Segarini: Turn That Shit Down! – Every Generation has its Craptastic Hits

It is incredibly easy to point at the current top 10 and decry the ‘music’ being played on the radio these days as simplistic and devoid of substance. The generation invested in the Drakes’ and Pitbulls’ and Nikkis’ of the day just screw up their cute little faces when the less diplomatic of us tell them their music sucks like a Hoover, and tell us we’re old and don’t ‘get it’, but the truth of the matter is we do ‘get it’ but we just don’t like it or think it’s very good. These days, it seems that almost every song you hear on the radio is mediocre, formulated, drivel, aimed at the lowest common denominator and young people who don’t have the musical knowledge or background to be able to tell the difference between a good song, and a wheel of cheese.

To be fair, what radio plays out of the avalanche of available releases isn’t picked by the kids. The music is selected by what I can only assume are committees chosen by station owners who use a combination of mathematics, dart boards, and Voo Doo to choose that which they think will appeal to their target audience. This of course, becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. Inundated with the same music everywhere, kids who listen to the radio are going to be attracted to the songs’ perceived popularity (it’s on the radio, so it must be good and popular) and therefore actually make the songs popular. There is no way to tell for sure, but I’m willing to bet that radio could change what they play completely, and kids would make whatever it was as popular as the radio tells them it is.

Because radio has become so format driven, the old paradigm of different genres being able to co-exist at any given station no longer affords the possibility of more great music being played. By narrowing the playing field, radio has created an environment where familiarity and formula become paramount in the decision to a track’s even being considered for airplay.  The reason it appears to some of us that there is a lot of mediocre and less than creative product being played on the air is because the qualifications to receive airplay have become so restrictive that a lot of what is being played is only there because it fits the criteria, hence the feeling of sameness and repetition that have driven so many of us to seek our music elsewhere. The irony (apparently lost on the stations) is that the truly big breakthroughs (Adele being the current one) rise above the pack on their uniqueness alone. Old school radio was aware of this, which is why different genres and new ideas held sway for many years, producing a large volume of artists who rose above the pack and were rewarded with long careers. This bit of history seems to have been lost on the current decision makers, but rest assured, the pendulum is swinging back. Radio is making a fine living creating hits for their audience, and, even though they are (by their own admission) out of the business of music discovery and gatekeeping, will always make money serving the casual listener and the advertisers who want to reach them. The rest of us have already moved on.

=0=

I talk to a lot of young people when I’m out and about trying to track down local music I read about on the Net or get tipped to by friends. None of them (19-25 years old) ever name check any of our contemporary ‘hit’ oriented radio stations here in Toronto. The younger ones tend to listen to the classic rock stations while the slightly older tune in to the ‘alternative’ music station when they listen to the radio. Almost all of them find their music on the internet or in the clubs. I rarely hear the names of artists played on the mainstream stations except in the negative, (Chad Kroeger must have a wonderful sense of humour to withstand the constant barrage of poop flung his way), but I am always tipped to new stuff by these kids that they most certainly find by actively seeking out music they like, instead of waiting for radio to get around to finding and playing it. None of them call what has gone before ‘old’ or ‘out of touch’. In fact their knowledge and appreciation of older music goes beyond nostalgia and treasured memories. All that music that was so fresh in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70’s, and ‘80s is just as fresh to them now as it was to us back then. The power and longevity of greatness has no expiration date.

=0=

Do It Yourself Music Discovery

Use your Google and You Tube skills to check out my current Top Ten artists. In no particular order….

Rival Sons

Dirty Loops

David Celia

Fraser/Daley

Rumer

Research Turtles

Courage My Love

Jumple

Dala

Andrew Cole

=0=

Spurious Number One Records

There are a lot of these over the years, some way worse than the ones here, but these were the easiest to find. I picked one for each decade. I share these with you as proof that the mainstream has always had a soft spot in its heart (and head) for the mundane, the overwrought, and the mediocre. Don’t be too hard on today’s mainstream audiences, they are just like us when we were their age.

1945

In a year that gave us Don’t Fence Me In, The Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe, and Rum and Coca Cola as number one songs, this little gem managed to be number one 3 times by two different artists. I think Ga Ga should cover this. One version was by Harry James. This one is by Sammy Kaye: Chickery Chick

1958

One of the greatest years of the first Age of Rock and Roll, number ones’ included Twilight Time by the Platters, All I have to do is Dream, by the Everly Brothers, and Don’t, by Elvis Presley. There was also Tequila, Get a Job, and Yakkity Yak. In most cases (and all the years), the best remembered and most ‘classic’ songs never made the top ten, let alone number one. (So much for the expression ‘Hit Radio’). This year also gave us Alvin and the Chipmunks, and David Seville’s ‘Witch Doctor’, but this song was number one longer than any of them…over a month: Purple People Eater

1964

Manfred Man, Mary Wells, Dean Martin, Peter and Gordon, The Supremes, Roy Orbison, The Beach Boys, and even the Great Louie Armstrong’s horrific ‘Hello Dolly’ all had number one hits in 1964, but The Beatles OWNED number one most of the year. At one point in March of that year, they had 14 songs in the top 100. Though they topped the charts additional weeks in ’64, one run consisting of I want to Hold Your Hand, She Loves You, and Can’t Buy Me Love lasted from February 1st through May 2nd. Let’s see you do that, Pitbull. Could there have been a worse number one that year than Hello Dolly? Yes…yes there could, and it was a Canadian what done it: Ringo

1975    

The last year of the Billboard Hot 100 before Disco took over for a couple of years and, eventually came out on top as far as the musical influence that has driven the number ones for the last decade and a half. You can call it Urban or Dance, or Pop, but let’s face it kids…it’s all fucking disco, and in fact, a lot of it isn’t even good disco.

The year started out pretty cool, Elton John, AWB, The Eagles, and the Doobie Brothers, but already, the number one records were getting less and less adventurous. Among the aural assailants; Olivia Newton John (No, Olivia, I have never been mellow), The Captain and Tennille, Tony Orlando and Dawn, and Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Renyolds. The Bee Gees comeback record, Jive Talkin’, and KC and the Sunshine band make their first appearance, and that was fine, but nothing…nothing comes close to the agonizingly painful screeching of Minnie Ripperton’s classic example of a badly written dirge of clingy, needy love that proved above all else, that just because you can hit those high notes doesn’t mean you should. Dogs howled when this song came on the radio, and I once kicked a dashboard radio so hard to make it stop I broke the car. Listen at your own risk. Lovin’ You

1986

One of the last “All Over the Road” charts, ’86 was a banner year for introducing so many diverse styles. My favourite station at the time, KMEL in the San Francisco Bay Area, managed to play all of these alongside oldies stretching from the Beatles to Hendrix, and Otis Redding to the Stones, and made it as exciting as any radio I have ever heard. Along with Stevie Winwood and Bruce Hornsby, Cindy Lauper and Prince shared air-time as well as Bon Jovi and Robert Palmer. Add in Lionel Ritchie, Human League, and both Peter Gabriel and Genesis, you have a well-rounded assortment of what was out there. Even Huey Lewis got his 3 minutes. All in all, lots of good, solid, number ones. This was also the year that saw pop music being created that was both maudlin and manipulative. The one that sticks out is at best, a Broadway show tune disguised as a pop song. Using children and ‘caring’ both in the video and as subtext in the lyrics, this calculated piece of bombast was pitched perfectly by the ‘top-of-her-game Whitney Houston. Houston had both the voice and the poise to sell this otherwise committee assembled construct even though the hard sell delivery ultimately made it sound like a National Anthem without a Nation. Every time I heard this song and her over the top, overwrought delivery, I automatically yelled “Play Ball” when the last note faded out. Greatest Love of All

1997

Only 10 records held down the number one position during the year. Elton John’s Candle in the Wind was responsible for a month of it. Out of the other 11 months, The Notorious B.I.G. featuring Puff Daddy and Mase, Puff Daddy and Faith Evans featuring 112, The Notorious B.I.G., and Puff Daddy featuring Mase were responsible for 9 of them with the remainder taken up by Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, the Spice Girls, and Hanson. Hanson? The homogenization of mainstream radio was in full swing. What was the most popular ‘hit’ and worst song out of these ten tunes? Your guess is as good as mine. There is literally nothing musically interesting here to me. I did like some of Notorious B.I.Gs stuff so I won’t go there, but there is one ‘hit’ number one here that deserves to be treated the same way Milli Vanilli got treated. How could we have made this guy a star? If you put the Police’s Every Breath I Take on at a party, pretty much anybody there can talk over it and be just as good. How can we call this anything other than what it is; Somebody else’s work, a bag of weed, and a good con job: I’ll Be Missing You

2005

Now we’re down to 9 records hitting number one in the Billboard Hot 100. Can anyone tell me who ‘Mario’ was? Mariah Carey, Kanye (assisted by actor Jamie Foxx(!?), 50 Cent and someone he was probably going out with (or gave him a ride to the studio) named Olivia, pre-bitch-slappin’ Chris Brown and Carrie Underwood (the only Non-Dance/Urban playa here) round out the year. The worst? Well…I have to go with Gwen Sefani’s Hollaback Girl. Why? Because it’s not a song. It’s Gwen talking over what sounds like a high school pep rally marching drum corp. Toni Basil’s Mickey minus melody, fun, music, and structure. A hit? Most assuredly. Popular? Absolutely. A great song and good music? Get the fuck out: Hollaback Girl

2012

So far this year we have more of what we’ve had for the last 10 years. Lots of women like Rihanna, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, and the latest flavor of the month, (replacing the late Amy Winehouse), representing the non-star-she-seems-real star category, Adele. Also here are something or someone called Fun (featuring Janelle Monae), and LMFAO. Oh yeah, Rihanna’s single is shared with someone named Calvin Harris, which could actually be the guy’s real name, so that’s cool and kinda edgy. Fun (who looks anything but) is pretty okay. Real song, and interesting to boot except for all the serious weight it seems to carry, but I’ll be watching him, or them, or whatever it is. Fun could be…fun. So…gotta give it to the most popular ‘hit’ here, the one, the only, LMFAO: Sexy and I Know it

Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to put on Rival Sons’ Pressure and Time and clear my head. My brain hurts.

=0=

Segarini’s column appears every Monday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, The Segarini Band, and Cats and Dogs, andnominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late GreatMovies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now sadly gone), and now provides content for radiothatdoesntsuck.com with RadioZombie, The Iceage, and PsychShack. Along with the love of his life, Jade (Pie) Dunlop, (who hosts and writes “I’ve Heard That Song Before” on RTDS), continues to write, make music, and record.

8 Responses to “Segarini: Turn That Shit Down! – Every Generation has its Craptastic Hits”

  1. Glen Bringslid Says:

    How dare you say anything bad about the music of the unnesessarily martyred Miss Whitney Houston! lol. Too soon?

  2. Bob, thanks for putting a column together that illustrates the argument that I’ve been making with ‘nostalgics’ for years. Radio was filled with drivel as much back THEN as it is now. The ‘Those Were The Days’ generation have been walking around with rose coloured glasses their entire lives. I dare anyone to find a contemporary song as insipid and irritating as “Sugar Shack”, “Kookie Kookie Lend Me Your Comb” or “My Ding-A-Ling”. The ratio of crap-to-cool has been steady for 60 years.

  3. Fun fact that I just learned via Wikipedia: the two main guys in LMFAO are the son and grandson of Berry Gordy. It’s hard to know what to say about that.

  4. SO. TRUE. and to anyone at q107 reading this column STOP PLAYING 90s MUSIC AND CALLING IT CLASSIC ROCK. radio hurts my soul. http://www.cbcradio.ca is the only tolerable form i’ve found lately.

  5. Mark Stephen Ross Says:

    Good one, Bob. I was there for all of ’em, except somehow I missed Chickery Chick.

  6. Harri Maki Says:

    “Twilight Time” is due for a new go ’round.Morty would be proud.Keep it up Bob.

  7. I don’t like being a target…I do rely on radio to fill my ears…it’s often disappointing…but there are some gems!… 🙂 Better than not… what’s a girl to do?! 🙂

  8. Radio in the USA dead/gone/no free form!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: