A Station-surfer's Radio Guide

June 20, 1993

Let's start with AC, or Adult Contemporary. At the moment, this is radio's most popular format, reeling in more listeners than anything else on the dial.

AC is big on soft rock, song-oriented R&B, perky dance pop and ballads of any sort, with typical fare including Phil Collins, Gloria Estefan, Michael Bolton and Whitney Houston; in Baltimore, we're talking WLIF-FM and Variety 104 (WVRT-FM).

Then there's Urban, which is radio code for "black music." Theoretically, this means anything too funky for AC, but in practice it has less to do with hard-core rap and Southern soul than with the slick, new-jack sound of Silk, Shai, SWV, H-Town and Janet Jackson. V-103 (WXYV-FM) is our champ in this category.

AOR -- Album Oriented Rock -- is mostly loud and hard, like the stuff they play on 98 Rock (WIYY-FM). It's a dying format, but has held on with sufficient strength to keep Aerosmith, Coverdale/Page, Van Halen and Vince Neil in royalty checks.

Alternative is what used to be called new wave, with playlists favoring seen-on-MTV acts like Pearl Jam, New Order, Belly, Suede, and the Cure; think WHFS-FM.

Adult Alternative is a relatively new format that appeals to older rock fans with new music. It draws on some established favorites, like Sting and Neil Young and R.E.M., but also finds room for up-and-comers like Nanci Griffith, Daniel Lanois and Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Baltimore currently has no Adult Alternative stations.

Country used to mean hillbilly music -- Buck Owens, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard -- but has since gotten so slick that many stations won't play the oldtimers, preferring instead to stick with rock-oriented acts like Vince Gill, Garth Brooks and Wynonna Judd; here, it's WPOC-FM's turf.

Classic rock is essentially oldies for those who grew up in the late '60s and early '70s, with WGRX-FM being the local outlet.

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