- Rhythmic contemporary
Rhythmic contemporary, also known as rhythmic top 40, rhythmic contemporary hit radio or rhythmic crossover, is a music
radio formatthat includes a mix of dance, upbeat rhythmic pop, hip-hop and R&Bhits. While most rhythmic stations' playlists comprised that mentioned above, some tend to lean very urban with current hip-hop, urban popand R&B hits that gain mainstream appeal. Rhythmic contemporary is usually the music played at clubs and school dances.
They will not play music with a harder rock sound or songs that sound too
adultfor their taste, leaving those songs to the conventional top 40 stations.
Most of its core listeners makeup a multicultural mix of
African-Americans, Hispanics, Caucasian Americansand Asian-Americans, that include a core group of teens, young adults (mostly 18-34) and young females in which most listeners live in or close to a major city.
The origins of rhythmic top 40 can be traced back 1978 when
WKTUon 92.3 FM New York City (now WXRK) became a disco based station. That station was classified as urban but played a blend of disco, dance music, and pop crossovers. At that time, stations playing strictly R&B materials were known as black stations. Stations such as WKTU were known as urban. In the 1980s many urban contemporarystations began to spring up. Most of these leaned R&B and away from a lot of dance music. These urban stations began sounding identical to so called black stations and by 1985 stations that played strictly R&B product were all known as urban stations. Still some urban outlets continued adding artists from outside the format onto their playlist. In most cases it was dance and rhythmic pop but in other cases they added a few rock songs. But it wasn't until January 11, 1986that KPWR Los Angeles, a former struggling adult contemporaryoutlet, began to make its mark with this genre by adopting this approach. It would be known as crossover because of the musical mix and the avoidance of most rock at the time. "Billboard" magazine took notice of this new format and on February 15, 1987, it launched the first crossover chart. But by December 1990 "Billboard" eliminated the chart because more top 40 and R&Bstations were becoming identical with the rhythmic-heavy playlist that were also being played at the crossover stations at the time. "Billboard" would later revive the chart again in October 1992 as the top 40 rhythm/crossover chart. On June 25 1997, it was renamed the Rhythmic Top 40chart as a way to distinguish stations that continue to play a broad based rhythmic mix from those whose mix leaned heavily toward R&Band hip-hop.
For years since its inception, the rhythmic name has been a source of confusion among music trades, especially in both "Billboard" (which used the
Rhythmic Top 40title) and " Radio & Records" (which use the CHR/rhythmic title for their official charts). In August 2006 "Billboard" dropped both the "top 40" and "CHR" name from the rhythmic title after its sister publication Billboard Radio Monitormerged with "Radio & Records" to become the "New" "R&R" as part of their realignment of format categories. The move also ended confusion among the radio stations who report to their panels, which was modified by the end of 2006 with the inclusion of non-monitored reporters that were holdovers from the "(Old) R&R" days.
Still, over the years since its inception, the genre has grown and evolved but not without criticism. Traditional
R&Boutlets claim that the rhythmic format does not target or serve the African-Americancommunity properly, while traditional top 40 stations claim that the format is too urban to be top 40. However, those claims have been all but silenced, with both R&Band mainstream top 40 stations taking cues from the format they criticized.
Rhythmic-leaning top 40/CHRs
While mainstream top 40/CHRs tend to cater to audiences who such as to hear a variety of styles, there are several stations in that format who tend to lean in a rhythmic direction while still playing the occasional pop/rock or Modern track. The reason for this is due to a factor of sorts, such as competition from a rival station who sticks to a traditional top 40 direction, the market's ethnic makeup/demograhic, or going after a more dominant rhythmic in the same market. The approach itself has also affected the "Billboard/R&R" top 40/CHR charts, which has seen a majority of rhythmic songs occupy most of the charted slots. Among the top 40 Mainstream stations that fit this category include
KHTS-FM/San Diego, WKST/Pittsburgh, WWHT-FM/ Syracuse, New York, WKGS/ Rochester, New Yorkand KZZP/Phoenix.
Still there continues to be confusion of the distinction between rhythmic CHR stations and "Churban" (or
urban top 40) stations. In New York City WQHTHot 97 strictly plays R & B and hip hop. Also in that city WWPR-FMPower 105 plays a similar format. WQHT is classified as top 40/rhythm while WWPR is classified as urban. Los Angeles was in a similar situation where KPWRand KDAYhave similar formats but KPWR is considered top 40/rhythm while KDAY was considered urban. Also very similar situations have occurred in Washington, D.C. with WPGC-FMand San Francisco with KMEL. One possible reason for this is precedent. When these stations began they played a lot of dance music and were classified as CHR outlets. However, many critics say the ability to attract more mainstream advertisers as rhythmic, rather than urban, is the real reason, thus fueling the criticism from the African-American community in general.
However by 2005 KPWR began to re-add more rhythmic pop product after a seven-year gap (it had phased most of the rhythmic and dance product by 1997 when it had competition from KIBB and KACD/KBCD, both defunct), mostly in response to rival
KIISleaning towards a rhythmic direction. The move has resulted in KPWR and KIIS reigniting their Los Angeles top 40 war, which got more interesting in July 2007 when KDAY joined the fray as they shifted from R&B/hip-hop to rhythmic, and in the process almost left the nation's second largest radio market with no pure mainstream urban outlet until the following August when KDAY changed their minds and returned to Urban. KPWR has also gone on the offensive to protect their Hispanic demos in the wake of new Hurbanrival KXOL-FMmaking a dent in the ratings.
WQHT on the other hand, had moved more towards R&B/hip-hop as they were stepping up their competition in the Big Apple with WWPR, which had gotten nasty with both stations blasting each other on the air and at high-profile concerts/events, as well as who claims ownership of who plays the most hip-hop in New York.
WPGC-FM began operating in 1987 as a rhythmic that played R&B, hip-hop, dance, and pop music. Its playlist began to migrate to mostly hip-hop/R&B songs with R&B and soul slow songs on Sunday through Thursday nights since 1993, a format very similar to
WKYS. This began a head-to-head battle with WKYS, but also urban ACs, WHUR and WMMJ, due to them playing old school R&B and soul songs during the morning drive, overnight hours, and on weekends.
KMEL also began in 1984 as a mainstream top 40, but migrated to a rhythmic that played began hip-hop, dance, freestyle, house, and reggae music by 1987. However, in 1992, its playlist began to lean more urban to battle with competitor
KYLD, which ended in 1997 when the two became sister stations. KMEL currently has a playlist that is hip hop/R&B music, and plays mostly R&B slow jams at night Sundays through Thursdays and gospel music on Sunday mornings, while KYLD plays a balanced mix of rhythmic pop, hip-hop/R&B and some dance product geared towards Latinos and Asians.
August 11, 2006, "R&R" had moved WQHT, WPGC-FM, KMEL, and most "Churbans" to the urban contemporary airplay panel since they seldom play any type of rhythmic pop product and is therefore not considered part of the 'pure' rhythmic community. (WQHT has since tilted back to rhythmic officially in early 2007 this time with an urban lean). However, despite the changes, there are a few "Churbans" who remain on the rhythmic panel that are exceptions, mostly due to the lack of minorities in several major metropolitan markets that do not have a mainstream urban, such as KTTB/ Minneapolis-St. Pauland WJMN/Boston. However, on May 25, 2007, WQHT, KXHT/Memphis, WZMX/Hartford and WMBX/West Palm Beach, along with KZZA/Dallas-Ft.Worth (from the Latin Rhythm Airplay panel), were re-added to the panel, as their playlists now favors a broader rhythmic direction, thus making them outright rhythmics.
In recent years the format has managed to carve its own niche by breaking such diverse acts such as
Christina Aguilera, Akon, Britney Spears, Natalie, Shakira, Baby Bash, Fergie, Beyoncé Knowles, Brandy Norwood, Danity Kane, Sean Paul, Eminem, Frankie J, Jennifer Lopez, Ciara, Jordin Sparks, T-Pain, Nelly Furtado, Timbalandand JoJo. It has also embraced other sub genres as well with the emergence of dancehalland reggaetonacts such as Daddy Yankeeand Nina Sky, and welcomed artists from other genres that don't fit the format into its inner circle, such as Amy Winehouse, Gnarls Barkley, Hilary Duff, Carrie Underwood, Lindsay Lohan, Mariah Carey, Backstreet Boys, Daniel Bedingfield, Kylie Minogue, Enur, Gwen Stefani, Linkin Park, Miley Cyrus, and Gym Class Heroes.
Hot Dance Airplay
Rhythmic Airplay panel
Top 40 Mainstream
* [http://www.radioandrecords.com/Formats/Charts/Rhy_Chart.asp Current rhythmic chart featured in "R&R"]
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