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The ‘90s Format Enters Its Second Decade


Power 107 CJNW Edmonton There have been stops and starts, but the ‘90s format has now existed on the FM dial a few months longer than the decade itself did. KBZC (The Buzz) Sacramento, Calif., launched its version in May 2009. Several incarnations later, that station is now the home of CHR KUDL (The End), but WBEL (The Beat) Beloit, Wis., is still in the format nearly two years after its launch. And this summer, two more stations moved into a ‘90s-based next-generation-of-Classic Hits format.

In late June, iHeart returned to the format when Urban AC WKAF Boston segued to a ‘90s-based “rhythmic classic hits” format as 97.7 the Beat. The new station covers a lot of the same turf as rival WBQT (Hot 96.9)’s throwback Hip-Hop and R&B format, but leans slightly older and poppier. If WBQT is playing the greatest hits of WJMN (Jam’n 94.5) from the mid-‘90s, the new station is going for the late ‘80s/early ‘90s rhythmic pop era when WXKS (Kiss 108) and WZOU (WJMN’s predecessor) were engaged in one of CHR’s greatest battles.

Last week, CJNW (Hot 107), one of three CHRs in Edmonton, Alberta—a market as crowded and competitive as any here—became Power 107. The former Power 92 was not just beloved in the mid-‘90s, but was also one of the first FMs to succeed with CHR in Canada in the mid-‘90s when government regulations were still geared toward keeping Top 40 off FM and protecting legacy AMs.

The New 97.7 The Beat WKAF BostonAll three versions of the format are slightly different. Boston plays a few ‘80s per hour, and is entirely rhythmic. Edmonton plays some recurrents and mixes rhythm and rock, although both the rock and newer titles are more likely to be part of the station’s 40% Canadian content. Beloit starts in the late ‘80s and extends through the mid-‘00s when pop music changed with Kelly Clarkson.

The ‘90s and early ‘00s are still establishing a foothold slowly at some more typical ‘80s-based Classic Hits outlets. KOLA Riverside, Calif., has been featured here before for its forays into Maroon 5 territory. Now the very successful KONO-FM San Antonio, Texas, is playing about two dozen post-’89 songs as well. How listeners elsewhere will experience the ‘90s is still to be determined, but there are clearly people for whom the ‘90s is what they want—what they really, really want. In the meantime, here are First and Fresh Listens to three ‘90s-based formats.

Here’s CKPW (Power 107) just before 2 p.m. on August 19:

  • Nelly Furtado, “Say It Right” (Canadian)
  • Mary J. Blige, “Family Affair”
  • Color Me Badd, “I Wanna Sex You Up”
  • Cher, “Believe”
  • ‘N Sync, “Bye Bye Bye”
  • Metric, “Help I’m Alive” (Canadian)
  • Dr. Dre & Eminem, “The Next Episode”
  • Tom Cochrane, “Life Is A Highway” (Canadian)
  • Loud Luxury f/Brando, “Body” (Canadian)
  • Jann Arden, “Insensitive” (Canadian)
  • TLC, “No Scrubs”
  • K-Os, “Crabbuckit” (Canadian)
  • City High, “What Would You Do”
  • Shawn Hook, “Sound Of Your Heart” (Canadian)
  • Paula Abdul, “Straight Up”
  • 3 Doors Down, “Kryptonite”
  • Karl Wolff, “Africa” (Canadian interpolation/cover of the Toto song)
  • Crystal Waters, “100% Pure Love”
  • Santana, “Smooth”

The new WKAF promises 97 minutes of music in every sweep. Despite the overlap with WBQT, its liners promise “songs you won’t hear anywhere else in Boston,” as well as a “playlist filled with Boston favorites,” such that “your out-of-town friends won’t get it.” Here’s WKAF at 5:40 p.m., August 19.

  • Fugees, “Killing Me Softly”
  • Flo Rida, “Low”
  • Prince, “Raspberry Beret”
  • Ice Cube, “You Can Do It”
  • Company B, “Fascinated”
  • Mariah Carey, “Someday”
  • Bobby Brown, “Every Little Step”
  • Notorious B.I.G., “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems”
  • Usher, “U Got It Bad”
  • Lionel Richie, “All Night Long (All Night)”
  • En Vogue, “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)”
  • Rob Base & DJ EZ-Rock, “It Takes Two”
  • Mary J. Blige, “Real Love”
  • Shaggy f/Rayvon, “Angel”
  • Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean”
  • Eminem, “Lose Yourself”
  • Mariah Carey, “Always Be My Baby”
  • Hi-Five, “I Like The Way (The Kissin’ Game)”

And here’s WBEL (The Beat) at 4:15 p.m., August 19:

  • Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch, “Good Vibrations”
  • Boyz II Men, “Water Runs Dry”
  • Guns N’ Roses, “Live And Let Die”
  • Kelly Clarkson, “Behind These Hazel Eyes”
  • Oasis, “Wonderwall”
  • Will Smith, “Miami”
  • Barenaked Ladies, “One Week”
  • Lisa-Lisa & Cult Jam f/Full Force, “Head To Toe”
  • Sixpence None the Richer, “Kiss Me”
  • Captain Hollywood Project, “More And More”
  • Evanescence, “Bring Me To Life”
  • Notorious B.I.G., “Hypnotize”
  • Weezer, “Buddy Holly”
  • Alice Deejay, “Better Off Alone”
  • En Vogue, “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)”
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