What The 2017 Summer Song Won’t Be

In Germany, the Summer Song 2017 battle is already decided. On Billboard, “Despacito” has been No. 1 for so many weeks that it would seem like they’re only holding off on the coronation to try and keep the suspense going. I’m still not ready. I like that a Spanish-language hit could be Song of the Summer (as has been happening around the world for years, see that German list). I like seeing Luis Fonsi have an English-language hit after nearly 20 years. I don’t like that the title translates to “Slowly,” in this summer of tempo deprivation. But we have reached the point where a lot of the songs that were contenders at summer’s outset have peaked or fallen away. Some of them were records I would have much preferred to do better. And the list says something about the current state of pop musi...Read More

CBS Gives HD Radio A Needed Programming Boost A Decade Too Late

On Wednesday CBS Radio News/Talk 1020 KDKA Pittsburgh announced the launch of a new “KDKA Traffic & Weather” HD Radio subchannel on 107.9 WDSY-HD3 and streaming via The programming will feature traffic and weather reports every five minutes from 5am to 7pm weekdays and road closure updates along with weather in nights and weekends. For the first time since 102.7 WNEW New York debuted as the first HD Radio station in 1999 a broadcaster is creating something that can be used as a selling point for the technology. In its early days both Sirius and XM used their 24/7 traffic and weather channels as selling points for their new satellite services. The combined SiriusXM has now consolidated traffic to just eight markets split over five channels after temporarily elimi...Read More

Songs That Programmers Wish Would Test

  I’ve never seen Electric Light Orchestra’s “Turn to Stone” do well in music testing. Or “Sweet Talkin’ Woman.” Or “Livin’ Thing.” Or “Do Ya?” The band that had five years as one of pop music’s greatest hitmaking machines is now often represented at Classic Hits radio by two songs, “Evil Woman” and the goofy outlier that it is “Don’t Bring Me Down.” (Who was Brrrrruuce? What did Jeff Lynne have against him? And even if they really were singing “grooose,” as they insist, that doesn’t make any sense either.) But “Turn to Stone” got nearly a hundred BDS spins this week. Nearly a decade ago, former WCBS-FM New York PD Brian Thomas nurtured it from a few spins a week to playing almost daily. (It got five spins there this week.) WGRR Cincinnati Keith Mitchell tells me it “does well enough ...Read More

Summer Song Week 6: The Year Without A Summer?

I’ve been on the road again this week. The place I am now is lovely and temperate—perfect summer weather. The market I was in earlier this week was sticky and hot—undeniable summer weather. And in each of them, the unavoidable song on the radio was “Stay” by Zedd & Alessia Cara, which was the unavoidable song of my Memorial Day road trip as well. “Stay” has just been pushed out of No. 1 on the CHR chart by “Despacito.” So it may not be at this level of exposure for the second half of the summer. But it’s not going away by Labor Day. If anything, in late August, “Stay” will be the song going from No. 7 to No. 8 in the top ten. I’m not anxious to anoint “Stay” as Summer Song 2017. It’s undeniable, but it’s not up, it’s not fun. It’s a holdover from spring.  And it raises this question ab...Read More

What Is Fast? Not So Fast!

Quick, which is more uptempo? “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2? Or “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”? “I Still Haven’t Found” sort of floats, wraith-like, through its four-and-a-half minutes. “Sunday” rocks. But their tempo is essentially the same, just under 101 BPM (beats per minute). Ron Gerber’s “Between the Songs” is billed as “a step by step guide to creating radio magic,” specifically putting on a specialty show like his syndicated “Crap From the Past,” based at KFAI Minneapolis. It has a lot for music junkies as well. And my eye went immediately to one of the book’s appendices. That’s where Gerber catalogs hundreds of songs — some enduring hits, many forgotten ones on the order of “Cross My Broken Heart” by the Jets — by their BPM count. The results may not surprise anybody ...Read More

Summer Song Week 5: The Summer Stealth Contender

I don’t think it’s going to be long now before somebody just gives the summer song battle to “Despacito.” It’s July. “Despacito” has more momentum than “I’m The One.” (It’s all relative, they’re No. 2 and 3 this week respectively; but “Despacito” is up +1167 spins and “I’m The One” is “only” +488 spins.) And if another song is going to explode into contention, it needs to be in the next few weeks. And today, anyway, the new summer contender pipeline is barely rumbling. But don’t write off Shawn Mendes’ “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back.” You don’t hear about it as much, but that song was the most obviously calibrated of the Summer Song of 2017 candidates. It’s also holding at No. 12 (in a tough patch of charts where it’s nevertheless +655 spins, according to Mediabase). “There’s Nothing Hol...Read More

First Listen: Real 106.1, Vintage 96.5, 94.7 Smoke

A few notes from some of the July 4 weekend format changes.  WISX (Real 106.1) Philadelphia  Some of the trades positioned it as a head-to-head battle for throwback Hip-Hop and R&B with Radio One’s WPHI (Boom 103.9) Philadelphia, but keep up, people! WPHI modified its Classic Hip-Hop format to a more adult-leaning Mainstream Urban late last year. At the outset, there were both currents and ‘90s titles, sort of an Urban version of WKTU New York. Boom has continued to evolve since then, and is now mostly “today.” Boom debuted with a lot of local Philly Hip-Hop and with some first generation hip-hop that had never crossed over. Real 106.1, which replaced AC “Mix 106.1” last Monday, is more (but not entirely) crossover. A lot of what it played is the rhythmic music heard on Top...Read More

Passionate From Miles Away: Summer Song Week 4

Early on in the summer of 2012, I annoyed some readers by giving a week in the Summer Song derby to “Brokenhearted” by Karmin. That song was the sort of second-tier turbo-pop that made great radio fodder but rarely got to power rotation. It wasn’t important enough to be the Song of the Summer, and I knew that all along. But for a week in early summer, it was certainly the unavoidable record. I’m out of town this week in a major-market where the CHR is both rhythmic-leaning and recurrent-driven. I’ve heard “Something Just Like This” more than I’ve heard any of the summer song candidates, which prompted this larger commentary. I’ve even punched between stations and heard “Can’t Stop the Feeling” on both. But I’ve also heard Drake’s “Passionfruit” a lot this week. Created and timed to recreat...Read More

The Second Single … And the Old Single

As a music fan, and a fan of the business, one of the nice moments in hit music is the release of the second single from a project. The first single is heavily watched, but it’s often the second that determines an artist’s career trajectory. When a developing artist follows the breakthrough hit with the right second single, it always establishes them as someone to be reckoned with, really. Cyndi Lauper has not just “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” but a song for the ages in “Time After Time.” (And “Girls” turned out to be for the ages, too). Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” is a breakthrough, but “Livin’ on a Prayer” is a career song. Sometimes the excitement is a smash followed by an even bigger hit.   Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” and then “Someone Like You.” Katy Perry’s “California...Read More

Party Rock Is In The House Again: Summer Song Week 3

It was weird to look out over the field of Summer Song 2017 contenders and realize that there was no party song. Once the Song of Summer became a phenomenon, part of the calculation in the battle for Summer Song became building in usage. “Party Rock Anthem” had a clear mission statement. “I Gotta Feeling,” by pitching weddings, parties, and bar/bat mitzvahs, guaranteed itself an audience beyond the radio. And reaching people beyond the usual footprint of CHR is part the shared experience that helps a song become the song of summer. Summer songs didn’t have to be about partying like there was no tomorrow—see “Call Me Maybe,” “Blurred Lines,” “Cheerleader.” EDM took on new seriousness of purpose; the Chainsmokers, for all their alleged frat-bro vapidity, were never frivolous again after “Sel...Read More

Alexa: Play Me Some PSAs

Among the one-on-one interviews featured as part of Edison Research’s “The Smart Audio Report,” unveiled yesterday (6/22) at RAIN’s Podcast Business Summit, the most encouraging comment for broadcasters was the one from the Philadelphia man using smart speakers to listen to sports/talk on WPEN (the Fanatic) Philadelphia. “Now that the Alexa radio is connected to the Internet,” he said, “the reception is always great.” I tweeted that one out. Within minutes, reader Richard Horsman (@leedsjourno) tweeted back, “Ha. If only.” And then he added: #ErrorAtLine400 #WindowsHasEncounteredAnError #Loading #StillLoading #ConnectedNoInternet I retweeted that one and added the message, “If smart speakers are putting radio back in the living room, then this is a good time to fix the streaming experience...Read More

Summer Song 2017: Week Two Rocks, Really

Three years ago, I wrote a Summer Song preview suggesting that there was an actual chance that the Song of Summer 2014 might come from the Alternative/Triple-A world. The article was written during the brief span when Kongos, “Come With Me Now” looked like a CHR hit, and when “The Walker” by Fitz & the Tantrums was picking up its first Top 40 spins.  I was wrong but I wasn’t, you know, wrong. Either of those songs would have sounded great as CHR hits, and provided some balance. And if the spotty presence of Alternative crossovers was in any way an issue three years ago, the absence of those songs is acutely felt now, given pop music’s current sonic claustrophobia.  So here we go again. As I write this, Imagine Dragons, one of the bands that seemed trapped in rock radio’s Spin (Doctors)...Read More

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