Over the course of each season, host Cole Cuchna spends hundreds of hours breaking down every little lyrical and musical detail of each album. Balancing an analytical, NPR-style tone with Cuchna's love and appreciation for the music he analyzes, Dissect has built a dedicated following of music obsessives. After the success of the first two seasons, he recently announced a partnership with Spotify for the third season, which will premiere on the streaming service this Tuesday, May 15.
So, how will he follow TPAB and MBDTF?
Season three of Dissect will begin with a six episode mini-series on Frank Ocean's Channel Orange, followed by a full season on Blonde. "I have a soft spot for artists who use their platform to challenge and progress the art form, not rest on the success they’ve had in the past," Cuchna says. "Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, and Frank Ocean have all done that, and we absolutely need these types of artists in the world, especially when they have such a massive reach."
"Frank Ocean has an incredibly interesting story," he adds. "As I was researching his music and his background, I realized that his art and his personal actions move in parallel in pursuit of the same thing: truth and authenticity."
Listen to a teaser of the new season here and continue for our full interview with Cuchna. Follow the Dissect podcast on Spotify and look out for the premiere of the new season on May 15. Each episode will arrive on all other podcast platforms one week later.
Who is the subject of the new season of Dissect?
The subject of season three is Frank Ocean, beginning with a six-episode mini-series on Channel Orange followed by eleven episodes on Blonde.
Selecting who to dissect is always a difficult decision as I end up spending six to eight months of my life dedicated to their work. With Frank, there was a number of reasons. First, his music is beautiful and thoughtful and authentic and full of sonic depth. Specifically, Blonde was like a Radiohead Kid A moment for me. Here’s this artist with a massive commercial yet artistically pure album in channel ORANGE, and he follows it with a highly experimental, nuanced, and in many ways challenging album in Blonde. I have a soft spot for artists who use their platform to challenge and progress the art form, not rest on the success they’ve had in the past. Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, and Frank Ocean have all done that, and we absolutely need these types of artists in the world, especially when they have such a massive reach. They have the opportunity to rapidly accelerate the evolution of music and culture, and they’re doing just that.
Frank Ocean was also by far the most requested artist by current Dissect listeners. And the passion they have for his music is pretty incredible. That was definitely a consideration, too.
Why did you think he would be a good subject for a Dissect season?
Beyond his music, which is always first and foremost in my mind, Frank Ocean has an incredibly interesting story. As I was researching his music and his background, I realized that his art and his personal actions move in parallel in pursuit of the same thing: truth and authenticity. nostalgia, ULTRA was self-funded and self-produced despite neglect from his record label. channel ORANGE had the open letter on Tumblr that spoke of his first love (which happened to be a man), which insured that he was able to then write his own story in his own way, in his own words. Then there’s the public disappearance after CO and the cultural anticipation of Blonde, a hype that many artists wouldn’t be able to deliver upon. But Frank did, and he did it his way. The Endless visual piece, the gorgeous Boys Don’t Cry magazine, and of course Blonde itself—all created and released on his own terms, prioritizing art above all else. Have to respect that.
Blonde is a challenging album for some people, and I’m hoping provide some new entry points into that album for those people.
In the past, you focused on one specific album with each season, but you're broadening the scope a little bit now. Why?
I was really interested in exploring the transition between channel ORANGE and Blonde. It’s such an artistic leap, a complete sonic one-eighty. I felt to fully understand and appreciate Blonde, you had to know channel ORANGE. People wonder what he was doing all those years leading up to Blonde. While no one knows for sure, my guess is that he was working his ass off, because you don’t put out an album like Blonde without throwing a lot of stuff at the wall, without experimenting endlessly with sounds and effects and arrangements. The production details on that album are pretty incredible, and I want to help others fully appreciate the evolution from CO to Blonde.
Are you doing anything else differently with this season? Or generally sticking with the old format?
I’d say things are generally similar to season two, with emphasis on both production and lyrics. But with Frank we have our first season that’s not focused on rap, so there’s not as many total words to dissect. That was initially intimidating for me, as I was afraid there wouldn’t be enough to fill an entire episode, but that fear was quickly diminished. His stories are so rich, so full of detail and cultural references that I didn’t realize they were there until really digging into the music. I’m really excited to share those discoveries.
Also, CO and Blonde aren’t as obviously narrative as To Pimp a Butterfly and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. That is, those two albums had very clear conceptual overarching narratives—especially TPAB. Frank’s albums have an overall structure, at least I think they do, but their construction and approach are different. So that’s been different but equally fun to piece together.
What are you most excited about in regards to this new season?
Not unlike seasons past, I’m really just excited to guide others in a deeper understanding of Frank Ocean’s music. A lot of listeners will tell me Dissect helps them understand an album they already loved in a new way or that they found appreciation for an album they previously disregarded. And I hope to do the same with season three and Frank Ocean. Like I mentioned, Blonde is a challenging album for some people, and I’m hoping provide some new entry points into that album for those people.
his music is beautiful and thoughtful and authentic and full of sonic depth. Specifically, Blonde was like a Radiohead Kid A moment for me.
You recently announced a partnership with Spotify. Can you talk about that a little and explain why you decided to partner with them?
There was a lot of outside interest in the show during season two. At that time, I was still working full time and creating the show at night and early mornings. That wasn’t sustainable. I was exhausted. Without a change I don’t think a season three would’ve been possible.
I was approached by Courtney Holt, who had recently taken over as Head of Studios and Video at Spotify. Within 30 seconds of talking to him, the conversation felt different than the others. I could tell he genuinely believed in the show, and I believed his vision of where he was taking podcasts on Spotify. He allowed me creative control, which was key, and with Dissect being a show so focused on music, it was a natural fit for both sides. I’m able to now create Dissect full-time, which is really a dream come true. Spotify made that happen. For me, it’s more than just having Dissect on Spotify, this is truly a partnership and I am excited to share my podcasts with even more listeners.
Since we talked last year, the podcast has gained a lot of popularity. What has that been like?
It’s been great. Overwhelming, really. Dissect listeners are very loyal and passionate. The support they’ve shown me is truly incredible. It’s hard to put into words. I never thought so many people would want to hear someone talk about a single album for hours on end. But it turns out, people are hungry for content with depth. They want to learn more about the things they love. They want to learn, period. To someone like me who’s spent the majority of their life pursuing education and understanding of the world we live in, that’s really encouraging and gives me a lot of optimism going forward.