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How Long, Oh, Lord, How Long

Another outpost of crap plops onto the Houston dial, as this open letter reveals

Radio One, Inc.
5900 Princess Garden Parkway
Seventh Floor
Lanham, MD 20706

Dear Big Shot Program Director,

Well, you've done it again. I had known since May that KRTS owner Mike Stude had sold the station to your Washington, D.C.-based radio megacorporation for $72.5 million, but nobody knew what your plans were for the station. This was Houston's last independent commercial FM station and the only full-time classical outlet in town, and I was sad to see it bite the dust, but I had pretty high hopes that something decent might take its place.

Rumor had it that it would be something fairly interesting, and since you at Radio One bill yourself as the Nation's Urban Specialists, we all knew it would be a station geared toward black listeners. Some said it was going to become an R&B/real, non-smooth jazz station -- a sort of cross between KTSU and Majic 102, while others said it would become a classic hip-hop station. (Or maybe I started the latter rumor myself -- I really want a station like that here in town, and I think it would succeed.)

Well, I found out a couple of weeks ago just how tragically wrong I was. I should have known all along that it wouldn't have been a classic hip-hop or jazz/R&B station. After all, the Boxx and Majic 102 are your other two properties in town, and competing with yourself is the last thing you would want to do.

So instead you give us KROI, "The New 92.1 KROI -- The '90s and Today." Which means lots of Sheryl Crow, Smash Mouth, Train and Red Hot Chili Peppers on the one hand, and Maroon 5's "This Love," Finger Eleven's "One Thing" and Bowling for Soup's "1985" approximately three times an hour -- each -- on the other.

Be still my fucking beating heart. That's really great stuff. It's truly the innovative, groundbreaking concoction we've all been waiting for with bated breath.

Oh, I see you working there. You're going after the Mix -- they're no longer the "hot AC" monopoly in town. And watch out, Sunny 99.1 -- you're just as chipperly Dilbertish as they are. You'll nick a few listeners from the Buzz, which, like the Mix and Sunny, is a Clear Channel property. And you should outflank Cox Radio's the Point in their desperate, possibly last-ditch effort to be all things to all nostalgic people.

But the thing is, in your attempt to make the best fit on the existing Houston pop/rock dial in the place where you believe you can do the most damage to your competitors, you've missed the forest for the trees, just like every other radio programmer here for the last, oh, forever. You see the jigsaw puzzle of suckiness and you see where there's a missing piece, a tiny sliver where the suckiness is yet incomplete, and you slot yourself right in. And the puzzle of shite is made whole, for the time being, and that's the problem. The whole puzzle sucks, both when it's complete and when it's missing pieces.

Jesus H. Christ! Is more of the same tired crap all we deserve? Does our radio really have to be as hellish as our summer climate? You people have seen to it that every horrendous overplayed shit-ditty now has a permanent home on the dial here, except, that is, for the old-school hip-hop stuff, which would actually be cool. I mean, you've got this station hovering right next to KTRU, KPFT and KTSU, right there where the few adventurous listeners who still have yet to forsake the dial for satellite radio, CDs or cassettes all hang out, and you slap these tepid turds on there? Lame.

I've said it before (see Racket, February 12), and I'll say it again. There's a killer station waiting to happen in this town, one that would make lots of money and spawn lots of copycats nationwide. Take the smarter edge of modern rock -- the White Stripes, the Hives, Franz Ferdinand, Coldplay, Radiohead, the Killers, the Thrills, the Strokes and Modest Mouse. Add in the smarter edge of modern commercial hip-hop -- Black Eyed Peas, OutKast, the Roots, Kanye West and stuff like that. And play the music that influenced those bands -- Zeppelin, the Talking Heads, the Pixies, U2, the Clash, the Jam, Television on the one hand, and Public Enemy, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and the Jungle Brothers on the other. (Since this is Houston, spin plenty of local hip-hop from the Geto Boys through Slim Thug, too.) Maybe do some live remotes from Numbers, the Proletariat and Pamland Central. Bring in Ceeplus, the Danseparc girls and other hip DJs for special shows. Add a local rock and hip-hop program on a weekend night.

And that's all you would have to do to have a cutting-edge 21st-century rock station. It's that simple. There's a whole demo out there that would, as you would put it, "get aboard" -- and that would be the youth, the one demo you court the most assiduously, if unsuccessfully. Rock-loving youngsters are extremely ill served here right now, but I guarantee you this: Every hip kid in town -- everyone not totally into hip-hop, that is -- would tune in to a station like the one I described, as would the cooler grayhairs, and you'd get the same or better ratings than any hackneyed Mix rip-off. What's more, they would stay tuned through the commercial breaks, because they would never know what was coming next, unlike on this station, where you're well-nigh assured some guy's gonna be emoting in a fake British accent about some woman over puerile piano chords and jive-ass guitar.

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