Get us in your inbox

Illustration of someone using Spotify
Image: Time Out

The 15 best podcasts on Spotify

True crime, weird history, frank sex talk and absolutely no Joe Rogan – these are the best podcasts streaming exclusively on Spotify

Written by
Matthew Singer

It’s a shame that you can’t talk about the best podcasts on Spotify without first addressing Joe Rogan. The smooth-headed and even smoother-brained disinformation machine might host the platform’s most popular chat-cast, but there are plenty of other informative, entertaining and innovative shows on the platform that are worth celebrating and are being overshadowed by the wide cloud of controversy hanging over The Joe Rogan Experience.

So let’s forget all that, and focus on the actual good stuff. Below, you’ll find our picks for the 15 must-hear podcasts streaming exclusively on Spotify; that represents stuff produced by the company itself and its affiliate studios, Gimlet Media and The Ringer Podcast Network. Whether you’re into true crime, comedy, music, weird history, frank sex talk or interviews with celebrities that don’t involve ivermectin and casual racism, you’ll find it — you just have to know what to put in the search bar.   

🎧 The best podcasts to listen to right now
💤 The best sleep podcasts
🔪 The best true crime podcasts
😂 The best comedy podcasts
🏃 The best motivational podcasts
✊ The best politics podcasts

Best Podcasts on Spotify, ranked

Musically speaking, the ‘90s were an odd time: it started with grunge and gangsta rap and ended with boy bands, nu-metal and pop-rap, with brief detours into ska and swing revivals. In this podcast, critic Rob Harvilla tries to make sense of it all, taking informative, analytical and sometimes very personal deep-dives into the tunes that, for better or worse, defined a generation, from ‘Juicy’ to ‘Nookie’. Turns out, figuring out just what the hell was up with this decade requires a lot more than 60 songs — 30 more episodes are coming soon.

Formerly known as ‘that guy who’s married to Veronica Mars,’ actor Dax Shepard is now a bonafide superstar in the podcast arena. His interview show is one of Spotify’s most popular, and he’s pulling guests as massive as Barack Obama and Prince Harry. No wonder: In the tradition of Marc Maron’s WTF, Shepard pushes aside the banality and self-promotion of the late-night circuit and simply follows his own curiosity, usually arriving at a place that makes the monumentally famous seem almost relatable. 


Music fandom is a form of zealotry, and this podcast offers devotees a pulpit from which to preach the gospel of everyone from Pavement to Insane Clown Posse. Each week, host Yasi Salek invites guests to expound — at length — on their favorite artists, and the best episodes often focus on acts that rarely receive detailed critical consideration. A two-and-a-half-hour deep-dive into the career of the Red Hot Chili Peppers might seem like a steep hill to climb, but by the end you’re likely to start walking around in public wearing nothing but a delicately placed sock. 

A sex advice podcast with links to Barstool Sports is typically a major red flag, but host Alex Cooper’s unrestrained brand of girl talk swiftly transcended Dave Portnoy’s meathead empire and became a phenomenon all its own. Since going exclusive with Spotify, Cooper has moved, in the words of Vulture, ‘toward something resembling a kind of neo-girlboss Howard Stern for the next generation’, scoring buzz-generating interviews with Jamie Lynn Spears and Julia Fox. It’s a movement, bitches.


Not all good true crime stories involve a body dumped in the woods, nor do they all require 10 hours to tell. Each 40-or-so-minute episode of Crime Show hones in on a single wrongdoing, with special attention paid to the lives affected on either side of it — and while murder certainly factors in, there’s just as much twisty intrigue in tales involving telephone scammers, fradulent doctors, paranormal activity and Judy Garland.

Best friends Zakiya Whatley and Titi Shodiya are Duke grads with backgrounds in molecular biology and materials science, respectively, who enjoy putting pop-culture under the literal microscope. What is the science behind ‘cuffing season’? What is it about the human brain that makes us vulnerable to catfishing and other Digital Era scams? In what ways is Beyonce’s starpower related to the power of the actual stars in the sky? What’s up with Nicki Minaj’s ex-boyfriend’s hairline? Think of it as a fresher take on Radiolab, both in the ‘youthful’ and ‘hip-hop-flavored’ senses of the term. 


Ever find yourself laying in bed, unable to sleep, haunted by some decades-old regret or unanswered question your brain suddenly dredged up and won’t let you stop thinking about? That’s the stuff Jonathan Goldstein lives to confront. In six seasons of Heavyweight, the self-described ‘therapist with a time machine’ has reconciled old beefs, reunited family members and solved nagging personal mysteries, for himself and others. As the title implies, the stories are frequently heavy, but they’re just as often laced with absurdity — in one early standout, Goldstein assists a buddy in retrieving a box of CDs he once loaned the musician Moby and never got back.

The outspoken ex-ESPN anchor has always refused to just ‘stick to sports’, a trait that’s often gotten her in trouble — she became an ‘ex-anchor’ after referring to Donald Trump as a white supremacist on Twitter. Obviously, it didn’t stress her much. Now on Spotify, Hill is free to speak her mind on any topic she pleases, whether it’s the NFL’s racist hiring practices, the Jeopardy hosting controversy or her platform-mate, Joe Rogan.


When Comedy Central abruptly dropped Larry Wilmore in 2015, television’s loss was podcasting’s gain. (Although Wilmore never really left TV: He executive produced Black-ish and co-created Insecure, two of the standout shows of the last decade.) With Black on the Air, the veteran comic effectively picked up where he left off with The Nightly Show, delivering hilarious yet piercing commentary on being Black in America and leading insightful conversations with the likes of Barry Jenkins, Stacey Abrams and even David Copperfield — yes, the magician.

Like Nextdoor come to life, Chinedu Unaka and Candice Thompson peek through the blinds of the internet and gossip about what they see: a man giving a face tattoo to a child in a McDonald’s; a domestic dispute involving ninja stars; a lion roaming the streets of Chicago. Using local news reports, apps and listener submissions, the L.A.-based comedians survey the week in bizarre behavior and invite guests such as Tiffany Haddish and Damon Wayans Jr. to share their own stories of neighborly insanity. After all, they don’t call them ‘strangers’ for nothing. 


The past isn’t even past, and this podcast aims to prove just how not far away from it we are. On each episode, writer Simone Polanen selects an event from that week in history and draws a throughline back to the present day. But this ain’t the Smithsonian Channel: As a dedicated non-scholar, Polanen is less interested in antiquity than popular history and answering such burning questions as, ‘How did green M&Ms get associated with sex?’ and ‘Who really invented emojis?’

It’s Springsteen! It’s Obama! It’s your dad’s favorite podcast! For real, though, it’s two of the world’s most famous people, just hanging out and discussing fatherhood, race, economic injustice and the American Dream — y’know, the kind of light stuff you and your own buddies surely talk about when sitting around the barbecue having a pint. What’s not to love?


Fun fact: The father of the guy who played Woody on Cheers allegedly killed, like, a lot of people. Charles Harrelson died in prison while serving a life sentence for shooting a federal judge in 1978 — one of three murders he was charged with during his lifetime, and among the dozens he claimed to have committed while working as a professional hitman. But there are those who believe he didn’t do all the things he said he did or was convicted of doing, including his sons. In this 10-part series, journalist Jason Cavanagh takes a wild ride into one of the crazier true Hollywood-adjacent stories, which is even more bizarre than it seems on the surface. Did we mention the theory that Harrelson was involved in the Kennedy assassination?

Fiction represents a still-developing niche of the podcasting world, but with shows like Homecoming getting adapted to television, expect to see more of them. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to find this one coming to some sort of screen in the near future. An astronaut, voiced by GLOW’s Betty Gilpin, is on a solo mission to colonize Mars after her entire crew dies from a mysterious illness. When she arrives, however, she discovers she’s not alone.


A tech podcast even folks still clinging to their flip phones can appreciate, Reply All is less interested in geeking out over the latest apps, gizmos and non-fungible-whatevers than telling stories about how the online world continues to shape our offline reality — call it This Digital Life. Its most famous episode, “The Case of the Missing Hit,” about a man’s desperate search to identify the obscure song stuck in his head, was deemed “perhaps the best-ever episode of any podcast” by The Guardian. 


    More on Time In

      You may also like