Sometimes even Boomers are not OK. Among the many frustrations of this maligned demographic is that their music stations are slipping away from them. This sense lies behind a new digital channel, defiantly named Boom Radio.
At last, there’s a radio station out there for all those who think Radio 2 is just a little too edgy. You know what they mean. Sometimes Radio 2’s playlist features people not in the top nine priority groups for a Covid-19 jab.
As someone on the borders of the core demographic — I’m clinging to my Gen X status and accepting no VAR challenges — I admit I tuned in rather hoping to be repelled. Reader, I was not disappointed. For a start, it had essentially exhumed every Radio Caroline presenter who is still alive and not on a #MeToo blacklist for its DJs. The octogenarian “Diddy” David Hamilton is among the headliners, along with 1970s-style Radio 1 jingles. And running through it is the smug certainty of its role as tastemaker.
There was some good music — The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Moody Blues and even one contemporary group, albeit with a summer-of-love vibe. There was no one song I disliked but the overall combination was like being helped into a lukewarm bath.
Witness, for example, the DJ’s words after one classic tune: “The legend that is Tony Bennett — I hear he is suffering from Alzheimer’s now, which is a bit sad, isn’t it?”
This, in other words, is a station that screams “You are old!”, that yells “Don’t strain yourself, dear!”, just stick in your groove, fear the new and embrace your looming decrepitude. Who cares if you can no longer rock? You can still nod your head.
In ordinary times, the simple solution is to not listen. There are plenty of digital radio channels that aren’t for me and this is just one more. But perhaps the lockdown effect has magnified my irritation. We have essentially spent the past year doing things we already did, speaking largely to those we already know, our horizons narrowing with each Covid spike. Is what we really need now even more of the familiar?
There are two ways to listen to music you don’t control. The first might be called the iPod Shuffle route. It’s all your music but you can delight at suddenly hearing songs you haven’t listened to for a while. Then there is the traditional radio station or Spotify mode, in which music you like is interspersed with some you don’t know but might like.
But aside from embedding musical stagnation, Boom highlights the siloed existence into which we are all in danger of slipping. Even pre-Covid, we had let technology narrow our focus. Niche stations cater to our demographic expectations, partisan news spares us inconvenient reports. Recommendation algorithms drive us down ever-tapering pathways.
The same is true on social media where, having once embraced all-comers, many are draining the pool of those they follow. On Twitter, debate is often so vile that many mute or block those with whom they disagree, and signal a wish to follow those with similar views.
From filter bubbles to content silos, technology is encouraging us to step away from new ideas, new music and new discoveries. We may still use it for recommendations or books, music or views, but if they are not algorithmically selected they are increasingly chosen by those we have embraced as being like us.
The challenge is to resist boundaries and break through Boomerdom. Being 60 or 70 is no longer a compulsory slide into intellectual and physical decrepitude. New experiences should be sought out. There is always a second act if you seek it.
When we finally break free of lockdown, the desire is surely to accept every invitation, try every new play and concert, travel as far as is feasible. Even for those working full-time this has been an early taste of retirement and the lesson is not to surrender to the familiar but to search for stimulation. Stations like Boom are basically for those who didn’t mind lockdown.
And it’s not that far from Boom to bust.
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