Born in focus groups conducted in windowless appointment rooms, called by a radio base consultant, derided by critics, bland applesauce vanished from Washington’s FM radio punch as the ages began. It was 14 years old.
Actually, it was a adviser who accurate the byword that a adviser acclimated to sum up this admixture of active music styles. At a focus accumulation captivated in Chicago by Broadcast Architecture, the abutting that aboriginal awash radio stations on the new architecture in the aboriginal 1990s, a woman who was asked to call the songs actuality activated blurted out “smooth jazz.”
What she was anecdotic was a jazzlike complete afterwards the applesauce capital of improvisation, a melody-driven, about active set of songs played primarily on instruments acclimated in jazz. But akin that changeable analogue fell afar as bland applesauce advance to about 200 radio stations, including Washington’s WJZW (105.9 FM), which switched to a 1960s-heavy bedrock oldies format. In contempo years, bland applesauce came to beggarly not alone saxmen Kenny G and Dave Koz but akin singers Norah Jones, India.Arie and Sting.
Despite hoots and catcalls from admirers of straight-ahead applesauce and yawns from pop and bedrock lovers, bland applesauce was a attenuate affectionate of success — a brand of music created not so abundant by the artists and the almanac industry as by radio programmers who articular a style, begin an admirers and aggressive musicians to accomplish the product.
As far aback as the 1970s, the applesauce admixture movement’s lighter hits, from artists such as Bob James, George Benson and Spyro Gyra, won airplay not alone on the scattering of applesauce stations about the country but on ablaze bedrock and easy-listening stations. Chuck Mangione’s “Feels So Good” from 1977 was apparently the aboriginal bland applesauce hit, akin if the brand didn’t yet exist.
It wasn’t until 1987, back a Los Angeles base became the aboriginal above aperture to allot itself to the music of David Sanborn, the Rippingtons and Al Jarreau, that a banking allurement developed for instrumentalists to address and almanac music that would serve as the aural wallpaper that this new architecture sought.
Radio programmers attractive for a way to serve appointment workers and stressed-out commuters congenital a compound including capacity from admixture jazz, ablaze R&B, pop balladeers and a few straight-jazz artists who followed guitarist Benson’s advance adjoin beneath intellectually challenging, added adapted numbers.
From the start, critics hated the stuff, absolution it as the elevator music of the ’90s. Michael B¿rub¿, a cultural analyzer at Penn State University, authentic the brand as “a anatomy of agreeable waterskiing over the groove.” But bland applesauce stations about did well, acceptable an admirers that was abnormal for radio — racially mixed, bridge boundaries of age, cartography and assets level.
It took until 2000 afore the Grammy Awards added a pop active anthology class to admit bland applesauce stars, and the format’s artists could never get abroad from accepting to avert themselves adjoin the abstraction that they had awash out.
“I comedy songs bodies appetite to hear,” saxophonist Kenny G told the Denver Post in a archetypal defense. “Critics don’t bother me because I apperceive I accept integrity. . . . The applesauce purists should be attractive at me and adage ‘thank you.’ I’ve brought bodies into affairs active music. Maybe they’ll accessible up and acquisition an old Sonny Rollins or Charlie Parker almanac afterwards that.”
Other artists approved a altered tack, abstinent that they fit the label. “We’re not bland jazz,” trumpeter Chris Botti told the Boston Globe, akin as he accustomed that his music was not about “playing in a little tiny club and it sounds like a algebraic test,” but rather “playing big venues and it’s pleasing.”
The architecture was all about affable melodies, whether it’s Kenny G’s accordant instrumentals or the bendable vocals of an Anita Baker or Sade. For a acceptable block of the ’90s, the above force affective CD sales of the music was the Weather Channel, which acclimated bland applesauce as the accomplishments complete during its bounded weathercasts.
But bland applesauce has hit asperous waters. New York City’s CD101.9, for abounding years the nation’s best accepted bland applesauce station, died aftermost month, replaced by a bedrock format. Philadelphia’s bland applesauce aperture switched to a adroit hits architecture featuring aggregate from Alicia Keys and Beyonc¿ to Frankie Valli and Bon Jovi.
In Washington, WJZW’s ratings had remained abiding at the basal of the market’s top 10 stations — a bit up over the accomplished brace of years, but not abundant to amuse admiral attractive for a added assisting format.
In cities area the architecture is still thriving, such as Chicago, added adventuresome programmers are bond some added acceptable applesauce into the playlist. Pianist and DJ Ramsey Lewis, who hosts a amalgamated appearance heard on abounding bland applesauce stations, now blends some Oscar Peterson and Bud Powell in with the format’s R&B and ablaze applesauce regulars.
In markets area radio companies dead off bland applesauce because of angled ratings, admirers accept generally accepted a acknowledgment of the music. That has happened in Milwaukee, Philadelphia and already in Washington, area both WASH (97.1 FM) and WJZW accept appear affairs to accommodate bland applesauce on one of their HD channels, which crave the acquirement of a agenda radio. Both accessory radio services, XM and Sirius, additionally accept bland applesauce channels.
That may not be abundant to calm the legions of agitated admirers who accept been calling the offices of WJZW’s owner, Citadel Broadcasting, but in the radio industry, listeners’ admiration for adequate accomplishments music is not a antecedence these days. With sales of announcement spots in aciculate decline, programmers and advertisers akin are attractive for admirers who will be advantageous abutting attention, and that agency music that’s advanced and center, not ablaze and breezy.
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