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First Listen: Cities 97.1 Minneapolis

Cities 97.1 KTCZ MinneapolisFor roughly twenty years, basically as long as there’s been Modern AC, “Cities 97” KTCZ Minneapolis has been darting back and forth around the place where that format and Triple-A converge. About five years ago, it landed in a place I really liked, finding the songs in Triple-A that deserved to cross to pop, playing them in aggressive rotations, and interspersing a few songs from Pink or Bruno Mars that were compatible sonically, if not in terms of artist image.

Then the pop component kept growing. Cities never relinquished its name. It was still early on a few Triple-A or Alternative titles. But it was clearly a Hot AC station, elbowing rival KSTP-FM (KS95) as that station crowded Cities’ heritage CHR sister KDWB. One might have wished them to instead target those Modern AC fans disenfranchised by KS95, but the PPM ratings strategy of the time was to cram in multiple stations around the biggest hits. And owner iHeart Media was doing pretty well with a similar strategy in Dallas.

Last Friday, Cities was positioning itself as “more music, more variety.” Monday, August 20 at Noon, it repositioned itself as “Uniquely Twin Cities,” beginning with a relaunch promo voiced by former PD Lauren Macleash. The promo promises “some music you haven’t heard in a while” and music discovery “that can come from anywhere.” Sweepers declare the station “born in 1984, reborn in 2018.”

It’s worth noting that Cities was already playing the recent Death Cab for Cutie song last week, and it’s still playing Maroon 5, “Girls Like You” today. Pink is still there, too, but in the first few hours, the biggest change was hearing gold like David Gray, “Babylon” or Amy Winehouse, “You Know I’m No Good” where the Cities of 18 months ago might have played a Taylor Swift or Katy Perry song. Cities has also played currents from Leon Bridges and Amy Shark, two of the “should crossover” type songs that the station specialized in five years ago.

The Cities’ change reflects how there’s not quite the incentive to play the female pop juggernauts of the last decade that there might have been a few years ago. Or to remain open to receive incoming mom-friendly music from KDWB—there isn’t so much of that at the moment.

The change also reflects the power of heritage brands at this challenging time for broadcast radio. iHeart also recently relaunched its Rhythmic Top 40 KUBE Seattle brand as well. When Cities veered more pop a few years ago, its hip credentials as the market’s aspirational brand had been challenged by the more eclectic non-comm Triple-A KCMP (the Current). KCMP isn’t going anywhere, but today’s change basically gives Cities the opportunity to re-set as “hipper than it was.” And I’ll take “uniquely Twin Cities” over “more music, more variety” anytime.

Here’s Cities on Friday, August 17, just before 2 p.m.

  • All-American Rejects, “Gives You Hell”

  • Pink, “Try”

  • Onerepublic, “Connection” (with a New Music stager)

  • Green Day, “Time Of Your Life”

  • James Bay, “Hold Back the River”

  • Jason Mraz, “Have It All”

  • Matchbox Twenty, “Unwell” (staged with a rollover sweeper promoting a “major announcement” at Noon on Monday)

  • Halsey, “Bad At Love”

  • Train, “Hey, Soul Sister”

  • John Mayer, “New Light”

  • Lorde, “Royals”

  • Spin Doctors, “Two Princes”

  • Death Cab for Cutie, “Gold Rush”

  • Maroon 5, “Girls Like You”

  • Fun, “Some Nights”

And here’s Cities 97 after the relaunch today (August 20) at Noon:

  • U2, “Beautiful Day”
  • American Authors, “Best Day Of My Life”
  • New Radicals, “You Get What You Give”
  • Adele, “Rolling in The Deep (Live)”
  • Jack Johnson, “Upside Down”
  • Coldplay, “Clocks”
  • Bad Wolves, “Zombie”
  • Sheryl Crow, “Every Day Is A Winding Road”
  • Fun, “Carry On”
  • Michael Frente & Spearhead, “Say Hey (I Love You)”
  • Theory of a Deadman, “Wicked Game”
  • Soul Asylum, “Runaway Train”
  • O.A.R., “Peace (Studio C Version)”
  • Amy Winehouse, “You Know I’m No Good”
  • Jason Mraz, “Have It All”
  • Gin Blossoms, “Hey Jealousy”
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