Welcome to my playlist … on shuffle

Here’s the best description I’ve read yet about the “Jack FM” format — a hodgepodge of album oriented and hit songs from the past two, maybe three decades played up in no particular order. The stations that feature the format (Denver’s Jack 105.5 FM was the first station in the U.S. to adopt the format, which was birthed in Canada) typically use taglines that state something like, “Music we like,” or “Playing what we want.”

Reporter Dave Demerjian in Wired says the format is like a “middle-aged couple spinning favorites from their LP collection,” but I like the site’s snarkier producer, who struck deep into my heart with the home page blurb:

Do You Know Jack?
‘Imitation IPod’ Invades Radio
* It’s like listening to a middle-aged drunkard’s iPod set to shuffle, but the Jack FM radio format is spreading across the dial. By Dave Demerjian. Jul 13, 2006 | 2:00 AM

Now, I don’t drink (I’m allergic) but I do pride myself on an eclectic iPod (two, actually) that’s always set to shuffle. The difference between me and typical Jack listeners, I hope, is that my tastes run a lot deeper than theirs.

I definitely aim for that sense of surprising context, which is something I used to get form radio but not in years. My iPod puts TV commercials and theme songs against rock and folk and R&B and jazz and weirdo world music from across the decades, and I like it that way.

When I first heard Jack, I was intrigued because it sounded so different from the formula of most commercial radio today. But you know, a format of not having a format in itself is … a format. And I got tired of Jack, not because of the formula of not having a formula, but because the lesser-known stuff they played simply isn’t stuff that pushes my buttons.

I don’t care if they’re dredging up mid-’80s hair-band hard rock and putting it against Alanis Morissette. The fact is, I never wanted to hear Def Leppard in the first place.

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