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AN ALTERNATIVE YEAR IN REVIEW

KG: Of all the years in the history of the Modern Rock format, this was definitely one of them. I hate to be cryptic, but this year was fraught with challenges. There were certainly victories; 40% of the year’s 10 most-played songs were from new artists (SHAED, Flora Cash, Matt Maeson, Dominic Fike). We also saw a significant increase in female artists scoring radio hits—e.g., 2019 MVP Billie Eilish, Lana Del Rey and Meg Myers.

Being one of the co-hosts for the first-ever Women in Alternative Radio get-together in Chicago, which was tied in with Sharon Van Etten’s two sold-out shows, served as a personal highlight for me. Secretly Canadian’s Bri Aab and Mick Management’s Amy Kaplan assembled programmers/talent from more than a dozen stations, and created a welcoming and collaborative opportunity for everybody in attendance. Sisterhood is, indeed, powerful. As the critics weigh in on their 2019 favorites, Sharon Van Etten’s “Seventeen” has been on every list as one of the 10 best singles of the year.

I’ve asked Ted Volk, whose brain is far more linear than mine, to compile lists of the best and brightest radio and record company moments from 2019. Ted—take it away!

TED VOLK’S LABEL ALLSTARS

CAROLINE (MVP)
Marni Halpern & Marisa DiFrisco
This year’s Alternative promotion MVP honors belong to Caroline’s Marni Halpern and Marisa DiFrisco. SHAED’s “Trampoline” (Photo Finish/Caroline) first found its way into public awareness via an Apple campaign, and then initially peaked at #2. “Trampoline” dropped to #8, but callout kicked in and the song launched to #1 on 6/1. Our pick for Alternative Song of 2019 also evolved into a Top 5 Pop and Top 10 Hot AC song, amassing more than 400k spins this year.

  1. SHAED “Trampoline” #1; “Thunder” Top 20 and rising; 5th Most Played band of 2019
  2. Judah & The Lion “Over My Head” Top 10 (KG Note: I love this band with all my heart.)

CAPITOL
Gary Gorman
Gary makes the job look easy (hah!). Every song he works reaches Top 10, which has us considering subcontracting our projects over to him. Bastille had another Top 10 hit with “Joy,” and “Happier”—their 2018 collaboration with Marshmello—was the #3 Most Played song of 2019, even after peaking in November the year prior. Catfish and the Bottlemen had a break-through year with “Longshot” going Top 5 and “2All” reaching the Top 10. Format newcomer Illenium had a huge Top 3 hit with “Good Things Fall Apart” (featuring Jon Bellion), and Barns Courtney had his first Top 5 hit with “99.” As the year wrapped, Beck’s latest, “Uneventful Days,” proved once again that he’s one of the most important artists in the history of Alternative.

  1. Catfish & The Bottlemen “Longshot” Top 3; “2All” Top 10
  2. Illenium f/Jon Bellion “Good Things Fall Apart” Top 3
  3. Bastille “Joy” Top 10
  4. Barns Courtney “99” Top 5

COLUMBIA
Lisa Sonkin & Darice Lee
This dynamic duo made their mark in 2019 with a #1 from new artist and streaming marvel Dominic Fike’s “3 Nights.” Plus, they delivered hits from blink-182 and Grammy Album of the Year nominee Vampire Weekend, and both bands delivered strong follow-ups.

  1. Dominic Fike “3 Nights” #1
  2. Vampire Weekend “Harmony Hall” Top 10; #1 AAA (KG Note: This is the best song of 2019); follow-ups “This Life” and “Sunflower”
  3. blink-182 “Blame It on My Youth” Top 10; “I Really Wish I Hated You” closing in on Top 10

(KG Note: Tyler, The Creator’s “Earfquake” should have been an Alternative smash. You radio guys missed a big one.)

RCA
Dennis Blair & Artie Gentile
It was another great year for RCA as Dennis and Artie racked up three #1s. Flora Cash’s “You’re Somebody Else” soared to #1 in February. Cage the Elephant continued their chart dominance with two #1s this year, and had the tour of the summer with Beck and KG’s favorite band, Spoon. Newcomer half·alive scored their first Top 10 with “still feel.” Dennis and Artie finished the year strong with Rex Orange County’s “10/10” firmly ensconced in the Top 10 and Jimmy Eat World’s “Love Never” on the rise.

  1. Flora Cash “You’re Somebody Else” #1
  2. Cage the Elephant “Ready To Let Go” #1/“Social Cues” #1
  3. half·alive “Still Feel” Top 10
  4. Rex Orange County “10/10” Top 10

REPUBLIC
Amanda Dobbins & Drew Hauser
The hardest-working duo in Modern Rock, with by far the busiest release schedule, launched Of Monsters and Men’s “Alligator” to #2. Fall Out Boy’s “Dear Future Self” (Island/Republic) went Top 10. The format finally embraced superstar Post Malone, as they charted two tracks with “Allergic” and “Circles.” At Active Rock, our beloved duo celebrated two more hits for Greta Van Fleet. Marshmello teamed up with CHVRCHES for “Here With Me,” which charted on three formats. Bishop Briggs (Island/Republic) and Phantogram also returned in 2019 with new records. And Republic ended the year with Most Added honors for Two Feet’s “You?”

  1. Of Monsters and Men “Alligator” #2
  2. Fall Out Boy “Dear Future Self” Top 10
  3. Post Malone “Allergic” and “Circles”
  4. Greta Van Fleet “You’re the One” #1; “Lover Leaver” #3 Rock

WARNER
Rob Goldklang & David Ravikoff
In the past decade, Rob has had twenty #1 hits at the format. In July 2019, The Head and the Heart’s “Missed Connection” went to #1. The Black Keys reminded all of us why we love them with “Lo/Hi” (Nonesuch/Warner) peaking at #1 in May and the follow-up, “Go,” reaching the Top 5. Earlier this year, Muse had a Top 5 hit with “Pressure.” And Green Day returned with “Father of All…,” which went Top 3 at Alternative and #1 at Rock. It’ll be fun to watch new artists Hobo Johnson and Sub Urban continue to develop.

  1. The Head and the Heart “Missed Connection” #1
  2. The Black Keys “Lo/Hi” #1; “Go” Top 5
  3. Green Day “Father of All…” Top 3, #1 Rock

…AND THE INDIE ALL-STARS

BEGGARS GROUP
Risa Matsuki & Brien Terranova
Let’s face it, these two have the best records. From Spoon to Thom Yorke to FKA twigs, Black Midi and The National, among others, Risa and Brien have the records that will be defining the future of the format.

CRUSH
Garrett Capone
The format’s biggest event of the year happened in September, when Crush artists Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer all released new singles on the day they announced the Hella Mega Tour 2020. Crush’s very own Weezer had two chart hits in 2019. You can also look for the return of Alanis Morissette in 2020.

  1. Weezer “Can’t Knock the Hustle” Top 10; “The End of the Game” Top 3

DUALTONE
Lori Kampa (and team)
The Lumineers continued their winning streak with songs named after women, as “Gloria”—the first single from III—spent six weeks at #1, making it the biggest indie-label song at the format in 2019. Lori also had two #1s with the band at AAA, with “Gloria” and “Life in the City,” which is currently Top 20 at Alternative. Look for new music from Mt. Joy in 2020.

  1. The Lumineers “Gloria” #1 Alternative, #1 AAA; “Life in the City” #1 AAA

GLASSNOTE
Nick Petropoulos (and team)
Mumford & Sons had a strong 2019 with #1 track “Guiding Light,” and a Top 10 follow-up in “Beloved,” while embarking on a sold-out stadium tour. We also saw the return of The Strumbellas, and the format was introduced to our longtime fave, Jade Bird. Look for Taylor Janzen to make a huge splash in 2020, as “What I Do…” ends the year with adds at Alt Nation, KITS and Music Choice

  1. Mumford & Sons “Guiding Light” #1 Alt, #1 AAA; “Beloved” Top 10 Alt

S-CURVE:
Ronny Gutfreund & Lori Anderson (and team)
AJR continued their format success with their third consecutive Top 3 hit at Alternative with “100 Bad Days.” And they were the #8 Most Played band at the format in 2019! The band embarked on their biggest tour to date, playing in front of more than 125k fans, with stops that included sold-out shows at Red Rocks and Radio City Music Hall.

  1. AJR “100 Bad Days” Top 3

THE ALT TIMELINE

TV: Instead of telling you about some of the hits that carried over from 2018 into 2019, we thought it would be best to celebrate 2019’s Most Played songs by month. This will provide a more concise snapshot of the year.

January

  1. Panic! At the Disco “High Hopes”
  2. Mumford & Sons “Guiding Light”
  3. Flora Cash “You’re Somebody Else”

Mumford & Sons gets their #1, and Flora Cash goes #1 the first week in February. Crush’s Panic! At the Disco carries over into 2019 with the massive success of “High Hopes.”

February

  1. Young the Giant “Superposition”
  2. Panic! At the Disco “High Hopes”
  3. Muse “Pressure”

The new releases of 2019 all start to come out, and the holdovers from 2018 hit their peak with airplay this month.

March

  1. Cage the Elephant “Ready To Let Go”
  2. Panic! At the Disco “High Hopes”
  3. SHAED “Trampoline”

Cage the Elephant has a runaway #1 for six weeks. Panic! At the Disco’s “High Hopes” ends up being one of the biggest songs of the decade, and SHAED starts its glorious run.

April

  1. twenty one pilots “Chlorine”
  2. Cage the Elephant “Ready to Let Go”
  3. Black Keys “Lo/Hi”

May

  1. Billie Eilish “bury a friend”
  2. The Black Keys “Lo/Hi”
  3. Catfish & the Bottlemen “Longshot”

Billie and The Black Keys both end up getting their #1s. Catfish comes in to remind us that U.K. rock bands matter (also see The 1975), as “Longshot” peaks at #2.

June

  1. The Lumineers “Gloria”
  2. SHAED “Trampoline”
  3. AJR “100 Bad Days”

The Lumineers start their massive run at #1, which goes on for six weeks. SHAED’s “Trampoline,” which initially peaked at #2, comes all the way back and goes #1 on 6/1. And AJR scores their third straight Top 3 hit.

July

  1. The Lumineers “Gloria”
  2. The Head and the Heart “Missed Connection”
  3. Billie Eilish “bad guy”

The Head and the Heart’s “Missed Connection” reaches #1. Billie Eilish’s “bad guy” rockets up the charts, as it becomes a worldwide hit.

August

  1. Matt Maeson “Cringe”
  2. Billie Eilish “bad guy”
  3. Of Monsters and Men “Alligator”

Of Monsters and Men’s “Alligator” ends up being one of the biggest songs of the year, eventually peaking at #2.

September

  1. Lana Del Rey “Doin’ Time”
  2. Dominic Fike “3 Nights”
  3. Of Monsters and Men “Social Cues”

Lana Del Rey celebrates scoring her first-ever #1 radio hit. On 9/14, newcomer Dominic Fike’s gets his #1.

October

  1. twenty one pilots “The Hype”
  2. Cage the Elephant “Social Cues”
  3. Illenium f/Jon Bellion “Good Things Fall Apart”

Cage scores another #1. Newcomer Illenium ends up with a big hit, peaking at #3 with huge streams.

November

  1. twenty one pilots “The Hype”
  2. Coldplay “Orphans”
  3. Weezer “The End of the Game”

Coldplay returns and shoots to the top of the charts. Weezer’s “The End of the Game” rises all the way to #2.

RADIO MOVES—AKA THE “WHAT WE DID FOR LOVE” EDITION

KG & TV: After a tremendous five-year run at WKQX Chicago, Walt Flakus headed west to KNDD Seattle. Our pal Jon Manley left KNDD Seattle and ended up in Chicago as APD at WKQX. Dustin Matthews left St. Louis iHeart KLLT to program WEND Charlotte. And then, he was announced at DC101. Mike Killabrew left WOLT Indianapolis for the DC101 Washington PD gig but, six months later, decided to move back to Indianapolis and OM the cluster. 97X Tampa promoted radio goddess Jenna Kesneck to PD in February, while WQMP Orlando hired Matt Malone (formerly of KCJK) for PD duties. KTCL Denver’s longtime MD, Bailey, moved to KVIL Dallas for similar duties, and is now working with Jim Fox. Tom Ferguson returns to WFUZ Wilkes-Barre to claim the PD title and Phil Kukawinski moves to Louisville to be PD at WGHL. Gene Sandbloom moved to Portland to oversee the cluster that included KINK. (We miss him!)

Also, this is the year we asked ourselves, “What do HD2 stations and F3 stations have in common?” Thankfully, there are stations in our format that have a considerable impact, programmed with passion and talent by Jeff Regan (Alt Nation is our #1 barometer for a song’s hit potential), Lisa Worden, John Allers, Mike Kaplan, Michael Martin, whose embracing of current music and the quest for “what’s next” makes KITS this year’s MVP, Aaron Axelsen, Troy Hanson, Tommy Mattern (KPNT is the most important ROCK station in the format—and beyond), Andy Hawk and Vince Richards, Leslie Scott, Lazlo, Lynn Barstow, Nik Rivers, Kevin Weatherly and Miles Anzaldo, WEQX and WWCD, to name the ones that are always top-of-mind.

KG: Since I just finished editing pages and pages of Ted’s notes, in lieu of a drink, I will share MY favorites of 2019. Here’s to a meaningful 2020!

TOP ALBUMS
AJR Neotheater
Beck Hyperspace
black midi Schlagenheim
Nick Cave Ghosteen
Cigarettes After Sex Cry
FKA twigs MAGDALENE
Fontaines D.C. dogrel
Orville Peck Pony
Tyler, The Creator IGOR
Vampire Weekend Father of the Bride
Sharon Van Etten Remind Me Tomorrow
Yuna Rouge

FIVE—OKAY, SIX—FAVORITE SONGS OF 2019
Vampire Weekend “Harmony Hall”
Fontaines D.C. “Boys in the Better Land”
Tame Impala “It Might Be Time”
The Lumineers “Gloria
Mumford & Sons “Guiding Light”
Billie Eilish “bad guy”

ARTISTS TO WATCH IN 2020
Beabadoobee, Belle MT, Phoebe Bridgers, Taylor Janzen, The Murder Capital, Moses Sumney, Dead Sara •

 

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