Star 94 has embraced the decade of Alanis, Hootie and Nirvana - at least part time.
Starting Friday, the station has been airing a “Big 90’s Weekend.”
On Saturday, the station played about 150 different cuts from the ’90s, a broad sampling of one-hit wonders (”Barbie Girl,” Aqua, “Blue,” Eiffel 65) to R&B (”My Lovin’,” En Vogue, “Waterfalls,” TLC), party rap (”Summertime,” DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, “Baby Got Back,” Sir-Mix-a-Lot), grunge (Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Stone Temple Pilot’s “Interstate Love Song”), pop (”MMMBop,” Hanson, “Bitch,” Meredith Brooks), boy bands (”As Long As You Love Me,” Backstreet Boys, “Tearin’ Up My Heart,” ‘N Sync), Lilith Fair fare (”Where Have All the Cowboys Have Gone,” Paula Cole, “One of Us,” Joan Osborne).
A key portion of Star’s target audience (women 25 to 39) grew up in the 1990s so they have a special connection with many of these songs. And quite a few have not been played much in this market in recent years.
Isolating the ’90s on weekends enables Star to hedge its bets. It can keep the music fresher during the weekdays with new songs by the likes of Katy Perry and Bruno Mars while providing listeners a special reason to tune in driving to the mall or to the health club for that “oh wow” moment. (As in, “Oh, wow, that was the Spice Girls!”) At the same time, it won’t burn out those ’90s songs as quickly if they went all-90s all the time. Hearing the “Macarena” once a month might be okay. Twice a week? Not so much.
B98.5 has been working this concept successfully with its all-’80s weekend. And back in the 1990s and early 2000s, Star 94 actually hosted a Friday Night 80s show.
The 1980s pop music became so hot a few years back that several FM stations made it a 24/7 format. In 2002, Clear Channel introduced 105.3/The Max, an all-80s format that lasted only two years. (Even die-hard ’80s fans got tired of hearing the same Bryan Adams and Pat Benatar songs over and over again.)
The 1990s have yet to create a comparable wave of nostalgia. The biggest all-90s station is on Sirius/XM, which plays a similarly broad mix of the most popular hits of the 1990s but also includes harder-edged rap artists such as Snoop Dogg and Tupac. Owners of FM signals have not jumped at the idea.
The problem is musical tastes splintered in the 1990s with the growth of grunge and maturation of rap. Many people over the age of 40 hated both genres. In general, the ’90s featured far fewer big tent artists and songs that resonated across a broader audience compared to the 1980s.
As Star 94 itself tries to regain its dominance under new management, it has already dropped its “hit music” moniker for the more personal “your music, your life.” Until recently, the station had positioned itself as a top 40 station that appealed to suburban moms. Now it has dropped any pretense that it’s a true top 40 station while maintaining that suburban mom imaging.
By Rodney Ho, firstname.lastname@example.org, AJCRadioTV blog