In Praise of Adult Contemporary Radio

I was not a cool kid.

Yes Please!

Yes Please!

While my sisters and peers were in love with Devon Sawa and JTT, I was crushing on Matthew Modine in Cutthroat Island and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  While they were listening to Mariah Carey and Blink 182 on Fly 92, I was calling in to B 95.5, the adult contemporary station, in hopes of hearing George Benson’s “Turn Your Love Around.”

When I discovered The Smiths and Siouxsie & The Banshees in high school, then Tom Waits in college, I could finally feel cool.  Sure, it was a hipster-goth kind of cool, eschewing the flair-leg jeans and trucker

Bask in my total fucking coolness (or don't, who cares.)

Bask in my total fucking coolness (or don’t, who cares.)

hats of the early-2000s for Doc Martens and cabby caps.  I discovered a lot of incredible music during this time period, aided by some awesome mix CDs from great people.

But as I edged up into my 30s, I began to miss the music I listened to in my youth.  During one of our many, many long drives to grad school, Matthew & I both realized that, for all our show-off mix CDs, full of neo-swing and industrial and 80s music, that we both really, REALLY loved Steely Dan, Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs and the like.  It was extremely validating to find someone who didn’t think that music was stupid and lame, who could admit that it was hella-fun to pull up to a red light in a bad Bronx neighborhood with “Portable Radio” blasting and have the dude in the next car look over and give you thumbs up.

And then Matthew discovered Yacht Rock.

Yacht Rock, for those of you who’ve never spent five minutes with me, is a Channel 101 show that showcases the (fictional…or are they???) stories behind smooth classics like “What a Fool Believes” and “FM.”  Created by JD Ryznar and Hunter Stair, it ran for 12 episodes in 2005 and is the funniest thing I have ever seen.  I quote it constantly, reference it often on #RecordSaturday and make everyone I know watch it.

echoes of love

Echoes of Love indeed!

I also think Ryznar is super-cute; he has that gentle midwestern handsomeness that I really like in a man (see also: Jay Karnes, Bob Odenkirk, Mike Nelson)

In watching Yacht Rock and listening to their great Beyond Yacht Rock podcast, I realized that, hey, a lot of this music I tried to pretend was super-cheesy and dumb was not only technically awe-inspiring, but cool as fuck. And knowing that there were other lite-FM junkies out there, many of them around my age, made me feel like I was part of something.  Listening to Waits and Morrissey was always about setting myself apart, showing how cool and unique and deep I was, but finding other people on Twitter and in real life who lose their damn minds when “Sweet Freedom” comes on the radio has been a deeply rewarding experience.  I’m re-discovering music I’d forgotten I loved, finding new bands (Pages! JaR!) and letting my “I still know all the words to a LOT of Amy Grant songs” flag fly.  It reminded me that if you love something, it’s always cool no matter what anyone else says.

So in summary, I was a trend-setter on the rediscovery of adult contemporary.  You’re welcome.

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