A New Format Edits The Hits, Mostly For Good
For the last decade, some radio people have been advocating a format that edits top 40 hits down to their essentials. Who needs to hear Beyoncé declare that “you’ve got me looking so crazy right now” quite that many times, proponents ask? Couldn’t John Mayer say what he needed to say with less repetition? Are we not a short-attention-span society with less discretionary time for music?
For years, pitching this a format around shortened songs was a pretty good way to send a conference room into polite silence. But in recent years, a few stations have been introducing new songs with one-minute versions, while other PDs have been making songs shorter (or longer) based on their PPM retention scores.
A year ago, SparkNet finally began marketing such a format under the name QuickHitz. On Sept. 12, the station announced its first affiliate, Cromwell’s WYDS (93.1 the Party) Decatur, Ill. The format is now positioned on-air as “twice the music in half the time” and promises 24 songs an hour. In that particular regard, it’s a throwback to the mid-’60s when stations used to attack each other regularly on the number of (then-shorter) songs they played per hour, usually somewhere in the 16-17 song range.
Songs on QuickHitz are generally edited to 2:00-2:30. “Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert is a longer, more lyric-driven song that gets about 2:45. As heard on the Party, the presentation is jockless (except for syndicated morning and evening shows that don’t adhere to the format) with much reinforcement of the music promise, as well as “no more than three minutes of commercials [at a time].” There’s no mention of titles or artists, for instance.
Perhaps the best part of QuickHitz is it reduces the fatigue that goes with spending a lot of time with mainstream top 40. Radio's recent combination of tighter lists with more Spartan presentations means that it’s really hard to listen to several stations in any given day. When top 40 was home to multiple piano ballads last spring, it was particularly painful. So hearing “Just Give Me a Reason” clock in around 2:20 is a mercy.
Then again, I don’t really need New Politics’ “Harlem” to be any shorter than its current 2:44, especially since it sounded better than the oldie that followed it. I’m also not looking for “Summertime Sadness” to hurry up and be finished. Or “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” Or “Applause.” Or “Still Into You.” But, boy is that a short list. And that many current songs are short to begin with points out that there’s not that much nip/tuck needed in an era when there are very few “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Careless Whisper”-type hits in the five-minute range.
How subtle are the edits? To someone who knows about the concept, a few of them are noticeable. Some EDM titles that rely on builds and drops no longer navigate all those changes. “Clarity,” for instance, picks up at the first chorus and never slows down. “Suit & Tie” and “Blurred Lines” lose their raps. In last year’s demo, Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake” didn’t include the ad-libbed bridge that I thought were the song’s emotional peak. But I listened in a room full of people and none of them noticed the edits until I pointed them out. And with fewer raps and techno builds, there’s also the net effect of being more adult.
Here’s QuickHitz in the 10 a.m. hour on Friday, Sept. 13 with approximate song times:
Miley Cyrus, “We Can’t Stop” (2:10)
Jason Derulo, “In My Head” (2:20)
Calvin Harris with Florence Welch, “Sweet Nothing” (2:20)
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton, “Can’t Hold Us” (2:25)
Zedd featuring Foxes, “Clarity” (2:00)
Robin Thicke featuring 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar, “Give It 2 U” (2:10)
Drake, “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (2:20)
Lorde, “Royals” (2:15)
Maroon 5, “Love Somebody” (2:15)
Ne-Yo, “Closer” (2:25)
Lana Del Rey vs. Cedric Gervais, “Summertime Sadness” (1:50)
Bonnie McKee, “American Girl” (2:15)
Justin Timberlake, “Suit & Tie” (2:10)
Calvin Harris featuring Ellie Goulding, “I Need Your Love” (2:15)
Ariana Grande featuring Big Sean, “Right There” (2:05)
Bruno Mars, “The Lazy Song” (2:20)
Flo Rida featuring Sia, “Wild Ones” (2:23)
Robin Thicke, “Blurred Lines” (1:55)
Capital Cities, “Safe & Sound” (2:18)
Demi Lovato, “Give Your Heart a Break” (2:25)
Lady Gaga, “Paparazzi” (2:20)