The Power of the Radio

Image courtesy of

Peter King

Music always sounds best in the car. More and more often, cars are including ports to allow for iPhone access so that people can play their own music when they drive their cars. With that being said, many teenagers aren’t able to afford cars that provide this luxury and therefore rely on the radio for their musical enjoyment while driving from point A to B. No doubt, most teens are listening to either 92.3 or 100.3, the stations which play all of the current pop songs. No doubt, they must like quite a few of the songs; however, a few tend to annoy listeners, who, once they hear the opening couple of notes, will immediately seek out another station. Now, what are we actually listening to, and how does it get to be playing in our cars?

A few years back, the radio stations that we know today were much more spontaneous. A DJ would have an idea of what the next few songs were that were coming up, yet he would also throw in what he wanted, and add new songs on the spot. The ultimate goal was to appease the public, leading to the replacement of DJs. DJs couldn’t possibly produce satisfaction 100% of the time. They would play songs that not many people knew and hope that they liked it. The higher-ups didn’t like this. They wanted to ensure complete satisfaction so that they could have the largest audience and thus ensure an exceptionally larger amount of money. Therefore, the top 100 charts came into being, along with preplanned playlists. Mere machines replacing humans. Of course, the big names that we hear daily are fed right into the stations by their promoters which offer lump sums of cash for their artists’ music to be played. The goal was to provide hit songs constantly, yet how much are these songs really loved by the public? Do they satisfy more than a DJ? I personally don’t like songs by Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azeala and Miley Cyrus, because their music annoys me. I would assume that I like about 40% of the music on those stations, tolerate 35%, and utterly despise 25%. I’d imagine that back then it would have been much the same, yet that 40% would be new genres and new doors to more music. I would debate that the old method was much better. The same old songs don’t get forced into your head over and over again.

Why should “Safe and Sound” get played over “Kangaroo Court” when they performed by the same artist and equally as good? Does the radio really know what songs will appeal to the public, or do we just accept what they give us? Would it really hurt if they played the completely Spanish version of “Bailando” by Enrique Iglesias? Would it send our people into such a state of confusion and xenophobia that they would switch the station, or would it potentially enrich our people? The radio shelters us. It doesn’t give us a chance to explore the new. It takes popular songs, often from a country sort of background, such as “Take me to Church” by Hozier and “All of Me” by John Legend, and warps them to fit a techno beat, which only serves to lessen its quality. They do this because they feel that people will dislike the original song, and they think everyone loves house music. This idea is blatantly ignorant. For once, they should step outside of the box and play the original song. The dictates what songs will be popular and generally it won’t stray from the top artists we know all too well.  The songs are played so frequently that they are nailed into our skulls. The stations’ mission didn’t state that they would help us explore new songs, and they are delivering the people what they promised, consistent “pop music.” I can’t help but wonder, however: would it hurt if at least once a day they played a new song, an “unpopular” song, that might help people to explore new musical styles and give some other artists a chance at popularity regardless of how much money their sponsor is funneling into the radio station, without being based on how they dress or how they look? A radio station that takes a few risks every now and then, while still providing some consistently good music, would be one that I would want to listen to.