In the world of podcasts, few can say they have enjoyed the level of success that Welcome to Night Vale has earned. Welcome to Night Vale is a twice-monthly broadcast from the lovely desert community known as Night Vale, and according to iTunes it is currently the #1 podcast in the United States, Canada, Finland, Australia, and New Zealand. Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor have created quite a monster, and while we cannot be sure just where or why Night Vale is, we can say with much certainty that it is beyond popular.
It should come as no surprise that there are people out there dissecting Welcome to Night Vale in hopes of finding the secret to its success. However, one only needs to listen to a few minutes of any given episode to find that it is not a secret formula that makes Welcome to Night Vale better than the rest. It is the level of talent that is behind the podcast that truly makes it great enough to top international charts.
The first thing you will notice is the narrator, your guide through Night Vale, Cecil Baldwin. Cecil plays the role of the charming and articulate host of Welcome to Night Vale, and is often the sole voice heard throughout each broadcast. His job is to keep us up to date on the goings-on in Night Vale, covering everything from breaking news and emergencies to traffic and community announcements. No matter what the topic, Cecil performs in such an eloquent way that, even in Night Vale’s strangest of moments, the listener will only be left as confused as they are intended to be.
The second thing you will notice is that the audio mixing is flawless. The absence of any audio issues allows listeners to enjoy the witty writing and somber ambient music in equal measure as it comes together to paint the unique landscape that is Night Vale. The ambient music is almost solely provided by Disparition, a solo electronic music project by Jon Bernstein. The weather is a different song every episode, and each song is given proper credit at the end of the podcast. Joseph has done an incredible job choosing the ambience and weather for each broadcast, and Cecil’s voice is never anything less crystal clear. This brings a level of professionalism to the table that even for-profit podcasts sometimes lack.
And finally, there is the aforementioned writing. While Cecil’s rich voice and the audio quality certainly make Welcome to Night Vale a pleasant listen, it is these two qualities combined with the fantastic writing that truly make experiencing Night Vale a treat. Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor are the primary writers, and together they have managed to create a world that is endlessly strange and yet completely enjoyable. A year after the pilot and 27 episodes later, each episode is as entertaining as the last. Each plot point is unique, and even the smallest of happenings are interesting. No matter how bizarre the situations may become, the podcast never ceases to be engaging. In most cases, it is the exact opposite; the stranger it gets, the more enthralling it becomes.
While there is much, much more to Welcome to Night Vale than these factors, to say that the efforts of the people behind this production go unnoticed would be a fallacy. It is the combined talents of these genius new gods of odd that make Welcome to Night Vale entertaining not only for your average Lovecraftian, but for people of all walks of life.
It could also have something to do with the glowing cloud hovering over our homes and businesses, but I can’t really remember for sure.
You can find out more about Welcome to Night Vale at Commonplace Books.