Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Hear a song blow again and again

Posted By on Wed, Oct 25, 2006 at 3:00 PM

Today is Sirius Radio’s Internet free day. Just like the cable companies used to do in the early 1990s, you can listen to the system’s programming under a trial system, then decide whether or not you want to subscribe in the future. Naturally it’s Howard Stern’s visage that’s leading Sirius’ branding for this stunt; Stern’s still the biggest name on their airwaves, and there are more than a few casual fans of his show out there who still long for the days when a window into his morning show’s twisted psychological forum was part of the daily commute. But Sirius is pushing their music, talk and entertainment channels too.

And that’s where I come in. I bought a Sirius subscription early last December, during the rush of discount offers that followed Stern’s migration from terrestrial radio to satellite broadcast. I’m a Howard fan, but it was bigger than that. I’m a fan of radio too — of the medium’s gift for randomness — and that was something terrestrial, with its Clear Channel-enabled genre and geographical homogeny, seemed no longer willing or able offer. As an unapologetic fan of multiple music styles, I hoped Sirius’ 90+ music channels would offer me the unpredictable musical landscape regular radio used to, that ability to skip between classic rock, Top 40, hip hop, Lite FM, new country, dusty old jazz, stodgy NPR, contemporary hard rock, Adult Album Alternative, the occasional classical moment, and even weak-signaled left of the dial Christian and college broadcasts — all of the formats that populate the restless and lively music salon in my brain. And it has.

Sort of.

While I enjoy many of the channels, I’ve discovered that I’m so fucking picky about music that not even Sirius’ relatively deep selection is enough, and it’s definitely not random enough. What I mean is this. Recently, for about a week or so, all I wanted to listen to was Sirius Love, a station comparable to your average terrestrial Lite FM station. You know, a lot of Luther Vandross, Jeffrey Osborne, Melissa Manchester (her version of “Don’t Cry Out Loud” owns), and my man Benny Mardones doing “Into the Night,” which is tied for my all-time favorite Lite FM song with Boy Meets Girl’s “Waiting for a Star to Fall.” * Sirius Love has all these titles, but I’m such a bastard that I want my Boy Meets Girl to be followed by Pulp and the Platters, then Flipper, then the Buzzcocks, then Isis, then back to Luther Vandross, then the James Gang, then MC Solaar, then DJ Mylo doing “In My Arms” because it meshes a sample of “Waiting for a Star to Fall” with the opening notes of Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes,” and finally some Eric B. & Rakim. Sirius has Super Shuffle, yeah, and the channel’s trolling of everything on every other channel kind of works as a Doug FM/Chuck FM-sort of station. But Super Shuffle is never going to program Lamb of God next to Victoria Williams next to Donovan next to Huey Lewis & the News, and that’s the kind of shuffle I want.

“So Johnny, aren’t you describing an iPod?” the peanut gallery says. “Why don’t you just buy one already and quit your griping?”

And the peanut gallery is right. But remember when I said that I’m a fan of radio? Even if I was to put all of the artists and songs I mentioned above into an iPod, and buttressed those with tracks new and old from a hundred different genres, I’d still know that the randomness was, at its center, still planned by me. I would know that I inputted everything the unit’s algorithm drew from, and that would start to bother me more than Brooke Hogan’s new album.

So if anyone knows where I can start my own radio station, Hard Harry-style — and don’t say the Internet, because I want to be able to listen to it in my car — let me know.

And in the meantime, check out Howard Stern during Sirius’ free day. Shit’s crazed without the censors.

JTL

*

Related:

A video for Mardones’ “Into the Night” that some dude made with vidcaps from The Young and the Restless. Nice!

The absolutely fantastic video for Boy Meets Girl’s “Waiting for a Star to Fall.” It looks like what would happen if someone filmed a Carpenters biopic in the 1980s, and hired BMG’s Shannon Rubicam and George Merrill because they couldn’t afford Jennifer Grey and Michael Bolton. (No disrespect to Rubicam and Merrill, because they look like they’re having a wonderful time in this video, and its breezy sense captures what I love about the song. Anyway.)

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