“The format and personalities you’ve come to love over the years will no longer broadcast on 95.5.”
This statement says it all. It’s over. WPLJ’s existence spanned several different eras in our cultural history, but finally, on May 31, 2019, it all came to an abrupt end. Cumulus Media Hot AC sold the station to Educational Media Foundation, better known to those who know it by its programming service as K-Love. Simulcast to over 520 FM stations, K-Love (along with EMF’s other format, “Air1”), pull in about 20 million weekly listeners.
For those that have not heard of Contemporary Christina Music, it’s a genre of music that lyrically focuses on Christ and Christian life and faith. After the 1960s “Jesus Movement” by the Evangelical Christians, in part driven by the cultural shift toward living a life with meaning, more modern Christian spiritual music was inspired to be created. This contrasted strongly with Church hymns, Southern Spiritual Music, and included drums and guitars, formerly not associated with religious Christian music.
Where does this all leave WPLJ’s loyal listeners? Surely, the new format will be a far cry from WPLJ’s selection of tunes. WPLJ ended its broadcast wit the “Hot AC” format, hitting”hot” adult contemporary tracks , really a mix of a lot of rock, a little disco, and a liberal dose of hits all around. Prior to this, WPLJ had been a “Top 40” station. And, originally, the radio station played classic rock “in stereo”, its serious selling point.
Will former listeners care to give K-Love a try? Of course, the Hot AC format of late was quite eclectic, and diversity was the rule. So, it’s not likely that listeners will not lend a curious ear. After all, in 1975, Father Bill Ayers introduced On This Rock, bringing spirituality and music to the fore. But is CCM quite the same? Are tracks that are unmistakeably about religion the same as tracks that may infer, or suggest, religious or spiritual themes, but never say so explicitly?
Music is about emotion, and emotion comes from life. Religious and spiritual people see all events in life as experiences to undergo from a certain spiritual,or religious, perspective. So, many such people may have found the numinous in the ordinary; a rock track, with its poetic lyricism, may evoke religious images and feelings, though not explicitly about such matters. (And who’s to say that Divinity wasn’t the inspiration that led to the song’s creation, anyway?) All music can be inspirational for an audience. Need music explicitly mention religion in order to elicit religiosity?
WPLJ fans were open-minded, judging from the eclectic station programming they enjoyed, so we might expect a good number to give the new CCM format a listen. Of course, this is not exactly what most have in mind, so a good number may be migrating up or down “the dial”, in search of a no-rap, no-religion radio station that just plays popular music or older hits. Stations change format, owners change, properties get sold. It all becomes a part of the legacy of the history of local FM NYC radio.
With that said, for Christians, this new music on 95.5 may have some appeal. A song here and there may seem especially good, and a connection will be there, as was true with certain songs in other genres of music. However, not all WPLJ listeners were Christians, certainly, and those former listeners of other faiths (or no faith) will probably not be tuning in. In all likelihood, most in the former and latter groups will choose to find their “Hot AC” format elsewhere out in FM radio-land.