. Imagine, if you will, being a middle-aged Kentish housewife. Your ungrateful children are at school, your pompous banker husband is at work in the City, and you’ve got a mountain of dishes, ironing and cleaning to get through before they get home – and when they do, they’ll make it pile up again. This would be bad enough, but imagine doing it every single weekday, for at least ten years. Agonising, isn’t it? These are the sort of circumstances under which it becomes favourable to have an affair with your hunky milkman, the one who – unlike your husband – doesn’t have a hairy back and/or a paunch. So, to distract an entire race of bored housewives from their daydreams of more than milk crossing their threshold, man created Heart FM for housewives up and down the county to sing along to whilst doing the dishes. How thoughtful of them!
. There’s just one problem. Housewives are not the only people listening in. There are, in fact, thousands of other people who are not happy to listen to five hours of inane drivel spewing forth from their radio about a new type of chair and traffic jams on the M20. Unlike the hypothetical housewives, they also don’t enjoy being tortured repeatedly by awful 80s ballads with far too many saxophone solos in them, mainly because (unlike the housewives) they don’t remind them of a time when the menopause was just a button on a video player. These are people who, either by force, mistake or an attempt to support their local radio station, have found themselves being bored, irritated and balladed to death. Unfortunately, I was one of these, and having this station on in the back rooms of the shop I volunteered in over the summer was the one low point of said job. So here are some of the reasons why this radio station has been the bane of my life for the last six weeks…
Dear Heart FM,
1. Did you know that it is actually possible to play more than the same 20 songs on a loop during a show? In fact, in some cultures it’s actually encouraged that DJs should play lots of different records!
. For the purposes of writing this article, I noted down some of the songs that were played every single day on the radio when listening to Heart in the back office of my workplace. No sooner had this list been completed than one of the songs on it was played. As soon as this song had finished, another on the list was played. If you can infallibly predict what songs are going to be played during the show, that’s probably an indication that the DJ should either invest in some new records or quit his job. In any case, repeatedly playing Jessie J’s ‘Price Tag’ insinuates that he is a sadomasochist* – and, whilst I try not to judge people’s sexual quirks, I’m not sure the Conservative-blooded families of Royal Tunbridge Wells are going to take kindly to what the Daily Mail would deem a pervert jabbering on their radio station.
2. If your tagline is ‘More music variety’ – and if you’re going to relentlessly parrot this phrase for five hours – at least have the bollocks to play some semblance of music variety.
. I’ve already established that the music is crap on Heart. But, when you hear their motto being repeated at least four times an hour by a robotic voice and another three times by the DJ, it becomes even more grating that the songs they play are about as varied as the plotlines of Gossip Girl**. They play naff pop and naff chart R’n’B. That is it. Now, whereas a genre like alternative is a massive generalisation for all sorts of delightful variations of music (post-rock, surf-pop, glam rock, post-punk, industrial, etc), pop and chart R’n’B don’t really divide much further than ballads and dance songs. In the six weeks I found myself listening to the station, I did not hear a single rock or indie song, even a chart-friendly one like ‘What You Know’ by Two Door Cinema Club or a stalwart like ‘Parklife’. Even when the ‘Time Tunnel’ feature was set to 1995 one day, they didn’t roll out ‘Roll With It’ or ‘Country House’ – considering these two were massive hits and certainly the most newsworthy ones from that year (possibly even from the decade), they were glossed over for ‘Never Forget’ and some other shite ’95 generic pop faff. I’m not exactly expecting them to play ‘Reverence’ by The Jesus and Mary Chain, or even ‘Animal Nitrate’, but the odd nod to other forms of popular music – especially ones that wouldn’t offend their audience (who, judging by the amount of censorship in the edits of songs they play, would be upset by the sight of ‘chicken breasts’ in their local supermarket) – would really improve their credibility, listenability and appeal.
. I’m pretty sure I have grounds to sue the station for false advertising regarding this point. At first I thought they’d found a way round this by not specifying what it had more music variety than, but then I challenged myself to consider the most unmusical thing possible and compare Heart’s music choice to that. I came up with a dead, rotting cow’s carcass. But even that outdoes Heart FM for variety, because at least the flies surrounding it emit different pitched buzzing sounds… Mr Drivetime DJ, consider that lawsuit in the post.
3. “If you saw Big Brother last night, who do you think’s going to get evicted? I saw a little bit last night and it was insane, two people chatted about birds…” If euthanasia and murder are illegal, why is this stream of incomprehensibly dull prattling allowed to bore me to death?
. There’s only two things worse than the music on Heart FM, and one of these is when the DJ starts talking. Rather than talking about useful things such as what the abominable ‘You can count on me like 1, 2, 3’ song is called (so I can post offensive comments about it on YouTube) or telling hilarious stories about his childhood as a minor-league exhibitionist (or was that just my childhood?), he instead drones on and on and on about The X Factor, dinner and chairs, in the style of Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse sketch Smashey and Nicey. Did I mention that he drones on and on and on? And on and on and on? You almost begin to long for that repulsive Bruno Mars song to be played. (Bonus points to anyone who read that and thought, “Which one?”.) JUST SO HE’LL STOP DRONING. ON AND ON AND ON.
. When you’d rather listen to Bruno Mars than a DJ, there is something seriously wrong with the world. Or the radio station, at least.
4. To your listeners – when you are given the chance to request a song, it is permissible to play a song that isn’t already on the DJ’s list of 20 songs.
. After a particularly dire afternoon’s show, I was relieved to hear a listener phone in with a request. Having exchanged the typical mundane pleasantries with the DJ, he asked her what song she wanted playing. I was rooting for her, I really was; I thought she might be a one-way ticket out of hell – into purgatory, at least, if not heaven. Listening intently, pulse quickening, I was all excited when-
“Can you play ‘Bad Romance’ by Lady Gaga, please?” she chirped, little realising that she had just crushed my dreams with her idiotic choice. I quite like Lady Gaga, and I wasn’t expecting her to request Neutral Milk Hotel, so why was I so disheartened and angry by her choice?
. Because, you see, the DJ played this song every. single. day. Her choice was akin to my dad saying to me, after 17 years of holidays to Cornwall, “Jen, where do you want to go on holiday this year? We’ll go wherever you want, money no object, and I’ll even get over my fear of flying so we can go to Barbados or Australia.”, and me replying with, “Ooh, you know what, I really fancy going to Cornwall. Again.” Listener, the world was your oyster, and you blew it by going back to Butlins again, YOU ABSOLUTE BLITHERING IDIOT. You could’ve at least gone for ‘Poker Face’ or ‘Paparazzi’ if you were going to Gaga it up.
5. To your ad companies – when your adverts are universally reviled and evoke intense feelings of loathing in your listeners, that’s probably a good time for you to think of a new marketing campaign. Preferably that doesn’t involve your voice stars running a risk of being murdered by a homicidal 19-year-old who has been driven loony-bin mad by Heart.
. ‘More Than Freeman’ was funny the first time and hasn’t been since. Compare the Meerkat was never funny. The existence of Go Compare has scuppered any chance of me reverting to theism. Confused.com’s jaunty little ditty is surely proof that mankind is capable of unimaginable evil. Radio adverts are the worst evil the First World hasn’t outlawed, and they are the other thing that is worse than listening to the terrible, terrible music provided.
. Seriously, if you think Jonathan from Spotify is annoying, listen to Lincoln Furniture Warehouse adverts on a loop for half an hour. You’ll find Jonathan’s voice a lot more soothing after that, assuming you haven’t stabbed your eardrums in a violent rage.
. If you could possibly rectify some, or preferably all, of the problems I’ve outlined above, I’d be very happy – and I’m sure many others would be as well. Perhaps people under the age of 40 might start listening to your radio station if you followed my pointers! Until such time as my words of wisdom are realised, though, enjoy boring the housewives to death.
(Music snob, mistress of hyperbole and grumpy young woman)
*If the sadomasochist comment seems a bit much, take a look at ‘the list’ and try not to kill yourself imagining hearing these tracks being repeated all day, every day, and mostly at the same time each day:
– ‘Price Tag’ – Jessie J [This was the only one where I actually turned the volume down for, mainly because it’s irritating, dull and almost certainly hypocritical – I’m sure it would be all about the money, money for Jessie J if someone illegally downloaded this song, got caught and went to court. Fortunately, it’s such a diabolical turd of a song that this is never going to happen. Please excuse me – having dirtied my mind even thinking about this song, I need to go and disinfect my brain.]
– ‘Moves Like Jagger’ – Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera [At least the chorus is catchy.]
– ‘We Built This City On Rock and Roll’ – Starship [More dated than Elizabeth Taylor in her heyday.]
– ‘Lady (Hear Me Tonight’ – Modjo [The only thing he’ll hear from any lady tonight is me telling him to shut the hell up.]
– ‘The Only Girl In The World’ – Rihanna [I wish she were – then she’d be the only female being subjected to this hubristic, insanely insecure pile of wank.]
– ‘Beat Again’ – JLS [Far too upbeat for a song which claims the narrator is going to die due to heartbreak. Mind you, I would be upbeat if this fate befell the various members of JLS.]
– ‘The Lazy Song’ – Bruno Mars [There is nothing worse to listen to when you’re trying to work than some smug git going on about how he’s going to have a Tommy Tank while everyone else is slogging their guts out at work. Should be a benefits scroungers’ theme tune.]
– ‘Count On Me’ – Bruno Mars [I didn’t know what it was called or who it was by until I looked it up. Up until then, I’d provisionally referred to it as ‘That bloody horrible “I can count on you like 4, 3, 2” song which is so dire it makes me want to vomit blood and faeces.’ It’s more naff and drippy than a tea party organised by a Mills and Boon author, with Heart FM playing and a DVD of X Factor sob stories on the TV at said party.]
– ‘Never Forget’ – Take That [Unfortunately, the DJ on Heart has taken the title literally.]
– ‘Forget You’ – Cee-Lo Green [Overplayed, and the amount it’s been censored makes it fairly bland anyway. Most of the songs Heart plays are censored to the point that they’re offensive to me and my ears.]
– Either ‘California Girls’ or ‘Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)’ – Katy Perry [My opinion of Heart was so low that these songs being played became the highlight of my radio day, just because I could dance about with the hoover to them. That’s how bad the music selection is.]
– ‘Time Of My Life’ – Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes [Reminds me of another 80s artist – Wet Wet Wet. Just like Dirty Dancing, the film that made it famous, it’s inordinately lame and cheesy. Though I’d rather put up with this than the Black Eyed Peas version, which is even more ghastly.]
– ‘Bad Romance’ – Lady Gaga [After ‘Born This Way’, it’s her worst and least imaginative single – how on earth can she think this is her best song?! Proof, as if it were needed, that she/he/it is bonkers. But, I suppose, being horrible and unimaginative is a requirement if you’re going to have your song played on 103.1FM.]
**I love Gossip Girl, but by series 4 the plotlines, love circles and scheming are about as fresh as a blue waffle.