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The Stations Remain the Same

The hits just keep coming on radio.

Once upon a time, plenty of radio stations practiced the fine art of eclecticism. Now most stick to narrowly defined formats. Tune in such purveyors at any time and you'll almost certainly get an earful of the same stuff you heard the previous day, week, month or maybe even decade.

During my 24-hour radio daze, a pair of syndicated outlets, "positive and encouraging" K-LOVE, at 91.1 FM, and WAY-FM, a new signal at 89.7 FM, poured out a steady stream of largely interchangeable Christian pop songs. Musically, these contemporary ditties mirrored the safest secular fodder, while the lyrics overflowed with prosaic platitudes. Although the results struck me as a case of mediocrity begetting mediocrity, lots of area residents apparently disagree. According to the most recent Arbitron ratings, K-LOVE has quietly become the city's most popular non-commercial station. Somebody up there must like it.

As for Denver's six Spanish-language stations, they seldom veer from their individual missions, which are so straightforward that they even register with non-Spanish speakers such as yours truly. Syndicated KXPK/96.5 FM furnished a Spanish variation on the Hot AC approach, complete with a female morning-show host, La Socia, whose cackle rivals Jamie White's. KJMN-FM/92.1, another syndicated import, concentrated relentlessly on ballads so melodramatic that they made Enrique Iglesias seem like a stoic by comparison; KLVZ-AM/1220 delivered Christian-radio stylings to folks who prefer Spanish to English; and syndicated KMXA-AM/1090, homegrown KJME-AM/1390 and locally originating KBNO-AM/1280 provided loads of energetic, old-school Mexican regional music. K-Bueno, as it's called, has the largest market share of this sextet, and no wonder, since every time I caught any of its DJs in action, they seemed to be in the midst of a wild party. ¡Cerveza para todos mis amigos!

Against all odds, the folks at KUVO-FM/89.3 seemed to be having a good time as well. The public station offers the sole place on the dial to hear real jazz music on a regular basis, in contrast to the smooth jazz (read: pap) heard on KJCD/104.3 FM. But to keep the lights on, the KUVO staff had to spend the day fundraising -- and were practically cheerful about the task. KCFR-AM/1340 didn't have this burden, having completed its spring pledge drive the previous Friday. That left the station to its typical mission of supplying information programming culled from National Public Radio and its BBC equivalent. Meanwhile, KCFR's sister station, KVOD-FM/90.1, played hour upon hour of classical music, most of it traditional renditions of works by big-name composers. On Tuesday at midnight, I heard Richard Wagner's "Tannhauser: Overture," best known to dopes like me from the part of "What's Opera, Doc?" in which Elmer Fudd is seduced by Bugs Bunny. At just past five a.m., I heard it again.

Déjà vu like this slapped me on plenty of occasions throughout my long day's journey into night. When it came to pop, hip-hop and rock music, repetition proved to be the sincerest form of radio. I heard "Yeah!," by Usher, with Little Jon and Ludacris, five -- count 'em, five -- separate times on either KISS 95.7 or KS-107.5. And the Fox, which would seem more likely to air Mantovani than crossover crunk, used a snippet from the song to transition from a commercial break. Two remakes of tracks popularized by '80s staples earned runner-up status in the duplication sweepstakes. A blandification of the Cure's "Lovesong" by 311 chalked up four plays with the assistance of KTCL (93.3) and KBCO, whereas No Doubt's version of the Talk Talk fave "It's My Life" aired three times on KTCL or the Mix. Current acts that were double- or triple-played included OutKast and Matchbox Twenty.

Veteran artists surfaced again and again, too, thanks to the plethora of nostalgia stations catering to Colorado boomers. The Beatles led the pack with five songs, followed by the Rolling Stones with four, plus two covers -- the best of them being the ultra-obscure Flying Burrito Brothers rendition of "Wild Horses," resurrected by KCUV. Also getting the repeat treatment were U2, Aerosmith and Eric Clapton, whose recent, loungey take on "Layla," broadcast by the Fox, was juxtaposed with a KYGO-aired, David Kersh-crooned country remake of "Wonderful Tonight" that's capable of inducing vomiting. Even Nat King Cole received a couple of spins courtesy of KEZW-AM/1430, which showcases chestnuts from eras gone by. The station appears to understand the distant past better than the near present: At 1:34 a.m. on Tuesday, a promo touting "another American classic" segued into "Beauty and the Beast" by Peabo Bryson and (where'd I put my wooden stake?) Celine Dion.

That was a long two minutes.

 
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