Live blog: A day listening to 107.5 Wish FM

[Live blog now up and running after the cut.] Just last May, we spent a whole day listening to 107.5 Win Radio, the masa station that replaced NU 107, flag-waver of Philippine alternative music. A shift from a “classy” format to a “trashy” format would inevitably get some people bemoaning the death of local radio, but we thought the station had potential… if only they got off their asses. Last August, however, things changed. UNTV (who originally ran NU, but is now better known for its TV channel showing lots of news and Ang Dating Daan) took full control of the frequency, forcing Win to effectively merge with its sister station Big Radio on 91.5. Now, 107.5 is home to Wish FM, which isn’t “trashy”… but nope, it is not an alternative radio station. We spend a whole day listening to a radio station that “grants your wishes”, whatever that means nowadays. [NB]

07.49: Sorry for the late start. Today is a public holiday, so I naturally overslept. And when I did wake up, the Internet went down. So, hello, Wish FM. I hope I’m ready to spend the whole day with you.

07.57: And we’re through. The first song I hear is Mariah Carey’s “Hero”. Apt.

Also, yes, I have to mention that Wish FM has a proper online stream, which comes in handy because the phone I normally use for these things won’t seem to start again. (Like the last live blog, really.) At least there won’t be unusual fades in the middle of a talky bit. Question is, will there be talky bits?

08.00: A set that included Yvonne Elliman and Linda Rondstadt? You instantly know what this station is aiming for. Radio veteran Hill Billy Willy handles morning duties (and also manages the station, if I remember correctly) so you have an idea what the background is: he worked for WKC (arguably the first masa station on FM) in its early days and was recently heard on RJ 100.

08.02: This song – I usually only hear this on Shaun Keaveny’s breakfast show on 6 Music. As background music. Need. Title.

08.15: Oh boy, a clip off Titanic. Yes, Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”. The version with film clips, oddly – what, they don’t have the clean version?

08.19: Jack Dawson is dead! Nooooooooo!

08.25: The swings on that set is weird. Celine Dion followed by Europe (inevitably, “The Final Countdown”), and right now, the Blow Monkeys.

08.37: The Cranberries, a quick plug for the station, and the, back to the 60s. I don’t know who this is, obviously, but this is definitely a 60s track.

08.39: Hill Billy Willy now plays Starship’s “We Built This City”, which, apparently, was voted the worst song of the 80s by readers of Rolling Stone. “I don’t know why,” he says, and I don’t know why, either. Then again, Rolling Stone believes good music is anything that smells vaguely of 60s ideals.

08.48: It was going so well. It was going so well, Wish FM. You had Billy Joel on and I was tapping my feet. And then you play one of those freaking Filipino artists who can only do acoustic covers of pop songs? Ugh.

08.53: You know Hill Billy Willy (it doesn’t seem right to just call him “Willy”) is paying attention to his console: he’s looping the intro to the songs he’s talking over so he can hit the right spot. He’s done it many times. I don’t know if he did it on RJ before; I am pretty sure only a few DJs do this, and I assume most of them are the veterans.

08.57: “Already remember: wherever you go, there you are.” Ahh, that sign-off. I actually remember that sign-off. I did have an RJ-listening phase when I was in high school. Lasted two weeks.

09.02: Now, to the next program, Wonderland, led by two young female jocks who, according to the website, will put a new generation spin on oldies. I don’t know what that means. But oh boy, here’s their overwraught top-of-the-hour jingle. I’m walking on rainbows when I’m with you…

09.05: Well, they play Michael Buble, which is new enough but old enough… but then the song starts jumping around, and the DJs talk over it, announcing technical difficulties, thinking the song is not playing anymore… car crash!

09.28: Having a Michael Jackson song followed by an Usher song is actually inspired. And I normally don’t like Usher. (Well, more of I’ve had enough of him from my high school days.)

09.30: You are my radiooooo. 107.5. Will this get stuck in my head at the end of the day?

09.34: I’m pleasantly surprised hearing one of the girls (I don’t know who yet – they sound alike) get excited over the fact that there’s 23 days left before the new NBA season starts. And she goes relatively deep, talking about Jason Kidd moving to the Bucks as a coach. Girl knows her things. If only I did.

09.36: They played Billy Joel less than an hour ago, right?

09.51: As far as I am aware, Adele hasn’t released her cover of the Cure’s “Lovesong” as a single, so it’s nice to hear this on the station. (Of course, they have an excuse for it: today they’re apparently playing Grammy-winning songs, and this is a cut off her massive hit 21. Still, an album track is an album track. A nice change of pace.)

10.01: My wish is what you graaaant. I’m walking on rainbooooows. Or is it just “rainbow”?

10.05: I actually missed that their NBA talky bit earlier is now a tweet-in piece. Who are you rooting for? I wasn’t expecting this. It is not a bad thing. It’s interesting – the topic, the fact that two women are talking about it (lest I be accused of sexism, let’s be honest, women talking about basketball is a rarity on radio, unless you’re, say, Suzy) and the fact that one of the girls “can’t relate” when the other starts talking about Damian Lillard and whatever he did in whatever game against whatever team.

10.25: I was just tweeting with Dan, my friend in Canada who’s more versed in radio than I am, and he reminds me that Hill Billy Willy and Rudolph Rivera (now at Retro) worked the same shift back at WKC, before moving to RJ. Now both of them are in oldies-leaning stations, and RJ is often overlooked.

Right now on Wish, though, it’s a music marathon. I didn’t know the BeeGees had a cover of Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You”. Or, oh, wait, no, it’s their original.

10.32: Understandably this show about Grammy winners leans towards R&B and soul (and a bit of pop), because that’s what the station’s format is, but I can’t help but feel a bit cheated because all these Grammy winners on the alternative side aren’t played.

10.54: They’ve gone on a jazzy stretch, which, again, says all you need to know about the vibe Wish FM is going for.

11.01: And this vibe is still going on. At least it’s flowing very nicely – so much so that the “Wish FM” stinger interrupts things.

11.08: Just like a real friend, you keep me waaaarm…

11.15: Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”, from their seminal album Rumours. Brilliant.

11.32: The station launched on 10 August. It’s almost two months old now. I only heard one paid ad, earlier this morning, when I actually started the live blog. Two months without ads is a long time – but then again, there seems to be money behind this to keep this rolling for a few more months or something.

11.38: They’re playing the same artist twice in an hour or so, which is not weird considering they’re seemingly more focused on music flow than anything, but still weird because, really, two Earth, Wind & Fire songs in two hours? (Nothing against EWF. Everything against rotations.)

11.49: Now they’re playing “Starlight Express”, which is a staple of these sorts of stations. Wish FM is entering Easy Rock territory, but I have yet to hear this in banks. Taxis, though, I’m sure.

And now they’re playing “Superwoman”, yet another staple. This was released as a single a week before I was born, apparently. It sounds… much older than that.

11.59: But only now are they playing Michael Learns to Rock, which says something.

12.05: Question I prolly won’t get an answer for: is this Alice and Princess Leigh’s first radio gig? Wikipedia provides no clues. Doesn’t show.

12.31: Just when I’m decided that they’re decidedly gravitating towards 70s soft rock and 80s soul, they play the Cure – and all seven minutes of “Pictures of You”.

12.36: I don’t think it’s healthy to listen attentively to Wish FM for the whole day. I mean, it’s not how it’s designed.

12.38: Of course they’d play “Faithfully” at one point…

12.46: …and then it’s followed by Aaron Carter, and then, “My Boo”, that Nelly song that has not aged well.

12.59: Wonderland is over, and I think Princess Leigh is the basketball lover of the two. That topic, by the way, got dropped quickly: last couple of hours were music sweeps, with the last hour being an all-request thing.

13.10: We’ve been with Wish FM for roughly six hours, so I think we can compare this and the frequency’s previous occupant, Win Radio. That station’s upbeat, surprisingly varied, but had little in the way of effort (which is a shame, because they had an interesting approach to content: newsy without being newsy). This station’s relaxed, still surprisingly varied… but I wouldn’t judge the content yet. Too early to tell.

But no, Wish FM is not a masa station. At least by most people’s definition, it’s not one: the DJs speak in English, the songs are not all middle of the road pap (but it did play “Starlight Express” earlier) and there are no sound effects scattered everywhere. But, as The Wishlist begins – Ray Holiday, the host, sounds familiar, vaguely – I’m now confused as to what Wish FM wants to sound like. Does it want to be laid back, or does it want to be upbeat? Because right now they just played Will Smith, and followed it up with Swing Out Sister. And considering how laid back the morning shifts are – I’ve heard more of Hill Billy Willy a few weeks back and it was a bit of a lull music-wise – I am not sure where they’re going with this.

13.21: Also somewhat disappointing is the lack of Filipino music on the playlist, at least so far. The only local artist I heard was that cover of “Firework” I ranted about earlier. Win, on the other hand, played a lot of it. Granted, Wish aims for a particular sound, but there’s definitely a local tune or two (or loads of it) that could fit in, right?

13.36: Things have settled down and the songs are very much in ballad territory. Again.

13.53: I am… getting sleepy? And hearing Brian McKnight’s “One Last Cry” definitely does not help.

14.02: Unfortunately Wish FM keeps on pushing this hashtag. Last week it was #OctoberWish; this week it is #MyWishForYou. The idea for both is the same: what do you wish for? You know, drilling the brand deep into… something. Flipside, they’re not promoting a text line, but they do have a mobile number – for Viber use. Which is the same thing, really, but you know. Free.

14.10: The songs have swung back towards 90s pop territory. Why didn’t we have this in the morning, when we needed it most?

14.15: And swing back to ballad territory.

14.57: I was away for a moment, so I haven’t missed much, right? Yeah, I don’t think I have. The songs went up and down and up again. That’s all I’ll say.

15.02: That said, I wish I could miss this jingle instead – it’s doing my head in. Singing my sadness, singing my joyyyyys…

15.05: It really would work best if Wish FM mixed things up more. The confusion a few hours ago – that’s because, judging from the songs I heard this morning, I really thought the station would take a relaxing tone. Now The Wishlist is, well, varied. Win Radio kept me going because of this, even if it tended to do car crash segues.

15.10: Hm, a relatively current song – the first good single Michael Jackson released since he died.

15.19: Oh no, they are playing Jordan Hill’s “Remember Me This Way”. This brings me to my childhood, and not necessarily in a good way!

15.27: There really isn’t much going on with Wish FM. Again, might be me. I know they’re trying to go back to basics presentation-wise, but the station feels a bit dry. Or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m hearing the same stingers, the same promos, the same trails, and that frigging jingle. Or maybe it’s just the time of the day. Tonight, when the Roadshow kicks off, and guests come on, I bet things will get interesting enough to be written about.

15.46: Rupert Holmes’ songs always make me happy.

15.56: Ray’s constant mention of his boss and his friends playing golf somewhere today makes me feel that the only people listening are well, Ray’s boss and his friends. Of course, it’s not accurate. Well, at least Ray knows these golfing terms.

15.59: I don’t think Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” helps you with your golf performance. I don’t play golf, but I have done some workshops (and, embarrassingly, hit one of those ball ladies in the forehead) and I am pretty sure unnecessary noise can get you off our rhythm.

16.03: Morning and night time, you’re by my side…

16.05: A hashtagging wisher asks her crush to “find me the way I found you.”

16.36: Meghan Trainor’s “All About The Bass” just about wakes me up. (Also, if I’m tracking properly, only the second current song played throughout the live blog. Or, no. Make that third. Pharrell’s “Happy” just came on.)

16.40: The jingle really does say “I’m walking on rainbow” and now it’s starting to bother me. And then Ray, making the imminent end of his show, says, “we can’t grant all of your wishes.” So what’s the point?

17.01: So we have karaoke champions as guests on the Roadshow, which is coming up. Hm. Seems like a trend on Manila radio stations nowadays, shows that, on a daily basis, feature live acts (see The R&B Show on Natural 97.9). The difference here is, of course, Wish FM does it on a moving bus.

And speaking of Natural, Jelly Kiss – one of tonight’s hosts – was formerly from Natural, and before that, Home Radio.

17.12: “It is a great day to drive,” Jelly Kiss says, in an animated manner than I hope I heard earlier today. Well, yes, she’s on the bus – a bus with a booth inside, similar to the mobile booth (more like a truck) used by its sister AM station, UNTV Radio – with the guests, whose names I’ll get later (it’s online somewhere). The girl sang Sarah Geronimo at a young age. She’s just 18. Of course.

17.28: Studio-stuck Uncle Harry, on the other hand, came from Big Radio and Barangay LS, and sounds awkward speaking English. This is perhaps the best time to let a few Filipino words slip so things sound natural… but then again, anything other than English is seen as not classy, right?

17.30: The downside of the being on a bus: it buffers. Well, it feels that way. Amiel Orio – previous guest, Karaoke World Championship Philippines winner, guy who’s singing right now – is disapp– ear– ing– like– this.

It doesn’t last long, though – although for a moment, it seemed Harry would take over and claim tech issues – and we are treated to Amiel’s high voice. The backing track is drowning him out, but for some odd reason, it’s making him sound very lush.

17.34: Finally, a local track. Or, oh, wait, it’s a cover. It’s Nina, but it’s a cover.

17.37: Spotted on Wish FM’s Facebook page: a listener requesting Roxette’s “Dangerous”, dedicating it to herself, “dahil sa mga likes ng cover at profile pics ko sa [Facebook].”

17.43: At least the Roadshow has a bigger sense of eventfulness than the other shows I heard so far. The bus apparently’s in Ortigas, and slightly stuck in traffic.

17.45: The two guests – Amiel, and his co-winner Marivi Delleva – will, of course, represent the Philippines in the World Karaoke Championships in Sweden, so their expenses there are shouldered. They also win P10,000 and a Magic Sing. How, err, eventful.

Marivi’s greeting politicians from Cabuyao, Laguna, conveniently her godparents. You know how I automatically feel about this.

18.03: They’re now playing the Black Eyed Peas. Very pop, compared to the songs played this morning. I am confused again. Back to cooking dinner, then…

18.15: The Roadshow is missing the one thing The R&B Show has: that sense of playfulness. I guess it doesn’t show as much when Jelly Kiss ran the show solo, twice a day, during Wish FM’s early months. Now, though, the disconnect between her and Harry is obvious: he’s just the guy running the desk on home base, and she’s running the desk on the bus. The two have virtually no repartee, and the end result is a bland show.

18.28: They just played Edwyn Collins’ “A Girl Like You”, something I didn’t expect, mostly because, well, this morning didn’t go towards that direction.

18.31: It really does say “rainbow” instead of “rainbows”. Also, I am a grammar Nazi.

18.36: The Eraserheads. “Magasin”. There you go.

18.50: Maybe I’d enjoy this program more if the guests were, say, musicians as opposed to singers. I mean, you have journalists who gather the reports, and you have newsreaders who read them. The latter does a good enough job, but you just trust the former more.

Also, how are the technical arrangements for this whole concert-on-a-bus thing? Tonight, it keep on cutting out. As I type this, it cut out long enough for Harry to almost intervene, but not. Who wants a concert that takes too many breaks? In the middle of songs, even?

18.54: Jelly Kiss is amazed that Marivi pulled off her last number while seated. It does sound good – perhaps too good; you can’t tell it’s live. Marivi’s retort: “umuuga kasi ‘yung sasakyan!” The bus is moving, after all!

18.56: “All right,” Harry intervenes. “Another technical problem.” He reads off some requests and feigns shock when someone asks for Metallica.

19.21: I think the audio quality has degraded. Are they using mobile phone networks to keep this OB going? (Maybe not – this is backed by a TV network, after all; they have transmission facilities – but you can hear the sound go a little muffled.)

19.38: Looks like the tech issues reached a boiling point: it’s been fifteen minutes since Harry had to take over from a buffering Jelly Kiss. Live radio, sure – but if it happens on a daily basis, you have a problem. Not that I’d know.

19.45: The songs in this stretch have had a bit more kick to them – well, not really: there’s not much of a kick to Simply Red’s “Stars”, but you get the idea – anyway, that kick is making me feel better about this station. Maybe it’s personal taste, but you can only tolerate relaxing music for so long, especially on a sunny day like today.

19.50: Put Uncle Harry on the bus with Jelly Kiss. Put an engineer at home base. Problem solved. Thankfully, in tonight’s edition, Amiel has a lot of catchphrases to keep things light.

20.21: “A Whole New World”? Really? That sticks out.

20.24: Finally, Jelly and Harry talk. A little bit. About that Aladdin song. Just pleasantries, yes, but it makes a difference.

20.31: Since we’ve been listening to the station for twelve hours straight, a few more thoughts. Wish FM needs to figure out what it wants to be. This morning it was a cross between RJ and Easy Rock; this afternoon it gravitated between K-Lite and, well, Easy Rock; right now it’s in masa-without-the-jokes mode. It feels like it’s trying to be everything to everyone.

Wish FM’s launch comes at an interesting moment, when radio stations are starting to target a more upscale, yet not necessarily snotty, adult demographic – thus Retro 105.9 taking over from Radio High, which suffered from insisting on marketing its exclusivity. You also have K-Lite ditching the new tunes. You have Easy Rock and Crossover (and, to an extent, RJ 100, limping) staking their ground. Wish FM has to be sufficiently different from everybody else – and it has a taller mountain to climb, because its frequency was home to Win Radio for years, and you know people’s attitudes towards masa.

Wish FM is, arguably, also masa, judging from the overall feel of its library, but without the tropes: no talking baby, no jokes in between. I imagine some will find this appealing, but that might not be enough to get them out of the Win Radio hole. Then again, they’ve only been live for less than two months.

20.39: I haven’t heard an advertisement since I started the blog.

20.43: I’m imagining the bus cruising along Metro Manila, with Amiel and Marivi singing karaoke. Just like a tourist bus, then. And for four hours, people will get tired eventually. I know. We did this early this year, in Ilocos, Ask Rainy.

20.58: “Hello, Wish FM. My wish is… secret.”

21.12: I planned to end the live blog right now, but earlier this morning Dex told me about the station’s late night program, Whispers of Love. “Good god,” he said. “I was riding a cab the other night that was tuned in. And I thought I hated Papa Jack.”

No, wait, the trails call it Wish-pers of Love. The website says “whispers”. They forced it, ridiculously. But, ah, whatever. I will always think of sanitary products. At least they started off with Christopher Cross’ “Sailing”.

21.19: I can see why Dex doesn’t like this, though. This is sleepy. But it fits the time slot, as opposed to what I had this morning. However, I will not have any of this cover of “What Matters Most”. Kenny Rankin forever.

21.33: And since it seems Whispers of Love (I refuse to use “wish” here) is a music-intensive program – not that it’s a problem – we’ll end the live blog here. There’s still a long way to go for the station – but first, they have to figure out what they really want to do musically. The content will follow. #MyWishForYou is good luck.

One last observation: after almost fourteen hours of listening, I finally heard a song repeat. That Bryan Adams/Barbara Streisand collaboration played this afternoon.

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