Through the years, Z100 has been a pretty good example that Clear Channel top 40s, despite consumer press grumbling to the contrary, were still able to program to their own markets. Miley Cyrus owes her music career to Z100’s decision to champion “See You Again” when the rest of the format was content to leave her to Radio Disney. “See You Again” went on to become Z100’s No. 15 song of 2008, more than twice as successful as its No. 31 showing on Billboard’s top 100 of the year.
Not all the songs that set Z100 apart from the national mean were rhythmic, but it was often those songs that showed the power of dance music and indie labels in New York, from Crush’s “Jellyhead” (No. 23 of 1997) to Vengaboys’ “We Like to Party” (No. 19 in 1999) to Cascada’s “Evacuate the Dancefloor” (No. 9 in 2008) to Kim Sozzi’s “Feel Your Love” (No. 49 of 2009). It was also common for the consumer press of that era to accuse Clear Channel of ignoring independent labels. Z100 was often evidence to the contrary.
Those weren’t obscure differences to anybody involved with a song. In the late ’90s, I made the unlikely suggestion to a label friend that Dan Hill’s “Can’t We Try” might work as a dance record. The Rockell & Collage version faced considerable PD resistance nationally, but there was still validation in seeing it finish at No. 80 for the year on Z100 (and considerably higher on crosstown WKTU). I don’t claim that “Can’t We Try” occupies the same place in the firmament as Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa” or the Blackout All Stars’ “I Like It,” but having a dance record that New Yorkers will remember as a hit, no matter what smaller markets might have thought, was still a point of pride.
It’s not that Z100 started to sound like any other top 40 station in 2012. In EDM’s breakthrough year, the dance feel is, if anything, more pronounced than ever. But if market-to-market differences were anything that Clear Channel ever thought to actively emphasize, this year the priority is clearly the continued building of iHeart Radio as a dashboard-ready national brand.”—this is important (although a very strange occurrence was hearing “Closer” — which is mentioned later on — on said countdown in a cab.)