, in which therapist Esther Perel helps real-life couples navigate difficulties in their relationships.
No matter what your interests, read on to find your new favourite series courtesy of Vogue’s in-depth guide to the best podcasts to listen to in 2021, including five from Singapore.
The Best True Crime Podcasts
If Martin Scorsese made a podcast, it would probably sound something like Crimetown. Each season is devoted to analysing the history of mafia-related crime in a different American city, starting with Providence. Hosts Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier’s investigation into the mob in Rhode Island’s capital brings to light truly staggering connections between the infamous Patriarca family and a number of high-profile politicians in the state—including former mayor Buddy Cianci.
In a nursing home in San Diego, a patient known only as Six-Six Garage lies in a vegetative state after a near-fatal car accident, with police labelling him only as an “undocumented” Mexican immigrant. Fifteen years after his initial crash, reporter Joanne Faryon dedicates herself to finding out the truth about his identity and the people he left behind—the beginning of a shocking investigation into the history of his case. Gripping, timely, and important.
In The Dark
Produced by American Public Media, In The Dark combines truly masterful storytelling with powerful investigative journalism. Each series homes in on a crime with national significance, including that of African-American Curtis Flowers, who was convicted of murder by an all-white jury and sentenced to death in Mississippi in 2010, in spite of the fact that he maintained his innocence. In The Dark’s probing research into his trial brought to light key misconduct on the part of the District Attorney’s team, ultimately leading to the case going to the Supreme Court.
The Last Days of August
At the end of 2017, 23-year-old adult film star August Ames committed suicide after her Tweets about refusing to work with men who shot gay porn were met with widespread backlash. In The Last Days of August, journalist Jon Ronson (The Psychopath Test) both delves into her backstory and explores the many hierarchies implicit within the porn industry today in a way that’s sensitive, enlightening, and deeply empathetic. Listen to it from start to finish, then download Ronson’s earlier podcast The Butterfly Effect, which looks at the tech industry’s transformation of the adult film world.
Could you help locate a missing person? That’s exactly what this tense series hosted by Pandora Sykes asks of its listeners. Each episode focuses on a different case, stitching together beguiling clues about their last known whereabouts as well as the emotional testimonies of friends and family, and implores the public to come forward with more information. As theories are explored, dismissed and revisited, it will keep you on the edge of your seat and buoyed by the fact that the final piece of the puzzle might be found at any moment.
A Brief Case
Home-grown true crime podcast A Brief Case knows a simple fact of the horror genre: Asian ghosts are scariest. Host Teddy covers local and regional cases of gruesome murders, shocking massacres and even the occasional self-confessed cannibal. Each episode goes into the details of and theories around a different case, peppered with Teddy and her guest’s commentary. True crime shouldn’t be funny, but with their witty comments and sardonic observations, you won’t be able to help a few laughs.
The Best History Podcasts
This five-part 2019 project from The New York Times garnered significant attention for its in-depth examination of the realities of being black in America—400 years after the first enslaved Africans arrived on the continent. Bringing together a prominent panel of guests, including Harvard historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad and novelist Yaa Gyasi, the series looks at topics as varied as politics, the economy, public health, and land ownership. It is utterly brilliant.
Part family history, part political drama, American comedian Chris Garcia tells the story of his recently departed father, a Cuban refugee who built a life in the US after surviving Castro’s labour camps. Incredibly touching and poignant—as well as laugh-out-loud funny in parts.
If Jewels Could Talk with Carol Woolton
Writer, author and editor Carol Woolton shares her invaluable knowledge of jewellery and gemstones in her new podcast, If Jewels Could Talk with Carol Woolton. The British Vogue contributing editor invites some of the best in the business to explore past eras, future design and more. “Jewels are the starting point to discuss past eras, romance, lost fortunes, revolution, precious stones and personal histories,” she says.
The Best Culture Podcasts
You’re Wrong About
Hosted by journalists Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall, You’re Wrong About podcast aims to debunk myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings about some of the world’s greatest events and prominent figures. From Princess Diana and Monica Lewinsky to Yoko Ono being blamed for breaking up the Beatles, they’re obsessed with putting the past to right.
The hilarious Demi Adejuyigbe and Kevin T Porter dissect the Gilmore Girls—kind of. Part intense analysis, part mockery, part launch-off point to talk about everything else under the sun (typically joined by comedians like Doug Benson and Lauren Lapkus), you’re guaranteed to laugh at each episode.
Food 4 Thot
A group of four multiracial queer men, all writers, talk irreverently about sex, identity, culture, and who and what to read. There are no limits here, and no barriers—see their in-depth discussion of whether Virginia Woolf would have been a top.
The Great Women Artists
Katy Hessel—an up-and-coming art historian who works on special projects and exhibitions at Victoria Miro Gallery—celebrates female artists and their work through interviews with key figures in the art world: Tate Modern director Frances Morris talks fine artist Agnes Martin; British painter Celia Paul opens up her live-in studio; and Ami Bouhassane recalls her grandmother, Lee Miller.
There are more than 200 archival episodes of BBC Radio 4’s Bookclub—also known as the ultimate podcast for bibliophiles. Listen to host James Naughtie in conversation with some of the greatest authors in the world, followed by questions from an audience of readers. Past guests include Don DeLillo, Jay McInerney, Muriel Spark, Jonathan Franzen, Michael Chabon, Elizabeth Strout, Naomi Alderman, and Donna Tartt.
The Apology Line
In Manhattan, for 14 years people called to anonymously apologise for something. In The Apology Line, the series delves into the line, and the creator at the other end who was ultimately consumed by his own creation. Hosted by Marissa Bridge (she was married to its creator), the six-episode series discusses empathy, deception and the content of thousands of calls.
Welcome to the OC, Bitches!
Rachel Bilson and Melinda Clarke—aka Summer Roberts and Julie Cooper on The OC—spent lockdown recording a podcast together. Each episode of Welcome to the OC, Bitches! recalls a particular episode of the much-loved Noughties series. Expect cameos from former cast members, writers, musicians, and “the many people that made The OC the cultural phenomenon that it is today”.
What does it take to direct a large-scale event like the National Day Parade (NDP) in Singapore? To find out, tune into Esplanade’s podcast, Offstage. Ranging from interviews with performing arts veterans (and former NDP creative directors) uncovering behind the scenes of the Singapore’s most prominent events, to features on up and coming artistes, this series covers broad ground in the local arts scene.
Yah Lah BUT…
Run by Haresh & Terence from comedy house Ministry of Funny, this is a podcast sure to leave you in stitches. Episodes see the hosts dissecting pop-culture headlines in Singapore, from social media controversy to new COVID-19 restrictions. As a special treat, look out for interviews with the best artists and personalities in Singapore—including their latest instalment with Yung Raja.
The Best Food Podcasts
Even if you have no interest in being in a kitchen at this particular moment, Samin Nosrat is a joy to listen to on Home Cooking, a podcast launched in response to the Covid-19 lockdown. In between witty banter and pun-filled exchanges with her co-host, Hrishikesh Hirway, the Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat mastermind answers questions from listeners about transforming store cupboard staples into moreish dishes. If you’ve ever found yourself staring at a bag of dried chickpeas, wondering what on earth to do with them, download this immediately.
HOSTEing by Laura Jackson
Laura Jackson’s monthly supper clubs are a masterclass in entertaining. For her first-ever podcast, she sits down with fellow celebrated hosts and lifestyle obsessives to chat vintage interiors finds; up-and-coming travel destinations; and the best restaurants around the world. On the guest list for the first season? Renowned chef Anna Jones, fashion PR Daisy Hoppen, and design favourite Fiona Leahy.
At The Table
Hosted by editor Miranda York and poet Anna Sulan Masing, At The Table is all about good food and great writing. Highlights from the first season include readings by the likes of Marina O’Loughlin on working at Glasgow’s famous restaurant The Ubiquitous Chip, to The Sportsman’s Stephen Harris on his revolutionary Kentish cuisine. The best part of the series, however, is the quick-witted banter between York and Masing, touching on everything from Wetherspoons to MFK Fisher’s brilliant suggestion to leave tangerines on top of a radiator.
Desert Island Dishes
If you’ve been a long-standing fan of Desert Island Discs then this is one for you. Hosted by chef and food writer Margie Nomura, instead of chatting about all things music-related, this series gets serious about one thing: food. With guest appearances from the likes of Nadiya Hussain and Alice Liveing, it’s certainly worth a listen while you’re cooking in the kitchen.
The Best Comedy Podcasts
Call Your Girlfriend
With a new episode dropping every Friday, this long-running (and frequently hilarious) podcast takes the form of a weekly phone call between long-distance best friends Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow to chat about every conceivable element of culture today, from watching Love Is Blind to the abject terror of filing your taxes unaided. It also includes powerful interviews with the likes of Chanel Miller, the victim in the Brock Turner trial.
If you’re finding the news utterly terrifying, listening to Hysteria is a good way to reassure yourself that you’re by no means alone. Hosted by politically savvy American comedian Erin Ryan, it sees different female guests join her each week to discuss the most insane moments from the last seven days through a wonderfully feminist lens—tackling everything from the White House to sexism in rom-coms. Its tagline says it all, “Women: 51 percent of the population and 100 percent of this podcast.”
Set on Mars in the year 2072, MarsCorp follows hilarious female protagonist E. L. Hob as she is sent to help terraform the red planet—only to find a dysfunctional society cut off from Earth that she must learn to live in if she is to complete her vital mission… Perfect for anyone who loves dark British comedy.
My Dad Wrote A Porno
What would you do if your dad wrote a pornographic novel? This was the question Jamie Morton asked himself back in 2015. His answer: read it out loud with two friends and broadcast it for the world to hear. Each episode follows Jamie and his friends sharing a chapter of his father’s (pen name “Rocky Flintstone”) erotic novella Belinda Blinked, leading to genuine laugh-out-loud moments as they critique and analyse his handiwork. It’s so successful it’s now inspired an HBO Comedy Special, notching up more than 250 million downloads along the way.
The trillion-dollar wellness industry is the subject of this insightful, side-splitting podcast from comedians Kate Berlant and Jacqueline Novak. Each week, the two friends try new products, obsess over bizarre trends, consult healers and dissect our global fascination with self improvement. From snail mucin and hard kombucha to hypersomnia and astral projection, their meandering and unfiltered conversations cover almost everything, and are an utter delight to listen to.
The Best Interview Podcasts
London-based designer Irene Agbontaen has built her career around celebrating diversity in all its forms—both in fashion and society more broadly. Her brilliant podcast, TTYA Talks, features her in conversation with a wealth of similarly inspiring women from across the worlds of art and sport, from Neelam Gill to Maya Jama, Julie Adenuga to FKA Twigs.
This highly engaging podcast presents in-depth weekly interviews with heavyweight writers about their work and process. There’s also a decade’s worth of archival episodes to work your way through, featuring Michael Lewis, Gay Talese, Susan Orlean, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Evan Wright and Malcolm Gladwell, among others.
Hear to Slay
Described as the “ black feminist podcast of your dreams”, hosts Roxane Gay and Tressie McMillan Cottom sound-off on celebrity, culture, politics, art, life, and love in Hear to Slay. One for listeners who like to be challenged, and enjoy a side of laughter with their politics. Previous guests include the brilliant Ava DuVernay and Elaine Welteroth.
In The Third Person
The Streets’s Mike Skinner and long-time collaborator Murkage Dave attempt to uncover celebrities’ real feelings about their lives in this series of candid and laidback interviews that are as likely to take place in a West End pub as a studio or office. Among those who have spoken about their personal lives so far? Liam Gallagher, Alexa Chung and SBTV mogul Jamal Edwards.
About Race With Reni Eddo-Lodge
Author Reni Eddo-Lodge invites us to continue the conversation she started with her bestselling 2017 book, Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, with her excellent podcast series featuring leading anti-racism activists from the past decade.
Grounded With Louis Theroux: Series Two
Having launched his first podcast last year, Grounded With Louis Theroux, in 2021 Theroux is back with a second series. With guests such as writer Michaela Coel, actor Miriam Margolyes and musician FKA twigs, the documentary-maker’s return is just as good as the first in 2020.
Journalist Terri White published her memoir, Coming Undone, in 2020, detailing childhood trauma and personal struggles. In her podcast, which has the same names, she interviews guests about the obstacles they’ve overcome—like illustrator Laura Dockrill, who opens up to White about her battle with postpartum psychosis.
The Best Feminist Podcasts
How did women in positions of power manage to shatter the glass ceiling? Dropping every Wednesday, this podcast from US-based Politico takes an equal parts practical and inspiring look at the varied answers from guests as diverse as the US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, bestselling author Jodi Picoult, former president of Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards and actor Jane Fonda.
The Guilty Feminist
Essential listening for any feminists who find themselves using the phrase “I’m a feminist, but…” (The show actually starts with a segment in which host Deborah Frances-White and her guests finish that sentence to genuinely hilarious effect.) By turns funny, moving, motivating and eye-opening, this podcast (and the live shows from which it is recorded each week) has created a community of feminists for whom no topic is out of bounds and where judgment is off the table.
Unsubscribe The Podcast
When Bumble wanted to launch its own podcast on mental health and positivity last year, it turned to Vogue’s publishing director Vanessa Kingori to kick things off. In conversation with Bumble’s Louise Troen and activist Jada Sezer, Kingori brings her mix of engaging and inspiring ideas on everything from marriage to trusting her instincts in the podcast’s first episode. Now nearly a dozen episodes in, guests include singer Joy Crookes and writer Scarlett Curtis.
The Panic Years With Nell Frizzell
In her debut book, The Panic Years, author and journalist (and Vogue columnist) Nell Frizzell takes a much closer look at women’s lives in their twenties and thirties. Examining the choices we do and don’t make, especially whether or not to have children. To kick-start the podcast series, Frizzell invites a host of brilliant guests—such as comedian Sara Pascoe and writer Daisy Bunchanan—to talk about the so-called “panic years”.
Just So We’re Clear
Hosted by two women of mixed heritage in Singapore, this podcast brings on a galore of experts on every topic the modern woman is interested in, from sex-positivity and mental health advocates to comedians, entrepreneurs and chefs. Candid and authentic, listening to an episode feels like grabbing a glass of wine and curling up on the couch with your best friends on a Saturday night.
The Best Music Podcasts
Music journalist Jessica Hopper dives into music history on Lost Notes, unearthing candid Captain Beefheart interview tapes, stories of New Edition’s sports team betrayal (a tale that features Michael Jackson) and a McDonald’s promotional scheme that involved distributing 80 million flexi-disc recordings of their “Menu Song”.
Have You Heard George’s Podcast?
This experimental podcast by George the Poet blends poetry, fiction, history, news, and music, honing in on specific stories before zooming out to discuss wider societal implications, then taking sudden turns left—you may find yourself inside his sleeping brain and its ramblings, for example, in a podcast that is truly one of a kind.
Dive into modern R&B and hip-hop classics with a podcast that makes Genius look like child’s play. Classically trained musician and composer Cole Cuchna peels back the layers within albums by Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Lauryn Hill and Frank Ocean in obsessive detail, creating around 13 hours of insight per record.
Getting to listen in on legendary producer Rick Rubin in candid conversation with some of the greatest living musicians sounds too good to be true, but in this podcast you can hear him speak with Andre 3000 about the anxiety that follows success; FKA twigs about healing through the making of her album Magdalene; and Tyler the Creator about his creative process.
Songs To Live By
Hosted by Vick Hope, the new podcast Songs To Live By from the BBC, celebrates Black voices and experiences. Each episode hears from two guests, sharing the songs and music that have influenced and helped to shape their lives. Available on BBC Sounds, guests include UK Black Pride’s founder Lady Phyll, comedian Sophie Ducker and poet Benjamin Zephaniah.
The Best Relationship Podcasts
Where Should We Begin?
Renowned therapist Esther Perel lets you listen in to real couples talking through the tricky parts of their relationship with her in this revolutionary podcast—from a mother and son trying to establish boundaries to a husband and wife coming to the end of their marriage.
Anna Faris Is Unqualified
Actor Anna Faris invites an exciting mix of Hollywood stars to join her in giving their unqualified relationship advice, typically drawing from their own experiences, and peppered with funny anecdotes. With guests like Judd Apatow, Jerrod Carmichael and Emily Ratajkowski, it’s always equal parts hilarious and enlightening.
A spin-off of the brilliant Dear Sugar agony aunt column in The Rumpus, Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond address the problems of their listeners with radical empathy. Particular episodes to look out for include “The Ugly Truth”, in which different women with face-altering diseases grapple with their looks, and “Who’s Your Daddy”, with individuals who have unexpectedly uncovered shocking family secrets through trendy genetic ancestry kits.
Sex & Singapore City
From the founder of the much-loved series Sex & London City, comes a Singaporean instalment: Sex & Singapore City. Host Nixalina Watson is aunt agony for any problems you may have in your love life (or the bedroom). Witty, gritty and totally uncensored, this podcast is not for the weak of hearts. Expect deep dives into the world of BDSM, lessons on what to do if you have been ghosted and discussions on topics like slut-shaming.
This story was originally published on British Vogue.