If you’re above the age of 18, there’s a good chance you’ve had some experience in which Top 40 music piped through your workplace for hours on end: in a retail or food service job to pay the bills, or that office coworker with the radio tuned a bit too loud. No matter where you are (or in some cases, which Top 40 station you turn to), there’s an excellent chance that format stayed the same. Even with the DJ a bit too bland or too bawdy, the same tracks repeat themselves every 30 to 60 minutes, perhaps with some hip-hop, rock, or dance thrown in for an “edge” factor.
Despite its branding campaign beginning last month, Capital Xtra unfortunately sticks with this format. If you pay attention to what’s on the air in the U.K., Global Radio started a campaign for Capital Xtra in November, even though the station formally known as Choice FM was rebranded in October. The advertisements were a bit deceptive, implying underground and ahead-of-the-trend sounds when, really, Capital Xtra is simply a Top 40 station that sticks with the hits and pays a small amount of lip service to electronic, dancehall, and reggae.
I decided to check out the radio station, listening to various time blocks to get an overall feel. First, I turned on Ras Kwame’s 12 a.m. to 3 a.m. program, with Beyonce and Drake’s “Mine” being the first to appear. Granted, Beyonce put out a truly bona fide hit of an album just weeks ago, but the track’s slow tempo was about as far away from “dance” as you can get.
Kwame’s block segued into Steve Clarke’s segment, which picked up the pace but skewed a bit toward hip-hop and a bit of pop. Throughout, the tracklist reflected what you’d likely hear on this side of the Atlantic, only with a bit more Tinie Tempah thrown in. While the U.K. rapper tends to prefer dance backing tracks and the occasional EDM collaboration, it’s a far cry from being true electronic music.
Clarke, however, threw mainstream dance music fans the occasional bone with tracks like a house remix of Dizzee Rascal’s “Love This Town,” DVBBS’s “Tsunami,” the old school house-sounding “Everything You Never Had” from Breach and Andreya Trianen, and Afrojack’s “The Spark.”
For the weekend, I turned to Toni Phillips’ block. Dancehall track “Million Pound Girl” from Fuse ODG started off her 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday period, with Hardwell’s “Dare You” coming on not long after. But this opening appeared to be a false start, as Eminem’s “Berzerk” and Jay Z’s “Tom Ford” followed in less than an hour.
To make up for the dearth of dance music during the week, Sunday blocks are set aside for guest DJs like Laidback Luke, Hardwell, and Afrojack, with Avicii occasionally appearing on Fridays. We checked out one of Laidback Luke’s broadcasts from November 17. The DJ began with artists from his label and then transitioned into his own track – a collaboration with Martin Solveig called “Blow” – and music from more higher-profile producers. Frankly, this appears to be where Capital Xtra hides its dance music – and even then, it’s not particularly urban or underground, or all that different from what a producer would do on his own podcast.
The thing is, with Pete Tong on BBC Radio 1 and Evolution in the U.S., Sirius XM, and producer podcasts out there, Capital Xtra can’t even call itself dance music competition and shows just how AM/FM radio simply just doesn’t get EDM. Rather than tune in and remain hopeful for something better, skip this and head over to satellite.