Dear Local Independent Community Radio Station Whose Call Letters Both Start and End With “W”:
I listen to you almost every day on my drive to and from work, except for Friday mornings when you have that hardcore punk/thrash-metal show which is not quite my taste. But that’s okay, W-Blank-Blank-W, for diversity is a lovely thing. In fact, sometimes on Sundays I tune in to that one talk show that’s all in Creole because I sort of dig the dissociative feeling I get from listening to a strange dialect and I imagine it’s a reasonable simulation of how human language might sound to dogs and cats and babies and maybe even people raised by wolves. So I don’t have a problem with your actual content at all. I just have one little complaint, W-Blank-Blank-W, and I’ve hesitated to say it because I didnï¿½t want to hurt your sweet listener-pledge-supported feelings: some of your DJs make me grind my fucking teeth.
Look, I know that most of your staff is made up of volunteers, and a lot of them are younger student volunteers who are therefore relatively unpolished and perhaps not even seeking careers in radio. I actually like that, and whenever I hear one of you kids be all, “Oops, uh, I just played two Death Cab For Cutie songs in a row because I was totally spacing out just now,” I’m much more likely to be charmed than annoyed. It allows me to pretend I’m still a college student listening to the campus station and that I’m not just some dumpy thirty-three year-old commuter in a Saturn who’s fairly certain she’s heard that Franz Ferdinand before but can’t name a single song to save her life. So while I don’t have a problem with most of your on-air personalities, W-Blank-Blank-W, I really can’t stand two or three of them, and I think I’ve figured out why: they all have raging cases of Intentional Radio Voice.
I hope you know what I’m talking about. And I hope you know who I’m talking about, because I don’t want to be too obvious about it, but I’ll start with the guy who does the morning show on a day of the week beginning with “T” who talks as if every second or third syllable and/or word is in italics. And with certain… long pauses, he sounds… well, condescending as all hell. It doesn’t help that he takes it on himself to describe, at great length, the song he just played. It’s not like I don’t appreciate your knowledge and zeal, MC Emphatic, but I can’t say I ever heard a song that intrigued me and thought, “Hmm, now what’s a good adjective for that song–‘trippy?’ ‘Melodic?’ ‘Trance-like proto-House drum-and-bass rhythm styling?’ What?!”
As much as this has made me want to smash things, I’d concluded that maybe the guy can’t help it; that his mannerisms are simply a side effect of his remarkable music intelligence, like some kind of indie-rock Asperger’s Syndrome, and therefore I ought to be patient with his condition. But then one morning recently he was bantering with Woman Who Reads the News with A Curiously Awkward Synthesis of NPR Austerity and Phone Sex Purring, and at some point they both started TALKING LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE. No verbal italics, no strutting around in vocal drag–just two people talking in ordinary tones and cadences with voices that were perfectly pleasant to begin with.
And I liked them so much better, and actually enjoyed listening to them, and began to think of them as my friends, even, until Mr. Super-Syllables suddenly remembered that he hadn’t yet over-enunciated “Viva Voce” that morning and had at least three semi-obscure producer names to drop before 9:00, and Woman Newsreader realized it was time for her to breathily make love to a lengthy sequence of words as if they had nothing whatsoever to do with the dismal economy, war, terrorism, poverty, or death and destruction of any kind. And I went back to wanting to gouge out the radio tuner with my windshield ice scraper.
And here I haven’t even started on the weekday afternoon guy whose Intentional Radio Voice seems to involve some kind of recreational inhalant. But maybe that’s for another time.