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HOT ALT SUMMER

By Karen Glauber

I had an unexpected and definitely unwelcome medical scare last week (because COVID is the gift that keeps giving), during which I thought about what the next few months should look like, especially since our post-vaccination “new normal” has most of us feeling, as the song goes, “way less sad.” Format-wise, this is the time to re-embrace the core of who we really are, so welcome to Hot Alt Summer!

I credit the format’s enthusiasm for the new Modest Mouse single “We Are Between” as a catalyst for what I hope will be radio’s soundtrack for the summer. Epic’s Christine Chiappetta, who is an expert at delivering Alt smashes, had a 99.99% approval rating on this single during set-up (every promotion person’s dream), and Monday’s add-date will be an unequivocal blow-out. It’s interesting to see how well Modest Mouse does in the streaming world, as the next generation(s) of Alt listeners have discovered their music.

Speaking of streaming, The Neighbourhood has expanded its audience exponentially since the band’s last release. I always use Weezer and blink-182 as the key examples of bands that have been able exponentially grow their audiences with the arrival of every new generation of Alt fans. Without any touring opportunities, The Neighbourhood has done just that during lockdown. Look for “Stargazing” to emerge as one of the biggest songs of the next few months. Also on Columbia’s Lisa Sonkin and Darice Lee’s summer playlist is the genius new Cannons’ single “Bad Dream,” the follow-up to their #1 Alt song “Fire for You.” The band will be on tour with lovelytheband and Sir Sly in the not-too-far future. Meanwhile, Lisa and Darice are nearing Top 5 with The Kid LAROI as well!

girl in red and CHVRCHES will be permanent fixtures in HOT ALT SUMMER. “Serotonin” is already one of 2021’s fastest tracks to hit the Top 10, which is especially remarkable for a format that rarely reaches a consensus when it comes to newer artists. AWAL’s Dave Lombardi has always worked some of the best (truly) Alt songs, and he’ll have an abundance of great music this summer, including new Dayglow.

Glassnote’s Michael Starr landed Aurora as this week’s Audacy “Pick of the Week,” as streaming and Shazam continue to explode on “Runaway.” CHVRCHES “He Said She Said” is off to a rousing start, already Top 25 after two weeks! Exciting

Isn’t Beach Bunny’s “Cloud 9” the epitome of Hot Alt Summer? David Jacobs is on pace to break this one wide open—musically and metrics-wise, this song is a perfect summer smash! Also, Alice Merton’s “Vertigo” is on course to be as big as “No Roots,” adding another hit to David’s summer portfolio.

Our beloved MOD SUN is making his TV debut on 5/12, when he and Avril Lavigne appear on Kimmel to perform “Flames.” The Big Noise team gave MOD a #17 song for his first shot at Alt, and, having heard the songs that are about to follow, I know he’ll soon be a permanent fixture at the format.

KennyHoopla is definitely one of the faces of Hot Alt Summer, with “Estella” entrenched in the Top 10 and a new song, “Hollywood Sucks,” (featuring the indefatigable Travis Barker) just released.

The song that I decree WILL be an Alt hit this summer is beabadoobee’s “The Last Day on Earth.” She is the face of Alt music, and what an expressive, glorious face it is.

AJR’s “Way Less Sad” is the band’s fifth Top 3 Alt single and their seventh consecutive charted Alt song. Congrats to the band on being nominated for three iHeart Awards!

 What songs do you envision being hits for you this summer? I know that X-96’s Todd Nukem is quite keen on Joywave’s “Every Window Is a Mirror,” which Buddy Deal will be launching on 5/18. Other programmers are expecting The Maine’s “Sticky” to be a huge record for them—a rotation bump (or 50) would be a perfect wedding gift to give to Virgin’s Marisa DiFrisco!

 SONG TO HEAR: Belle Mt.’s “Famous Son” (ask Rob Goldklang for a link!)


 
 
HE SAID SHE SAID

By Karen Glauber

I just read what Lauren Mayberry wrote about the new CHVRCHES single, which might resonate with you as well: “‘He Said She Said’ is my way of reckoning with things I’ve accepted that I know I shouldn’t have. Things I pretended weren’t damaging to me. It was the first song we wrote when we started back up, and the opening line—‘He said, “You bore me to death”’—was the first lyric that came out. All the verse lines are tongue-in-cheek or paraphrased versions of things that have actually been said to me by men in my life. Being a woman is fucking exhausting, and it felt better to scream it into a pop song than scream it into the void. After the past year, I think we can all relate to feeling like we’re losing our minds.” Thank you, Lauren. Glassnote’s Michael Starr is going for adds this week on CHVRCHES, and this single is absolutely perfect. Early adds included Alt Nation, XMU, WNYL, WSUN, X-96 and KROX.

This headline appeared in The New York Times on Wednesday: “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing.” The diagnosis means we’re all occupying the middle ground between depression and what the article refers to as “flourishing.” For me, it’s lack of control in all aspects of my life that has me spending 23 hours a day in my room when my kid is with his dad (this is also the only room in the house with decent Internet). For my label peers who, pre-pandemic, longed for the opportunity to work records WITHOUT the added layer of radio shows, the reality has been more challenging than you ever envisioned.

Unlike at other formats, there’s no consensus that a Top 10 song should be a hit for every station in the format. In markets with two Alt stations, the overlap of songs can be less than 50%. Only a handful of records each year can be considered “real” hits at Alt, meaning they become library songs and/or cross to other formats.

Any song that crosses from Alt to Pop should be viewed as a victory for our format; any Pop song that can share an audience with Alt should be viewed as a blessing, despite the vocal opinions of those who prefer to program in a vacuum. “To thine own self be true”—gossipers need to cease the chatter about those in charge of programming the format; let them program as they see fit, without armchair quarterbacking from those on the sidelines. Does your job description include programming? No? Then shut the fuck up.

Not every song has to go to #1 to make an impact; my strategy for breaking artists is to keep rolling singles until something hits. Thankfully, with The Lumineers and AJR, every single has had chart success; with Arcade Fire, we were three records in before “Ready to Start” went Top 10. I still think about the myriad of Interpol and Spoon singles we’ve worked!

Great art always finds its audience, as evidenced by the explosion of Aurora’s 2015 single “Runaway,” which is currently #39 on the Spotify Top 200 in the U.S. and #6 on the Global Spotify Viral chart, propelled by the song’s phenomenal TikTok success and acknowledgement of Aurora’s influence by everyone from Billie Eilish to Lizzo. If there were ever a song worthy of your immediate attention, “Runaway” is it. It’s already #5 U.S. Shazam—can you imagine how well it will do in your market with your airplay?

girl in red’s “Serotonin” has been added to iHeart’s “Custom” very quickly after its release. Lisa Worden is unique in her talent for earmarking the records that matter, especially when it comes to female artists. Her weekly show, She Is the Voice, on Alt 98.7 is a coveted launchpad for female artists.

Look for Beach Bunny’s “Cloud 9” and The Maine’s “Sticky” to be two of the biggest songs of the summer. I know this to be true.

 


 
 
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.”

 


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