Looking for a new podcast to get stuck into on your daily walks? Stacey Dooley: Fresh Starts is just one of 19 series we’re excited about in 2021.
Podcasts have been the perfect companions for so many of us during the pandemic. Funny podcasts provide a bit of light relief, true-crime series command our attention, self-help podcasts offer comfort and advice, and series all about the books we’ve been reading help keep our minds stimulated.
Particularly memorable episodes over the last 12 months include FKA Twigs’ brave interview on Grounded With Louis Theroux, Samantha Morton recalling her experience of growing up in care on Desert Island Discs and Dawn French making a lot of us feel very seen when she described herself as being a “functional introvert” on Table Manners.
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As we begin to ease out of lockdown, many of us are still plugging into podcasts during those walks to the pub, hot baths and ’fake commutes’. Luckily, there are plenty of new podcast releases in 2021 – but where to start?
From a deep examination of sibling relationships to two friends dissecting each and every Marvel film together, here are the podcasts we predict will bring you great comfort, laughter, tension, intrigue and pure entertainment this year.
Best new podcasts in 2021
Stacey Dooley: Fresh Starts
In her second podcast for the BBC, Stacey Dooley is on a mission to uncover the stories of people who are making a fresh start.
From a person learning to read late in life to an ex-beautician who swapped salons for the shellfish business, each episode will see the documentarian and TV presenter sit down with a guest to discuss how and why they’re starting afresh, and explore the challenges and hurdles they’ve had to overcome to do so.
With the first episode airing on Monday 4 May, Stacey Dooley: Fresh Starts is set to be a motivational and inspiring reminder of the power of change – and we can’t wait to listen.
Stylist’s Baby On The Brain
Deciding to start a family is an exciting time for many, but the reality of seeing a positive pregnancy test can send many women into a spiral of sleepless nights way before a baby arrives to do that for them.
But Baby On The Brain isn’t about the practicalities of sleep or feeding, it’s not about birth or your changing body, this is all about you as a woman with a mind all of your own. From identity to parental leave, to the inequality of the sacrifices men and women are still expected to make, each episode tackles one of the conundrums that keeps many mums-to-be awake at night when they find out their life is about to change.
In this thought-provoking but light-hearted new podcast, Stylist’s Fliss Thistlethwaite – a mum-to-be grappling with her own questions – meets other pregnant women to chat about their concerns; finding experts and mothers who have answers to their middle-of-the-night worries.
Songs To Live By
Songs To Live by is a new podcast celebrating Black voices and experiences through the songs that shaped them. In each episode, Vick Hope chats with two guests of different generations about the music that has defined them personally, politically and musically.
Speaking about her new series, Hope says: Vick Hope says: “We cover civil rights to Windrush, Black LGBTQ+ Pride to racism and activism in the diaspora, but also our passions and when we realised them, excelled at them [and] inspired others with them.
“Led by a Black team, this podcast is about our backgrounds, our heritage, our culture, our home lives: the Motown we listened to growing up, gospel in church on Sundays, dancing with our parents to Afrobeat on a Saturday night, sneaking out to hip hop clubs… The moments we lost ourselves in music and found ourselves in music.”
Upcoming guests include Lady Phyll, Sophie Duker, Toni Tone and Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu. The first episode kicks things off with Jordan Stephens and Ben Zephaniah, and new episodes will be released weekly.
The Panic Years
In her debut book, The Panic Years, journalist (and Stylist contributor) Nell Frizzell examines the years of a woman’s life in her 20s and 30s when every decision she makes – from postcode to partner, friends to family, work to weekends – will be impacted by the urgency of the one decision with a deadline, which is also impossible to take back: whether or not to have a baby.
In this accompanying podcast series, Frizzell thoughtfully chats through these so-called “panic years” with brilliant guests including Sara Pascoe, Rob Delaney, Nikesh Shukla, Josie Long and Pandora Sykes. In the first episode, she talks to author Daisy Buchanan about her decision to be childfree and the pressure put upon women to become mothers.
It’s a fascinating, funny and reassuring listen for anyone who’s currently asking themselves, “When did everything get so serious?”.
Teach Me A Lesson With Greg James And Bella Mackie
Bella Mackie is the best-selling author behind Jog On: How Running Saved My Life and the upcoming novel How To Kill Your Family. She’s also married to Radio 1 host Greg James, who she’s just about to launch a new podcast with.
Teach Me A Lesson is the first time the couple has worked on a professional project together. Admitting that they weren’t the best students at school, the pair’s aim is to educate themselves and listeners through conversations with the nation’s finest teachers. The inquisitive (and competitive!) couple will ask questions like, “Are people born evil?” and, “What do you know about the suffragettes?”.
Considering Mackie has already been an excellent guest on podcasts such as The High Low – where she talked candidly about love and relationships after 30 – we just know that this is going to be worth checking out.
The Apology Line
Looking for something completely different to listen to? The Apology Line offers exactly that.
For 14 years, people could call a number in Manhattan and anonymously apologise for doing something. This new podcast from Wondery tells the story of the line, and the man at the other end who became consumed by his own creation, “Mr. Apology”.
As thousands of callers flooded the line, confessing to everything from shoplifting to infidelity to drug dealing and murder, Mr. Apology realised he couldn’t just listen: he had to do something, even if it meant risking everything.
Marissa Bridge, who actually knew Mr. Apology better than anyone (they were married!), hosts this six-episode series about empathy, deception and obsession.
Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown is a quirky, informative, and interactive podcast that breaks down the myths and misunderstandings about mental health and emotional well-being.
Neuroscientist Mayim Bialik combines her academic background with a vast personal experience to provide listeners with valuable practical advice focusing on removing the stigma surrounding mental health and encouraging an understanding of the mind-body connection.
Nothing is off-limits as Mayim breaks it down with an amazing collection of guests.
Into The Grey Zone
Presented by Sky News foreign affairs editor Deborah Haynes, Into The Grey Zone is a new 9-part weekly series that explores the grey zone between war and peace, where no one is too unimportant to be a target.
Discover the covert tactics used by states, criminals and terrorist groups to deceive, gain influence and, at times, kill. With world-exclusive interviews with spies and military chiefs, the series offers a chilling insight into a murky evolution of warfare.
This is serious stuff, and it deserves your full attention. The first episode recently kicked off by taking a deep dive into the Salisbury poisionings.
Period Power With Maisie Hill
Menstrual health expert, acupuncturist, life coach and Period Power author Masie Hill brings us a no-nonsense podcast all about periods. If you’re dealing with menstrual cycle issues, or you’re ready to harness your hormones, this podcast will help you understand your periods more. It’s informative, very helpful for our daily lives and absolutely fascinating.
I’ve Never Seen The OC
The biggest news of the year so far, arguably, is that The OC will be available to stream on All 4 later this month. So you’re going to need a podcast all about the nostalgic teen drama to plug into after those weekend binges.
I’ve Never Seen The OC is a sweet and funny conversational podcast, which sees a hardcore fan dissect every episode with a total newcomer to Orange County. They’ve just started the third season, so you can catch up with previous episodes while waiting for the weekly new ones to be released.
The Morning After Mix
Ease yourself into the day ahead with these weekly two-hour mixtapes from BBC Sounds. Gentle new songs and old favourites are mixed together to provide some audio comfort and make you feel better. It’s perfect background noise for that first week back at work or for those long, wintry weekends spent indoors doing chores.
Love them or loathe them, siblings play a massive part in our lives. On Relatively, host Catherine Carr will bring siblings together to talk about the connections they have with each other as adults, as well as what it was like growing up. But she’ll also talk to them separately, to get a private take on the relationship. Expect nostalgia, honesty and lots of teasing.
Desert Island Dishes
Think of the Desert Island Dishes format but swap music for food… and you’re onto a winner. Chef and food writer Margie Nomura returned with a new series of the foodie podcast late last year, and she’s got more episodes lined up for 2021. Be warned: hearing her guests (including Nadiya Hussain and Alice Liveing) talk about food glorious food in such detail will make you feel very, very hungry.
The Marvel Virgin
Paul is a virgin to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Kayleigh, on the other hand, knows everything – and I mean everything – about the MCU (she’s also Stylist’s digital editor-at-large). What happens when the two pals chat after Paul watches each Marvel film for the first time? Irreverent and fun banter, full of factoids for all the other Marvel fans and virgins out there.
Thank You Next
If you broke up with someone last year, you probably want to leave them in 2020 and move on. On Thank You Next, Raj Pander and Hardeep Dhadda invite you to turn your relationship losses into wins. Expect super honest, awkward and embarrassing chats with the hosts and their guests. And it’s not just romantic relationships being discussed here: it’s also about friends, family and work.
Pepp Talk Podcast
Who’s in need of a good pep talk before heading into 2021? Cue: straight-talking Breeny Lee. The love coach and influencer gives her opinion on every situation you may be facing in your day-to-day life. From how to stop being a people pleaser to the truth about fairytale relationships, there is an episode that will speak directly to you right now.
The Orgasm Cult
In the search for wellness, how far would you go? That’s the question BBC Radio 4’s The Orgasm Cult examines. Nastaran Tavakoli-Far investigates One Taste – a wellness company that is currently facing allegations of sex trafficking, prostitution and violations of labour law – through exclusive interviews with former employees and asks big questions about the wellness industry.
Death Of A Starlet
Every podcast roundup needs a new true crime offering, right? Death Of A Starlet is a six-part series by Wondery and the team behind the hit Hollywood & Crime series. In August of 1980, Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten was found dead at just 20 years old. How did Dorothy’s Hollywood dreams lead to her death? Co-hosts Tracy Pattin and Josh Lucas investigate.
Grounded With Louis Theroux
Louis Theroux launched his podcast on BBC sounds during last year’s first lockdown. Here we are again, “grounded” in the third lockdown. So thank the broadcasting heavens that Theroux’s podcast is still going strong with a second series. With recent guests including Michaela Coel, Miriam Margolyes and Ruby Wax, we always know that each episode will be a treat.
Images: supplied by each podcast
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