Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Coldplay is BBC Radio2's favourite

The NME is reporting this morning that Coldplay's second LP "A Rush of Blood To The Head" is the most popular album of all time, according to a poll run by BBC Radio 2.

For Australian listeners who may not know, the BBC Radio 2 is a bit like ABC Local, such as 2BL 702 Sydney or 774 in Melbourne or 612 in Brisbane, but without the news analysis programs like "The World Today" and lots more music programming.  It's filled with specialist music shows like a Country show, hits of the 60s and 70s, documentaries on musicians, plus Big Band music programs, devotional music on Sunday mornings and many other things.  It suits a wide range of tastes and is widely regarded as the (British) nation's favourite station.

Traditionally, Radio 2 was called the "Light Programme" or light entertainment, generally to amuse housewives during the day.  To a point, it still is light entertainment - it's not like you're going to hear the Ramones played during the breakfast show (if you want that, go to BBC 6Music).  But for many years, young people or even people in their 30s wouldn't dare listen to Radio 2 - it just wasn't for them.

One thing's for sure is that BBC Radio 2 plays the most agreeable, yet varied selection of music from all time.  You'll hear everything from Sinatra to Emilie Sande and all points in between, but very little of it is offensive.  Sure there's the best of Indie and alternative played there, mixed in with northern Soul and rock classics, but it is extremely varied generally, and unlike any radio station - government, community or commercial - in Australia.

I'm not surprised by the result of the poll.  After all, a poll run by digital music station BBC 6Music recently picked "Clocks" by Coldplay as the best song of the last 10 years.  However, I think there is a lot that BBC Radio 2 programmers can take away from this result. 

Whatever the result of the poll, the poll was flawed from the outset.  Visitors to the Radio 2 website were given the list of 100 albums and then expected to vote for their favourite.  It was a foregone conclusion that one of them would be the most popular.  I would have supplied a longer list or changed the voting to a more ballot-styled system, where you could vote for 5 or 10 albums maybe, and then pick the ones most voted for.  This could have allowed for some interesting data mining analysis, in terms of finding out what else listeners would have picked besides their one favourite.

Not only that, there was only one LP from each artist in the list - two at best.  That both ensures diversity of choices but excludes many worthy candidates from the vote.

Following the live blog and the comments on it, it was clear that many people thought that key albums such as "Breakfast In America" or "Hotel California" were ranked too low.  Surprise, surprise.  Looking through the top 10 selections, it's interesting that most of the records are from a key period in music history, along with a scattering of classics.

My view? Generation X has spoken.  This is the top 10 albums of many mid-30s to mid-40s people with young families doing the school/sports run on weekdays.  There's albums from their primary school/teenage years (Duran Duran, U2 and Pet Shop Boys), classics from their festival/gig attending years (Dido, Coldplay, Keane) and classics that they grew up with from their parents record collection ("Sticky Fingers", "Dark Side of the Moon", "Sgt Pepper", "A Night at The Opera").

If you were to listen to Radio 2 from the time you wake up until the time you went to sleep at night, you would hear a wide range of music, so it is my belief that the listeners to the station are well versed in music of all types.  I think the top 10 choices reflect the core age and demographic of the station.  Radio 2 is no longer "the housewives choice" or the choice of the Baby Boomers and their parents, but the station that middle-aging, disaffected Radio 1 listeners of 20 years ago have turned to.  There's a lot of programming direction to be gained from that.

The top 10: (courtesy of NME.co.uk and the BBC)

1. Coldplay 'A Rush Of Blood To The Head' (2002)
2. Keane 'Hopes and Fears' (2004)3. Duran Duran 'Rio' (1982)4. Pink Floyd 'The Dark Side Of The Moon' (1973)5. Dido 'No Angel' (1999)6. The Rolling Stones 'Sticky Fingers' (1971)7. The Pet Shop Boys 'Actually' (1987)8. The Beatles 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' (1967)9. U2 'The Joshua Tree' (1987)10. Queen 'A Night At The Opera' (1975)

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