Star 94 shifts to more upbeat rhythmic pop from the 1980s to now

The new Star 94 logo at Star 94 studios. CR: Kannon
Caption
The new Star 94 logo at Star 94 studios. CR: Kannon

Credit: Kannon

Credit: Kannon

For decades, the station avoided Notorious B.I.G. and Eve. Not anymore.

A week after dropping most of its morning show, Star 94 has shifted its music mix to feature more rhythmic dance pop hits and will reach back to the 1980s for the first time in many years.

It’s now dubbed “The New Star 94: The Rhythm of ATL.”

The music mix is like a merger of elements of rival pop station B98.5 and classic hip-hop station OG 97.9.

At 3 p.m., the station reintroduced itself with Michael Jackson’s 1984 hit “Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," then added hits from the 1990s (Notorious B.I.G.'s “'Mo Money, Mo Problems”), 2000s (Eve’s “Let Me Blow Ya Mind") and the 2010s (Rihanna’s “We Found Love”) as well as some current songs such as Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Stop Now" and the Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights.”

So far, the 1980s hits are all familiar songs that Star played when it was 94Q including Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun," Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U.” During the 1990s, Star avoided many of the more hip-hop- and R&B-leaning hits that this new version is now playing, such as Aaliyah’s “Back & Forth” and Naughty by Nature’s “O.P.P.”

The reality is Star’s younger suburban female target audience is now more receptive to those songs than the comparable folks they courted 20 to 30 years ago. Hip-hop has become an integral part of the pop world now and all of those 1990s songs are heard on other stations in town, especially O.G. 97.9.

Here is how Star explained the shift on its website, making a veiled reference to its top 40 rivals Power 96.1, B98.5 and Q99.7: “A lot of time has passed and it occurred to us. A lot of radio stations in Atlanta sound the same. Like when you flip through the stations and three of them are playing the same song at the same time. So we hit the streets and asked Atlantans exactly what they crave. The answer? You want to feel good. You want something that surprises you! You want a rhythm that is unique and diverse... just like Atlanta. We feel like a rhythm that moved us back in the day can co-exist with the rhythms that move us today. Sometimes, things that don’t seem like they go together....do.”

Jenn Hobby, who lost morning team members Mark Owens and Curtis Slade last week, is the only personality featured on the website right now, but Kannon is expected to stay.

Management changed the name to Star 94.1 a couple of years but have now returned to Star 94, the name the station has had since 1989.

Star 94 (WSTR-FM) has garnered passable ratings in recent years but regularly lagged behind its pop rivals. In August, the station drew a 2.1 share, good for 17th place overall, behind Power (2.9), Q99.7 (3.2) and B98.5 (4.5.) In the target female 25-54 demo, the station actually pulled in a smaller share: 2.0, good for 18th place vs. B98.5 (6.1), Q100 (4.6) and Power (3.2).

Lance Venta, who tracks radio station formats for Radio Insight, said Star’s format is relatively unusual nationwide. In radio parlance, it’s dubbed “rhythmic adult contemporary.”

“Star is still targeting the same 25-54 female,” Venta said. “Maybe now focusing a little more on the older side of that with lots of music that will be unique to it.”

The closest format to what Star is doing in Atlanta in the past was Groove 105.7 in the early 2010s, he noted.

New York City for years has had a dance-heavy format called WKTU-FM, which is plays far more current tunes than this new version of Star.

Here is the 8 p.m. hour on its first day of launch, which was tracked by Mediabase 24/7:

8 p.m. “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” Gap Band, 1982

8:04 p.m. “Leave (Get Out) JoJo 2004

8:08 p.m. “Emotions” Mariah Carey 1991

8:18 p.m. “Don’t Be Cruel” Bobby Brown 1988

8:23 p.m. “Rather Be” Clean Bandit 2014

8:26 p.m. “I’m Your Baby Tonight” Whitney Houston 1990

8:30 p.m. “Ms. Jackson” Outkast 2000

8:34 p.m. “Ain’t No Stoppin' Us Now” McFadden & Whitehead 1979

8:38 p.m. “My Boo” Ghost Town DJ’s 1996

8:42 p.m. “One More Time” Daft Punk 2000

8:48 p.m. "Part of Me' Katy Perry 2012

8:54 p.m. “Now That We Found Love” Heavy D & The Boyz 1991

8:58 p.m. “Good Vibrations” Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch 1991

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