In defense of 101.3 KDWB
|Artwork by Chris Strouth|
Makes No Sense At All captures the visions, ramblings, and memories of Chris Strouth, a Twin Cities-bred master of music, film, and everything else.
Even though it's been the porn of a thousand pundits' wet dreams, radio isn't dead. No longer a lone wolf in the arbitration of cool, it now hunts in a pack with internet portals and Twitter critics. Radio might not be where talent gets its first exposure, but it is the place that will exploit it Gangnam Style. Radio is still a cool hunter, though. It exposes us to the unknown, or more directly, the unknown-yet-familiar. Then in turn decides when something is popular until it's not. That's essentially its job; well, that and selling advertising.
KDWB. Just at the mention of it, you can almost sense an eye roll from everyone with an MPR coffee mug and a Black Keys tour shirt. Tou know the one they got from the tour where they got really big. For those not from the Twin Cities, KDWB is the mainstream pop radio station here. It is to music snobs as Applebee's is to foodies. But I will confess to you here and now that KDWB is a station I listen to on a semi-regular basis.
See Also: KDWB Jingle Ball posts 2013 lineup
In spite of my punky background, I love mainstream pop music. Granted, that love is quite often more in theory than practice. Still, KDWB has a button on my radio dial as I flip between MPR News, Radio K, KQ92, and the Current. Like anyone else, what I listen to is based on my mood and, more than I care to admit, what I am working on. I will also admit to owning not one, but three Britney Spears dolls: one pre-nose job and one post, and, well, the third was a gift.
KDWB is the kind of thing that doesn't get covered in the local press all that much, mostly because there isn't a real local element to it. Even if The Voice contestant Ashley DuBose is like Minneapolis's Rihanna, she's more likely to get spins on The Local Show than KDWB. Even when we have had our big chart-topping popstream groups like Mint Condition or the Jets, they get less ink than the alternative heroes like the Replacements, whose entire catalog sales combined, while they were active, wouldn't qualify for a gold record. Mint Condition has three.
Music does so many tasks. It's something that can be so intimately personal and so utterly meaningless all within a very small period of time. Sometimes music needs to make you think, sometimes it needs to remind you of times gone by, and sometimes it just needs to make you dance. You can't always swim in the deep end of the pool, because if you do, when you get tired you'll most likely drown. After a day of listening to minimalist Icelandic ambiance, its awfully nice to be able to hear Ke$ha, like a plunge into a cold pool after being in a sauna.
There is something else that mainstream pop does better than almost any other genre: emotional manipulation. It's hard not hear a song like current up-and-comer Passenger's song "Let Her Go." It's almost the aural equivalent of a Tom Hanks film and fully engineered to pull at your heartstrings. Its acoustic bed and world weariness, matched with minimal but flawless production, makes it perfect for heavy rotation. It is also one of those tracks that gets airplay not just on KDWB, but also on the Current, Cities97, and KS95.
Now I am not trying to suggest there is a feud between KDWB and the less mainstream stations, because as far as I know there isn't one. Not that we wouldn't all love to see some sort of Hunger Games between the Current's Mark Wheat and KDWB's Dave Ryan. The fact is it would be like Coke having a war with Gosling's Ginger Beer.
KDWB is number 1 this month with an 8.6 share. They were number one last month and will be the number one next month as well. They have been at the top of the market for sometime. The Current comes in at 2.8, making them the number 14 station in the market, and tend to hover around that neighborhood. That's still a lot of folks that listen. More than KTWN, the new sort of alternative classics station, and less than 8th placed Cities97, the "it started out as singer-songwriter alternative and now seems to really like guys in flip flops with acoustic guitars" station. KDWB is the station of Everyman. The Current on the other hand is the station of choice for music snobs.
If you're reading this, then chances are pretty good that to some extent you think of yourself as a bit of a music snob. Well, maybe not a "snob," but you find that your taste is a bit more enlightened than some others. You like things that are above the fray -- and definitely above the Fray. Oh wait, that's sort of the definition of a snob, isn't it? It's OK. Lord knows I am a snob, so you are among friends and fellow snobs for that matter. In fact there is nothing wrong with a little snobbery in any field. It's what forces artists in any genre to push a little bit further; it proves you're paying attention. I always figured the guy who invented molecular gastronomy -- things like using nitrogen tanks and foam in making food -- did it just because he got so tired of seeing Bobby Flay and Emeril on TV.
It's weird to me that so many of the hipstergentsia think of pop music as a vice, as if somehow listening to something that in all likelihood is sung by the cast of Glee is tantamount to punching a kitten.