What is Journey’s ’80s nugget ”Don’t Stop Believing” doing alongside The Click Five and Weezer on iTunes‘ list of the top 10 downloads? Stereogum may have the answer: The song was featured in the premiere of Laguna Beach. Still, what was that song doing on an MTV show about (and aimed at) kids not yet born when Steve Perry first belted the ballad? My theory: Jack put it there.
Jack, of course, is the new radio format that consists mostly of Gen-X nostalgia tunes from the ’70s and ’80s, mixed with an eclectic set of new tracks and other offbeat oldies. It violates all kinds of radio-formatting conventions, mixing genres and allowing ”train wrecks” (abrupt mood-shifters that place, say, weepy ballads before thrashing rave-ups). In short, it’s like the way people program their iPods.
Already, Jack is making its pernicious influence felt. It’s an easily automated format that makes it simple and cheap for radio conglomerates to replace more deejay-dependent formats (as it has at New York’s beloved ’60s-vintage oldies station WCBS-FM). It may also be influencing other pop-cultural products; check out Bret Easton Ellis’ very Jack-like what-I-was-listening-to-when-I-wrote-my-new-novel playlist. (Oh well, it beats his American Psycho playlist, which was probably all Huey Lewis and Phil Collins.) And now, it even seems to be infecting MTV. Reality TV has been blamed all sorts of detrimental effects on the culture, but what could be more insidious than slipping Journey onto kids’ iPods?