[Live blog now up and running after the cut.] Well, here’s something I never expected would happen: a masa station is folding up, to be replaced by a particularly more upmarket offering. Today marks the return of 103.5 K-Lite, a radio station which, in its last iteration, was a poppier, more mature take on alternative music, comfortable with playing Avril Lavigne alongside ABC, Duran Duran alongside Dishwalla, Matchbox Twenty alongside the Manic Street Preachers. The station went off-air in 2006 (alongside 99.5 RT) and the frequency has since seen four formats: short-lived easy listening Heart, Max FM in both its Magic-of-the-past and dance eras, and until yesterday, Wow FM, a different (at least initially) take on the masa format. Once again, I’ll be live-blogging most of launch day here, but from the archives, here’s my final take on Wow FM, and my first write-up on K-Lite’s first farewell, back on my old blog, which has a lot more if you do a little digging. [NB]
05.18: Good morning, kids. Surely you’re feeling better now that we have, more or less, begun reclaiming the airwaves from the laughing babies and their pop music, right? You know something is afoot when your pre-launch music is some soothing hold music.
05.23: Their tag line, according to their Twitter account, is “the hits and lite favourites” (yes, the British spelling). I sense that this will be the K-Lite before the Manila’s Lite Alternative era, when it went toe to toe with WRocK, ending in an argument over who can use the word “lite rock” or something.
05.58: And we are live. First song: Incubus’ “Drive”.
06.06: A bumbling, snappy kick-off from some young guy named DJ Electric, who said they’re playing songs from “your generation” before reaching for Dido’s “Thank You”. Not the first impression I was hoping for.
06.10: Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie”. Definitely K-Lite mark 1.
06.32: No matter how much they hype it up, I don’t think it’s Madonna who’s singing on the K-Lite jingles. That’s not quite how it works. Right?
06.58: They’re playing Jamiroquai’s “Seven Days in Sunny June”, which brings me back to when I was in college, listening to this song on the bus, on K-Lite, during Vito and Melinda’s show. Seven years later – and I know I shouldn’t judge a radio station after only an hour of broadcast, and I know there will be a lot of tweaks in the weeks to come – I need more adrenaline.
07.05: By adrenaline I don’t mean “Billionaire”.
07.17: This is Smart FM, brought to you by Smart. This ad break is sponsored by Smart. This song is sponsored by Smart. This DJ gets his money from Smart. (And the upcoming FIBA Asia Championships, which will be aired on… TV5.) Again, early days, there will be more advertisers soon…
07.42: Thoughts at the moment: “maybe play some Imago since, you know, Aia de Leon was on The Voice last night? Just to be topical?” Proof that I’m a radio geek with extensive tastes and, therefore, cannot be trusted with doing a critique of a radio station.
09.09: Interesting how the station’s morning shifts went to newbies. Electric (let’s just call him EJ) was part of the second 99.5 RT’s (mostly) student jock program, The Farm. Nikki, who follows him, was on RX’s student jock program. This all suggests the station will be, to spout that cliché again, all about the music.
09.28: Stephen Speaks’ “Passenger Seat” is playing. Two hours after the last time they did. One of the biggest sins in radio broadcasting (to me, at least) has been committed.
09.49: It’s getting really obvious how this station was rushed on the air. It’s as if they wanted to get rid of Wow FM now na!
09.55: Eraserheads’ “With A Smile” is playing. Four hours after the last time they did. I know it doesn’t quite fall into the “biggest sins in radio broadcasting” thing I mentioned earlier, and maybe it’s because I’m listening to K-Lite the whole day and not just during the drive to work like everybody else is doing – again, not your typical radio listener – but really, this is getting a bit boring. Now, if they play “Kaleidoscope World” in the next hour, I will really go mad.
10.19: Honestly, I didn’t expect them to play the long instrumental ending to Rivermaya’s “Hinahanap-Hanap Kita”, but why not?
11.48: Lifehouse! There’s a sliver of hope. Then again I shouldn’t have really big expectations. Or maybe until I hear one of the veterans on air.
12.02: Utterly peeved that they’re playing the demo version of Keane’s “Everybody’s Changing”. Once again, rushed to air.
12.08: Earlier today I mentioned K-Lite and WRocK getting to a tussle, all those years ago, on who gets to use “lite rock” as their station positioning. WRocK won that round, so K-Lite – by then they were an AC station with the likes of The Blade and Joe Schmoe on board – ended up using “the right kind of lite”. They just used that line today.
12.20: He hasn’t spoken yet, but the next guy on air calls himself Jacob now – he was formerly known as Piolo Askal on Wow FM. He took over for Mr. Fu when he left the station weeks ago, but previously did the afternoon drive slot on the station. As far as I can tell, he’s the only on-air guy from Wow who’s stayed over for K-Lite. Now they’re playing Madonna – she who supposedly did the jingles, although, again, I really don’t think it’s her. You know how stations hype things up…
12.36: It’s likely that I’m noticing the tight song rotation – “Drive” is on again – because I am listening to this station the whole day today, but it’s also likely that it’s because there’s not much in between the songs – just three-song sets and DJs introducing the songs and doing on-air greetings (ugh) and plugging the “first of its kind” (not really, and doing it for a radio station doesn’t apply) midnight screening. It’s so sparse. But then again, the K-Lite Twitter account described this as a test broadcast. So maybe that’s it! A test broadcast with everybody feeling their way around things! Why are we calling this K-Lite again?
12.47: Quit playing games with my heart, my heart, my heart… this all feels like Heart 103.5 to me.
13.00: Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot”. That is freaking all.
13.03: Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It On The Alcohol”. That is… well, this is all confusing me. Is K-Lite supposed to be going up against Mellow 947?
14.06: The most curious thing about the fact that K-Lite is returning is that nobody really calls this station K-Lite anymore, the same way some people still refer to Play FM as RT. Bringing back the brand, which was last on air in 2006, would mean dealing with listeners’ expectations of the station, and most expectations would be along the lines of its Manila’s Lite Alternative era – intelligent talk segments, the less indie side of Jam 88.3’s current playlist. I’m betting some people are having whiplash over the playlist today.
14.13: Also, the mere fact that K-Lite returned at the expense of a masa station would attract people – the disenfranchised one who feel lost while driving or at work – towards it, at least initially. And that’s even if 103.5 reformatted under a new name, but still with an upmarket format. There’s a massive failed opportunity here. What we’re hearing now is admittedly shoddy: just a few DJs with shows but no show prep, a bunch of poppy jingles, and a very loose music policy. I say, despite a month-long limbo, Play FM at least launched with some idea of what it is. In this case, no matter what your memories of K-Lite are, you definitely expect better.
14.22: I’m pretty sure that, at this point, there is no one song that K-Lite hasn’t played twice today. Perhaps it’s the point, perhaps it’s my expectations, but still…
14.37: The Duchess of Cambridge has gone into labor. (Labour.) Will the next DJ please mention this on the air?
14.42: Or has the whole radio station gone to watch the SONA? At least I won’t feel bad about dropping this live blog while the president speaks more bullshit to his so-called bosses.
14.53: Speaking of SONA coverage, I’m switching radio stations in a while to listen to that – I’m looking to write another blog entry about the president again, on my other blog – so this blog will update a little slower than usual. I wouldn’t miss anything, right? (Unless Mondo, aka Johnny Chase off Max FM, does really well in his shift, which won’t be a surprise because he’s done this before.) I’ll still be around tonight to listen to what I can listen to the rest of the day’s songs on repeat.
15.11: This is the third time I’ve heard Simply Red’s “Stars”.
15.21: What happened to the launch? Where did all the DJs go? Did they realize they’re not supposed to be live yet? Is there a big meeting going on somewhere in Ortigas? Is this really supposed to be just a test transmission promoted wrongly? Should I still blog?
15.28: There is a DJ! And he’s playing Blue!
18.01: Noynoy’s SONA was way too long. What did I miss?
18.50: Finally, it seems, they’re exploring their library. Should’ve done it a while ago. I can live without Owl Eyes, though.
19.04: Nelly Furtado, the Speaks, Eraserheads songs that isn’t “With A Smile” – where were you all this morning? This is closer to my idea of what this K-Lite could be: a bias towards alternative, but without an aversion to pop. I really should give this station another listen in a couple of months.
19.12: It just dawned on me that the jingles – produced in Denmark, supposedly with Madonna, and I don’t think they mentioned that anymore, did they? – have a dubstep element. Another part of the station with an identity crisis?
19.20: I wonder what programming we’ll hear from K-Lite in the coming weeks? Talk shows will be formed, specialist weekend shows will be put in place, and maybe more DJs. (Hopefully no more student DJ programs. Let the others do it.) I’ve decided the vets need to be in the morning. Those shifts need a steady hand. Put Electric and Nikki together, perhaps? At night? More proof that I’m a radio geek with extensive tastes and, therefore, cannot be trusted with doing a critique of a radio station.
19.24: Cultured Pearls’ “Not This Time”. I finally know what this song is called. It took years.
19.33: That version of “Everybody’s Changing” again. Ugh.
20.01: Safe to say that when they try, K-Lite sounds good. Good surprises, nice sound. Launch jitters (and lack of content) aside, this morning just wasn’t supposed to be that way.
20.31: Okay, now it’s sounding like early-stage Max FM to me. Without the urge to sound like early Magic.
21.03: They essentially played two Bruno Mars songs in a row. Yep, automation mode. Wrapping up this live blog in a few.
21.29: Time to wrap up the live blog with one thought: how long will the new K-Lite last? This frequency, like its sister over at 99.5, has had a checkered history in the past seven years, with rebrand after rebrand, or in 103.5’s case, reformat over reformat. This is the sixth format on the frequency in almost as many years. We all thought Wow FM would last, that being a very mainstream format, but it didn’t. So will K-Lite get a chance to last? Or will it get little priority and, ultimately, quickly dispatched like 99.5 RT’s second coming (which pretty much filled K-Lite’s niche, and perhaps NU 107’s too) was? Only time will tell. As for what we have now, there is lots more work to do, of course, so maybe we’ll revisit in a few months to see where it’s all gone since.