True Crime. Politics. Celebrity Gossip. Comedy. Just like television and music, each popular podcast has a broader genre they operate from within. Shows that don’t fit neatly within an existing genre have the risk of confusing the listener but also the opportunity to stand out. From the very first episode, The Michelle Obama Podcast pushes the boundaries. It shows the potential for meaningful dialogue in the arenas of education, self-help, parenting, politics, and so much more.
During the first episode, Michelle Obama sits down with her husband and former United States president Barack Obama. We hear Michelle’s first failed attempts at an introduction, immediately demonstrating that this podcast is meant to be unpolished and candid. While there is a broad topic for each episode, space is given for tangents and memories.
No matter one’s political views, hearing Michelle and Barack share memories of growing up helps take them out of the political arena and grounds them as humans first.
The second and third episodes include guests who are influential friends of Michelle’s. Acclaimed journalist Michele Norris offers her perspective on recent events including the pandemic and the racial protests. The podcast carefully navigates some of the more sensitive critiques of current political leadership but does not shy away from wrestling with suffering. Dr. Sharon Malone joins Michelle Obama for the third episode to talk about women’s health, including menopause. During both episodes, Michelle transparently offers the listener a view of how she struggles, whether it be with sadness over current events or physical changes as she ages.
Michelle’s older brother Craig joins her for the fourth episode, and childhood stories dominate the conversation. Nostalgia flows. At one point, Michelle and Craig sing the chorus of an old Jackson Five song together. Mixed in with these stories are life lessons about family, parenting, and even budgeting. Michelle and Craig reveal some of their challenges growing up, including coming to terms with seeing their dad suffer from multiple sclerosis.
While the overall direction of The Michelle Obama Podcast is still unclear, the first four episodes give enough glimpses of potential for listeners to take notice. Michelle Obama has all the ingredients necessary to cut through a cluttered podcast landscape. She has an existing audience, access to influential guests, and a strong motivation to inspire positive change. Time will tell if she succeeds. (Higher Ground)