I was watching "Good Morning America" and they had an interview with an Atlanta woman who said that her doctor told her that she developed an ulcer because of the stress of commuting to and from work each day. When you talk about scientific research in your textbook, you mention that research on ulcers found that they are caused by bacteria. What’s the story here? - David


David: According to medical literature, the woman is wrong. I can’t say anything about what her doctor said since you didn’t mention that he/she was interviewed and said that the ulcers were caused by the stress of driving. However, I can’t believe that a medical doctor would say this since the information about ulcers is already several years old.


One advantage of the scientific method of knowing is that it is self-correcting. Scientific researchers are always willing to discard old ideas, theories, and "facts" if new information emerges to correct the old information. This is what happened in 1997, when Dr. Barry Marshall from Australia published results showing that peptic ulcers (the most common type of ulcer) are actually caused by a bacterium called helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).


A peptic ulcer is a sore on the lining of the stomach or duodenum, which is the beginning of the small intestine. In the past, stress and emotion were considered to be a major cause of ulcers. Scientists now know that stress alone does not cause an ulcer, although it may aggravate the symptoms.  For more information about Dr. Marshall and his work, go to: http://www.vianet.net.au/~bjmrshll/features2.html.


Hey…good work on your part!

Unanswered Questions

Have there been any questions that no one has asked you yet?  If so, what are the answers to them? Nikki Landry

Nikki: You must lie awake at night thinking about the questions you send to me.  You're always coming up with something unique.  On to your question . . .


Have there been any questions that no one has asked me yet?  Hmm.  I'm not clairvoyant, so there is no way for me to know if one or more people wanted to ask me a question and never submitted it.


However, I'm going to take a guess and assume that what you are really asking is something like, "Are there questions that I think are important that no one has asked me?"  Is that what you mean?  If so, then, yes, there are many questions I can think of that no one has asked me (for this column).


The problem is that I don't think I would have the time to answer them, and what may be important to me may not be important to anyone who reads this column.  That's why I don't ask and answer my own questions.  I would rather answer questions that readers submit because I then know that at least one person is interested in the answer.


One more thing that may fit into your realm of thinking . . . I could write this column for my entire life and only answer a handful of questions from all the questions that exist.


I believe the number of possible questions human beings could develop is infinite.  However, I came up with a way to calculate a minimum number of possible questions.  My first assumption is that I am referring only to questions using the English language.  With that in mind, there are about 500,000 English language words, give or take several thousand.  Using a little math, I calculated that the minimum number of questions that could be asked using the English language is somewhere between one vigintillion (10 followed by 63 zeroes) and one centillion (10 followed by 303 zeroes).


That's a lot of questions, which means that I have a long time to go until I answer at least the minimum number of questions available.  I'm waiting.

Understanding Research

I’m a GM and have to admit that I read your column everyday. What I’m learning is how much I don’t know about research and how much my PDs don’t know. However, we need to know. What’s the easiest way to get more information about research? - Anonymous

Anon: You "have to admit" that you read the column every day? The first thing that comes to mind is that I feel like Barry Manilow who probably hears something like, "I have to admit that I like your music." Never mind . . . I’m glad you’re learning things.

One way to learn more about research is to read research books. The problem here is that reading a research book without explanations from an instructor is like trying to pull your own teeth. You probably can accomplish the task, but it’s difficult.

Another way is to take a class at a local college or university. The problem here is that you and your PDs usually don’t have that much time to devote to the process.

A third way is to hire a researcher to come in for a few days and teach a crash course. I have done this many times and I’ll give you one suggestion: Make sure that you do it away from the radio station or corporate offices. This eliminates the intrusions of phone calls, pages, and assistants who need decisions "right now."

A fourth way, I guess, is to send your questions to me.


"Uptown Funk" - Smoother than a Fresh Dry Skippy

Doc: There is an “Uptown Funk” video that shows the lyrics.  At about 1:47 of the video, it shows the lyric as, “Smoother than a fresh dry Skippy.”  Is that correct? What is a “fresh dry Skippy?”  The video I’m referring to is here. Thanks for your help. - Anonymous

Anon: Fresh dry Skippy?  Uh, no, that’s not correct.  The lyric actually is “Smoother than a fresh JAR OF Skippy,” referring to the Skippy Peanut Butter product.  It’s amazing what some people can hear in songs.  By the way, one comment from a viewer under that video identifies the error.

“Fresh dry Skippy?”  No.


"Uptown Funk" - Why So Popular?

Doc:  “Uptown Funk” is an amazingly popular song.  Any thoughts as to what it is about the song that makes it so popular?  Thanks in advance.  - James

James:  I have received dozens of emails asking about “Uptown Funk” and finally decided to include something in the column after I received your simple question.


The comments I have received about the song are all positive and people say they like everything about the song including the lyrics, vocals, uptempo beat, horns, and the overall “fun” nature of the song.  Most people say they can listen to the song over and over and not get tired of it, and this is also true for the variety of “Uptown Funk” videos.  During the past few months, I have been in stores where “Uptown Funk” was played on the store’s audio system.  In every case, store employees and customers immediately recognize the song and begin doing dancing around in the aisles.  It’s very funny.


During my research career, I have conducted hundreds of music tests and tested thousands of songs and can’t remember another song that appears to be so universally popular.  My guess is that “Uptown Funk” receives high ratings, maybe some of the highest ever since music testing started in the early 1980s.  I wasn’t sure because I no longer conducted music tests, so I checked with one of the leading music test researchers in the country and found that my guesses are close.  I was told that the song tests “at the top of the scale” with virtually all demographics (age, sex, ethnic background, and format preference).


In my non-music expertise opinion, “Uptown Funk” is popular because it provides so many things that people like to hear, and the videos show so many things that people like to see.  But since I’m not a music expert, I thought it would be valuable to find out what a real music expert says about the song.


Whenever I have a question about music, I go to one of my long-time friends, Dr. Ted Hatmaker, Professor of Music at Northern Illinois University.  Dr. Hatmaker is a music theorist and one of the leading music experts in the country.  He knows music from every angle and I have learned many things from him over the years.  I sent Dr. Hatmaker your simple question: Why is “Uptown Funk” so popular?  I asked him not to get too technical because space is limited on this column.  Here is what he said:


The question of why this song is so popular is complex.  It would help to know the demographics of this popularity.  I suspect that the popularity reaches across all demographic groups:  Bruno Mars and to a lesser extent, Mark Ronson, have significant followings among the under-40s.  The song “Uptown Funk” recalls music of the 70s and 80s Funk bands, and fans of that music, as well as others who, while not fans back then, have since reconciled with it, represent a large group of older listeners. 


The song likely bridges all ethnic groups.   While some groups may be attracted to the familiar Funk groove, complete with 70s style brass, other groups surely find an appealing music that might give them “street cred.”  The song’s popularity is also due to promotion by DJs, Shazam, and others in the business, and to flock mentality (those who like the song because others do).


The song itself has much to draw listeners.  The lyrics are fun, fast, and hip without being offensive, not so much for the purist, but for the wider mainstream audience.  The Funk groove is infectious, and the interplay between the beats and the syncopated vocal rhythms is intoxicating.  The call-and-response between the lead singer and the backing vocalists rivals that of a gospel preacher.  The song’s beat makes people want to dance, even for those of us who can’t.  The performance is very clean and tight, and the production values are of the high quality one has come to expect from anything Bruno Mars is involved in.


These features are certainly enough to make a song a hit.  However, one other characteristic the song possesses takes it to another level.  The song is divided into three verse-refrain sections and a coda.  What is special about this song is that over the course of each section, the intensity rises to a peak that it reached with the words “hey, hey, hey, oh!”  It achieves this by starting with just voice and percussive back beats, gradually the keyboards and guitar come in (“I’m too hot”), dropping out to leave the voices (“Girls hit your Hallelujah”), then initiating a crescendo as the band and brass enter (“Don’t believe me, just watch,”) before the peak.  Thus, each section comprises a surge that comes to an end, and is then followed by an abrupt return to the relative simplicity of the voice and back beat.  It is this gradual rise in intensity through each section that contributes to the song’s power and (no doubt) its popularity.


Uptown Funk calls up numerous attractive features of previous songs from the 70s and 80s, but what is unique, as far as I can tell, is this buildup of force that  generates a frenzy among its listeners and makes one able to listen to it repeatedly.


That’s Dr. Hatmaker’s response and I’m sure he could easily write several more pages.  My guess is that “Uptown Funk” is going to be the song of the year and is going to have staying power for many years to come.  The main reason for this is, quite simply, the song is fun to listen to and the videos are fun to watch.  As one friend said, “The song is just a very catchy tune.”  Now it’s time to hear/see the song again, so click here.

Urban AC Full-Service

What do you think about Urban AC stations adopting a properly dayparted "full-service" concept with more news, information, and features? The varied music in the format (Current/Classic R&B, Jazz, Blues, Gospel) is, of course, vital and is a strong part of the format’s appeal. But I’ve always thought that a pure 'jukebox' mentality does this audience a disservice. I feel that the Urban Adult/AC audience will respond to and benefit from good non-musical elements much more than listeners in younger demos. Your opinion? A public answer is fine. - Virgil

Virgil: A great question. It’s interesting how radio repeats itself. I can remember that the Beautiful Music stations in the 70s and early 80s were just jukeboxes. The typical comment was something like "Our listeners just want music." However, the stations were slipping in the ratings. We did some research and found that the listeners were going to other stations for news and information and entertainment.

Guess what? After the stations added news, information, and a morning show that didn’t sound like it was a remote from the county morgue, the stations leaped in the ratings ("I shoulda had a V-8!"). That worked for a while, but unfortunately for the format, all the listeners died.

So my answer is this: Why would anyone think that people who listen to Urban AC music would differ in any way from listeners of other formats in their desire for news, information, and features?

My experience with all types of radio formats (and life in general) is that a person or group is wrong about 99.99% of the time if the person or group prejudges another person or group or knows without asking what the person or group likes or dislikes. Want to prove this? Conduct a study with Urban AC listeners and ask them what is important to them when they listen to a radio station. I can almost guar-own-tee that these listeners will want more than just a jukebox.

Urban Information

I want information on Urban news and artists. Can you please help me out? - Chris


Chris: I’m not sure exactly what you’re looking for, but check this site: www.urbaninsite.com.

Urban Legends/Myths

How did the term "Urban legend/myth" come about?  Why not "Rural legend" or "Suburban myth," or even, "Midwestern farmland long-standing idea that seems to gather momentum as it's passed around?" - Anonymous

Anon:  If you have been reading the column for a while, you'll probably remember that I don't like to reinvent the "information wheel" when it comes to answering the questions I receive, so I'll refer you to someone else's answer.


There are several good articles about Urban Legends on the Internet, but this Wikipedia article is one of the best explanations I found.  If you go to the article, you'll see this paragraph about the origin of the term "Urban Legend" . . .


The first study into the concept now called "urban legend" seems to be Edgar Morin's "La Rumeur d'Orléans" (in French) in 1969.


Jan Harold Brunvand, professor emeritus of English at the University of Utah in the United States, used the term "urban legend" in print as early as 1979 in a book review appearing in the "Journal of American Folklore 92:362." Even at that time, folklorists and others had been writing about the phenomenon for a good while, although with varying terminology.


Brunvand used his collection of legends, "The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends & Their Meanings" to make two points: first, that legends, myths, and folklore do not belong solely to so-called primitive or traditional societies; and second, that one could learn much about urban and modern culture by studying such legends.


Why not "Rural," "Suburban," or "Midwestern?"  I don't know for sure because I'm not Edgar Morin.  However, my guess is that "Urban" sounds better.  And I'm sure he didn't use "Midwestern" because Urban Legends do not originate only in the Midwest.

Urban and CHR Rhythmic Differences

Doc:  Please explain the difference in Urban and CHR Rhythmic.  I have  been in the business over 10 years and think I know a little bit, but I must admit, when I listen to stations that say they are CHR Rhythmic, they sound like a Hip Hop station or even extreme Urban without as much R&B?  What's the difference? – Anonymous


Anon:  During the six years I have been answering questions on this column, I have received many requests asking for definitions and/or comparisons of formats.  In every case, I have to say the same thing—I don't know.


Radio format explanations are as varied as there are people who are willing to offer a definition.  A CHR Rhythmic radio station in one market may sound exactly like or exactly different from a CHR Rhythmic in another market.  The same is true for Urban, Country, Oldies, Classic Rock, and every other format.


Since there are no exact definitions of ANY radio format, it is virtually impossible to compare or contrast two or more formats.  A radio format is defined by how a PD (or whomever) defines it.  This includes the music that is played and the formatics involved in presentation.


But I know you want some type of answer and probably don't believe what I just said (although I think you really do since you said you have been in the business for 10 years and don't know the difference), so here is an attempt.


I set up a search for you that should provide enough information to support the idea that it's virtually impossible to describe the differences between Urban and CHR Rhythmic.  Not all of the references are relevant, but there are enough to prove the point.  Now…keep in mind that the descriptions and comparisons you read are written by radio people, not "average" listeners.  Most average listeners probably wouldn't be able to identify one difference between the two formats.


Click here to get to the search.

Urban Radio and Dance Music

Why is it that Urban R & B radio stations are quick to program ‘old school’ (70s and 80s hits) instead of newer music that reflects the same vibe? Is that what the research shows or is that the programming of choice of R & B PDs?

And being 33 years old, why does it seem that research targets people 10 years younger and 10 years older than me on average (or so it seems)? – JM3

JM3: Urban question: I would think that Urban radio stations playing 70s and 80s hits conducted a research study that identified that particular format. Much of the Urban research I have conducted shows that the people who like 70s and 80s R & B do not tend to like the newer music that "reflects the same vibe" as you say. (The music may reflect the "same vibe" to you, but not to many Urban music listeners.) Therefore, the answer to your question is that Urban PDs who program the 70s and 80s hits are more than likely following the path set by the Urban music listeners in their market.

Age question: You’re correct in guessing that most radio research focuses on people somewhere around 23 to 43 years old (actually it’s about 25 to 45 or 25-50). The reasons are: this is a large group of people, it’s easier to sell to advertisers, and there are more formats to choose from. The younger and older people tend to be more limited in their format preferences. (Notice that I said tend to.)

USA Flyby - Cool Photo

Doc:  A friend sent me a cool photo Air Force training squadron flying in a never-done-before “USA” formation over the control tower (HQ building) of Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.  Do you know when the photo was taken?  I think you should post the photo on your column.  It’s great. - Anonymous


Anon:  Yes, I have seen the photo.  In fact, I have received the same picture at least 40 times in the past few days from people who say something like, “You gotta see this,” or “This is really something.”  The photo is so cool that I thought I would include it here for those who haven’t seen it yet:



Cool, eh?  The only problem is that the photo is a fake.  Sorry, but check these out: Truth or Fiction and Urban Legends.  Don’t blindly assume that all the email you receive contains truthful statements, photos, or attachments—and this is a classic example.



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