Cafe Witness

Friday, June 30, 2006

BOB FM Must Be Stopped

If you're not a Pittsburgher, you still probably have your own version of BOB FM to contend with. BOB is our version of the JACK FM radio format, aka, "generic, male-named radio stations that play select Top 40 hits from the past 40 years." Like his brethren stations, BOB claims to "play anything," but his actual playlist consists of about the same 200 songs in heavy rotation, with occasional "rarities" thrown in for flavor.

BOB also does away with live DJs, for the most part, which actually makes sense considering these types of stations rarely have a local connection other than namedropping boroughs or events in the occasional audio bumper and therefore don't need to pay a guy to announce the names of songs everyone already knows.

On the surface, it's a genius concept. Who wouldn't want to listen to a station that plays NOTHING BUT your favorite songs from the past 40 years? You're guaranteed to be able to sing along with nearly every tune, and the familiarity factor will breed brand loyalty compared to those "other" stations that have, um, live human DJs and "new" songs you might not like (although, in Pittsburgh, hearing "new" music on a non-college radio station means you're actually hearing a song New York is already tired of).

But dig a little deeper and you realize BOB is intrinsically evil.

It has less to do with the absence of humanity -- let's face it: few DJs are actually "human" in the first place, but clever concoctions of sound bites that provide a time-killing bridge between commercials -- than it does the sheer infallibility of the format.

Radios are all about skipping around. Show me someone who can leave the dial on one station for longer than 20 minutes and I'll show you someone I don't want to talk to at a cocktail party -- or, more likely, someone who's never been to a cocktail party. Radios are about variety. At their best, radios are about unpredictability.

BOB FM renders all of those points moot.

Why skip around when one station is already playing all the songs you're already skipping around in order to hear? In the past hour, BOB just played Santana, the Beach Boys, the Bee Gees, No Doubt and Duran Duran. And if you don't like what they're playing right now, you'll probably like the very next thing they do play, so why not stick around? They even have snarky self-effacing comments prior to their commercial breaks, so you almost feel guilty for clicking away because they're providing you with SO MUCH FUN.

Except if you're me, and you spend as much time per week in Crazy Mocha at the South Side Works as I do. Because the evening baristas tend to play BOB FM almost every night, and when they don't, they play 3WS, which has evolved from an "oldies" station into... well, the best of the '60s, '70s and '80s. Kind of like BOB FM but without the modern element.

All of this means I've heard the following songs WAY TOO GODDAMN MUCH:

Billy Joel, "She's Always a Woman to Me" (playing as I type)
Hall & Oates, "Rich Girl"
Vanilla Ice, "Ice Ice Baby"
The Commodores, "Brick House"
Marvin Gaye, "Let's Get It On"
Marvin Gaye, "Got to Give It Up, Pt. 1"
The Beatles, "Come Together"
Gary Wright, "Dream Weaver"

Don't get me wrong: I like all of the songs listed above (except "Rich Girl," but I was never a huge Oates fan). Hell, "Got to Give It Up, Pt. 1" is one of my jukebox staples when out drinking. But hearing it 45 minutes after hearing "Let's Get It On" is ludicrous, and hearing both of them AGAIN two days later is lunacy.

The others, and many more, illustrate BOB FM's penchant for playing perfectly fine songs way too often for their own good. Why? Because these songs are already embedded in our subconscious and we KNOW we like them. We don't need to be exposed to them as often as the (goddamn) X needed to play Evanescence 20 times a day in order to convince the public they were "good."

Thus, I now hate all of those songs listed above or am coming very close to it. Them and about 40 others I've already blocked out. But switching away would hardly help because Pittsburgh is LOADED with "classic rock," "top 40" and "80s"-oriented stations, and the (allegedly "alternative") X is essentially a "Best of the '90s" station anyway. (Fun Fact: Despite the X's evidence to the contrary, Radiohead recorded more songs than just "Creep.")

Thus, if I switch away, I'm essentially switching into... the same things BOB is already overplaying. So why not just stick it out for five more minutes and hope they play The Gorillaz (for the fifth time this week)?

It's criminal, I tell you.


  • I have been listening to Bob FM for quite some time now and find it great. Although they do sometimes repeat some songs, that doesn't happen often and I do know pretty much every song they play. All I can tell you is if you don't like what they play is to listen to another station.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:22 AM  

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