Ten Random Songs From The ROR Vaults

 

I haven’t done it yet, but every time I have to do a presentation somewhere, I consider not talking about the state of radio. I consider not talking about the radio format landscape. I think about just taking out the phone and playing music. Not because I can’t hold forth on those topics endlessly. But who doesn’t want to play music for their friends? Besides, as I fast-forward through the collection, I always feel like what ended up there, no matter whether it got anywhere near the radio, says something about the state of radio and the format landscape.

So today, I started with the most recently acquired song in my iTunes, and hit shuffle. And here’s where it went:

Ying Yang Twins, “Get Out The Way” (2017) – Why is a hip-hop act you haven’t thought about much in a decade getting 77 spins this week at WEZB (B97) New Orleans? (Also, 30 spins at KSMB Lafayette, La.)? Because it’s a New Orleans Saints novelty. And just the title alone could propel U2 & Green Day’s “The Saints Are Coming” on to B97 a decade ago, there is generally one local act or oddball hit, from V.I.C.’s “Wobble” to local punk/poppers the Vetts, on the station at any time, which is one reason for B97’s enduring greatness.

General Public, “Tenderness” (1984)  – On one hand, it was sort of a makegood for all the English Beat songs of the early ‘80s that should have been a hit in America. But it was great in its own right. And it was from that last moment in 1984 when it felt like everything at Top 40 radio was good, before things started to slide a little. It wasn’t quite a big enough record at the time to endure, but it’s definitely one of those songs that radio programmers wish they could still play.

Paramore, “That’s What You Get” (2008) – They had three hits of varying magnitude from “Riot!” and perhaps the best thing was that this didn’t sound like “Misery Business,” and that song didn’t sound like “Crush Crush Crush.” And I thought there were still at least one hit left on the album when it was all over. A decade later, they remain one of our best and most consistent singles bands, and the middling radio reaction to “Hard Times’ and “Fake Happy” this year has done nothing to change that belief.

Shirley & Company, “Shame Shame Shame” (1975) – This landed about halfway into Disco’s incredibly fertile first year as a radio phenomenon on the predecessor to the label that would give us “Rapper’s Delight” four-and-a-half years later. It was out at the same time as The Bertha Butt Boogie” (and a few months ahead of “Muhammad Ali – Black Superman.” But when the records were this propulsive, were they really novelties?

Bon Jovi, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” (1993) – At a time when Mainstream Top 40 miserably needed uptempo pop/rock, WYHY (Y107) Nashville began playing it as an album cut. For me, there was no question that this would be the real hit on the album after “Keep the Faith,” “Bed Of Roses,” and “In These Arms.” But when it became a single, nothing happened—possibly because they’d exhausted their goodwill with the previous attempts.

Fats Domino, “Let The Four Winds Blow” (1961) – Bringing it back to New Orleans. Domino lived long enough to be a distant memory or vaguely known name to many upon his passing this year. Which is why you need to hear this, or hear it again. By the time he released this, the last of his top 15 hits, Domino already had 49 pop chart songs over a six-year period. Also one of the all-time great intros.

Miranda Lambert PlatinumMiranda Lambert, Platinum (2014) – There was a pretty good chance that Lambert would show up here. I don’t load entire albums into my iTunes, but there are nine songs from her “Revolution” album (possibly the most from any one album) and seven songs from the album also named “Platinum.” For a decade, she was the Country act who best negotiated the gap between what Country radio would play and what it should play. And while I’ve never suggested that anybody deserves a new hit on the strength of their catalog, with “Tin Man” still slogging  its way up the charts after more than eight months, I will only say that Country radio needs her to have hits.

Huey Lewis & the News, “Finally Found A Home” (1984) – There were five singles from “Sports.” This is one they didn’t get to, such was their strength and depth at the time. And I heard this enough on the poppy-leaning rock radio of the mid-‘80s that this might as well have been a single. The intro seems to be on loan from a much harder band, but the façade ends when the harmonies kick in.

Nicki Minaj, “Truffle Butter” (2015) – It was reminiscent of featured artist Drake’s “The Motto,” but it was a throwback to an era before that of more uptempo, more propulsive Hip-Hop. Since then, it’s Drake’s moody introspection that has held more sway over the genre. As Top 40 regards the undeniable streaming-driven resurgence of Hip-Hop, it’s true that more of its hits should be acknowledged. But I wish the top tier included something this uptempo.

Brenton Wood, “The Oogum Boogum Song” (1967)  “Gimme Little Sign” was his only top 10 hit and gave him an untouchable place in the R&B pantheon. This one, a single earlier, seems like a novelty goof, and a fashion time capsule as well. But when I moved to Southern California, more than 15 years later, it still played on every oldies station in town. And when I went to program R&B oldies in Chicago a decade after that, it still got requests.

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

2 Comments


  1. I have a random playlist on my phone called the 3 star mix. Anything from 3-5 stars will play. Songs with five stars can play around 2-4 times a month, 4 star songs once every month or two, and three star once or twice a year. Here’s an interesting 5 from me:

    We Are The Young — Dan Hartman (1984)

    Yeah, everyone likes “I Can Dream About You” more, but this one gets four stars because I loved the bass line as a kid, and it brings it back for me.

    Don’t Underestimate — Pete Stewart (1999)

    A non-preachy Christian song from a guy who wouldn’t be putting out Christian albums too long after this was released. He also produced some stuff for dc Talk, and later for the three when they went solo. This song is hard driving (except the bridge) and is just a nice piece of alt-rock perfection.

    Come Undone — Duran Duran (1993)

    From the second album named “Duran Duran”, but called “The Wedding Album” since that was what the pictures on the cover depicted. I am not a big fan of Duran Duran’s later years. I liked Rio, loved Seven… and thought Notorious and Big Thing were okay. From there I haven’t listened to a Duran Duran album all the way through more than once, if at all. Not to say there aren’t some good songs, like this one.

    Ginger Ninja — Sunshine (2010)

    I probably picked this song up while looking at the Dutch charts (peaked at 12, was on their top 100 for 10 weeks). The band hails from Copenhagen, and there is something just so happy about it. And who can’t like a band called Ginger Ninja?

    Hit Parade — MUTEMATH (2017)

    One of my favorite bands. It is always fun to see Daren King banging away on the drums, and Paul Meany working the song from many different instruments. Well, Daren quit the band after this was recorded, and the bass player also declined touring, but didn’t count himself out on some more studio work. So I either really like this song because it’s never going to be like this again, or because it’s just a good song. Weighing in at over 5 minutes, it’s almost like 2-3 songs weaved together. It gets the five star treatment.

    I just downloaded some new stuff, and that shifted all the three star plays to the end of the list, I guess. I’ll have to randomize it again before I sync. Jody Watley’s Friends, and The Hooters’ Satellite came on not long before this list, and they are good examples of 3 star songs. There is a community radio station near my home that is so new they are all automated because they haven’t built a studio, yet. Maybe some day I’ll have a show there, and I’ll be able to play some songs for people, too.


  2. Looks like a fun experiment.

    Lennon and McCartney somehow both showed up on my random shuffle.

    Scratch Acid “For Crying Out Loud”
    Enya “Less than a Pearl”
    Nine Inch Nails “The Perfect Drug”
    The Hollies “The Air that I Breathe”
    Dance Nation “Sunshine”
    Massive Attack “Inertia Creeps”
    John Lennon “Beautiful Boy”
    The Jam “Sounds from the Street”
    AnnaGrace “Let the Feelings Go”
    Paul McCartney “Cut Me Some Slack”

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