Today, for the second time in a month, I was forced to spend 2-3 hours working in an open-plan office where a radio was playing Viking FM. This is a bog-standard commercial top 40 station with DJs with generic chatty accents. The only time it sounds remotely local is the time-honoured tradition of small businesses getting their children to voice their adverts. Cheaper than hiring an agency, possibly.
A few things struck me about the actual music:
1) The only thing describable as a rock record, on both days, was a solitary appearance of Sex on Fire by Kings of Leon. (Who’d have thought when KoL emerged 15 years ago that they would one day stand as the Last Rock Band? No-one, not even Jo Whiley)
2) Plenty of records with autotune (ughh) and, perhaps worse, male singers singing rather comically at the bottom of their range in imitation of George Ezra or Sam Smith, which is pretty pitiful when you consider how derivative those artists are in the first place, but apart from that….
3) Nothing I heard would have sounded out of place last time I regularly listened to pop radio in 1998, or even five years before that.
Let’s put that in perspective: imagine putting the radio on in 1984 to discover that everything sounded like it came from 1959 – and not the good stuff from 1959 either, just the stuff in the top 10. It’s unimaginable – even Radio 2 was less conservative in those days. They used to play what would now be called “all that weird stuff” like Elvis and the Beatles.
So. Has pop music simply…. stopped? I couldn’t care less really, except that after a gap of 20 years I expect pop radio to sound completely alien to me, not just different people doing the same stuff as was on the radio two decades ago. Is it the 21st Century yet?