Long Form

Internet Killed The Radio Star

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I miss the radio.

I miss the times when my older sister and I would wait for that one Backstreet Boys or Sugar Ray song for hours and record it triumphantly using a cassette tape when it comes on the air. Sure you may get the DJ’s unwanted voice in the recording now and then, but it was definitely worth it.

Those compilations and mix tapes were gems, with hours spent stalking various radio stations for the songs you wanted. Also, the excruciatingly painful rewind and fast forward process was very much part of the old school charm.

Honestly, I don’t listen to the radio that much anymore these days; I still tune into the Golden Oldies channel on Astro when I am at home and Lite FM in the car, though I am still mystified as to why the moniker Light & Easy was abandoned in the first place. But I digress.

I have participated in my fair share of carpools in recent years, but radios do not really seem to be the medium of choice anymore. My friends instead rely on the gizmo that plugs into the car cigarette lighter and plays songs off storage devices whilst some even plug their car stereo to their iPods or iPhones.

Like Bob Dylan once sang, yes, the times are a-changing!

Before the Internet came into prominence, we would listen intently to the DJ, who would handily disclose the song and artiste name before or after the song was played. Fast-forward a decade or so later, and we have Shazam or Soundhound identifying tunes for us. Just give the apps a few seconds, and voila, everything you need to know about the tagged song and the artiste, from tour info to YouTube videos, is at your fingertips.

You want to sing along to the song? No worries, the song lyrics are at your disposal. You want to purchase the song? Well, as long as you have an Apple iTunes account, why not? Just launch iTunes, punch in your credit card details, and sure enough the song is yours. Wait, you like the song so much that you would like to obtain the entire record? Why didn’t you say so? Easy peasy.

Admittedly, there is just something extremely gratifying about getting the object of your affection on the fly, but surely, as per Newton’s Third Law of Motion, there should be clouds and thunderstorms at the same time too right?

I don’t know about you, but I seem to have developed a poor memory when it comes to song names and titles lately, which I blame on the sheer speed from the process of purchasing an album and it ending up on my iPod. Songs play on my earphones when I am either reading a book on the train or jogging; truth be told, sometimes I do sneak a glance at the song information, but more often than not, I just nod in appreciation at the gorgeousness of the tune before leaving it at that.

Music aficionados should be rightfully appalled, but in my half-hearted defense, technology is making it so very easy to take music for granted. Hypothetically, if I get sick and tired of Belle & Sebastian, which is realistically speaking highly unlikely but let’s play along, all I have to do is launch the Last.FM app, and it recommends me musicians and bands of a similar mould. The results include Camera Obscura, The Smiths, and Acid House Kings, so you can bet that the algorithms used are fairly accurate.

As I look upon my rather small collection of CDs, with lyric books and all, on the cabinet, I realise how intangible music, records, and cover art have become in this day and age.

Almost inevitably, the cassette tape format went the way of the dodo, and soon enough, a new technology will waltz into our living rooms, to be greeted with equal commercial fanfare and skepticism. Conversely, I, for one, am saving up to acquire a vintage turntable in hope of rediscovering my appreciation for music. Oh golly, imagine playing Beatles and Neutral Milk Hotel vinyl records on one of those bad boys while sipping an ice-cold Milo!

You can call me a Luddite, but I prefer old-fashioned.

By Wong Boon Ken