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OLIVIA’S LANE
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PRINCE, FIVE YEARS GONE: SOME PURPLE MUSINGS
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RHYTHM, BLUES AND THE FUTURE
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
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JUST THE VAX, MA'AM
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
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POST TOASTED
LAST DAY ON EARTH

By Karen Glauber

Even without pretending I’m essential (I know better), I was able to procure my first Pfizer shot last Saturday, which left me sore and feverish, but hopeful that my long-hauler days will soon be behind me. As much as I’d like to hug all (most) of you, or book travel to a festival, I’m still skittish about being out in the world. The media is predicting a post-pandemic phase comparable to the “Roaring Twenties”—my idea of a party will be going into the new Amoeba Records without panicking about getting reinfected.

Our collective behavior after this pandemic can be explained by basic physics: Think about the path of a pendulum—a swing to the farthest left results in a similar swing to the right. Eventually, the momentum decreases, aided by gravity, and the pendulum will find its way back to the middle. As a 35-year student/participant in the world of Alternative radio, I can say the same about patterns in programming, although the impact of the pandemic has made it infinitely more challenging to break artists. It’s a non-negotiable fact that stations with the strongest ratings all have long-established morning shows to anchor the rest of their programming. The absence of in-person artist engagement has been a massive disservice to both radio and the artist! Ted and I lament daily that MOD SUN’s “Flames” would be in the Top 10 by now if PDs and the radio audience had the opportunity to see him in concert or hear him playing acoustic on-air. It’s no wonder that stations are clamoring, possibly prematurely, to book Xmas or even fall shows, just as artists are figuring out when it will be safe to go back on tour.

As artists book paid tours, promoters will likely prohibit them from doing radio shows unless their show is already sold-out—this is a challenge that both the labels being asked to provide bands and PDs should be anticipating. Maybe sponsored studio-space performances will be a solution. After 13 months at home, these are problems we should all be grateful to tackle.

With the recent release of singles by some of the format’s biggest artists, slots for new artists are likely to diminish for the next few weeks. Artists like MOD SUN, The Kid LAROI, KennyHoopla, Black Pumas, Clairo, girl in red, Foushee and carolesdaughter have clearly broken through, but I expect the format will be comfortable playing the artists they know work for them right now, along with Glass Animals, who can now be considered a core band for the format (yay!) Think about the songs YOU want to hear right now—upbeat, optimistic songs have the best shot at radio. You know, the ones that are “way less sad.” Beach Bunny’s “Cloud 9,” Illenium’s “First Time” and the upcoming CHVRCHES single should be automatics, along with Area21’s “La La La,” which Buddy Deal launched today. Listen to Japanese Breakfast’s “Be Sweet,” Cannons’ single “Bad Dreams” and beabadoobee’s “Last Day on Earth” on your AirPods right now—that’s the sound of spring that we’ve been craving!

The record I’m listening to on repeat is Arlo ParksCollapsed in Sunbeams on PIAS. Know this artist—she’s been nominated for three BRIT Awards, and her first Alt single, “Hurt,” is nearing 20 million streams and has been a big hit for the Non-Comm station (with the huge ratings) in your market… Pay super-close attention to Marisa DiFrisco’s “Sticky,” the latest single from Photo Finish/Virgin act The Maine. The band already has a significant touring business (remember concerts?), and this is the song that will break them.

Happy Rex Manning Day to those who celebrate! What an insane after-life Empire Records has sustained…

beabadoobee photographed by Callum Harrison


 
 
SOMETHING TO FALL BACK ON

By Karen Glauber

On 4/1, I’ll finally be eligible to join the Hunger Games-esque pursuit of the vaccine in California. This momentous day also marks my 31st anniversary at the “career cul-de-sac” known as HITS, as well as my 29th sober birthday. Maybe I’ll be ready to rejoin the world once I’m vaccinated—Ted is excited at the prospect of summer/fall festivals: Lollapalooza, Life Is Beautiful, Outside Lands, etc.

Todd Rundgren’s Clearly Human virtual tour has kept me relatively sane since February. Anchored in Chicago, Todd mounted a 32-day “tour” with an 11-piece band and $1 million worth of production, focusing on a different city every night. I watched 13 shows, the final night as a member of the “virtual” audience. It was those thrice-weekly shows that kept me tethered to feeling almost like myself.

I’m not especially nostalgic about how things used to be—certainly not enough to devote a column to the “Glory Days of Post Modern,” but I appreciate the emotional comfort that a beloved genre of music has meant during the past year. It’s not a coincidence that pop/punk and emo-leaning music is having its resurgence at radio right now. Memories of Warped Tours past appeal to the upper part of the demo, while the younger listeners are drawn to this sound by exposure to artists like carolesdaughter, Nessa Barrett, Jdxn, etc., on TikTok.

I’m convinced that the reason the callout and MScores are so high for MOD SUN’s “Flames” is Avril Lavigne’s feature on the track. She remains the goddess of the genre, and her vocals still soar above all others who’ve followed in her wake. Travis Barker has assumed the role as the Auntie Mame of this renaissance, and his recognizable drumming propels most of these tracks, including KennyHoopla’s “Estella,” spearheaded by Arista’s Petropoulos and Boulos, which is now Top 10 at the format.

It’s also mandatory that Iann Dior is a featured vocalist on every song at Alt—you’ve seen the memo, right? The best of the bunch is the new Illenium single, “First Time,” which is already at 5 million streams in two weeks. WSFS Miami added this week, and the impact date is on 4/12.

How many weeks will Glass Animals’ “Heat Waves” stay at #1? All of them would be fine by me (allowing a week or two for AJR’s “Way Less Sad” to hit #1). How thrilling to see a “pure” Alternative band that we’ve loved for years have a #1 song at the format! AND the song is crossing to Top 40 now, bolstered by insane streams, proving that our beloved niche genre can generate REAL hits. After you congratulate Amanda Dobbins and Drew Hauser at Republic for their masterful campaign, give yourselves some credit for breaking this phenomenal band.

As disappointed as I was that Phoebe Bridgers went 0-for-4 at the Grammys, her pandemic year has been in the service of making her music known to millions, and “Kyoto” had a huge shot at radio, thanks to Lisa Worden’s belief in her. Black Pumas’ appearance on the show was a catalyst for a massive boost in airplay, as programmers were able to see for themselves why people love this band so much. Congrats to Howard P., Ed Green and their team on steering “Colours” to the top at multiple formats.

Entercom leads the way on Foushee’s “Deep End,” which is now breaking format-wide. If Imagine Dragons had come out one week later, RCA’s Dennis Blair would have four songs in the Top 10, with Kings of Leon, Cage the Elephant, Foo Fighters and Foushee commanding their rightful chart-topping places. Bravo to DB!

Girl in Red’s “Serotonin” reminds me of why I fell deeply in love with Kate Bush in high school. This is the record that will stealthily ascend to the top of the chart, because quality and passion still count for everything.

SONG TO HEAR: beabadoobee’s “Last Day on Earth.”

 


 
 
WAY LESS SAD

By Karen Glauber

It’s been exactly two months since I tested positive for COVID. What remains is a constant headache, no taste or smell, low-level depression (gratefully thwarted by work) and brain fog. I am thankful that there’s an abundance of new music available to soothe and distract.

My son and I play AJR’s “Way Less Sad” every morning at 6am. He says it sums up how he’s feeling right now—not quite happy and certainly no less anxious but not as awful as he was feeling six months ago. This band has a knack for releasing music that matches its audience’s emotional temperature at any given moment. Alternative radio acknowledged AJR’s position as a core artist for the format with 50+ adds this week on “Way Less Sad,” which is already #19 on the Alt chart and #14 in audience.

I predict that the next wave of radio hits will be similar to “Way Less Sad” in mood—one year in, nobody wants to hear songs with apocalyptic themes of loneliness, isolation or the damage wrought by the White House. Cautious optimism, hope, light at the end of the tunnel et al. are the topics that will resonate with the Alternative audience.

This is a fantastic time for artist collaborations—I can’t wait to hear the new song Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen have completed, for example. And it’s been established that no song can be released at Alternative radio that doesn’t include Travis Barker—he’s the “secret weapon” currently propelling KennyHoopla’s “ESTELLA//” to the Top 10.

A band I love, Blame My Youth (featuring Sean Van Vleet from beloved Chicago outfit Empires), has a new single, “Fantastic”—as in “I feel fucking fantastic/ Hooray, hooray”—that’s been earmarked by deeply intuitive KRXP programmer Shawn Lucero as her secret weapon.

Based on research, chart success, streaming and single sales, the “sound” that’s working best for the format remains that exemplified by post-pop/punk Alternative artists like Machine Gun Kelly, All Time Low, KennyHoopla and now, MOD SUN, whose “Flames” debuted at #1 on this week’s Rate the Music. For those of you who can’t wrap your head around the Avril Lavigne intro (shame on you), there’s a version with MOD SUN singing that has been greeted with enormous enthusiasm by key rock-leaning programmers.

Are you paying attention to what’s been going on with Glass Animals? “Heat Waves” should be a lock for #1 at Alt in the next few weeks AND the song is crossing to Pop, bolstered by hundreds of millions of streams worldwide. Dreamland was my favorite album of 2020. If you’ve been a consistent supporter of Glass Animals since “Gooey,” congratulate yourselves on your incredibly good taste and clear vision.

Lisa Worden, the busiest woman in radio, has launched her passion project, “She Is the Voice,” on Alt 98.7 as host, producer and curator. The show features music from past and present female artists. Recent and upcoming guests include Ashe, Phoebe Bridgers, Arlo Parks and Aimee from The Interrupters. May “She Is the Voice,” which airs Friday nights at 8pm PT, inspire audience members, female and male, to start their own bands!

How can anyone lend credence to very strongly worded critiques on the state of Alt radio when those who express said opinions have never successfully programmed an Alt station? Shocker—the pandemic has affected ratings! Why NOT shake things up a bit and try something new? Playing armchair quarterback is unnecessary, self-aggrandizing and, well, downright toxic. Unless you’re devoted to the format’s health, shut the fuck up.

There are few songs more deserving of airplay than Black Pumas’ “Colors,” Phoebe Bridgers’ “Kyoto” and Backseat Lovers’ “Kilby Girl.” If you aren’t playing these records, please do so now.

Congrats to Marisa DiFrisco and her cohorts on the success at Alt of “Sofia” by Clairo, comfortably hanging with Billie Eilish in the Top 10… Lisa and Darice are about to have another smash with The Kid LAROI’s “Without You.” It’s what they do… SONG TO HEAR: “Greatest Enemy,” by Glassnote’s The Strumbellas, brought along under the watchful eye of the label’s new head of promo, Michael Starr. You know him; you love him—now play his record.


 
 
ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTING

By Karen Glauber

Happy New Year! I have COVID! Since the pandemic began, I’ve been made fun of for never leaving the house—no grocery stores, no outdoor dining—or having repair people or anyone else over. All it took was my son’s father to infect my son, who infected me. (My ex continues to be the gift that keeps on giving.) My son is thankfully 100% better. As for me, I don’t know how I’m going to feel when I wake up. Still, I got lucky; I never had breathing problems, a fever, a cough or any of the symptoms that land people in the hospital. Lingering loss of taste and smell, a pervasive headache and brain fog aren’t much fun, but it will get better, eventually.

Since we last connected, Lisa Sonkin and Darice Lee went to #1 with Cannons’ “Fire for You,” which is a wonderful achievement for a brand new band. To recap, the song was first added at KKDO Sacramento after PD Andy Hawk heard it on the Netflix series Never Have I Ever in May. Shazams and streams ensued. Alt Nation added it, still unsigned, on 7/21. Columbia Records jumped in soon after, and now the band’s debut single is #1 thanks to the tireless efforts of Lisa and Darice.

Andy, refusing to be content with just one hit on his CV, chose The Backseat Lovers’ “Kilby Girl” in August as his next pick. He follows the aforementioned Alt Nation (where “Kilby Girl” is currently #1) as the song’s spin leader with over 600 spins. KKDO’s fantastic research on “Kilby Girl” has been the catalyst for other Entercom stations to come on board; Mick Music’s Amy Kaplan has tenaciously grown the record to its near-Top 20 status. A new add from WRFF was a joy to behold this week—how can you not give a shot to a song from a Salt Lake City indie band that has 55 million cumulative spins?

Speaking of Andy Hawk, his third pick to click is Mod Sun’s “Flames” f/Avril Lavigne on Big Noise Records. Mod, as his BFF MGK calls him, co-wrote the latter’s #1 Alt single “bloody valentine.” He connected with Avril through his producer and label co-head John Feldmann, whose tenure as lead singer in the band Goldfinger conjures up fond memories for all. I checked in with my favorite “emo kid” still in the Alternative demo, Caroline’s Marisa DiFrisco, who assured me, “This is SOOOOOO emo. Hahaha; I’m not mad at it. You can pick out that it’s Avril immediately.” The “Flames” video, released last Friday, is already at 3.6 million views, and the song hit 4.7 million Spotify streams today. If your career is based on being right, this is your next hit.

What an absolute thrill to have Lisa Worden choose Phoebe Bridgers’ “Kyoto” as the first iHeart “On the Verge” pick in ages! So what if the song was released in April? NOW is Phoebe’s moment. She has four Grammy nominations, an SNL appearance on 2/6 and a reputation as one of the funniest and most insightful observers of pop culture on social media: traitor joe @phoebe_bridgers 1/14: “I definitely had Tucker Carlson pretending to know who Ariel Pink is on my 2021 bingo card.” Longtime fan Bryce Segall at Entercom was instrumental in getting “Kyoto” added at WNYL, along with ongoing exposure via the radio group’s national programming. Bri Aab at Secretly Canadian is about to have a huge Alternative hit!

RE: Grammy noms, Black Pumas are everywhere! Alternative radio is following suit, with airplay on “Colors” at KROX, WWCD, WLUM, WKZQ and KRXP, among others. Like National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, Black Pumas will be playing the Super BowlNick Petropoulos, now at Arista, has the format’s most reactive song with carolesdaughter’s “Violent,” currently blowing out all competition with 1 million streams PER DAY. This song is the REAL gift that keeps on giving!


 
 
Post Toasted Index
posted 4/12/21
posted 2/27/21
posted 11/13/20
posted 10/12/20
posted 5/26/20