I hate Indianapolis radio. With a passion. With an eternally scalding infinitely white-hot passion. It is terrible. How terrible is it? I have not one but TWO high school radio stations as my preset stations in my car. (Go Ben Davis and North Central!)
The most frustrating part is that they are for the most part a good 6 months behind what new music is actually being played out in the rest of the country. I always thought Chicago was bad (which was surprising being that it was a rather large city, a cultural spot and had a well-seated radio history), but Indianapolis is much, much worse. Every time I take a trip to somewhere else, I get spoiled by listening to some of the latest music, only to come back home to a barren wasteland of broadcast music.
In the past, this only would bother me for a few days as I was coming down from the high of a vacation. But a year and a half ago, we bought a new car that came with a free trial of XM Radio. It was like a revelation. Not only could you listen to actual radio stations from cutting edge hotspots like Miami and New York, but even the “Hits” station had very current music. Plus, when you want to relive your childhood, I can always tune in to the 80’s or 90’s channel where they play a lot of your favorites, but also a wide selection of songs that I hadn’t heard in a very long time. (Now, satellite radio is not perfect. As I realized during the course of a 13 hour ride to my in-laws house in South Carolina, many of the satellite stations repeat songs on a somewhat frequent and predictable basis. But then again, I never hit a dead spot or had to choose between 2 religious talk stations and a country station as my only choices for an hour.) Also, in this day and age of Internet radio (which I listen to non-stop at work) I am hearing a lot of great new music that I have to wait for some cheesy DJ to play around Christmas or so and tell me how “hot and new” it is. (I am still waiting for “Barbra Streisand” by Duck Sauce to make it to the Indy airwaves. How can this catchy tune not be here yet? I only started hearing it in November on XM Radio. By the way go here to get a version of the song made with your name or the name of a loved one instead of Barbra Streisand. They make nice Father’s Day or anniversary presents.)
Admittedly, some of this frustration comes from not being able to hear the one song I have been frantically searching for. (More on this tomorrow.) Also, I recognize that the music industry (like everything else) goes in cycles. Currently it seems to be on a bit of a down cycle. I think every radio station (including the country ones) have a hourly rotation of Britney, Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift along with a rotating hourly wild card song. Some of these songs I used to enjoy, oh 10,000,000 plays ago. But after hearing about Rihanna’s S and M leanings 10 million and 1 times, I think I am going to masochistically pull my own ears off. (I get it already, you’re bad, but perfectly good at it. Thanks for sharing.) I think I have set a new track record for the fastest cycle through my 12 FM preset stations, frantically going back to stations I left only 10 milliseconds ago hoping that somehow the song I was trying to avoid has magically ended or been replaced.
I know that within the next couple of weeks, things are going to get better. (For example, I have started hearing “Last Friday Night” on the radio) and I will have a few weeks where I am working my car’s radio like an orchestra conductor, hitting all the right buttons creating a beautiful symphony of hit song after hit song after hit song. Plus, we haven’t even found this year’s “summer song” yet. You know, the song that whenever you hear it in the next 5-10 years. it will automatically take you back to the Summer of 2011. Of course, that song will only get overplayed so much that I eventually have to tear off the ears that I just had surgically reattached.
Which brings me to the biggest problem I have with radio in general. I used to think that one-hit wonders were made by the artists themselves being overall crappy, but they catch lightning in a bottle and have one catchy tune that gets the nation’s toes tapping for a few months, to then shuffle off back to Mediocreville, never to be heard from again. But now, I am beginning to realize that sometimes forces conspire against some talented artists and relegate them to one-hit wonder status, even though they don’t belong there.
I can see the writing on the wall for two artists that I have become big fans of the past few weeks, Cee-Lo Green and Adele. Both have songs that are catchy that I literally hear about 10 times a day on the radio here in Indianapolis (F*&% You and Rolling in the Deep). Given the catchiness and the pervasiveness of each of these songs, I can see why they have become so popular (ironically, both are ‘revenge’ songs, getting back at former lovers)(maybe that is part of the appeal?) But neither artist should be identified solely by their popular song. Cee-Lo is already a very accomplished solo artist and group artist (anybody remember Gnarls Barkley?) who I find to be very soulful with a wide variety of songs that have grooving hooks and interesting bass lines. The same goes for Adele, who on her albums 19 and 21, has some hauntingly excellent lyrics with some spine-tingling music driving the songs that are well acclaimed.
I don’t know why I take this so personally, but it is going to really bother me that most of Indianapolis (and probably the US) will see these two great artists as one-hit wonders. And why? Because the crappy radio stations around here know they can keep their same middling ratings by pumping the same old songs out hour after hour? Is it the record label doing it? I don’t know. What I do know is that Cee-Lo DEFINITELY has a new song out (Is that foreshadowing I smell?) I have heard it on XM, Internet Radio and he played it at the Billboard Awards. Everytime I hear F*&% You on Indianapolis radio, I want to call in to the station and scream at them, throw around a few creative personal insults
and kindly inform them that Cee-Lo Green has another song that people will definitely enjoy. I am sure the same goes for Adele. But I am guessing they will never see the airwaves around here.
When I was a kid, I used to want to be a radio DJ. I thought it would be the best job in the world. You get to spend all of your day around music and play whatever songs you want. Whether that is how it ever was or if that was just a fantasy in my mind, I’ll never know. What I do know now is that I would never in a million years want to be a DJ. It would be such torture to know that all of this great music is out there just waiting to be accessed and broadcast for the listeners’ aural pleasure, but the Suits tell you to play the same overdone song hour after hour after hour. Or worse yet, the computer makes all of the decisions. WSUK, sucking the soul out of your favorite music, every hour on the hour.