The River Runs Dry



Bell Biv DeVoe
The long-dormant booties of many white-bread St. Louisians were recently reignited when local bland-rock station the River (WVRV 101.1 FM) ditched its flaccid adult-contemporary format in favor of the cold, semi-hard funk. At precisely 11 a.m. September 8, station owner Bonneville International abandoned the soft-rock stylings of Coldplay and John Mayer for a more shuffle-friendly "MOViN�" format featuring artists such as Prince, Lauryn Hill, Beyonce and Bell Biv DeVoe.

The switch didn't surprise industry insiders, though what took its place has. The River, which debuted in 1994, has stagnated in recent years. In the summer 2006 Arbitrons released on Sunday, WVRV landed in 17th place, far below Bonneville's most successful St. Louis property, the No. 2 ranked WARH (106.5 FM), a.k.a. the Arch.

No doubt the Arch's staggering success prompted the River's course change. The 106.5 format promises to never repeat the same song in a single day, and listeners have flocked to hear a mix that ranges from Electric Light Orchestra to the Rolling Stones to Carole King to Lionel Richie. Salt Lake City-based Bonneville is banking that the iPod shuffle-style gambit will also appeal to a generation reared on dance beats.

"Since the late Eighties, young radio listeners began to move toward rhythmic music preferences," MOViN's� creator, Alan Burns, explains in the Bonneville press release announcing the switch. (Not sure how MOViN can TM a selection of songs, but apparently it has.) "Women who were between 12 and 24 in 1989 are 28 to 40 years old today. They grew up on Top 40 hits that were primarily rhythmic. MOViN�'s target is that segment of 25- to 40-year-old women who feel too old for hip-hop, bored with narrow, rock-based Hot AC and aren't ready for traditional AC radio."

Online chatter has been mixed. Posters on a local radio insiders' message board at have applauded the variety, though one has taken to calling the new format "Flamin' 101," for what he considers its obvious play for the gay demographic, adding, "I'm really surprised that I haven't heard 'Its [sic] Raining Men' by the Weather Girls yet." Another suggested renaming the station "The Pole 101.1 FM." (It does warrant mention that Movin' 101.1 FM debuted at 11:01 a.m. with gay icon Marky Mark's "Good Vibrations.")

Truth be told, MOViN's� first few weeks have been pretty rockin', even if the station's slogan, "Life should be fun and your music should feel good," makes me burp a little vomit. Any station that moves from Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Got Your Money" to Prince's "Erotic City" and then to Young MC's "Bust a Move" is okay in my book -- and far better than yet another spin of Sheryl Crow or James Blunt. The exact-same format has seen ratings success in Seattle, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. Here's hoping it'll fly here, as well. -Randall Roberts


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