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Land of 1,000 Auto-Tunes

Birmingham is a terrestrial radio wasteland. It is known. Unless you’re a rabid fan of pop music (whether it originates from Los Angeles, Nashville or New York) you’re screwed if you want to listen to FM radio in Birmingham.

Until recently Birmingham listeners could at least find a bit of a classic rock respite in WZRR 99.5. Then recently happened. WZRR 99.5 became “The Vibe” and changed formats to a top 40 pop station. According to Bill Thomas, Market Manager for Cumulus Media:

We knew that listeners wanted a choice for contemporary hits, and The Vibe will give them a fresh, new station that is especially tai­lored to Birmingham music fans

I had no idea the Birmingham market was so starved for top 40 choices. Honestly, I had no idea you needed more than one station for that genre… I mean, it’s top 40 right? The stations are going to be identical, after all, right? RIGHT?

Then… my wife asked to borrow my truck. The one that I have Sirius XM in. The exchange? Her very nice, but terrestrial radio equipped Jeep.

I figured, “What the heck, I’ll give this new local radio station a try just to see what all the kids are listening to these days.” I committed to force myself to listen to nothing but 99.5 while I was in the car for the next two weeks.

I flipped to the station to hear the super-polished announcer claiming to be playing “10,000 songs, nonstop”. “Well that’s neat,” I thought. “Where are they going to find 10,000 different pop songs to play?” Silly me. They meant roughly 15 songs, 10,000 times in a row.

“OK, so I’ll hear these songs quite a bit. I can live with that, it’s like having a favorite new album on repeat! I’ll focus on the technical merits of the music and enjoy how precise and amazing the computer generated instrumentation sounds while perfectly matching the tempo the way only a midi track can! I bet these vocals are gonna be mind-bending!”

Whiskey — Tango — Foxtrotting — Auto-tune!

Auto-tune is so prevalant in these songs that I just couldn’t stop noticing it. It’s in every… single… song. At what point did “the ability to sing” get removed from the job requirements for a… “singer” who gets paid millions of dollars to… SING? At what point did the Birmingham music consumer stop caring about the heart and soul of music altogether?

C’mon people! We’re raised on gospel! We bleed blues, southern rock and old-school country! How are we this far from the mark? This guy and this guy and these guys and this guy and this guy and this guy and this gal and this guy and his little boy and this guy and this guy and this guy and this guy and OMG THESE GUYS and THESE GUYS come from here. How do we not just exude amazing music in every aspect of our lives? I could make a list of my musical influences comprised entirely of Alabama-bred musicians and never commit to a genre! WHAT HAVE WE BECOME!

Birmingham, I love you like a love song, baby. But I’m going to continue listening to exclusively Birmingham Mountain Radio for my local fix. Beyond that, it’s Sirius XM and Medeski, Martin and Wood or Derek Trucks albums for me.

bham musicrant

February 11, 2012

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