19 March 2009

Overseas Radio: Sending Us Life and Talent

Recently, as even I have become too weary of news/talk radio and even more weary of our overdone 'buy it now' commercials (the latter an affliction I've had for a good number of years), I've been trying to find some new music. Unfortunately, my local radio market is still heavily dominated by Clear Channel's ever-repeating loops of the same crap, or syndicated shows with the same hosts playing the same crap. (Sorry, "Delilah" listeners: listening to that every night, no matter how well-intended the purpose of the show, would send me over the edge in a week.)

It's gotten so bad, that I'm actually starting to hate the bands Coldplay and Nickelback because of this endless repetition...bands I once really liked. (Note to bands/PR companies/record execs who pay the Clear Channel & Co 'piper': too much airplay can be a very bad thing over the long haul.) Contrary to the now infamous song of the 1980s, video does not kill the radio star: greed and over-exposure do.

So, once again, I've been looking to find new tunes via online outlets.

At work, listening online for me is particularly troublesome as we now have a variety of 'filters' that are designed and in place for us to not do anything that might make the daily 'to do' bit more enjoyable. I perhaps miss music the most, as I work in a windowless former closet and generally in excess of 9 hours a day, sometimes more. Music is a passion of mine, even though my direct participation is limited to non-existent these days. Distractions, even those in the background and on a low volume, remind me there is an outside world beckoning...and that gets me through even my tough days.

However, in a particular act of kindness, the powers that be relented on the 'no music' rule and eased up a bit more recently and will now let us satisfy our audio needs: for no more than 60 minutes a day, done in 15 minute blocks of our choosing. (Hey, it's a start back...I'll take it.) Some sites, though, still are blocked: Last.FM, for instance, and even Live 365 (of which I still have a station there...click here for the link). However, I can sneak in the occasional moment of Mozart through our classical radio station (WCPE, Wake Forest, NC), or drift over to any number of stations worldwide through my fave portal, Surfmusic. I'm practically happy again...and it beats the hell out of the copier hum.

From that last site, I re-found Clyde FM from Glasgow. Now I know I have a rather strong connection to my Scottish heritage, and even though I've been on a 'Rule Britannia' bit recently, I listen to Clyde a bit more than some others not only because of their general 'upbeat' approach (even when discussing their boggled traffic and dismal forecasts), but because they play some stuff I have never heard before...and, sadly, even months after, still does not get airplay here. And, generally, I tire pretty damn quick of what constitutes 'pop' music. (That's another rant for another day, believe me.) Clyde may be the 'Clear Channel' prototype for Scotland, who knows, but I'm for whoever can bring some variety and fun back to whatever passes for radio these days. And music...actual music instead of what passes for rap and/or 'instrumental' solos and/or 'sampling mixes' (and I'm using those last terms very loosely) would be good for a change. (MTV/VH1 should maybe re-consider that 'music' thing, too, but I'm not holding my breath.)

Two of the voices that have I have discovered from Clyde are now, amazingly...finally...getting some attention (albeit minor) with airplay over here. Keep in mind our announcers know next to nothing about them, if they even do acknowledge the songs, but I'm hopeful this might indicate an ever so small shift from the constant dreck on US 'pop' airwaves...somebody somewhere, is paying attention. Our luck would be that person got laid off yesterday.

The first is Duffy, who reminds me some of a long-time fave of mine, Dusty Springfield. I've always been a fan of 'throaty' singers with range, especially female ones who can go from a purr to a growl in less than a heartbeat, and Duffy gives me all indications she is up for that and more. Simplicity, even to the point of being borderline retro, is not a detriment if the singer knows how to, and does, carry the emotion over to listeners. I'm actually slightly more fond of Duffy's "Mercy" song, but could not find a video of such that I liked, so we'll go with my second-fave, the heart-broken "Warwick Avenue" instead here:

Duffy's "Warwick Avenue". Video embed from MTV's video collection...yes, believe it, from MTV. Someone remembers.

The second is a powerhouse of a singer, Jazmine Sullivan, who (in typical American mass radio practices) has been marketed to an 'urban' (read: black/African-American) audience, even though I think her appeal is far, far larger than that. (Fingers crossed somebody wises up: music has never been color-blind, its marketing should never be, either.) I'm not sure if I like Sullivan's voice or the 'sound' of her songs more...I guess I'll figure that out for certain with her next album. The first time I heard Ms Sullivan I thought she was maybe Mary J. Blige...and I love the voice and performances of Ms. Mary J. I was first hooked with Ms Sullivan's "Bust Your Windows", but it's her latest, "Lions, Tigers, and Bears", that I find absolutely memorable.

Jazmine Sullivan making it look easy: "Lions, Tigers, and Bears". Now we must keep the non-singers from attempting it at the next karaoke party...

Please, Clyde and others helping your online listeners survive these grey-filled days, bring on some more of this... and thank you.

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