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Radio Song

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A song about the radio format

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
TheGoodWario on Feb 8th 2019 at 4:42:46 AM
Last Edited By:
TheGreatConversation on Feb 14th 2019 at 9:00:21 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

A Radio Song is any song about the medium or culture of radio itself, or that incorporates it as a central metaphor.

Radio as a technology and as a medium has played an indispensable role in shaping our popular culture and consciousness—especially so in the world of music. For decades before the advent of streaming services and widely available digital music, radio was the arbiter of public taste: who got played on the radio (and at what time of day) dictated who got popular and sold records, ranking systems like the Top 40 decided who was the best of the best, and station identities helped codify modern genre classifications.

As such, many artists over the years have had a . . . complex relationship to this medium that could make or break them on a whim. And, as musicians tend to do when confronted with complexity, many have written songs about it.

Since most of these songs were themselves written to be played on the radio, this is a subtrope of Heavy Meta. However, these can forfeit their own Radio Friendliness if they overlap with Protest Songs written by Disillusioned Artists about how Music Is Politics. Sister-trope to Rock Star Song.

Not to Be Confused with Radio Friendliness, about songs written for but not about radio.


Examples:

  • "Ain't Misbehavin'", first published in 1929, is an early example. The song in general is about staying home, waiting for your baby, and one of the verses discusses listening to the radio instead of going out dancing.
  • The Avalanches' "Radio," vaguely.
  • The Blasters' "Border Radio" describes a woman who calls up a radio station and requests a song that she and "her man" used to enjoy, in hopes that it'll console her and her child. It's left indeterminate why exactly the father can't be reunited with them.
  • The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" is about the falling out of the use of radio in favor of music videos, silky-voiced radio personalities replaced by beautiful, often less talented celebrities.
  • "Yesterday Once More" by The Carpenters, where the singer reminiscences about her favorite song on the radio.
  • "Listen to the Radio" by The Corrs, where the singer listens to the radio to remedy her loneliness.
  • Donna Summer's "On the Radio," about how a man's letter to The One That Got Away is found by someone and read on the radio. The woman hears it and reunites with him.
  • One of Elvis Costello's most beloved songs (and the one that got him banned from Saturday Night Live) is the iconoclastic "Radio Radio."
    Radio is a sound salvation
    Radio is cleaning up the nation
    They say you better listen to the voice of reason
    But they don't give you any choice 'cause they think that it's treason
    So you had better do as you are told
    You better listen to the radio ...
    I wanna bite the hand that feeds me
    I wanna bite that hand so badly
  • "Midnight Radio" from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, about the magic of radio and rock 'n roll.
  • Joe Walsh has "The Radio Song," about finding a quiet place alone and listening to music on the radio.
  • Joni Mitchell's "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio," which she wrote after being asked for a catchy love song to play on the radio.
  • LL Cool J: "I Can't Live Without My Radio," about his love for his boombox.
  • "I Radio Heaven" by Over The Rhine uses the radio as a metaphor for a would-be lover struggling to make a connection.
  • Queen's "Radio Ga Ga," an unabashed ode to the radio.
    Let's hope you never leave, old friend,
    Like all good things, on you we depend
    So stick around, 'cause we might miss you
    When we grow tired of all this visual
  • The Ramones' "Do You Remember Rock N Roll Radio?" laments the rock stations of the 70s straying away from the genre's roots.
  • Rush's "The Spirit of Radio," a delightfully verbose celebration of the radio medium:
    Invisible airwaves crackle with life
    Bright antennae bristle with the energy
    Emotional feedback on a timeless wavelength
    Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free
  • Shemikia Copeland's "Who Stole My Radio?" discusses the general decline of radio-music quality.
  • Smashing Pumpkins: "I of the Mourning" is told from the perspective of a man who seeks comfort in his radio and hears voices within that inspire him to start a band.
  • Twenty One Pilots has "Car Radio," about a man whose car radio has been stolen discovering how much he's been using music to block out uncomfortable thoughts.
  • "Radio" by Vienna Teng depicts the aftermath of a suicide bombing in a major American city through the perspective of a first responder. The speaker alludes to a time when such events were only a distant reality reported on the radio, at which she could easily "turn away to another station" to hear a love song.
  • "Mexican Radio" by Wall of Voodoo is about the novelty of picking up a Mexican radio station from across the border (and how radio waves, at least, could cross freely).

Feedback: 19 replies

Feb 8th 2019 at 7:26:58 AM

Music

  • Music/Blur has "The Spirit Of Radio."

Feb 11th 2019 at 7:58:28 AM

It definitely Needs A Better Description.


  • The Buggles: "Video Killed the Radio Star" is about the falling out of the use of radio in favor of videoclips.
  • Queen: "Radio Ga Ga" is an ode to the radio.
Let's hope you never leave old friend,
Like all good things on you we depend,
So stick around 'cause we might miss you,
When we grow tired of all this visual

Feb 8th 2019 at 9:57:04 AM

  • One if Elvis Costello's most beloved songs (and the one that got him banned from Saturday Night Live) is the iconoclastic "Radio Radio."
    Radio is a sound salvation Radio is cleaning up the nation They say you better listen to the voice of reason But they don't give you any choice 'cause they think that it's treason So you had better do as you are told You better listen to the radio ... I wanna bite the hand that feeds me I wanna bite that hand so badly

  • Joni Mitchell's "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio," which she wrote after being asked for a catchy love song to play on the radio.

"The Spirit of Radio" is actually a Rush song.

Edit: lyric markup is glitching out.

Feb 8th 2019 at 10:13:43 AM

Feb 8th 2019 at 12:38:05 PM

"Oh Yeah (On The Radio)" by Roxy Music.

Feb 8th 2019 at 1:31:29 PM

Almost all of these examples are just "Band and song". No context.

Feb 8th 2019 at 6:20:22 PM

Donna Summer, "On the Radio" about how a man's letter to The One Who Got Away is found by someone and read on the radio. The woman hears it and reunites with him.

LL Cool J, "I Can't Live Without My Radio" about his love for his boombox.

Feb 8th 2019 at 6:31:36 PM

  • Smashing Pumpkins: "I of the Mourning" is told from the perspective of a guy who seeks comfort in his radio, and hears voices within that inspire him to start a band.

Possible page quote from the same, trim as you like:

Radio, play my favorite song
Radio, Radio
Radio I'm alone
Radio, Please don't go
Smashing Pumpkins, "I of the Mourning"

Feb 8th 2019 at 7:59:14 PM

Joe Walsh has "The Radio Song", about finding a quiet place alone and listening to music on the radio.

Feb 8th 2019 at 8:05:10 PM

  • "Yesterday Once More" by The Carpenters, where the singer reminiscences about her favorite song in the radio.
  • "Listen to the Radio" by The Corrs, where the singer listens to the radio to remedy her loneliness.

Feb 8th 2019 at 9:34:58 PM

  • "Ain't Misbehavin'", first published in 1929, is an early example. The song in general is about staying home, waiting for your baby, and one of the verses discusses listening to the radio, as opposed to going out dancing.

Feb 9th 2019 at 4:09:58 AM

Van Morrison Wavelength;

I heard the Voice of America callin' on my wavelength....

Feb 9th 2019 at 8:27:47 AM

As radio was the most important vehicle for music for much of the 20th century, many of these songs could be considered Heavy Meta.

Feb 10th 2019 at 7:01:05 PM

Definitely a subtrope of Heavy Meta in general. Fixing ZC Es:

  • Rush's iconic "The Spirit of Radio" is a delightfully verbose celebration of the radio medium:
    Invisible airwaves crackle with life Bright antennae bristle with the energy Emotional feedback on a timeless wavelength Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free
  • "Mexican Radio" by Wall Of Voodoo is about the novelty of picking up a Mexican radio station from across the border (and how radio waves, at least, could cross freely).
  • The Ramones' "Do You Remember Rock N Roll Radio?" laments the rock stations of the 70s straying away from the genre's roots.

Feb 11th 2019 at 1:08:17 PM

Went ahead and compiled the examples (except for one ZC) since there was a backlog.

Feb 11th 2019 at 7:36:28 PM

The Blasters "Border Radio" describes a woman who calls up a radio station and requests a song that she and "her man" used to enjoy, in hopes that it'll console her and her child. It's left indeterminate why exactly the father can't be reunited with them.

Feb 13th 2019 at 3:52:58 AM

Fixed quote formatting. Hatted.

Feb 13th 2019 at 4:52:38 AM

Not sure if these examples count as one is news radio and the other is strictly metaphorical.

  • "Radio" by Vienna Teng depicts the aftermath of a suicide bombing in a major American city through the perspective of a first responder. The speaker alludes to a time when such events were only a distant reality reported on the radio, at which she could easily "turn away to another station" to hear a love song.
  • "I Radio Heaven" by Over The Rhine uses the radio as a metaphor for a would-be lover struggling to make a connection.

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