Rant about the radio

Well, technically the prompt was “you’re listening to the radio” but I didn’t know where to go with it, so I did a sort of stream-of-consciousness essay. This is what an actual essay would look like in its SFD (shitty first draft) form. If I had to write an actual essay about my feelings for radio, I would be cleaning this up, putting some actual segues in there, maybe a thesis statement. Instead, it’s just kind of a ramble.

The radio, most often, is crap. Either it’s playing songs I don’t like or songs I’ve heard a thousand times that I didn’t like much to begin with. When that’s not happening, it’s DJs who think they’re funny and commercials by people who really shouldn’t have taken the DIY approach. Your local pizza joint does not need a five verse theme song sung by an Elvis impersonator. Your bakery does not need a chamber orchestra.

The dilemma is that I never hear new songs if I don’t listen to the radio. Sure, I could go on Pandora or another service, crawl YouTube, etc. But most of how I get new music is my husband saying, “I heard a new one on the radio today, check it out.” And boom: new favorite song.

He has a CD player in his car but not an mp3 jack. I have both, so often I have my mp3 player hooked up, in an insulated loop of known qualities. Stagnant, except for the new insertions that I hear by chance or that others introduce to me.

It was a problem even when I had satellite radio. That was one of the little perks I got with my car when it was new: 6 months free satellite radio, and 6 months of letters begging me to subscribe afterward. Meanwhile I got radio that would cut out every time I drove through an underpass or a heavily wooded area. It was all partitioned by sub-genre, like a bookstore or a record store (remember those, oldsters?) kept by a particularly obsessive-compulsive staff. And they had these names like “Lithium” (the 90s grunge station – a jab at our emotional issues?) and “The Boneyard.” Even panning through the genres I favor, it would be a mix of stuff I didn’t recognize and stuff I recognized a little too well. But the same stuff.

It was like when I was a kid, about 12, staying with my grandparents in Florida. They had an intercom system throughout their house (which must’ve been a vogue in the 1970s into the 1980s until everyone realized that they still just shouted across the house anyway, because my parents had one, even though it had burnt out somehow and never worked in my memory) and all day they would play this radio station, the kind you could set your watch by. Sheryl Crow, must be time for lunch.

I suppose I should do Pandora. I’m told I can get the app for my smart phone, but I’ve always hated the idea of hooking my phone up like an mp3 player. I know phones are tiny computers now, but for me its primary purpose is communication, either by call or text, and if I need to get a hold of someone and my battery is dead because I’ve been listening to music all day on it, I’m the idiot. Until they release a phone with a battery charged by exposure to solar (get on that, someone!) I’ll be holding off. Though I bet there are Pandora-enabled cars now, way out of my price range.

One thing you only get on local radio is local “talent,” and I use those quotation marks for a reason. There was something called “Homebrew” that played on one of the local stations where I used to live, all bands that were from the area, though sometimes that area stretched pretty far into Vermont. The funny part was the disproportionate number of metal bands. I thought Norway had the most metal per capita but I started to wonder. Maybe it’s because everyone has the misconception that you just have to be able to scream and thrash to do metal. True, I guess, but good metal? You can’t just take some angry guy who doesn’t really know how to sing and tell him to give himself laryngitis. Tell that to these bands, though. It was painful.

The worst part about radio in New Hampshire, though, is the weekend, where every major station is classic rock half the day and NASCAR the latter half. Just because of that one track in Loudon we have so many goddamn Yanknecks in this state. And nothing against classic rock, but when a block of Zeppelin or Pink Floyd is four songs and each song is at least ten minutes long, that’s almost an hour of songs you heard a billion times by the age of six (unless you’re an oldster, hello again!). And it’s always the same classic rock songs. Freebird. Sweet  Home Alabama. The Wall. Tom Sawyer. Whole Lotta Love. Brown Sugar. Purple Haze. Dude Looks Like a Lady. Then you get into the hair metal and 80s rock and it’s Welcome to the Jungle, Girls Girls Girls, Rock You Like a Hurricane, Don’t Stop Believing, Livin’ On a Prayer. And once in a great while they dip into the 90s: Black Hole Sun, Alive, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Man in the Box, Welcome to Paradise, Come Out and Play. I like many of these songs, but not that much.

And then the NASCAR in the evening, often just when we’re coming back home from our daily excursions and want a little aural entertainment while we unwind. How fucking exciting. As if NASCAR isn’t boring to watch, a bunch of cars going around and around a hundred times, you get to listen to someone describe this action. “Now Billy Bob is ahead of Jeremiah but he’s overtaken by Cletus.” Thank you, NASCAR announcer! It’s as boring as listening to baseball on the radio.

Radio’s a good way to either get to like a song, or get to hate a song, both through the same means: repetition. I’ll hear a new song, immediately fall in love with it, then hear it every time I switch the station. Every station will be starting it or in the middle of playing it when I switch over. After a week of this, it’ll get to me. Also, I’ll hear a song, go “eh” and then after a week of the same radio behavior, be humming it to myself.

So radio has its ups and downs. Without it I never would’ve discovered Five Finger Death Punch and bought one of their albums, most of which I enjoy, including songs they never played on the radio. I never would’ve discovered “Snuff,” a song by Slipknot that was kind of a preview of the sort of stuff Corey Taylor would do in Stone Sour. That one came on once when my husband and I were on the way home from somewhere, and we parked the car in front of our apartment to listen to it to the end, then went inside and looked it up online to figure out what it was. It sounded so much like Stone Sour but wasn’t on any of their albums. I downloaded the mp3 immediately. Thanks for that, radio.

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~ by Amber on May 29, 2012.

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