Cities 97, the one-time AAA formatted radio station in the greater Twin Cities area of Minnesota is a shell of its former self. Having reached its peak in terms of quality in the 1990s, the station has recently devolved into a ship without a rudder.
Take, for instance, the fact that they ditched the very identity that put them on the map. No longer do they claim to feature "quality music from then and now" or claim to be "true to the music" (as I believe they once used this slogan). Instead of being able to hear true eclectic rock and new music from singer/songwriters and the occasional new tune from across the pond, listeners are now subjected to the likes of Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Pharell and Katy Perry in regular and sometimes heavy rotation.
I get that listener's tastes change and that musical styles do the same but I feel that their change in direction has more to do with the fact that there is more money to be grabbed by playing a fairly large percentage of female-friendly pop tunes from sister station KDWB. With a sizable hole in the Twin Cities left by the departure of longtime Adult Contemporary outlet WLTE 102.9 and the fact that KS95 (KSTP 94.5) is basically a top 40 station with better DJs and the shift in music to a more pop sound makes sense. Throw in the fact that the not-so-new place for hip adults in search of new music is 89.3 The Current and the writing was on the wall for Cities 97.
No longer is Cities 97 a national influence. No longer does it break new artists or new hits. Hell, the last artist they laid claim to breaking was Norah Jones and that is well over a decade ago. I'm surprised that Clear Channel's national AAA program director (and Cities 97 program director) Lauren MacLeash managed to hold on to her job for as long as she did given that the station she was running was careening down the hill towards pop music which, given her job duties of the past, is probably not her forte.
Now, though, Cities 97 is home to what could be a decent morning show with Brian Oake but for all of the knowledge he has stored up in his brain he has no outlet to dispense it and play the style of music he cut his broadcasting teeth on and instead spins the likes of Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry and decades-old Goo Goo Dolls. Hi partner in the AM, Keri Noble, pairs well with him but even though she is a fairly notable local artist, she, too, sticks out on Cities 97 given what the station has become.
The DJ following the morning show is a nobody named Melissa (I think) who sounds like she could have been a stay-at-home mom before taking over the midday shift at Cities 97. While she certainly fits the female-friendly bland-fest that Cities 97 has become, she seems to have the same level of musical knowledge as my cat and comes across as little more than a pleasant voice who can read a script. I truly fail to see why there is even a live or pre-recorded voice on Cities 97 between the hours of 10 AM and 3 PM.
Paul Fletcher, the afternoon drive DJ at Cities 97, has certainly done his time in radio (he was once a DJ at 93.7 in the Twin Cities during either in its Edge format or early in the 93X format) but comes off as a fan boy on the air. What he says during breaks between songs often times does little to add to what is left of the experience of listening to Cities 97. The fact that he has the title of Music Director should do little to reassure Fletcher that his job will exist tomorrow given that Cities 97 owner Clear Channel seems hellbent on making its stations sound the same across the country and elimination all local flavor.
Do yourself a favor and replace Cities 97 on your car stereo presets with 89.3 and/or 100.7. Both stations offer far more musical variety and unique sounds than Cities 97 ever has that you'll never look back at the once great Cities 97.