We Want the Airwaves

Houston Needs a Real Country Station, Not More Bull

Somewhere in college, those of us arts and humanities types who were passionate about music, but knew we were not talented enough to perform it professionally, eventually wandered into the journalism school or the student radio station. Everyone else must have wound up in a marketing classroom.


Houston FM Country Powerhouse KILT Rebrands Itself "The Bull"

That scenario is as good a thumbnail as any to explain what happened Thursday afternoon, when Houston's No. 2-rated country FM station, 100.3 KILT, rebranded itself from the ambiguous "real country variety" to the even more ambiguous but oh-so-masculine "The Bull."

It's almost too easy, really. Rocks Off tuned into The Bull all Friday morning, and one of its self-touting commercials (known in the biz as a "bumper") announced the station as "the new bull." Irony really is dead.

When another bumper announced that The Bull was "Jason Aldean's kind of party station," I hated The Bull immediately. Jason Aldean works my last nerve. Even if I did party -- and I used to party all the time -- I don't think I'd want to party with him.

Evidently this "Bull" is a new kind of format spreading across country radio, with the dubious catchphrase "less twang, more bang." Supposedly Bull country -- see, the jokes write themselves -- is going for a "grittier, more rock-oriented pop-country vibe."

First of all, any country station that thinks "less twang" is something to be proud of needs to be avoided right away. But this is the way people with marketing degrees actually think and talk about music. Everything must be researched and demographiced down to the last market share, and results in maneuvers like Thursday's rebranding. "More twang" would skew "too rural," you see.

This immediately makes me think about the old saying about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, which is probably lost on today's marketing grads, because nobody rearranged any chairs in the 1998 Leo DiCaprio movie.

Because the music, mind you, is more or less the same as the old KILT. But branding itself after one of the most masculine representatives of the entire animal kingdom does not speak well of what The Bull must think of its lady listenership. This morning it's played Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and two songs by Little Big Town, which is half female. Oh, and Lady Antebellum (one-third female).

But other than that, it's been lots of bros going on about trucks and beer, which not by coincidence is probably almost all you'll be hearing about when KILT starts playing commercials again Monday morning. The "new" is true anyway; all morning, I didn't hear anything older than Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying."

Much more grievously, this morning KILT went for hours and hours and hours without playing a George Strait song, which should be unconscionable for a commercial country station in Houston. Same goes for any of Strait's fellow Texans, although surely Eli Young Band will be along eventually.

Imagine something like The Arrow rebranding itself "A Different Kind of Classic Rock" and playing the same tired shit it has been for however many years, because all it did was roll out a new logo and made some new T-shirts, and cut a bunch of new promo "bumpers." How much sense does that make to you?

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray