Following passionate perusal of Billboard's countdown of the Top 40 Adult Pop Songs 1996-2011, consultants, radio programmers and record executives shared their insight on the format's evolution, from its early '90s inception to its potential future direction.
(Plus a TMZ-worthy brush with John Mayer).
President, Zapoleon Media Strategies
"As Billboard's list shows, adult pop has centered on pop/rock since its birth. Why? For the majority of the past 35 years, adult women grew up with rock as their top music style.
"When I was national program director for WOMX/Orlando, Fla., in 1990, the station's GM, Clancy Woods, and I thought, 'Why isn't there an up-tempo, current-based adult format that serves the generation that grew up with the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac?'
"That July, Brian Thomas and I created by the first true adult pop station, Mix 96.5, on KHMX/Houston. Beyond the music, Mix 96.5 succeeded - and still does - due to its focus on capturing the Houston adult female lifestyle, serving as listeners' friend, with strong personalities connecting them with major promotional and charity events.
"WOMX also evolved into a pop/rock 'Mix' station and more such signals grew the format, including WRQX (Mix 107.5)/Washington, D.C., and WPLJ/New York.
"Adult pop then evolved to more of a pop/alternative-centered format, under the moniker 'Modern AC,' per the programming of KYSR/Los Angeles and WBMX/Boston. That sound, then-popularized by the likes of Sheryl Crow, Hootie & the Blowfish and Alanis Morissette, long centered the format.
"Today, adult pop has reverted to being what we originally programmed in Orlando: a more pop/rhythmic version of the format. Adult pop stations have evolved with today's 25-39-year-old female listeners because they've grown up with R&B/hip-hop as their generation's music.
"With rhythmic music-preferring Hispanics having accounted for 54% of U.S. population growth, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, it's logical that the format has more recently adopted more rhythmic components."
"Our format continues to evolve but mainstay artists such as Lifehouse remain timeless. From "Hanging By a Moment" to its latest single "Falling In," we are extremely proud of this band's legacy.
"What an honor for 'You and Me' to be Billboard's all-time No. 1 adult pop song."
Program director, WAJI/Ft. Wayne, Ind.
"Interscope Records' (executive) Kurt Biersmith was in my office last Thursday and we were talking about the new Lifehouse song. I told him that for years in our music research, the band's 'You and Me' consistently showed up as our top-testing title.
"Apparently, our listeners had it right."
Senior VP/promotion, adult formats, Columbia Records
"Columbia has made a commitment to adult pop by signing quality artists and backing them with a strong promotion staff.
"As an industry, I believe that we have all showed that adult pop music is viable and wanted by the masses. People have a desire to hear it and buy it. And, with many quality radio stations playing this music, we've been able to reach audiences of tens of millions each week, and, over the life of a song, hundreds of millions.
"Adult listeners have many things going on in their lives but listening to mass appeal pop music on the
radio is right in the middle of it all."
"There was always a void that the adult pop format filled. I've found that as many men drift off to talk and sports radio in their 20s, adult women continue their lifelong love of music and music radio. They still love current music and they still rock.
"When I was at Dreamworks Records we promoted Lifehouse's first single, "Hangin" By a Moment," it hit everywhere: rock, top 40 and adult pop.
"As evidenced by the two Lifehouse tracks in the top 10 of Billboard's format retrospective, careers are made, and continued, in this format."