Ah, radio...it's the newspaper of the airwaves. (And no, that's not a compliment. I can only remember perusing through a newspaper once in the last year or two, and that was in a motel lobby while waiting for the rest of my family to wake up.) (And this is coming from a guy who basically got his college degree in newspaper writing.) (Which is why I drive truck for a living.)
Newspapers are going the way of the dodo. (I'm talking about the "extinct bird" use of the word "dodo," not the "stupid people" use of the word "dodo.") And radio may not be far behind.
With iPods and iPads and iTunes and Spotify and Pandora and Sirius and computers and the internets and smart phones and even phones of average intelligence, people have a wide variety of places to get their music and information besides traditional radio stations. Even ancient technology like the 6-CD changer has driven folks away from the radio. (I remember when I moved up from cassette deck to 6-CD changer almost six years ago! It was a glorious and wonderful thing!) Now, more than ever, radio stations need to do things to keep people listening to them, and yet they continue to do the same stupid things that make people want to change the station or turn it off completely.
I still listen to the radio (I am an old guy, after all), but I only listen to it four days a week. I usually listen to sports talk radio on my way to and from work. And then, when I'm at work, I flip between three or four music stations. When I'm not at work I don't listen to the radio at all because I have an iPod and a computer and, who am I kidding? I've got two kids under the age of five, so I spend much of my days watching PBS Kids and Disney, and playing with dolls and trucks.
With their fragmented and dwindling listenership, it's amazing that radio stations continue to do the annoying things that drive people away. I call these the "So, you don't want me to listen to your radio station" moments. One of the best things about car radios is the station preset buttons. So, when a station pulls out one of its "So, you don't want me to listen" moments, I can quickly push a button and I'm magically transported to another station. Until that station drives me away and I'm forced to hit another button. It's a never ending cycle.
Here are some of my (least) favorite "So, you don't want me to listen to your radio station" moments:
*The Radio Remote. This is when the radio station sends its DJs out on location at one of its advertiser's places of business, often a car dealership. The station then inundates its airwaves with pleas to visit the location instead of actually playing music. (And, by the way, you don't want to actually visit these locations, because you most certainly do not want to see your favorite radio personality. There is a reason these people are on the radio and not the television.) (They ain't pretty.)
*"Let's go to the callers." I'm usually okay with listening to professional radio personalities because they are actually professionals. It's what they get paid to do. I do not want to listen to the idiotic ramblings of some buffoon who thinks the world needs to hear what he has to say because he's witty or clever. Just because you can dial a phone doesn't mean I want to hear your opinion. Besides, when they go to "Bart from Ogden," any or all of the following things can happen: a) Bart has already hung up, leaving the DJ saying, "Bart? Bart? We seem to have lost Bart." b) Bart has his radio too loud, leading to annoying feedback. c) Bart is on speakerphone, so he sounds like he's calling from inside a tuna fish can. d) Bart has absolutely nothing of importance or interest to say, because he has nothing better to do than sit around all day and call radio stations.
*DJs singing over the music. In much the same way that I don't want to hear non-professional talkers talking on the radio, I also don't want to hear non-professional singers singing on the radio. Remember, you're a disc jockey, not Rick Astley. (Unless Rick Astley is now working as a DJ. In that case, I'd gladly listen to him singing over the songs.)
*DJs talking over the music. I know DJs are trained to talk over a song right up to the start of the singing, but sometimes the intro music is the best part of the song. I would much rather hear the jarring guitar at the beginning of "Just What I Needed" by the Cars, or the "Hey!" and hand-claps at the start of "What I Like About You" by the Romantics than any ramblings about traffic or the weather by some random DJ. Let the music play.
*Loud laughing "zoo crews." Radio stations often have a "zoo crew" for their morning shows consisting of two, three, four, or even five people. The problem is, all these people think they are so funny that they spend all their time laughing so loudly at each other that you can't hear or understand what they are laughing about. Unfortunately, this phenomenon isn't limited to morning zoo crews. Late night sports guys get this way, too. (I'm talking to you, Fox Sports Radio.)
*The "We don't talk" syndrome. Some stations promise things like "One hour of uniterrupted music!" Then, between every song, they interrupt the music to tell you that you are in the middle of "one hour of uniterrupted music!" Self-promotion is still advertising. I don't want to hear you talk about how little you talk!
*Chopping up the songs. If you bill yourself as a "classic" rock station but still play the chopped-up, hacked-up, shortened-for-time versions of great songs like "Piano Man" by Billy Joel or "Come Sail Away" by Styx, well, you have earned yourself my disdain and scorn. (And a good scowl, too.)
*Annoying advertising. Everyone has ads that drive them crazy. Here in the Utah area, there is one ad campaign that has been running for several years that forces me to turn the station whenever it airs. It is for a heating/air conditioning company, and features a superhero spokesman and his talking dog sidekick. The ads themselves are seldom about the company, but more often about the supposed fame and ego of the superhero and his talking dog. The person doing the voices for the superhero and the dog does so in a "funny," over-exaggerated way. (And by "funny" I mean funny's cousin, "Not Funny.") I'm guessing the ads are effective, because they've been running them for so long. But, I also know that if I had heating or air conditioning problems, that is the very last business I would go to. (I've sometimes wondered if I had a business and was looking to advertise if I could request to make sure my ad did not follow a certain other ad. "Yes, I'll advertise on your station, but only if my ads don't air in the fifteen minutes following an Action Man and Action Dog commercial.")
*"Don't touch that dial!" Any advertisement that demands that I don't change the station pretty much guarantees that I'm going to change the station. It's like a double-dog dare.
*Siren commercials. I find any commercial featuring a blaring siren to go beyond annoying into the realm of being irresponsible. When I hear a siren in a commercial, my first instinct is to pull over to let the emergency vehicle go by. How many times do people not pull over for actual sirens because they think it's a stupid radio commercial?
*Playing songs I don't like. Here's where I'm going to get into trouble. I'm going to offend someone by listing a song that they love as one that I hate. But it's all so subjective. A while back a writer on Grantland.com said he had pretty much dismissed all of Billy Joel's work because he didn't like the fact that he rhymed "Davy" with "Navy." (What was he supposed to rhyme it with? Gravy?) (On second thought, that would be pretty cool! "He's talking with Davy who likes to eat gravy.") The point is, we all come up with reasons, sometimes ridiculous, sometimes credible, as to why we hate songs. Here are a few that make me immediately turn the station:
"Run To You" by Bryan Adams. It's a cheating song. I don't like cheating songs. (See also "Tempted" by Squeeze and pretty much all non-"Ghostbusters" songs by Ray Parker, Jr.)
"Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin. Because if I want to hear Robert Plant having sex, I'd.... (I decided to not finish that sentence, because I will never want to hear Robert Plant having sex.)
"Cocaine" by Eric Clapton. I'd prefer my rock and roll songs about drugs to be a little more subtle. (I used to like "Dream On" by Aerosmith until I "cracked" the cocaine-use code on the whole "lines in the mirror" lyrics.)
"Layla" by Eric Clapton. I really don't have anything against Clapton. I like many of his songs. But I just don't like the way the ending repeats itself and drags on seemingly forever. (And yet I like those same qualities about "Hey Jude." Like I said, it's all subjective.)
All songs by Madonna, with the exception of "La Isla Bonita." Why do I like "La Isla Bonita?" Because the title is one of the funnest things to say in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice. (You are trying it right now, aren't you?)
Any song by Aerosmith, with the exceptions of "Come Together," which is a great song no matter who sings it; "Love In an Elevator," because it reminds me of something (No, not that! Get your mind out of the gutter!); and "Dude Looks Like a Lady," just because occasionally it is fun to hear someone scream "Cow-cow-cow-chikka-chikka-chikka-cow-cow!!!"
"Imagine" by John Lennon. I know this one is going to get me in trouble with a lot of people. There are many who think this is the best rock song of all time. But, I don't like the song's anti-religion, anti-government stance. I like to call this song "The Anarchy Song," and imagine further lyrics, if they were to exist, to say things like, "imagine there's no traffic lights," or "imagine there's no guard rails." (I know I'm in the minority here. Oh well.)
"Man, I Feel Like a Woman" by Shania Twain and "I'm Just a Girl" by No Doubt. It's not because these aren't catchy, fun songs. It's because they are catchy fun songs. They get stuck in my head, and then I get singing them at inopportune times.
There are many other songs that make me want to change the radio station. And there are probably other annoying things radio stations and DJs do that make me want to change the station. What about you? Are there songs or other things that make YOU immediately turn the station? I'd really like to have some feedback, either at the bottom of the page here, or on Facebook.
(And yes, I realize I just pulled a "Let's Go To the Callers," but I figure if you don't like it, the worst you can do is switch to another humor column.)