Eminem – “Without Me”

When I first started paying attention to music, it was music on the radio – the top 40 – that I payed attention to. There were lots of things I didn’t like, but that was immaterial given that I was more or less guaranteed to hear songs I had been dying to hear. Guaranteed, because that’s how pop radio works. And dying to hear, because that’s how pop radio works. You know your song’s going to come up, but not exactly when, so hearing it becomes that much sweeter.

I forgot about that thrill somewhere along the way. I can think of some similarities. There’s always some kind of kick in hearing a favorite song on the classic rock station, or a modern rock one, or even the oldies station. There’s also that someone-else-out-there-knows-about-this feeling that comes from hearing something “obscure” (maybe even without the scare quotes) on college radio. But it’s never the same.

On classic rock and oldies stations, the endless repetition of the same 500 records they always (and only) play kills most of the surprise. There are also really no new records, so it can never be something you get caught up in – and no reason for them to suddenly be interested in playing that one song a whole bunch for a few weeks, so that you can expect to hear it again in an hour or two at most.

Modern rock (“alternative”) stations only get halfway there, because they’ve always got one foot in the present and one in the past. The pervasive sense of the new of pop radio is diluted by the inclusion of “classic” tracks that are anywhere from six months to ten years old (or more!). Everything is thrown off. The shiny new songs compete with ones already piled over with dust, and the dust gets everywhere.

Never trust anyone who talks to you about how such and such is the sort of thing that we should be hearing on the radio, instead of this pop crap. Chances are they want a classic rock station that sounds like what they listened to in college, or high school. They may not even remember what it’s like to sit by the radio, hoping for that feeling to hit again.