Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thoughts on the New Rock 101.9

After three months of the failed experiment of FM News 101.9 by Merlin Media, the owners of the station after purchasing it from Emmis Communications, alternative music made its return to New York City yesterday under the banner of New Rock 101.9, a station that apparently intends to pick up where WRXP left off a few months ago.

This is exciting news for a rock fan like me. However, I am going to be as cautiously optimistic as I have been about these stations in the last few years because I know that if they fall into the same problems that befell K-Rock's WXRK and WRXP that they will not survive for very long.

So far, listening to the station, I'm pretty happy that it seems to be focusing a bit more on new rock and alternative music, but there are songs that were played yesterday that were 5, 10, 15, 20 years old or more and that leaves me with a little bit of concern for the station's future.

Here are a few things that I think 101.9 needs to do in order to survive this go 'round:

1. Play new stuff : Yes, it sounds so simple, but alternative stations have been under the spell of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains for the last 20 years. Don't get me wrong, those artists are wonderful, but in the era of New Rock 101.9, Soundgarden or Alice in Chains (unless it's from their upcoming albums) do not qualify as new music.

I feel that alternative stations and their reliance on grunge from 20 years ago is stunting the growth of the artists that exist now. No one is denying the greatness of those artists, but much of their work now belongs to Q104.3 because they would classify at this point as classic rock. If nothing else, they may need to segment the golds (songs that are over 5 years old in radio rotation) to an hour or two so as to not get in the way of the newer stuff.

2. Play a diverse lineup of artists : So far, it appears that New Rock 101.9 is doing exactly that playing Three Days Grace, Florence and the Machine, Coldplay, and Rise Against amongst others. They need to make sure that they cater to every type of rock fan...the hipster, the hard rocker, and the like...because this is the only new rock station in New York City, and I'm sure there's room for all of that in this city.

3. Play local artists : New York City is the greatest city in the world and a huge part of that is because of the multitude of music scenes that exist right here in New York City. There are so many talented indie, alternative, and hard rock bands that it may be hard to fit all of them on the station, but there has to be a place for them, too. The scene had been faltering for a few years after K-Rock died, but there is still hope for us all.

4. Bring Back Matt Pinfield : Pay him whatever he wants, I don't care. The fact of the matter is that he knows his music. I want music intensive DJ's for a music station. Is that too much to ask? I don't mind some fluff talk, but we alternative fans care about our music. We want to know more about it if there is more to know.

5. Hire me : It doesn't have to be now, but can it be soon please?

That was more than a few things, but I think most of these things are necessary to keep New Rock 101.9 from falling to the same mistakes that our previous rock incarnations made.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Frank Ocean and his 'Odd Future'.

Overnight on July 3rd, Frank Ocean posted a message on his Tumblr that sent immediate shockwaves throughout the urban music industry, not so much because someone openly announced their sexuality, but moreso who.

As far as singer/songwriter/producers go, Frank Ocean is the 'it' guy right now in the business. Ocean has written for everyone from Justin Bieber to Beyoncé Knowles and has also been a hit parade in his own right, both with his massive hit single "Novacane" and as a feature in the Jay-Z/Kanye West hit "No Church in the Wild".

His status is unquestionably high in the world of hip-hop where the culture of "no homo" still reigns. It took a lot of courage for Ocean to admit all of this in the face of that. However, the issue of people of color coming out in and of its self transcends Ocean because of that culture.

It's interesting how many people of color generally react to any other sexuality other than heterosexuality and many times, that reaction will be a negative one even though our first African American president recently lent his support for gays to have equal rights.

You really have to go back in the history of this country and its treatment of people of color to understand the current plight of the LGBT community. On a week where we celebrate this country's birth, our 236 year history has not come without its flaws.

In 1787, legislation was introduced in this country called the Three Fifths Compromise. Slaves were considered three-fifths of a person and were not allowed to vote, marry, own land, or allowed to do much of anything without their master. It wasn't until 1967 that laws against interracial marriage were deemed unconstitutional.

While it's not exactly the same, many of those in the LGBT community feel like second class citizens because they're not allowed to marry who they want to and are not entitled to the same benefits. Up until last year, the military had a policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".

Listen, no one's asking you to become gay or bisexual just because there are laws that are introduced to protect those who are. They simply want to be treated as an equal and be entitled to the same rights that all Americans are entitled to. Whether you like it or not, this is the civil rights battle of our generation.

The reaction on Frank Ocean's post has generally been positive and I believe it's a small step in the right direction to acceptance. Acceptance will never be universal, but here's hoping that one day that we don't look at 'coming out' as a big deal.