Few things have been as reassuring over the past few years as tuning into the familiar voices on your go-to podcast—but even now, as you return to your regular routine, it’s well worth it to dive into the medium’s best offerings.
The sheer number of podcasts out there can feel overwhelming, but worry not: here, Vogue has you covered with our pick of the best podcasts of 2022. From deep dives into Roe v. Wade and the Capitol riot, to incisive takes on wellness culture and the unstoppable rise of the influencer, these are the most informative (and addictive) podcasts to listen to now.
Thanks to the seemingly endless wellness boom, there are more “health” podcasts out there today than you could possibly count—but author and activist Aubrey Gordon and journalist Michael Hobbes have found a smart and refreshingly skeptical viewpoint on the head-spinning world of fad diets and weight loss. (You might recognize Hobbes’s voice from another favorite podcast debunking myths in popular culture, You’re Wrong About.) Whether they’re putting the Weight Watchers phenomenon under a microscope or taking a deep dive into a celebrity diet book, the pair’s ability to expose deeper truths about the way we talk about health and fitness while retaining a sense of levity and humor make Maintenance Phase an unexpected delight.
Following its premiere in February, The Trojan Horse Affair—created by Brian Reed, whose voice you might remember from S-Town, and the British journalism student Hamza Syed for the New York Times—was met with swift backlash by certain corners of establishment British media, whose complicity in the events described in the podcast had been heavily critiqued by its hosts. (The podcast charts a scandal in mid-2010s Birmingham, where an anonymous—and now widely discredited—letter suggested that a number of Muslim-majority schools in the city were being infiltrated by Islamic extremists, with many senior politicians and journalists joining the frenzy.) Essential listening, The Trojan Horse Affair may focus on just one small community, but it exposes many of the wider hypocrisies within Britain’s government and media that have contributed to its current political turmoil.
With Anna Delvey, Elizabeth Holmes, and the Fyre Festival all hitting the news at the same time, 2018 was widely referred to as the “summer of scam”—but in the years since, the public appetite for tales of grifters and tricksters has shown no signs of abating. If you’re seeking a regular fix of deep dives into outrageous scams—from the infamous “fake Saudi prince” Anthony Gignac to The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’s Jen Shah—look no further than Scamfluencers. Hosted by culture writer Scaachi Koul and Gawker’s Sarah Hagi, it’s rich in detailed recountings of some of the wildest examples of deceit in recent memory.
Created by the British “slow news” media company Tortoise, Sweet Bobby tells the kind of shocking story that makes for an immediately binge-worthy podcast. At its center is the long-distance romance between Kirat, a successful radio presenter in the U.K., and Bobby, a handsome cardiologist in the U.S.—but as the relationship becomes increasingly toxic and manipulative from Bobby’s end, Kirat discovers that she has been the victim of an elaborate and wildly cruel catfishing scam, with the podcast following her attempts to piece her life back together in the aftermath. (So too does Sweet Bobby explore the legal complications that surround the now-familiar term of catfishing.) Hearing Kirat reclaim her narrative to help bring about change lends this compelling podcast an emotional center, too.
Hosted by New York comedians Claire Parker and Ashley Hamilton, Celebrity Memoir Book Club captures all the best qualities of your favorite frothy, guilty-pleasure podcast: hosts that begin to feel like friends, gossipy dissections of celebrity news, and plenty of razor-sharp wit. Where this podcast differs, however, is in its subject matter. Each episode sees the pair dive into a celebrity memoir—from Sharon Stone’s to Scary Spice’s to Lena Dunham’s—and alongside their ribbing of their subject’s privilege and evident blind spots, they’re not afraid to tackle some of the weightier themes explored in the books. (Often featuring candid accounts of trauma, addiction, sexual abuse, and plenty more, celebrity memoirs can be surprisingly harrowing.) Deftly balancing a tongue-in-cheek, humorous look at its celebrity specimens with generous doses of empathy, Celebrity Memoir Book Club often ends up proving a different point entirely. Stars, it turns out? They’re just like us.
Slate’s ever-brilliant podcast Slow Burn takes as its starting point a scandal or other seismic moment in American political history, before exploring the lesser-known figures and stories that contributed to its place in the country’s cultural mythos. In a moment of eerie synchronicity, its seventh season on Roe v. Wade debuted at the beginning of June, just weeks after the Supreme Court’s draft opinion overturning the ruling leaked, sparking widespread protests and political action. If you’re looking to understand how that landmark piece of legislation came to be in the first place, Slow Burn will help—but as always, its most compelling moments are those that home in on parallels with the present day, in this case through the heartbreaking stories of women from decades past who were denied abortion access. Few podcasts this year are as urgent.
Sure, the pandemic may have deprived us of more important things, but for many, one of the joys of regular social interaction was having the chance to gossip. Hosted by journalist Kelsey McKinney, who has all the conspiratorial familiarity of the resident gossip in your favorite WhatsApp chat group, and featuring a rotating line-up of guests who take a similar voyeuristic delight in local tittle-tattle, each episode of Normal Gossip sees them pick apart a salacious story or rumor from real life. With all the illicit thrill of eavesdropping on a neighboring conversation on the bus or in a café, Normal Gossip is a cheeky and charming delight.
The story of Ted Kaczynski—better known as the Unabomber—may be one of the most notorious terrorist cases in American history, but even if you know all the facts, Project Unabom’s forensic approach to unpicking exactly why a former math professor spent almost two decades on a nationwide bombing campaign while living off the grid feels like its own kind of revelation. Featuring remarkable testimonies from many who knew Kaczynski—including his own brother David, who was largely responsible for helping the FBI identify the culprit—as well as agents who were closely involved in the case, the show attempts to understand Kaczynski rather than simply reel off the facts—making it a richly compelling listen.
It’s easy to forget just how explosive and far-reaching the Heidi Fleiss scandal was in the mid-1990s—but, as the recent podcast HeidiWorld: The Heidi Fleiss Story makes clear, it’s even easier to forget just how unjust the outsize focus on Fleiss herself was, sparing all of the men who had paid for her services as the so-called “Hollywood madam,” providing high-end sex workers to Tinseltown’s elite. Hosted by the writer Molly Lambert, the podcast looks not only at the strangely puritanical response to Fleiss at the time, but also at how conversations around sex work have (and haven’t) changed since. Touching on everything from the rise of reality television to personal branding and OnlyFans, by the show’s end, you might just be convinced that we’re all still living in Heidi’s world.
It might feel like the events of the Capitol riots haven’t left the news since that fateful day in January 2021, but as this new podcast, created by Pineapple Street Studios and Wondery, makes clear, there are still plenty of gaps in our understanding of what, exactly, led up to it. Instead of offering a blow-by-blow account of how events unfolded on January 6 (although it does touch on that), Will Be Wild casts the net wider, looking at an array of individual stories from those who were radicalized and participated in the coup, as well as some of the systemic failures that allowed it to happen. Hosted by journalists Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz, who have been on the Trump beat for many years and know their subject matter inside-out, it’s a fascinating window into what feels like a whole other world—even if the most important takeaway from the podcast is how the culture that created January 6 remains very much on our doorsteps.
Can’t hold out until the next season of The Crown arrives later this year? Vanity Fair has you covered with their podcast Dynasty, which kicked off in April with a debut season covering the major moments and various scandals that have defined the reign of the modern Windsor family—better known, of course, as the British royals. Hosted by Vanity Fair’s royal correspondent Katie Nicholl and staff writer Erin Vanderhoof, and featuring an array of insider guests, the show’s tone perfectly balances deeply reported insights—everything from Prince Andrew’s involvement in the Epstein scandal to the younger generations’ reckoning with the family’s colonial past—with delightfully garrulous debates on the quirks and more absurd traditions of the royal lifestyle. With future seasons set to explore the checkered history of other aristocratic families around the globe, it’s one to keep tabs on.
It may not be a new entry, but the New York Times’s flagship music podcast has only gone from strength to strength this year, offering smart and deeply researched insights into the stories behind your favorite chart-topping hits, as well as entries from lesser-known corners of the pop ecosystem around the globe. Highlights have included an episode on the role of gossip in hip-hop media, a look back at the cultural memory of Elvis alongside Baz Luhrmann’s recent biopic, and a fascinating exploration of the world of Ukrainian pop, featuring a guest appearance from Vogue’s own Liana Satenstein. Thanks to the endless charm and curiosity of the podcast’s long-time host Jon Caramanica, eight years after it first launched, Popcast remains unbeaten as the pop music podcast par excellence.