Monday, March 17, 2008

All the records on the radio are shite?

Last year you may recall our logging everything said and played on one normal day of daytime Radio 1, and we were planning to spend the four non-Bank Holiday days of this week doing the same for 6 Music. It was all going well until we realised it'd mean listening to George Lamb again, and we only have a finite amount of time left on this planet.

Luckily a different angle suggested itself through this post on Troubled Diva the purpose of which was to demonstrate how little margin for error there is in the current Duffy push and the cigarette paper gap that appears as a result of such a crossover artist between three of the BBC's music radio stations (leaving 1Xtra out of it for the moment) - Tom Ewing has commented on it as well.

Now, clearly this isn't going to happen every week - apart from Duffy and her stylistic forebears Adele and Winehouse you're not going to find many who would fit equally onto all three A lists. In fact, there's a lot more to be said than that from looking at the three sets of stats. Let's take it on a week, for example, and see what we can find from the following week's most played lists, w/e 9/3/08:

Radio 1

1 The Futureheads 21
1 Utah Saints 21
3 We Are Scientists 20
4 The Kooks 19
5 Sugababes 18
6 Panic! At the Disco 17
6 Gnarls Barkley 17
6 Guillemots 17
6 The Feeling 17
10 Duffy 16

Right, well there's a surprise at the off. The Futureheads were hardly Radio 1 darlings when they made their first impact and The Beginning Of The Twist is hardly a massive commercial advance, but they are now seen, we think, as elder statesmen of the current Commercial Indie scene not so much by what they do as who they came in just ahead of, emerging as they did just after the Libertines had started falling apart and just before Franz Ferdinand ran with similar influences. It also throws into some relief their current angle to sticking it to 679 and by extension the major label industry, seeing as Radio 1 now trusts them enough, or Big Life Management has enough clout, to give them this much play. Alongside them, just to show how while the music scene is fast moving really nothing changes or deviates, a new mix of Something Good, for the kids who have no hope of remembering not only the original but who the U-U-U-Utah Saints were to begin with (in fact Pete Tong and Zane Lowe picked up on it as a white label from the remix arm of Van She last autumn) What we do determine from this list is the caught between two stools nature of the station, which not so long ago was a R&B and dance haven, then got caught up in the Guitars Are Back! press and now finds it difficult to strike an easy balance. It was commented of the previous week's figures that there was no black music about - not strictly fair, as Gnarls Barkley, David Jordan, Leona Lewis and, should they count, the Sugababes were within positions 11-16 - but this is a station that has recalibrated for a text-friendly 16-24 year old audience, the student population if you will. Has 1Xtra ghettoised black music, as some claim (Jordan had to have a big label push and an eventual big hit for Radio 1 to notice, and of course Gnarls Barkley are coming off the back of one of the biggest hits of the decade), or is this just an unrepresentative time of the year, the big R&B and hip hop crossovers of recent years largely coming through in the summer once the labels have got their band campaigns sorted out? Or do black 16-24 year olds just not bother with the station any more? Hmm.

NB. The current UK number two and bassline crossover hit appears in the scrobbled list as both H 'two' o and H 'two' O/Platinum, and combined the two got 21 plays as well.

Radio 2

1 Duffy 17
2 Bryan Adams 14
2 Amy Macdonald 14
2 Gabriella Cilmi 14
5 OneRepublic 13
5 KT Tunstall 13
5 Alphabeat 13
8 The Kooks 12
8 James Blunt 12
8 Leona Lewis 12

Maybe you'd expect it to, but Radio 2 has gone a bundle on the re-emergence to an extent of the soul/girl group sound even immediately before the Winehouse era - the Pipettes' Pull Shapes was A-listed and, rather more unlikely, so was the last Revelations single before they hitched an unsuccessful ride on the Eurovision bandwagon, which was a self-financed download only as well (and failed to make the top 200). All Duffy has really done is found an up to date production enough and as much post-Winehouse wind as she can really grab onto without entirely seeming a copyist. Notice Alphabeat there, who are also joint tenth on the Radio 1 list and have clearly found a formula close enough to the modern pop whirligig to appeal to young (it's pop, dammit!) and old (but with a certain beat), and the Kooks, who presumably represent something watered down of what Commercial Indie likes to think is raucousness enough for Radio 2 tastes. When did we give Bryan Adams carte blanche to return?

We can't really add that much to it, so here's 6 Music's top ten:

1 Operator Please 19
2 Elbow 18
2 R.E.M. 18
2 Duffy 18
5 Vampire Weekend 16
5 Gnarls Barkley 16
5 Mystery Jets / Laura Marling 16
8 MGMT 15
8 Goldfrapp 15
10 Siouxsie Sioux 14

...and 1Xtra's own does indeed for the most part look like you might have imagined Radio 1's would when Ja Rule was in his pomp:

1 Flo Rida / T-Pain 13
2 Chris Brown 12
3 Usher / Young Jeezy 11
4 Snoop Dogg 10
5 Wiley 9
5 Delinquent / K-Cat 9
5 Erup 9
5 Estelle / Kanye West 9
9 Lupe Fiasco 8
9 Mariah Carey 8

Tomorrow we'll get onto the all time lists, but let us draw some more figures from Radios 1 and 2 w/e 9th March:

* 11 artists received more than ten plays on Radio 2, 28 on Radio 1, yet Radio 2 (459) played more different artists than Radio 1 (421), although this might be partly because Radio 1 doesn't scrobble between midnight and 7am.

* Unlikely artists played on Radio 2: The Libertines (twice! The same number as Radio 1! And Tell The King was one of those), Jethro Tull (four times?), Shakin' Stevens (in 2008!), Space, Klaxons, Doctor & The Medics, The View, Noel Coward, Toni Basil, Falco, Hear'Say, Cornershop, Leftfield, AC/DC and Neil (yes, Hole In My Shoe). Not all of those can be from Radcliffe and/or Maconie.

* Unlikely artists played on Radio 1: Cameo, Chris T-T, Otis Redding, the B-52s, MC Hammer, Survivor, Gerry and The Pacemakers, USA For Africa, Go west, Johnny Hates Jazz, Stealers Wheel. Not all of those can be from Scott Mills. (We'd like to think Riff Raff was a newly discovered recording of Billy Bragg's punk band, but it probably isn't all told)


Steve Williams said...

I'm guessing the Shaky on Radio 2 is Chris Evans' doing, as the other week he ran a Shaky Week where he played one of his records every day and invited listeners to send in their Shaky anecdotes.

In fact I'm sure most of the odd tracks will be Evans, as he normally accompanies his Nationwide-esque news interviews with punning records, like yesterday when he followed a piece on twitching with Shake Your Body. That sort of thing.

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