RIP '20 on 20': A Look Back at SiriusXM's Promising Pop Show

I’ve long felt that “20 on 20,” SiriusXM’s new releases top 40 station, had the potential to be the most influential mainstream top 40 station in the country. Instead, “20 on 20” will sign off in a repackaging of satellite radio channels on July 17, replaced by a recurrent-based rhythmic top 40 channel called “Venus.”

“20 on 20” was, in some regards, short-spaced to its top 40 sister, “Sirius XM Hits 1,” which was itself musically aggressive and still plays plenty of songs that you won’t hear on typical major-market top 40 stations. It was several years ahead of the format in adapting a more pop/rock lean. “Hits 1” was also early to recognize country’s increasingly young appeal.

That pushed “20 on 20” even further to the left. They were the top 40 station where you could hear Jessica Pare’s “Mad Men” version of “Zou Bisou Bisou” and there was Dominique Pruitt’s neo-rockabilly “To Win Your Love,” which didn’t sound like it belonged on any format, much less top 40 (and was indeed promoted to non-comm triple-A when it was finally worked).

But “20 on 20’s” quirkiest choices, in particular, were a throwback to the “anything can happen” days of the top 40 format. And the ones that other people most noticed. I had a conversation with a friend in four hours away about current music that somehow drifted to “To Win Your Love,” which he indeed turned out to know because of “20 on 20.”

“New music discovery,” as a concept for a top 40 station, remains a potent idea. CBS Radio’s New York top 40 station, WBMP (92.3 Amp Radio) has been heavily imaged around music discovery since its relaunch. Now, incumbent WHTZ (Z100) is staging new songs by declaring itself “first for new music.” Cumulus operates a low-powered new-music CHR (seemingly modeled on “20 on 20”) in Atlanta. CBS has an online channel called “Tomorrow’s Hits Today.”

But neither the Cumulus nor CBS channels are full-fledged radio stations. And “20 on 20” itself was un-hosted. Much of the potential excitement in a new music discovery format is the excitement that a full-fledged, heavily produced and promoted channel could create: artist interviews, listener recommendations and, of course, personalities who were excited themselves about new music.

Even as a lesser Sirius XM channel, “20 on 20” came with a built-in audience and a national platform, something that would be hard to create from scratch, even if another broadcaster recognized the need.

Meanwhile, here’s a “Final Listen” to SiriusXM “20 on 20” at 8 a.m. on July 11:

“Fancy” (Iggy Azalea, featuring Charli XCX)
“Am I Wrong” (Nico & Vinz)
“Come With Me Now” (Kongos)
“Crazy” (Kat Dahlia)
“Stay” (TyDi, featuring Dia Frampton)
“Heaven Knows” (Pretty Reckless)
“Loyal” (Chris Brown, featuring Lil Wayne & Tyga)
“Unscrew U” (Rachele Royale)
“Rude” (Magic!)
“Undressed” (Kim Cesarion)
“We Are Done” (Madden Brothers)
“All About That Bass” (Meghan Trainor)
“Wiggle” (Jason Derulo, featuring Snoop Dogg)