Remember: entertainment options in the 1980s and 1990s were scant. Technology wasn’t sophisticated—high-definition-less television, reel projected cinemas and, of course, mono-sound radio was the norm du jour.
This writer was a pre-adolescent at the time and, wanting to kill my boredom after an enforced curfew that prohibited me from watching TV, I turned to the radio. No Doubt’s now iconic rock ballad ‘Don’t Speak’ came on the speakers and I got drawn into the adult contemporary genre after that. It’ll forever be one of those songs that have the ability to draw out my desolated childhood memories.
But I digress: why do Singapore radio stations keep playing ’80s and ’90s pop music? The reason for this unwavering condition lies in the demographics.
According to the latest biannual Nielsen Radio Diary Survey, Mediacorp’s Class 95 topped Singapore’s radio listenership with its easy listening ’80s to ’90s pop playlist. In addition, SPH’s One FM 91.3 saw double-digit growth of digital audience numbers, which was reflected in that same survey. Described as a ‘grown-up fun’ station that plays fan-favourite greatest hits from the ’80s to now, this growth is skewed towards higher-income segments. Sounds like Gen X (born in the ’60s to ’80s) and echo boomers (’80s to ’90s) combined. Millennials and Gen Z wouldn’t know who Savage Garden is—the now-defunct Australian pop duo spawned classic hits like ‘I knew I loved you’, which is still played at weddings today.
I asked the former assistant programme director of Lush 99.5 and current music practitioner Vanessa Fernandez (aka Vandetta) on the accuracy of AI Squire’s findings. “Yeah, that sounds about right. Very few radio stations target youth so it wouldn’t be that new or progressive. I think the majority of radio listeners are older, want easy-listening or prefer music for nostalgia.”
No surprise then, that the radio DJs and presenters of the above-mentioned radio stations also belong to the intended demographics. Hence, they are able to curate a playlist that’ll resonate with listeners.
Listen, we love a good ‘80s and ‘90s pop tune any day of the week, just not every day of the week. C’mon Singapore radio, how can we discover new music if you just keep playing Backstreet Boys? How can we move on if we keep taking two steps forward and two steps back? It’s time to turn the beat around. (Missed those pop culture references? Why hello there, Gen Z reader.)