Killing the Music: The Mumfordization of Top 40 Radio
Here a banjo, there a banjo, everywhere a twangy banjo.
Twenty-eight. That is the amount of times in one day that I heard the songs play. Between my daily morning routine, my various commutes throughout the city, and a quick visit to CVS, "Home" came on eight times, "Ho Hey" seven, "Little Talks" also seven, and "I Will Wait" six.
Phillip Phillips and company really have made this place their home... and this place is Top 40 Radio.
I guess it isn't exactly "news" that Top 40 radio kills music. A song gets popular and then completely destroyed through massive amounts of overplay. This is still happening to some of the greatest bands of all time. I often think that classic-rock stations seem to only be aware that the Rolling Stones have five songs, and three of those songs are "Brown Sugar." So why is it any more annoying this time around?
Maybe it's because I don't want to hate this music. I enjoy it. I want to listen to it. And its absurd overplay is making my Okie vinyl collect a lot of dust. The anger I experience when "Ho Hey" comes on is really unhealthy. It rivals having to listen to someone loudly chew gum, or nails on a chalkboard. I actually hate that song. I'm pretty sure I liked it six months ago.
Or maybe it's because the Billboard Banjo Boom is taking music that's never really had much radio play and making it damn near unlistenable. It seems to be outside the typical ebb and flow of what is often considered "pop" music: we are not surprised when we hear Bieber's whiny ass yearning for beauties and beats and whatever 100 times a day.
But notably, three of the four songs listed above are still higher on the charts than Bieber, after months of play. Of Monsters and Men's "Little Talks" has now been on the charts for a staggering 44 weeks; The Lumineers' "Ho Hey" for 42, Phillip Phillip's "Home" for 39, and Mumford and Sons' "I Will Wait" for 33.
Is this a backlash against the over-produced and auto-tuned songs of the early 2010s? Maybe... but it could also just be convenience. Songs like "I Will Wait" fit easily into many radio stations' formats. Mumford and Co. can move seamlessly up and down the dial, from Top 40 to Adult Contemporary to Soft Rock to Alternative Rock to New Rock to Modern Country.
Plus, this little thing called the Olympics happened last summer, where Phillips' "Home" basically became our new National Anthem. Just as McKayla Maroney springboarded over a vault, "Home" springboarded earnest, folky pop back into heavy rotation.
Is it selfish of me to want this trend to die? Probably. I really like Mumford and Sons, not to mention several other bands that are driven more by traditional roots, like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and the Avett Bros.
Of course I want these talented artists to be successful. I just can't stomach their success being shoved down my throat 28 times in a single day. It's really making me yearn for a simpler time, like 2010... when Beyonce and Gaga and Katy and Ke$ha were the pop stars instead of a bunch of bearded dudes wearing waistcoats and corduroy.
So how long until the Banjo Bubble bursts? At the rate of 28 spins a day, it won't take long.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.