Jewish World Review August 23, 2001 / 4 Elul, 5761

Ian Shoales

Ian Shoales
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Consumer Reports

Radio workout -- LIKE many of you, I suspect, I have a number of radio stations preset on my car radio. One of them, selected by my daughter, is set to a station that specializes in 80's and 90's rock. Its slogan, which every radio station is obligated to have, was "Your upbeat listen to at work station."

Every time I heard an announcer say this, the phrase struck me as clunky and desperate, somewhat akin to Bob Dole haranguing soccer moms to vote for him. That is, it seemed like a pitch to a demographic that only exists in a marketing executive's dreams, and even if it did exist it wouldn't pay any attention to you anyway.

Your upbeat listen to at work station. How many jobs are there, I wonder, that let you listen to the radio? Even those that do allow that sort of thing, the employees probably prefer a little Nine Inch Nails over headphones to Phil Collins.

Be that as it may, the other day my daughter punched in that station to find that it had changed its name from K 101 to Star, and its slogan had become "Eighties rock-- and more."

The playlist was still pretty much the same, as near as I can tell, Phil Collins, Phil Collins, and Phil Collins. I couldn't hear the "and more" part, but we were only in the car for ten minutes or so-- we might have heard a little 10CC, Journey, and even some Prince if we'd stuck with it... but it brought my attention to a new phenomenon-- the personalizing of radio stations.

I don't know if it's the Internet influence, but I've noticed that more and more stations-- generally those that specialize in what we now call "oldies" -- that is, 70's 80's and 90's pop -- no longer identify themselves by their call letters, but by some noun-- The River, Star, Mountain.

What this has to do with Phil Collins is anybody's guess, but then again, Yahoo! near as I can tell, is just a portal to the Internet. If you answer yes to the question, "Do you, uh, yahoo," what you are actually doing is scrolling and clicking.

Sure, you can pretend that you're doe-see-doe ing at a hoedown, but you're really sitting at a terminal in an ergonomic chair and you're only fooling yourself.

Still, if you're a radio station, and you want to call yourself Ocean, Rain Forest 95, Skyscraper, Doorknob 104.3, Dave, Suzie, Window, Pillow, or SUV 100, it's all the same to me. If it makes you happy, and it keeps Phil Collins off the streets, you can call yourself whatever you want.

JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.


08/20/01: I robot, you Jane
08/15/01: A wild and crazy world!
08/10/01: When the future was "as real as a dime"
08/08/01: Garage Dearth!
08/06/01: That Big Clock
08/02/01: Stop the pop!
07/31/01: Catchphrase history of the world
07/26/01: The Bride of Science
07/23/01: That java jive
07/17/01: Homogenized hegemony
07/13/01: Applying Newton's First Law of Physics to textbooks
07/10/01: The dumb and the dead

© 2001, Ian Shoales