Looking for a new podcast to get stuck into? Here are 26 series we’re very 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 Jennifer Lawrence reacting to the ‘Bennifer’ reunion news on The Bitch Bible, Clara Amfo sharing some powerful words about loving yourself on Make It Reign and Sheridan Smith nailing the reality of imposter syndrome on Byron &.
Even though we’ve eased out of many lockdown restrictions, many of us are still plugging into podcasts during those walks to the pub, trips to the gym and commutes (fake or real). 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
Spotify’s latest original podcast uncovers the fascinating real-life stories behind the long-held secrets and the deep, dark confessions made by people taking their final, dying breaths. The series unpicks murder, fake identities, illicit affairs and even classified government information. Get ready to be hooked.
Pieces Of Britney
Pieces Of Britney is an eight-part series from Radio 4 presented by Pandora Sykes. It traces Spears’ life and what her journey tells us about how we see women in the public eye.
To get a rounded picture of the complicated and contradictory pop culture phenomenon, Sykes speaks to guests including social psychologist Dr Karen Dill-Shackleford, Jude Ellison S. Doyle (who wrote a book on the ‘trainwreck’ narrative), cultural historian Jennifer Bickerdike and child star Mara Wilson.
Following the news that Spears had her request to remove her father from her conservatorship denied, it’s a timely and essential investigation.
Coupledom is a six-part Audible series, which sees Idris and Sabrina Elba dig into what makes successful relationships thrive in business, activism, love and life. It also explores challenging first-hand experiences of arranged marriage, discrimination and representation.
In each episode, the couple delve into the world of extraordinary partnerships with well-known twosomes, including: Kris Jenner and Kim Kardashian West, Ben and Jerry, Christian Louboutin and Mika, Nadiya and Abdal Hussain, Tommy and Codie Oliver, and Mary and Sharon Bishop Baldwin.
Podcast queen Alice Levine joins comedian and former political advisor Matt Forde for the gripping new Wondery series, British Scandal.
Each of its three seasons tells the dramatic story of a major modern-day scandal that sent shockwaves around the globe, and it launched with a story of espionage, intrigue and speculation: The Salisbury Poisonings.
With expert contributors joining Levine and Forde to offer insight, updates and commentary, the three-part season traces the roots of the story from Litvinenko’s earlier life working for the KGB through to the public enquiry into his death nearly 10 years later.
True crime fans will love it.
Terri White is the journalist and author behind one of the most searing memoirs of 2020, Coming Undone. In the book, she recalls the trauma she faced since childhood and details her ongoing road to recovery.
In her new podcast of the same name, White speaks to guests about their unflinching tales of personal struggle and the reality of the road back from it.
Working Hard, Hardly Working
Need some career inspiration minus the hustle culture rhetoric? Accompanying her bestselling book, author and entrepreneur Grace Beverley and her guests explore what actually goes on behind the scenes of work.
Do we take enough time off? How can we actually avoid burnout? If you want practical tips to help make our work and home lives more balanced, successful and fulfilling, tune in.
Welcome To The OC, Bitches!
Calling all fans of The OC who rewatched the iconic teen drama in lockdown: Rachel Bilson and Melinda Clarke have launched a rewatch podcast: Welcome To The OC, Bitches!
The two hosts, who of course played Summer Roberts and Julie Cooper respectively, invited former stars, people from behind-the-scenes and celebrity fans to dissect each and every episode in all their dramatic glory.
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 of Fresh Starts sees 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.
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 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
Another podcast all about The OC? Yep, and we’re 100% here for it.
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’re currently working through 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 the perfect background noise.
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. He continued well into this year’s third lockdown. With guests including Michaela Coel, Miriam Margolyes and Ruby Wax, each episode is a treat.
We’ll have to see if he continues the series now that we’re not so “grounded” in our homes anymore.
Images: supplied by each podcast
Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…