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POP EYE

Will 'The Wave' Wash In A New Radio Age?

February 15, 1987|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

Revolutionary . . . baffling . . . innovative . . . mellow . . . wacky!

Those are just a few of the reactions you'll probably hear as pop fans get their first earful this weekend of the ground-breaking new radio format at KTWV-FM (The WAVE), the station formerly known as KMET.

In his first public statement about the station's new programming, KTWV Program Director Frank Cody revealed that the station is being transformed into a adult-contemporary outlet, featuring a blend of New Age, soft jazz and soothing pop music. A typical set might include tunes from such disparate artists as David Sanborn, Sting, Sade and Andreas Vollenweider.

Let's call it Diet Pop.

"You're always hearing people say, 'Boy, do we have something new and different for you,' " Cody said. "Usually, it's not really so different. But this time we really so have something fresh."

KTWV execs say the WAVE (its slogan: "Music for a New Age") is the first format of its kind in America. To hear the top brass describe it, you'd wonder whether they've been worshipping at the Temple of the Good Pop Vibes.

"It's music that stirs people below the neck," explained General Manager Howard Bloom. "When people listen to the radio, they're looking for a particular mood--a centered mood that creates an almost magical kind of flow.

"If KMET's mood was irreverent, rebellious and bar-room conversational, then the WAVE's is sensual, hypnotic and invigorating--everything that makes you feel good. It's emotionally rewarding. We just feel that our responsibility to Southern California is to make people feel good when they listen to us."

But the new musical format is just the beginning. The WAVE will also feature:

No deejays. Instead, KTWV will have a repertory company of six actors performing 15- to 60-second playlets--or as Cody describes them, "contemporary dramatic moments," similar to the kind of vignettes you'd hear in a Molson Golden radio commercial. Each actor will portray a continuing character. Regulars, according to Cody, include Steve ("He drives an early-'70s Porsche and loves to sail"), Kate ("She's 33, works for a P.R. firm, loves to cook and is great in bed"), Becky ("She's an assistant to a studio development exec and is a little overweight") and Marc ("He dates a lot, but is concerned about disease").

Special performers. The playlets, which will be heard about four times an hour, will feature guest stars ("along the lines of a Teri Garr or a Michael J. Fox") who are being booked by WAVE consultant Sandra Furton, the talent coordinator for "Late Night With David Letterman."

WAVE songs. Between sets, about four times an hour, you'll hear 10- to 40-second musical jingles, featuring a melodic signature reminiscent of the "Moonlighting" theme. It's composed by Cody and KTWV Production Director Paul Goldstein (no relation) and arranged and performed by San Diego-based musician Lars Clutterham.

A logo composed of blue-and-yellow abstract swabs of color that depict a wave emerging from the ocean (see above).

KTWV execs say this unusual new format is the result of extensive research, which revealed "an enormous public acceptance" for New Age programming. "Our findings were incredible," Bloom said. "Nearly two-thirds of the people told us the format didn't sound like anything they'd ever heard before. Better yet, they wanted to know where they could find the station--now!"

Cody added: "The idea was to find a station that could appeal to anyone from 25 to 50. There are a lot of people who grew up with rock who don't want to hear Van Halen or ZZ Top, but who aren't Barbra Streisand or Barry Manilow fans either. The most popular music right now is soft pop, jazz and melodic New Age. So we're going after the mass-appeal elements of three of the hottest musical genres of the '80s, which should perfectly complement the sensual and uplifting mood we're trying to create."

The KTWV execs shied away from making any predictions about how long it would take local audiences to digest this new Diet Pop brew. But if anyone's worried about yuppie commuters becoming so blissed out that they drift into a trance and slide into a center divider, they're not letting on.

"How well can this format do?" Bloom wondered. "I'll bet we can do a lot better than a 1.6 (KMET's last Arbitron rating). We think we're going to surprise everybody."

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