Two Very Different (From Each Other) CHRs

I took a “Fresh Listen” to two very different CHR stations this week.

One was Rhythmic Top 40, one was Mainstream.

One came to my attention for the amount of Latin crossover it was playing. One I just happened across.

I’ve said in recent years that spending time with many CHRs is sometimes more professional duty than pleasure. In many cases, it’s the lack of differences. After PPM, the range of what could be considered “best practice” narrowed for many people, even given differences in their market situations. But I enjoyed one station because it was different, and the other because it was different enough.

KVVF (Hot 105.7) San Jose CA

Hot 105.7 KVVF San Jose 100.7 KVVZ San FranciscoThe Bay Area’s Hot 105.7/100.7 got a lot of social media attention when it signed on four years ago. Its seemingly hoary stunt—Nelly’s “Hot In Herre” on repeat—somehow trended. After that, the Rhythmic Top 40 station may not have been on the radar for as many industry people. But they got my attention recently.

Long before “Despacito,” it was possible to look at WPOW (Power 96) Miami or KBFM (B104) McAllen, Texas, and see several Spanish-language titles in regular rotation every week. About six weeks ago, however, something interesting began happening during my weekly listening to the new songs on the Rhythmic Top 40 chart. Any time I came across a new Latin crossover title, and checked to see who was playing it, that song was usually getting its most spins at Hot 105.7.

It’s an interesting evolution for Hot because that station had been reggaetón-driven La Kalle before switching to Rhythmic. At the time, I wrote that some in the industry felt that English-language rhythmic pop was a better way to reach young Hispanics; Univision itself tried a Dallas experiment KESS (Radio H20) in 2012-13. But in the intervening years, Mainstream CHR product has faltered, and reggaetón has done far more than just defy the predictions that it would be gone by 2008.

In San Jose, Hot 105.7 has gone 3.0-3.2-3.3 over the last three months, making it the leading published CHR, Rhythmic, or Hip-Hop station in the market. Its San Francisco number isn’t published. One sign that it’s not doing this in a vacuum: the Bay Area is one of CHR’s most aggressive markets for new music and the Sofia Reyes song that Hot 105.7 has championed is now on San Francisco’s “Now 99.7” KMVQ.

Here’s Hot 105.7 at 2 p.m., Saturday, April 14

  • NF, “Let You Down”
  • Maluma, “Corazon”
  • Kendrick Lamar & SZA, “All The Stars”
  • Ed Sheeran & Beyoncé, “Perfect” (Midtempo Remix)
  • Sofia Reyes f/Jason DeRulo & D.L.G., “1, 2, 3”
  • Logic & Marshmello, “Everyday”
  • French Montana f/Swae Lee, “Unforgettable”
  • G-Eazy f/Charlie Puth, “Sober”
  • Enrique Iglesias f/Bad Bunny, “El Bano”
  • The Weeknd & Kendrick Lamar, “Pray For Me”
  • DJ Khaled f/Rihanna & Bryson Tiller, “Wild Thoughts”
  • Luis Fonsi & Demi Lovato, “Echame La Culpa”
  • Bazzi, “Mine”
  • Charlie Puth, “Attention”
  • Drake, “Nice For What”
  • Bruno Mars & Cardi B., “Finesse”
  • Kent Jones, “Merengue”

KKSW (105.9 Kiss FM) Lawrence KS

105.9 Kiss-FM KKSW Lawrence Kansas CityHere’s the thing I liked most about Lawrence’s 105.9 Kiss FM. It isn’t so different from the Mainstream CHRs that I find hard to listen to. There are perhaps two titles that aren’t yet on every large-market CHR. There are the same the mid-tempo EDM ballads I gripe about, and at one point in the hour, I even heard two of them in succession. (It’s hard for anybody to do the format without that happening.)

Last year, I wrote an article in praise of CKOI Montreal, a CHR station whose market and license circumstances make it impossible for American CHR to duplicate, not that anybody would be so inclined. Kiss FM was just a tick newer, a scooch more pop, a little more uptempo than the format as it exists in most large markets. Power is 79x a week, not 109x. Despite that, it’s not one of the medium-to-small-market CHRs that most people would regard as Hot AC in every way except its chart reporting status.

Large-market PDs might see this monitor and disagree with those tiny differences. I can’t prove they’re wrong; Kiss is heard in Kansas City and Topeka, but isn’t published there, and Lawrence is unrated. But large-market CHR isn’t doing too well to consider adjustments. I can only say that I found it very listenable. And the station was as tightly hosted as any large-market outlet in afternoons by PD Beth Cruise. There was also a “Kiss Cares” feature spotlighting community events; I kept waiting to hear that they were sales promotions, but they appeared to be true PSAs.

Here’s 105.9 Kiss FM just before 6 p.m., Monday, April 16.

  • Meghan Trainor, “No Excuses”
  • AJR, “Sober”
  • Zedd f/Maren Morris & Grey, “The Middle” (the :00 song)
  • Chainsmokers & Coldplay, “Something Just Like This”
  • Dua Lipa, “IDGAF”
  • In Real Life, “Tattoo (How About You)”
  • Drake, “God’s Plan”
  • Taylor Swift, “I Knew You Were Trouble”
  • Halsey f/Big Sean & Stefflon Don, “Alone”
  • DNCE, “Cake By the Ocean”
  • The Weeknd & Kendrick Lamar, “Pray For Me”
  • DJ Khaled f/Justin Bieber & Quavo, “I’m The One”
  • Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa, “One Kiss”
  • Imagine Dragons, “Whatever It Takes”

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