Five Powers And What They Say About Today’s Hits
It’s been a while since CHR radio played more than 4-5 powers (if that), and yet even filling those slots has been legitimately hard for most programmers during the format’s recent travails. Like many people, I grimace as the gap between streaming stories and power rotation increases. But I’ve never thought radio wasn’t trying. PDs haven’t made more new hits because PDs have felt like they didn’t have more new hits.
So this morning, I took a look at the powers on WHTZ (Z100) New York.
I chose Z100 because it’s my local Mainstream CHR. Z100 has held relatively steady throughout the format travails. In March, it was fifth overall. It’s not unusual now to get the monthly PPM ratings blast and see only a handful of stations make print.
Z100 has reflected CHR’s issues throughout. I remember the first time I heard “No Scrubs” as a gold and thought “well, they’ve got to play something uptempo(ish) and fun.” That was 2-1/2 years ago. It’s not unusual now to hear a lot of once unlikely gold being used to fill the tempo void at the format.
I’ve groaned every time “No Promises” by Cheat Codes has come back to Z100’s powers or sub-powers, but Z100 is still aggressive about finding new music. This week, their adds include “Timebomb” by Walk the Moon, making them only one of three CHRs on the song (which was an immediate, obvious choice for me) so far. So if they tell me “No Promises” is the best available tempo song, I believe them.
These are Z100’s powers for the last seven days according to Mediabase. It’s Friday as I write this, as best I can tell there were no changes on Tuesday. The biggest gain among any of the station’s sub-powers is for “Eastside.”
As best I can tell, there were also no changes between Z100’s powers for this seven-day period and the one before.
Only one of Z100’s powers is a trap pop/EDM ballad and that’s “7 Rings”—one of the most indisputable hits of the last six months.
Two of Z100’s powers are effectively recurrents. A third is the long-in-developing “Shallow” which, on a more conventional trajectory, would be a recurrent or bringback now.
Three of the five powers can be said to have tempo, although we define that differently these days.
Four of the five powers have been top five songs throughout the format; one is the station’s own call.
These were the five songs:
Ariana Grande, “7 Rings” – It’s only 14 weeks old. It’s only falling out of the national top five now. If it weren’t for her prolific-ness, it wouldn’t in any way feel like a lingering recurrent. And the moment this song dropped, with “Thank U, Next” still a smash, was a “next level” moment for her.
Ariana Grande, “Thank U, Next” – There are other successful CHRs where “Break Up With Your Girlfriend” is a power now (KIIS Los Angeles, KQMV Seattle, WBLI Long Island, WKQI Detroit). At Z100, it’s sub-power (which is still 55x a week) and “Thank U” is still in power. Grande’s ubiquity at pop radio, and in pop culture, has been regarded as a mixed blessing by some people, but she no longer feels like the only thing happening at the format, in part due to ….
Jonas Brothers, “Sucker” – It’s eight weeks old. It’s #1 nationally already. They’ve followed Grande’s lead and already have a second hit brewing. At first, I thought it might just be a record that PDs wanted to be a hit, but there’s clear consensus throughout CHR now, and like “Sweet But Psycho,” it’s a reminder of how starved the format was for tempo and energy.
Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper, “Shallow” – CHR dealt with it briefly and grudgingly during its initial moments of undeniable excitement. Z100 was one of the first adds, but played it cautiously at first. But I’d seen how Kesha’s “Praying” developed at Z100 over the course of a year. So I knew what was coming.
Sam Smith & Normani, “Dancing With A Stranger” – Again, it was immediately a song that PDs were glad to have. It’s in the last two or three weeks that it seems to have emerged as a power and another legitimate hit with tempo (although, again, we would have thought of this as midtempo in another era). It’s also nice to see that Smith’s determination to make a radio record (more tempo, well-chosen duet partner) paid off.
If I’d chosen KQMV, one of CHR’s most reliable outposts through this doldrums, the powers would have been “7 Rings,” “Sweet But Psycho,” “Dancing With A Stranger,” and “Break Up With Your Girlfriend.”
If I’d chosen KIIS Los Angeles, it would have been “Sucker,” “7 Rings,” “Break Up With Your Girlfriend,” and Billie Eilish, “When The Party’s Over.”
An hour away at WBLI Long Island, there are three powers: “Sucker,” “Break Up With Your Girlfriend,” and “Dancing With A Stranger” (replacing “Close to Me” by Ellie Goulding x Diplo in the third slot).
The powers shouldn’t be the same everywhere. But even this sampling of four stations illustrates a lack of consensus at the top.
And yet, I actually emerged from this exercise feeling a little better about the format. Besides, summer’s coming, the song-of-summer candidates are getting into formation, and Z100 is playing “Timebomb.”