Adult contemporary music

From Academic Kids

Adult contemporary music, frequently abbreciated to just AC, is a type of radio format that plays mainstream and pop music, without hip-hop or rap since, as per the name, it is geared more towards adults than teens. AC is generally divided into 2 groups; "Hot AC", also known as "Adult Top 40" or "Adult Alternative", and "Soft AC", also known as "Lite". Some radio stations play only Hot AC; some play only Soft AC, and some play both. It is not thus usually considered a specific genre of music, as it is merely an assembly of selected tracks of musicians of many different genres. On the other hand it is believed that many musicians will include a certain song on their album or release a certain single designed to "cross over" and get played on AC stations (such as Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful", Avril Lavigne's "Complicated" or Britney Spears' "Everytime", all three of which charted on the Hot and Soft AC charts).


Hot Adult Contemporary

Adult Top 40 was an American radio format which was reminiscent of pre-1995 Top 40 radio before rap music became a staple on playlists. Adult Top 40 radio was created to appeal to a demographic that liked pop music without the rap. Softer rock bands with melodic hooks and singer/songwriters thrive on adult top 40 radio. Bands played ranged from Matchbox 20 to Sheryl Crow to Madonna. It evolved into what is now called Hot Adult Contemporary or Hot AC.

Today, Hot AC radio stations tend towards slightly harder rock music, such as Lenny Kravitz and Aerosmith, and may occasionally play dance hits, such as those by Paula Abdul, Kylie Minogue, and Nina Sky. Madonna's more upbeat songs "Music" and "Ray Of Light" were big hits on Hot AC, but were not played on Soft AC stations, which are more likely to play her songs "I'll Remember", "Crazy For You", or "Power Of Goodbye". Hot AC is slightly more alternative than Soft AC—Howie Day's "Collide" is a considerable Hot AC hit but is not played on Soft AC radio stations.

Soft Adult Contemporary

Soft AC is also known as "lite" music, and many radio stations across America that play Soft AC refer to themselves as "lite" stations. Sometimes, the margins blur between this genre and "soft rock". And a few "lite" stations, such as WLTW-FM in New York City, have actually started to mix in more "Hot AC" songs into their playlist as well.


Early radio stations played top-40 hits, theoretically regardless of genre although most were in the same genre until the mid-1970's when you started seeing different forms popular music target different demographic groups, such as disco vs. hard rock. This evolved into specialized radio stations only playing certain genres of music, and generally following the evolution of artists in those genres. One big impetus for the evolution of the AC radio format was the popularity of easy listening stations, stations with music specifically designed to be purely ambient, listened to while at work or otherwise in the background. Whereas most easy listening music was created by relatively unfamous artists and rarely purchased, AC was an attempt to create a similar "lite" format by choosing certain tracks of popular artists. The growth of AC was also a natural result of the generation that first listened to the more "specialized" music of the mid-late 70s growing older and not being interested in the heavy metal, rap and hip-hop music that a new generation helped to dominate the top-40 charts (this effect has also altered the Oldies format; as there are now two kinds of Oldies stations, those who will not play songs from after the early 1970s vs. those who will play songs up to the early 1980s while still having occasional 1950s songs in its rotation).

The music video channel VH1 began as an AC version of MTV. Originally, it was strictly Soft AC, as it strove to appeal to people who were in their 30s and 40s during its early years in the mid 1980's. For similar reasons as explained above with radio, in the mid 1990's, it reformed itself as something closer to Hot AC, during which time it began to play videos by Hootie & The Blowfish, the Gin Blossoms, Alanis Morissette, Melissa Etheridge, the Spin Doctors, Amy Grant, Ace Of Base, and some other artists that were slightly harder rock or more avant garde than they had previously played.

In recent years, VH1 has moved away from its AC format by becoming willing to play artists such as Britney Spears, Destiny's Child, Eminem, Jay-Z, and Snoop Dogg, all usually AC no-no's, more and more often. With this addition of popular hip-hop, rap, and R&B, VH1 (when it plays videos) most closely resembles top 40 radio now. Led by Toronto powerhouse CHUM-FM, Canadian Hot AC radio has also taken steps towards a similarly more diverse and top 40-inclusive musical position. Part of the reason why more and more Hot AC stations are forced to change is that less and less new music fits their bill. Most new rock is too alternative for mainstream radio, including Hot AC, and only gets played on Modern Rock radio; and most new pop is now influenced heavily by techno or hip-hop, in an attempt to become club and rhythmic crossover hits, if not featuring guest vocals from rappers. Soft AC, however, which has never minded keeping songs in high rotation literally for years in some cases, and plays a larger amount of older music, especially classic R&B, soul, and '60s and '70s music, than Hot AC, does not appear necessarily to be facing similar pressures to expand its format. Although, more and more recently, several Soft AC stations have begun to add more guitar-driven, but still relatively quiet, music into their playlists, such as "Broken" by Seether, "Wherever You Will Go" by The Calling, "My Immortal" by Evanescence, and "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" by Aerosmith, somewhat resembling the Hot AC stations of the 1990s. In this sense, the Soft AC format may soon be facing the demographic pressures that the "Big Band" format faced in the 1980's and 1990's and the Oldies format is starting to face today and as a result one may see Soft AC less on over-the-air radio and more on satellite radio systems.

Also in response to the pressure on Hot AC, a third kind of AC format has cropped up among American radio recently. "Rhythmic AC", in addition to playing all the popular Hot and Soft AC music, past and present, places a heavy emphasis on disco as well as 1980s and '90s dance hits, such as those by Amber, C&C Music Factory and Black Box, and includes dance remixes of pop songs, such as the Soul Solution Mix of Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart". The format also occasionally features popular '80s and early '90s rap songs that were popular mainstream, rhythmic, or club hits. New York City's New Mix 102.7 is a popular example of this evolving format, which is sometimes called "Classic Dance" instead.

List of Artists who have had AC Hits or Typically Receive AC Airplay

List of Artists Who Have Had Soft AC Hits Or Typically Receive Soft AC Airplay:

List of Artists Who Have Had Hot AC Hits Or Typically Receive Hot AC Airplay:

See also

External links


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