The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Pop culture club

Lyssa Beyer

I always grew up with the radio playing one way or another. It gave me a huge soundtrack to add to memories I had along with the places I grew up.

It also served as a way to get into a person’s head by what you heard them listening to. When it was my mom’s turn, it was usually an easy listening station of some sort. When I took rides in my dad’s truck, it was always country or oldies playing – with the occasional talk radio.

But for the most part, my siblings and I only listened to Top 40 stations while growing up. Back then the huge Top 40 stations in the area were I-94 and Z-100. The Carp didn’t exist at the time, so aside from a classic rock station or two, I didn’t really have anything else to turn for a loud guitar fix.

Nevertheless, the Top 40 clique seemed to fit me well. At that time, stations still played songs from the 80s and 90s, while also providing a pleasant variety with modern stuff. I can still remember when I-94 played both Soundgarden and Ace of Base on the same station, if that tells you anything.

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In the end, it served as a great spot for a kid such as myself, who enjoyed anything rock or pop related. It gave me both a fertile ground for hearing new stuff, while also discovering what people were listening to the years before that.

These days, things are a bit different. I-94 turned into an Adult Contemporary station five years ago, and later adapted the Hot AC format it has today. Z-100 sold its soul to Clear Channel a number of years ago and the results certainly show. Now there is an emphasis on hip-hop, rap and mainstream rock like never before. I never really took a liking to many hip-hop orientated songs, so the end result didn’t quite fit me too well.

The days of DJ interaction started to go down as well, with more computers playing songs and less on-air DJs to interact with the wider audience. And while most stations playing the same songs over and over is nothing new, this is still the case more than ever.

Another thing that always kills me is how long it takes for songs to catch on in the Chippewa Valley compared to the big city. By the time they catch on here, songs are already overplayed in a bigger market like Minneapolis or Madison. Or I hear something in one of those markets, only to never hear it played here.

As I got older, everything bad about radio started to annoy me more as playlists got even more constricted. You can only hear a new song by Daughtry or Maroon 5 so many times before it gets old.

I still listen to many of the area stations, but only when I’m driving in a car. Yes, I too have actually learned a lot of helpful tidbits from the John Tesh Radio Show on I-94 – just as many of my friends have also hesitantly admitted. I’ll actually credit that show with getting me out of two speeding tickets in the past year.

But musically, it still remains hard for me to catch onto some new act by radio only. Most of my own music listening now comes from the Internet, either from recommendations I read or what I can find online.

I haven’t tried radio service Web sites like Pandora, though I’ve heard good things about them from some friends. I also took a liking to Sirius Satellite Radio when my parents had it with their Dish Network package, and I’m hoping to get a subscription to it eventually.

Despite this, there may be hope just yet for regular radio. Star 97.7, which broadcasts from Rice Lake, plays the most variety on its station than any other I can remember in recent years. Besides playing older hits from the past three decades, it also manages to play a very wide spectrum of newer hits from many different genres.

104.1 Jack FM in the Twin Cities also has a lot to offer in terms of a larger play list and rare singles from the past 30 years or so. Overall, it’s very much like the shuffle option on an iPod. Its reception is a bit hit-or-miss over in Eau Claire, but I do manage to get it sometimes and listen to it when I can.

There’s probably something out there for every music listener. Enough so that you’ll probably be able to hear whatever you want despite terrestrial radio’s downfall in recent years.

Tinberg is a senior print journalism major and columnist for The Spectator. “Pop Culture Club” appears every Monday.

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