MJ Bailey reviews the Noble Blood podcast, by Dana Schwartz
In the sea of non-fiction podcasts, it's tempting to think they explore every inch of knowledge, especially in the cove of history podcasts. History podcasts document, examine and even rank everything from wars, popes, and emperors around the globe. If one were considering making a history podcast, diving into that pool might seem daunting. After all, what if there was nothing more to do? As a person plagued by my insecurity, I am more than sympathetic to that hesitation. However, the unexpected and unpredictable approaches that other creators take provide comfort.
Noble Blood Podcast Review
One of my favorite examples of this would have to be Noble Blood. This podcast from iHeartRadio and Grim & Mild publish new episodes every other Tuesday. As an elevator pitch, I often describe it as “true crime meets royal history.” This oversimplification is less accurate as the show progresses. Early episodes told stories of death and destruction. But, creator and host Dana Schwartz allows the podcast to grow into its concept. In actuality, Noble Blood is about tales surrounding nobility: the more interesting the better. And, it just so happens that these tales often involve a fair bit of blood spilling. There’s plenty of that in this podcast. But, there are also tales of more innocent intrigue: assumed identities, love, and “a bisexual, sword-fighting, opera-singing, 17th-century arsonist” as examples.
The Balancing Game
Despite the freedom Schwartz takes in presentation, my elevator pitch remains true in spirit. The overlap between the two fields is subtle but present. For all the opulence in the lives of nobility across the ages, there was also a strict social script built around a game of appearances. Meanwhile, every noble still had desires that extended beyond these constraints.
Though so much of royal life is unobtainable by the rest of us, this part is not unfamiliar. What would it mean to get what we want if we threw morality to the wind? What is a little bit of blood in pursuit of ultimate power?
As listeners, we know we can’t, and we would never consider it. Still, dark tales of moments when the figurative devil on the shoulder wins the debate are cathartic. They're a way to release this darker part of us. Certainly, the effect is stronger when we witness those we should seemingly envy, indulge in a way we never would. Either it's comforting to know that we are not broken for having these impulses, or that we're morally superior.
Then again, perhaps I’m projecting or focusing on the wrong details. There are various things in this podcast for different interests. If you:
- find history interesting
- want a presenter that does not limit herself to the approved narrative
- are looking for lesser-known tales you may not have heard yet
- want to see those born with a silver spoon in their mouth get some sort of comeuppance
then this is a show for you.
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No matter what one thinks of royals, this telling of their histories brings something that you may enjoy.
The podcast's tone makes this versatility possible. An air of dignity surrounds it, that one might expect from any royal commentary or coverage. At a basic level, Schwartz’s vocal tone is level and polished. This is not a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Rather, the control she has over her pitch and the steadiness of her volume is calming.
She uses a level-headed approach to the subject matter. First and foremost, she does not scandalize or sensationalize any of her subjects. Schwartz seems to take pride in correcting the record or telling the stories of history’s victims. Topics include Queen Liliʻuokalani, the six queens of King Henry VIII, or his eldest daughter, the mistreated Queen Mary I.
Highlighting suppressed stories is a recurring theme. Schwartz balances frequently requested tales with surprises. She does not limit herself to the few popular princes or even the European continent. She occasionally extends into Africa and Asia, despite the challenges of a poorly preserved if not deliberately destroyed history. As for tales centered in experiences she did not share, Schwartz handles difficult social issues respectfully, for those who take pride in historical figures that share their experiences.
Noble Blood Podcast Review: Summary
Schwartz is the show’s central point as the host and creator. If there were ever an episode in which the line “I'm Dana Schwartz and this is Noble Blood” was missing, there may be a small mutiny of Noble Blood listeners in the streets. I say this because I may be leading it. As I said before, this podcast is an iHeartRadio and Grim & Mild co-production. With so much experience backing this podcast, the technical achievements might be easy to take for granted as just par for the course.
For example, both Lore and Noble Blood utilize a soft but atmospheric backing track. This creates a more immersive experience and maintains a feeling of movement, during moments in the narrative that require clarification. Each episode is carefully researched and is seemingly nurtured into its figurative adulthood before its release.
What sets Noble Blood apart from many other history podcasts is a genuine passion. Largely, this is Schwartz's, though it does take a village to raise a podcast. This love and care for the topic elevate this show from a podcast I enjoy to a show I take the time to recommend. Hence the utility of a deceptively simple elevator pitch.
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