Tuesday, August 09, 2005

New Homeland Invasion... With Big Hair and Bangles

We've had it here in Canada for a few years, and now it's sweeping across the States with a vengeance. No, I'm not talking about Mad Cow Disease, although the effects can be disturbingly similar... Actually, it's the latest radio format fad to hit the airwaves... Jack FM.

"Playing What We Want" is the station's slogan, and they aren't kidding! While the rest of the dial is competing for listeners with Classic Rock, Oldies, Country, or Top 40, Jack refuses to give in to that pigeon-holing concept. Instead, they like to think of themselves as "diverse". In truth, you'll mostly hear pop hits from the 80's and early 90's, but it sure beats the worn-out repeats on the other stations...

Or does it?

I have to admit, being born in the early 70's and spending my most musically formative years in the 80's, I was initially thrilled when Jack came to Calgary. At last, I could listen to guys like Wham!, Mr. Mister, and The Thompson Twins without having to dust off my old cassette collection! Memories of awkward Jr. High dances where everyone just stood against the walls clumsily shuffling their feet came flooding back... It was awesome. Sure, some of the younger guys I worked with turned their noses up at it but, after having to endure over a decade of rap, I didn't have much sympathy.

The thrill faded, however. Since the majority of my music-listening happens while I am at work for 9-and-half hours a day, it didn't take long before I began to hear the same stuff over and over again. Or maybe all the songs just started to sound the same... Either way, it felt like I was stuck listening to an "All 80's" playlist on my computer.

Blasts from the past can be cool, but there are limits. I'd get a kick out of seeing a few re-runs of "The Six Million Dollar Man" or "Knight Rider", but to have to sit through Glenn A. Larson / Stephen J. Cannell era TV everyday would suck!

From what I've heard, the Jack Experience could be even worse for those of you south of the border... Down there, radio stations adopting the Jack format are letting their DJ's go. They claim today's mp3- and iPod-driven lifestyle demands that they cut out the useless chatter and do nothing but play music. For those of you who can't stand the same tired jokes from a guy who was never funny in the first place, this might sound like a good idea... but don't be so quick. It also means their won't be anyone to tell you the name of that awesome song that just played. You can also forget about things like traffic updates or community event announcements. And what about the morning shows, where the DJ humor is actually more important than the music? Gone.

I'm not saying you're not going to like Jack... I'm just warning you to not expect some great Radio Revolution. And definitely don't forget where the other stations are on your dial!

Now, who's up for a little "Safety Dance"?
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