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Fresh Listen – BBC Radio 2


bbc radio 2When I tuned in to BBC Radio 2 a few weeks ago, having read in the U.K. trade Music Week about recent music changes meant to contemporize the station, the midday topic with Jeremy Vine was “have you ever pulled your own teeth because you couldn’t get a National Health Service appointment”? Listener after listener called or texted to say they had. One listener had done his own filling.

Remember full-service AC? In American radio, it’s the most distant of memories. In the U.K., Radio 2 keeps it vital and very successful, which doesn’t mean there aren’t the same ongoing issues of how to contemporize that define all AC radio programming discussions. Last month, Radio 2 significantly revamped its lineup, but also its music, in hopes making the station younger. And here, younger means 35-54.

Head of music Jeff Smith tells Music Week that Radio 2 is backing off the ‘60s and ‘70s and emphasizing ‘80s through today. With a license requirement to play 20% new music and over 40% UK artists, Radio 2 has enterprise projects, such as UK Country act the Shires or ‘80s-flavored rocker Jack Savoretti. Its airplay can propel a veteran artist, like Bryan Adams’ “Shine A Light” halfway up the chart.

But now, Smith tells Music Week, there will also be Calvin Harris, Dua Lipa, Jess Glynne, and Clean Bandit, the dance/pop hitmakers of recent years who are established, but perhaps not with the Radio 2 audience. It’s worth noting that the U.K.’s commercial Heart FM, which started as a ‘70s/’80s rhythmic AC has recently become a more contemporary one, similar to WKTU New York. So there are elements of both old and new Heart here.

Radio 2 is a lot more than the music, but here’s the station just before 2 p.m. on Feb. 27 with Steve Wright:

  • Grace Carter, “Heal Me”
  • Human League, “Don’t You Want Me”
  • Don Henley, “The Boys of Summer”
  • Mark Ronson w/Miley Cyrus, “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart”
  • Carly Simon, “All I Want Is You”
  • Dido, “Give You Up”
  • Bee Gees, “Love So Right”
  • Bee Gees, “Morning of My Life”
  • Little Mix, “Think About Us”
  • Revivalists, “All My Friends”
  • Lewis Capaldi, “Someone You Loved”
  • Seals & Crofts, “Summer Breeze”
  • Keith Urban, “Never Comin’ Down”
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