Fresh Listen: BBC Radio 1 vs. Capital FM
BBC Radio 1, the state broadcaster’s (mostly) mainstream CHR has been a famous longtime irritant to its commercial rivals. The national footprint of a CHR station that also happens to be commercial free was the publicly stated rationale for the networking of British commercial radio that has taken place over the last decade. It was also Radio 1’s eclectic nighttime bloc from which Apple Music poached Zane Lowe for its new Beats 1 service last year.
Whatever Radio 1’s advantage nationally, it never cut the same figure in London as the eclectic AC BBC Radio 2. Capital has been mired in a slog with AC rivals Heart and Magic, but it could usually count on being the leading CHR. But in the just released Q3 London RAJAR ratings, BBC1 is up 3.6-4.5, well behind BBC2’s 10.9 share, but edging Captal, which goes 4.6-4.3.
It seemed like a good time to take a Fresh Listen to both stations. I’ve always wished something like Radio 1 existed in the U.S.—slightly hipper music than mainstream CHR with some indie rock presence. Part of the disappointment of Beats 1 is that they didn’t choose to bring that formula to the world, choosing instead to try and out-weird the bloc programming that Radio 1 airs at night (and where Lowe was a calling card).
Radio 1 is also a full-service radio station that just happens to play pop music. Afternoon host Scott Mills is on vacation this week, but there was a fill-in host working with Mills’ sidekick. After some discussion, the team decided that they would continue his “Bangers” feature, where each member of the team offers an “oh wow” song and a listener chooses which one to play. When I tuned in, there was also a discussion in progress with a listener whose job it once was to patrol a nude beach.
Here is BBC Radio 1 at 2p on Nov. 1:
- Two Door Cinema Club, “Bad Decisions”
- Kanye West, “Fade”
- Fifth Harmony, “That’s My Girl”
- Chris Malinchak, “So Good To Me”
- Declan McKenna, “Isombard”—the Track of the Day feature, replacing Zane Lowe’s Hottest Record In The World.
- Biffy Clyro, “Wolves Of Winter”—Scottish rock band whose presence on American CHR is unimaginable
- Chainsmokers, “Don’t Let Me Down”
- Bruno Mars, “24K Magic”
- Halee Stienfeld & Gray f/Zedd, “Starving”
- Mumford & Sons, “Snake Eyes”
- Chase & Status f/Tom Grennan “All Goes Wrong”
- Snoop Dogg, “Beautiful” (Winner of the “Bangers” feature—truck driver of Christmas cookies who announced that he was still waiting for “Fairytale of New York” before he would be in the holiday spirit)
- Usher, “No Limit”
- DNCE, “Body Moves”
- Beyonce, “Freedom”
As for Capital, much of the hour I heard was devoted to a fall contest—“Capital’s Cash Call,” despite its name, actually a “count ‘em for cash” promotion where the jackpot goes up by L100 with each song until listeners hear the winner song and call in. As is typical of U.K. and Australia stations, much of what happened throughout the hour was a build to the contest payoff. Several songs had stagers keeping tally of the amount of money listeners were now waiting to win—L200, L400, etc.
Capital’s music will seem far less eclectic to an American. It was also slightly more uptempo than the morass of slow-to-mid EDM that populates American CHR now, even though it was drawing almost entirely from the same basic music styles. What will sound jolting to Americans is that there was still a 2 p.m. newcast; (Radio 1 did theirs at 2:30). The station is also teasing the announcement of its Jingle Bell Ball lineup, always formidable and often featuring some acts who no longer do station shows here, on Monday.
Here’s Capital London at 2p:
- The Weeknd f/Daft Punk, “Starboy”
- Drake, “One Dance”
- Jonas Blue, “Perfect Strangers”
- Major Lazer, “Light It Up”
- Fifth Harmony, “That’s My Girl” (“Just took us up to L500”)
- Calvin Harris, “My Way”
- Kungs &. Cookin’ On 3 Burners, “This Girl”
- ZAYN, “Pillowtalk” (the cue-to-win song)
- Ariana Grande f/Nicki Minaj, “Side To Side”
- Louisa Jordan, “So Good”
- Shawn Mendes, “Treat You Better”
- Tinie Tempah f/Jess Glynne, “Not Letting Go”
- Jonas Blue, “By Your Side”
- DJ Snake f/Bipolar Sunshine, “Middle”