HITS Daily Double

By Karen Glauber

It’s been exactly two months since I tested positive for COVID. What remains is a constant headache, no taste or smell, low-level depression (gratefully thwarted by work) and brain fog. I am thankful that there’s an abundance of new music available to soothe and distract.

My son and I play AJR’s “Way Less Sad” every morning at 6am. He says it sums up how he’s feeling right now—not quite happy and certainly no less anxious but not as awful as he was feeling six months ago. This band has a knack for releasing music that matches its audience’s emotional temperature at any given moment. Alternative radio acknowledged AJR’s position as a core artist for the format with 50+ adds this week on “Way Less Sad,” which is already #19 on the Alt chart and #14 in audience.

I predict that the next wave of radio hits will be similar to “Way Less Sad” in mood—one year in, nobody wants to hear songs with apocalyptic themes of loneliness, isolation or the damage wrought by the White House. Cautious optimism, hope, light at the end of the tunnel et al. are the topics that will resonate with the Alternative audience.

This is a fantastic time for artist collaborations—I can’t wait to hear the new song Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen have completed, for example. And it’s been established that no song can be released at Alternative radio that doesn’t include Travis Barker—he’s the “secret weapon” currently propelling KennyHoopla’s “ESTELLA//” to the Top 10.

A band I love, Blame My Youth (featuring Sean Van Vleet from beloved Chicago outfit Empires), has a new single, “Fantastic”—as in “I feel fucking fantastic/ Hooray, hooray”—that’s been earmarked by deeply intuitive KRXP programmer Shawn Lucero as her secret weapon.

Based on research, chart success, streaming and single sales, the “sound” that’s working best for the format remains that exemplified by post-pop/punk Alternative artists like Machine Gun Kelly, All Time Low, KennyHoopla and now, MOD SUN, whose “Flames” debuted at #1 on this week’s Rate the Music. For those of you who can’t wrap your head around the Avril Lavigne intro (shame on you), there’s a version with MOD SUN singing that has been greeted with enormous enthusiasm by key rock-leaning programmers.

Are you paying attention to what’s been going on with Glass Animals? “Heat Waves” should be a lock for #1 at Alt in the next few weeks AND the song is crossing to Pop, bolstered by hundreds of millions of streams worldwide. Dreamland was my favorite album of 2020. If you’ve been a consistent supporter of Glass Animals since “Gooey,” congratulate yourselves on your incredibly good taste and clear vision.

Lisa Worden, the busiest woman in radio, has launched her passion project, “She Is the Voice,” on Alt 98.7 as host, producer and curator. The show features music from past and present female artists. Recent and upcoming guests include Ashe, Phoebe Bridgers, Arlo Parks and Aimee from The Interrupters. May “She Is the Voice,” which airs Friday nights at 8pm PT, inspire audience members, female and male, to start their own bands!

How can anyone lend credence to very strongly worded critiques on the state of Alt radio when those who express said opinions have never successfully programmed an Alt station? Shocker—the pandemic has affected ratings! Why NOT shake things up a bit and try something new? Playing armchair quarterback is unnecessary, self-aggrandizing and, well, downright toxic. Unless you’re devoted to the format’s health, shut the fuck up.

There are few songs more deserving of airplay than Black Pumas’ “Colors,” Phoebe Bridgers’ “Kyoto” and Backseat Lovers’ “Kilby Girl.” If you aren’t playing these records, please do so now.

Congrats to Marisa DiFrisco and her cohorts on the success at Alt of “Sofia” by Clairo, comfortably hanging with Billie Eilish in the Top 10… Lisa and Darice are about to have another smash with The Kid LAROI’s “Without You.” It’s what they do… SONG TO HEAR: “Greatest Enemy,” by Glassnote’s The Strumbellas, brought along under the watchful eye of the label’s new head of promo, Michael Starr. You know him; you love him—now play his record.

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