By BBC Sounds

Getting serious about the silly stuff. Hayley Campbell & friends examine the biggest pop culture moments of the recent past.


Estelle, Jamelia and the Exile of UK R&B

Many black, UK-based, female R&B performers, especially those from the early 2000s, have found it hard to establish a career at home.Acts such as Estelle, Jamelia, Sade, Ms Dynamite, Cleopatra and Misteeq have either left the music industry completely, diversified into presenting and acting or have re-established a base in the US in an attempt to continue their careers. Meanwhile American performers such as Beyonce, Rihanna and Alicia Keys who started their careers at a similar time, continue to dominate the music world. British acts, despite early chart recognition, awards and fan devotion, struggled to make an impact in the same way. And in the modern era, performers such as Laura Mvula, despite enormous talent and massive critical acclaim, have encountered problems dealing with the music industry.Why do the women involved in British R&B fail to find lasting success at home? Why can’t British artists maintain the same trajectory as their American counterparts? Why do they feel it necessary to relocate abroad or work in other parts of the entertainment industry? And will the R&B artists of the future face the same problems?

With Yomi Adegoke and Tara Joshi.Presenter: Hayley Campbell Producer: Dale Shaw
06/08/1834m 9s

Stephen King and the Side Effects of Populism

Stephen King is one of the most popular and successful authors on the planet. Known primarily as a horror writer, King has also written fantasy, science-fiction, thrillers, memoirs, essays, crime novels and a well-regarded book about the craft of the novelist entitled On Writing.Since 1974, when his first book Carrie was released, King has sold an estimated 350 million books, and he is the most adapted living author with most of his works turned in films and TV series. But he has also faced criticism throughout his career. Many critics dismissed his work as an entertaining irrelevance and he was never accorded the respect of his contemporaries, who were deemed more ‘literary’.Has the author’s populism damaged his critical reputation? Why are bestselling or prodigious authors looked upon differently by cultural tastemakers? And why do the painful, disturbing themes that King returns to again and again in his novels engage with audiences so readily?With Matt Thorne, Roz Kaveney and Kim Newman.Presenter: Hayley Campbell Producer: Dale Shaw
30/07/1843m 36s

Final Fantasy VII and Redefinition

The Role Playing Game Final Fantasy VII was released for the Sony Playstation in 1997 and was a massive commercial and critical success, eventually selling nearly 10 million copies worldwide and spawning various spin-offs, sequels, and a new reboot planned for the future. With its epic scope, high drama and relentless action, it is considered an iconic, seminal, impeccable video game that has had a massive influence on the gaming world.But it is not without its critics. Some feel that the game is overrated with its almost mythical status overlooking certain flaws including a confused storyline, poorly defined characters and a lack of pace. The film that continued the game’s story failed to be a box office success while the highly anticipated reboot has been delayed and beset with problems.What made Final Fantasy VII so different from its contemporaries? What influence did it have on the gaming world and wider popular culture? And why has it proven so difficult to adapt?With Aoife Wilson, Julia Hardy and Tamoor Hussain.Presenter: Hayley Campbell Producers: Nancy Bennie and Dale Shaw
23/07/1846m 58s

Watchmen and the Superhero Concept

Released in 1986, first as a twelve-part comic book series and then collected together as a graphic novel, Watchmen came from the unique mind of writer Alan Moore alongside artist Dave Gibbons. It featured superheroes as they had never been seen before: flawed, vulnerable, evil and damaged; existing in a dystopian, alternative 1980s America where Richard Nixon was still the President.Published by comics giant DC, Watchmen was an enormous critical success, introducing a new, adult audience to the comic book world, winning numerous awards and eventually included on Time magazine's 100 best books of the 20th Century.But the afterlife of Watchmen has proven to be fraught. Alan Moore bitterly opposed any sort of film adaptation - but despite this, a big budget Hollywood version was released in 2009, to highly mixed reviews. Sequels, spin-offs and video games have also been released under the Watchmen banner without Moore’s blessing. And now a new television version of the book is about to be released.Just why was Watchmen so successful? Why has it been so difficult to adapt and how much did it influence popular culture’s current obsession with all things superhero?With Andy Riley, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw and Nathaniel Metcalfe.Presenter: Hayley Campbell Producer: Dale Shaw
16/07/1841m 52s

Eurotrash and Revelation

The Channel 4 television series Eurotrash launched in 1993, ran for 16 series and was considered the most popular entertainment offering on the channel at that time with its mix of snark, sex, outrageous behaviour and bizarre individuals. Originally hosted by Antoine de Caunes and Jean-Paul Gaultier, it was a magazine style show with its tongue firmly in its cheek. Each week it showcased peculiarities from around the globe including strange animal acts, naked Germans, an obsession with defecation and terrible musical moments.The show was massively successful, heralding the era of ‘post-pub TV’ and pushing the boundaries of what could be broadcast on British TV. Each episode received numerous complaints from viewers objecting to its focus on nudity, porn and fetishes while Home Secretary Jack Straw attempted to get the show banned due to its lewd content. Why did Eurotrash prove to be so popular with audiences? What does the show tell us about British attitudes towards sex and the perception of Europe? Why was it so controversial and what influence has it had on wider popular culture and TV today? With Stuart Heritage, Scott Bryan and Maria McErlane.Presenter: Hayley Campbell Producer: Dale Shaw
09/07/1837m 6s

Now That's What I Call Music and Survival

First released in 1983, the Now That's What I Call Music compilation album series was a joint venture between music giants Virgin and EMI, which collected together 30 of the biggest chart hits from that particular period. The success of the first Now album led to a number of copycat versions including Hits and Out Now, but these were short-lived compared to Now, who saw every release reach multiple platinum sales. And the series has continued to go from strength to strength despite enormous changes in the music industry. 1999’s Now 44 became the biggest seller in the series, 2008’s Now 70 sold the most units in its first week while 2016’s Now 95 was the biggest selling album of that year. There have been spin-off editions covering everything from Dad Rock to Video Games and global editions released in China, Argentina and Korea. But why did this particular compilation capture the public’s imagination? Do compilation albums of this type help to form or frustrate musical tastes? Can they devalue music in some way? And how has the series survived in the age of streaming and downloads?With Sheryl Garratt former editor of The Face and The Observer Magazine, Emma Garland from Vice and Now expert Rich Lally.Presenter: Hayley Campbell Producer: Dale Shaw
02/07/1843m 6s

Instagram and Artifice

Founded in 2010, the photo sharing social media platform Instagram quickly exploded in popularity, registering one million users in its first two months, followed by 10 million in its first year. In 2012, Facebook bought the service for around $1 billion. Today, it boasts 800 million monthly active users with 70 million photos uploaded every day. Alongside Twitter and Facebook it has become a dominant social media force.But Instagram has also been the subject of criticism. Studies have found it to be the worst platform for your mental health. There have been allegations of censorship and appropriation, a rise in entirely fake, computer generated Instagrammers and a blurring of the line between personal expression and advertising.We look at the rise and influence of Instagram. Is the site raising a generation of selfie-obsessed narcissists? Why is the service more popular with women and what influence has the platform had on the art world? Can Instagram change the world for the better?With Grace Banks, Sophie Wilkinson and Kat Brown.Presenter: Hayley Campbell Producer: Dale Shaw
25/06/1842m 10s

Bridget Jones and the Status of Comedy

Bridget Jones first appeared in diary form in the pages of The Independent during the mid-1990s, detailing her life of failed romances, over-indulgence and a determination to change. The columns were collected into a book - 1996’s Bridget Jones Diary - which went on to sell over two million copies worldwide and won the 1998 British Book of the Year.A film followed in 2001 which grossed over $280 million and earned an Academy Award nomination for the film’s star Renée Zellweger. Three more books and two more films followed, most recently Bridget Jones’s Baby, one of the most successful British films of 2016.But Bridget has also attracted criticism. Some feel the character is ‘anti-feminist’, getting cheap laughs while exploiting what are seen as some of the worst female character flaws and only finding happiness when she has landed her man. We look at the influence and legacy of Bridget Jones. Why did the character strike such a chord with readers and cinema-goers? Did the films affect the reputation of the books. Are the criticisms levelled at her justified and what influence has the franchise had on wider popular culture? Is the comic novel, as a genre, disregarded and maligned in critical circles?With Daisy Buchanan, Lucy Vine and Andy Miller.Presenter: Hayley Campbell. Producer: Dale Shaw.
18/06/1840m 31s

One Direction and Conspiracy Theories

In 2010, One Direction came only third in TV talent show The X Factor. And yet they went on to become one of the biggest bands in the world. The group went on to have enormous success around the world, selling more than 50 million albums and 25 million singles. In 2015, the band announced an indefinite hiatus and all the members launched solo careers.They also, partly through their canny use of social media, developed a large and passionate fanbase. With much of the band’s activity shared and showcased on Twitter and Facebook, Directioners (as the fans are known) cultivated even more intense bonds to the boys, harkening back to the days of Beatlemania or Bowie. This intense fan interaction also propagated a series of increasingly bizarre rumours, stories, fanfic and conspiracy theories concerning individual members that spread online.Why did runners up in a talent show become global chart toppers? Why do they generate such a devoted following? What do Directioners tell us about the nature of fandom today? And did all the social media attention and the online speculation concerning the band eventually do more harm than good?

 With guests Joe Stone, Laura-May Coope and Chris Lochary.Presenter: Hayley Campbell Producer: Dale Shaw
11/06/1838m 37s

Seinfeld and the Tyranny of Endings

Created in 1989, the American television sitcom Seinfeld was almost cancelled after the first episode, but it slowly grew in reputation to become, after nine seasons and 180 episodes, one of the most influential and successful TV series ever. As well as introducing the characters of Seinfeld, Elaine, George and Kramer to the television viewing public, the show invented a lexicon that entered the language including 'yada yada yada', 'double dipping' and 'regifting'. Famously a show about nothing, Seinfeld insisted on a 'no hugging no learning' policy that added a touch of darkness to the comedy.The show's final episode in 1998 was a huge cultural event, attracting an audience of 76 million people and is still the fourth most-watched television finale of all time. But many were disappointed by the way the show ended - the story was too dark, too big and moved too far away from the persona of the show. The failure of the finale developed into an industry joke and affected many of the stars and creators of the show.Why was Seinfeld so successful and influential? Why did its finale fail to capture the audience’s imagination? What effect did this have the show's writers and performers and what lessons were learned from the programmes that came after Seinfeld? Discussing this are Lauren Bravo, Darren Richman and Sarah Dempster.Presenter: Hayley Campbell Producer: Dale Shaw
04/06/1843m 13s

Unpopped: Back Soon!

Unpopped is taking a little break and will be back in a few weeks. But while you're waiting - here are just a few of the things that we might be looking at in the next series.
08/05/181m 35s

David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest and Legacy

Released in 1996, David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest was critically lauded on release and became a New York Times bestseller. But since the author’s suicide in 2008, the book and Wallace himself has undergone a change in reputation. While the book still has its staunch defenders, with many considering it a masterpiece, it has also become shorthand for a sort of ‘literary chauvinism’ - seen to be adored by a certain type of male reader who insists on imposing their opinion on all, especially via social media.What made this book so notable in the first place? Why does it possess a reputation for being both prophetic and difficult? And why is it now maligned in some quarters as a totem for toxic masculinity and how can the legacy and reputation of an author be maintained after death? With Jonathan McAloon, Elsa Court and Matt Greene.Presenter: Hayley Campbell Producer: Dale Shaw
16/04/1838m 5s

The Roots of Grime and Representation

Emerging from the estates of East London in the early 2000s, Grime threw together elements of garage, jungle, Jamaican dancehall and hip-hop to produce a distinct, home-grown British music genre. Using unorthodox music distribution methods such as pirate radio, raves, mixtapes and DVDs, Grime bypassed the traditional music industry completely, developing its own identity, sound and lifestyle which has been likened to the punk movement of the 1970s.Fiercely independent and distinctly anti-establishment, Grime developed quickly, attracting critical acclaim and a dedicated fanbase. Soon it had its first breakout star in the form of Dizzee Rascal, whose debut album, Boy in Da Corner, won the Mercury Music prize in 2003. But then Grime appeared to adopt a holding pattern. No other artists of Dizzee Rascal’s stature emerged from the scene and the genre returned to the underground, growing and developing away from the mainstream, re-emerging with Skepta's chart-topping album, Konnichiwa and Stormzy’s international success.Why did Grime emerge when it did, who were some of its early stars, what did the genre mean to those making and hearing the music during its development and what role do women play in the history and current success of Grime?WIth Yomi Adegoke and Dr Joy White.Presenter: Hayley Campbell Producer: Dale Shaw
09/04/1838m 52s

YouTube and Ubiquity

The video sharing and hosting site YouTube was launched in 2005 and quickly became one of the most visited and influential websites on the planet.Since its inception, it has arguably transformed the worlds of politics, music, health, advertising ,DIY, beauty, comedy and all branches of traditional broadcast media. It has also spawned its own breed of celebrity, the YouTuber, those dedicated to sharing their lives online.But why was it YouTube, rather than any number of similar sites, that became so synonymous with video? Why do we feel the need to share and watch video content online and who are the YouTubers, what makes a successful one and why do they appear to continually create so much controversy?Host: Hayley Campbell Producer: Dale Shaw
02/04/1831m 24s

Come Dine With Me and the British Psyche

Across 41 series and nearly 1700 episodes, Come Dine With Me has developed into a beloved TV staple, with one publication declaring it 'the greatest show on television'. Featuring four or five contestants each hosting a dinner party in their home and being scored on the results, the show is a reality/game show/cookery hybrid that has captured the public's imagination and spawned versions around the world. What is it about the show that is so compelling? How is it put together and what motivates the contestants to take part? What does the show say about the British class system and our relationship with food? And what does it take to win the show? Joining host Hayley Campbell are Pointless host and television producer Richard Osman, journalist Lauren Bravo and the creator of Come Dine With Me, Nell Butler.Producer: Dale Shaw
26/03/1847m 49s

Chris Morris and the Darkness of Comedy

Dubbed by one newspaper as ‘the most hated man in Britain’, comedian Chris Morris has always walked a fine line between biting satire and controversy. From his earliest days in local radio, allegedly engaging in stunts that led to his dismissal, to mocking radio and television news structures in On The Hour and The Day Today and skewering moral panics in Brass Eye - Morris has both delighted and appalled critics while gathering a dedicated legion of fans.Comedic experiments such as Nathan Barley and Blue Jam saw him tinker with the very essence of comedy while his first feature film, Four Lions, dealt with the unlikely subject of domestic terrorism. Some see him as a ‘comedy god’ while others view him as a menace. But what drives Chris Morris to make comedy, who is he making it for and what is he trying to change, if anything?Host: Hayley Campbell. Producer: Dale Shaw.
19/03/1845m 51s

Tomb Raider and Indomitability

In 1993, the video game Tomb Raider was released. The game was an instant success, selling 7 million copies worldwide and catapulting female protagonist Lara Croft to icon status.More games followed plus film adaptations of Lara’s adventures. It is now considered one of the most important games in the history of the industry. But it also provoked controversy in the way Lara Croft was portrayed and marketed.Why was having a woman as the focal point of a video game so unusual, what effect did Tomb Raider have on the wider gaming world and how has the gaming world changed since Lara first appeared?Host: Hayley Campbell Producer: Dale Shaw
12/03/1841m 4s

Twin Peaks and Forensic Fandom

In 1990, celebrated, maverick director David Lynch, fresh from the success of his film Blue Velvet, launched the television series Twin Peaks. A mixture of quirky characters, surrealistic imagery and a murky murder mystery, the show was a massive success enjoying enormous ratings, lavished with critical acclaim and winning numerous awards. But the second season floundered, the audience evaporated, Lynch abandoned the show and the watercooler chatter dried up. After making a controversial and critically mauled prequel film. Fire Walk With Me, Lynch turned his back on Twin Peaks. Then, last year, Lynch resurrected the show, with a third series as strange and challenging as the original. Why was the show such as massive success when it began, why did its demise happen so quickly, why was David Lynch compelled to return to the series, how did the fans react and what part does nostalgia play in popular culture?Host: Hayley Campbell. Producer: Dale Shaw.
05/03/1835m 41s

The Spice Girls and Kathy Acker

In 1997, legendary experimental writer Kathy Acker was sent by The Guardian to interview The Spice Girls. Acker, who emerged from the New York punk scene, was the author of Blood and Guts in High School, a work so extreme it was banned in several countries. The Spice Girls were at the height of their superstardom, with a number of chart-topping hits around the world and about to make their American television debut. What happened when these two seemingly incongruous artists met? Where did the worlds of Kathy Acker, whose work was drenched in sex and shock, intersect with the ‘Girl Power’ ambassadors and teen idols The Spice Girls? Hosted by Hayley Campbell. Produced by Dale Shaw.
26/02/1835m 47s

Paris Hilton and the Demise of the Party Girl

Who was Paris Hilton, why were the media so fascinated by her, how did she grab our attention and did she provide the blueprint for the current celebrity obsessed culture? Presenter: Hayley Campbell Producer: Dale Shaw
19/02/1838m 3s

RuPaul's Drag Race and Beyond

“The shaaaaade of it all!" We look at the glorious global phenomenon that it is RuPaul’s Drag Race. Where did it come from, how has it evolved and how has it changed the world?Presenter: Hayley CampbellProducer: Dale Shaw
12/02/1848m 56s

Welcome to Unpopped

Producer Dale Shaw and host Hayley Campbell give you a taste of what’s to come.
02/02/183m 9s
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