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First Listen: WXAJ (99.7 The Mix) Springfield IL

99.7 The Mix Kiss-FM WXAJ Springfield Bondsy TaylorIt was a familiar headline from CHR doldrums past. The market’s second Mainstream CHR segues to Adult CHR, promising “the best variety of music from the ‘90s, 2K and today.” Often the next step is that the only remaining Top 40 eventually switches formats, too.

But on WXAJ (99.7 the Mix) Springfield, Ill., the ‘90s part of the equation isn’t Matchbox Twenty and the Goo Goo Dolls. It’s actually a lot of the songs that scared stations out of the CHR format at the time. Even in 1992, one would hear Kris Kross, “Jump,” and wonder if it would be playing on Hot AC in 25 years. Your station might have crossed that threshold for a lunchtime feature or special weekend. I heard the Mix playing it at the top of the 10 a.m. hour yesterday (March 14).

Not all the “oh wow” songs on the Mix are lost ‘90s. Some are the songs from CHR’s turbo-pop period of the early teens that didn’t go to recurrent and gold at most stations, partially because in that era, when there was always another crowd-pleasing, adult-friendly, uptempo hit coming, stations didn’t need to hold on to them. Those are the songs most in violation of programming law, but they’re also the ones that sound the freshest on the radio.

In other words, 99.7 the Mix is the rhythmic-leaning “yesterday-and-today” Hot AC that programmers have been aiming for, ever since the “Movin’” stations of a decade ago. Most of today’s Adult Top 40s have become sufficiently focused on the last five years that trying to negotiate the hip-hop pop of the mid-‘90s isn’t an issue. On the Mix, Paperboy’s “Ditty” is the song that represents the ‘90s on one of the hook promos.

WDBR, the surviving mainstream CHR, goes back to 1973 and has been through numerous Top 40 format cycles. It does not stream, is not monitored, and does not publish a “just played,” although the station has traditionally bordered Hot AC itself, and market sources say that it still leans very adult during the days. So chances are the Mix, despite its repackaging, doesn’t always feel significantly more Hot AC’ish in texture.

However it might fare, WXAJ isn’t the last station of its kind that you’ll hear. Here is the station as heard in its first days in the 5 a.m. hour. (In recent days, I’ve also heard stagers heralding a “Fresh Cut of the Week,” most recently before the Chainsmokers/Coldplay collaboration.)

Christina Aguilera, “Ain’t No Other Man”
Bruno Mars, “24K Magic”
Cher Lloyd, “Want U Back”
Next, “Too Close”
The Fray, “Over My Head (Cable Car)”
Twenty One Pilots, “Heathens”
Kiiara, “Gold”
The Weeknd, “I Feel It Coming”
Aqua, “Barbie Girl” (after a “variety” stager)
Jason Derulo, “Want to Want Me”
And here’s the station yesterday, March 14:
Kelly Clarkson, “Since U Been Gone”
Wiz Khalifa, “See You Again”
Kris Kross, “Jump”
Adele, “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”
Echosmith, “Cool Kids”
The Weeknd, “I Feel It Coming”
Sia, “Cheap Thrills”
Lady Gaga, “Poker Face”
Justin Bieber, “U Smile”
R. Kelly, “Bump N’ Grind”
Justin Timberlake, “Can’t Stop the Feeling”
Flo Rida, “My House”
Capital Cities, “Safe And Sound”

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Sean Ross is author of the Ross on Radio newsletter and VP of music and programming of Edison Research.

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