Informing Radio Listeners Of Song Titles Now Retro Enough To Be Back In Style

Categories: Radio

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Those of us old enough to remember listening to terrestrial radio for hours on end probably have a clutch of songs in our memories that we know, but we don't know--songs that could be hummed on demand, and maybe even sung for a bar or two, but that are effectively no-name tracks thanks to their being played, sometimes even in heavy rotation, but not named by the DJs breaking up the time between music and commercials. The trend away from what was called "back-announcing" in DJ parlance was pushed along by higher-ups who wanted to minimize "clutter"—basically anything that would cause listeners to flip away from the music being played, which for some reason included basic information like the titles and the artists of the songs that had just been spun and not things like that annoying squeaky-voiced ad for Raceway Park. (Ah, management!) But now back-announcing seems to be back in vogue—at least at the stations owned by CBS Radio, which has top-40 station 92.3 Now, oldies bastion CBS-FM and the horribly named "Fresh" in its local pocket.

Part of the reason higher-ups support this shift, aside from it being pretty obvious to anyone who ever listened to the radio and got frustrated about not knowing what they had heard and liked? The ever-vanishing music-retail landscape!

"At one point in our culture there were well-schooled retailers who could help people figure out what that song was, because they wanted to buy it," said Greg Thompson, executive vice president for marketing and promotion at EMI Music. "In this day and age that doesn't exist."

What were the songs you most remember as knowing, but not knowing? When In Rome's "The Promise" would top my list—I didn't realize what it was called until some 12 years after its initial release, when I saw its video on VH1 Classic's MTV2's "Every Video We Have From A To Z" marathon, a miraculous piece of music-video programming that happened in the earliest days of 2000.

Now I use either Shazam (portable! surprisingly deep in its knowledge!) or lyric-Googling to find out the titles and artists of ambient songs I've enjoyed. But, you know, this is a good innovation for the 99.9% of people who are not as obsessive as I am!



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16 comments
deltamx
deltamx

hello to determine title of a song you have to be able,to pick up the hook line..and google it ..i discovered sugarland like that..huge in usa ...unheard of in dopey melbourne radio land

Roglaz1974
Roglaz1974

Dude, if you like Shazam then you'll love SoundHound. It is so much faster and more accurate and the results easier to browse. And it recognizes singing. Not kidding about that. It's a newer upstart so not as well known but you'll switch and never look back.

Erika
Erika

Eric Carmen, "Make Me Lose Control."  For like an entire summer when I was five or six, whatever radio station we listened to back before we moved out of the city would play that back-to-back with the The Beach Boys' "Kokomo" (which I turned in to hear because it was my favorite song) every day at lunchtime.

Actually, there are probably still songs that got played alongside C+C Music Factory and other Jock Jams-y tracks on my seventh grade science teacher's favorite dance music station that I could sing for you but not name.

N.
N.

I have XM satellite radio, and oddly enough, this still happens to me when I listen to BBC Radio One later in the day, when they play dance music. It usually won't display the song playing on the radio screen during the night shows. Most of the songs are un-Shazamable. Of course, it's usually pretty easy to just check the particular DJ's playlist once I get back home, but is there a reason DJs on a commercial-free station won't announce the artist and song? I noticed this happens on local radio stations as well.

jock:_ewing
jock:_ewing

They actually call it "back-selling" now - which, in itself, just goes to show how obsessed with the bottom-line radio management is these days.It's certainly a start in shifting back in the right direction. There are other two things missing, though:

a) Have on-air talent that does more than just announce what music is/was on. Have them do things with a little bit of personality, will you, radio management? It would probably bring back active radio listening, instead of the muzak it has become.b) Please, PLEASE, stop with that habit of having a song 6+ months in rotation. Cut back on recurrents and golds, too - that's for nostalgia-based formats like Classic Rock, Rhythmic Oldies, etc. Start adding more new music per week and just spin the odd old tune in between the currents, OK? You'll see how people will slowly but surely turn thei iPods down and listen to the radio again.

katherine
katherine

"Linger" by The Cranberries. I once got called out as being a Young for not knowing this song and was really, really, really embarrassed, until it turns out I actually did, the "do you have to" part at least, but just hadn't heard the title. I'm still a bit humiliated now.

matthew lawrence
matthew lawrence

I was obsessive enough in high school that I knew pretty much all the modern/college rock I'd ever need to know, but the mainstream rock tends to elude me.  It took me forever to find "Caught Up In You" by 38 Special recently, after having the chorus melody mysteriously running through my head for weeks.

s.
s.

From ages 17 to 24 I had the “I want a boyfriend” bit from Fuck and Run, and the first verse-or-so of Sebadoh's Ocean—two really great songs—intermittently stuck in my head, but I had no idea what they were.  It took seven or eight years for Google and Youtube to get smart enough to help me out.

teenageart
teenageart

You've just identified for me a song I've heard for years and didn't know the name of: When In Rome's "The Promise." This happens to me fairly regularly. (I live in a sort of soft-headed daze most of the time.) In fact, because I've gone Brit-pop clubbing for years, there are probably whole album's full of songs I pretty much know all the words to but have never really identified.

Christopher R. Weingarten
Christopher R. Weingarten

One time in 2001 we were driving around Florida and heard some falsettoy dance song whose lyrics were almost entirely "Goin out to the cluuub... GONNA GET MY DRINK ON." We sang it all night and never figured out what the hell it was.

I can still sing it.

Garrett Neese
Garrett Neese

Good timing on this post. After seven-plus years of only remembering a fragment of the melody, I finally identified Nivea's "Find Your Own Man" on a YouTube playlist last night.

The biggest question mark I have left is a 60s pop song I heard eight years ago at a First Friday show in Phoenix. I can't remember any lyrics, but the few seconds I remember sound like a cross between "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" and "I Will Follow Him."

Andy Hutchins
Andy Hutchins

I don't know if I can remember any of these! I'm too young! I know the last song I made sure to remember lyrics for and Google was Hot Chelle Rae's "Tonight Tonight," about a month ago.

I'd suggest a spin on this is worse: I have heard more than one song on local Florida urban radio (102 Jamz, what up?) that turned out to be completely un-Googleable and not YouTube-able, either. There's a Florida remix of "Nolia Clap" that is on my list of Holy Grail finds.

miriam g-c
miriam g-c

I was so meticulous about my made-from-radio mixtapes that I'd call Z100 to find out names of songs if I didn't know them.  

Chris Molanphy
Chris Molanphy

Co-sign this post.

In the '80s, this is where being a young chart geek came in handy. I'd pick up a Billboard and scan song titles on the pop or dance charts to figure out what Z100 just played. It didn't work all the time (I'm looking at you, "I Beg Your Pardon" by Kon Kan -- didn't know what that song was for years), but the Hot 100 was generally a good resource. Not for everyone, I realize.

maura
maura

I thought that song was by Bros for a really long time! Because I read about Bros in British mags and there was a point during the break where it sounded like someone was saying "BRAWWWWS."

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