On 16 February, 1980, “This Is It” by Kenny Loggins peaked at #11.
“This Is It” by Kenny Loggins is the first song I’ve discussed on this blog that I remember from my childhood. I don’t actually remember it on the radio in 1980; I remember it from 1982 when, I vaguely recall, it was heavily used in television commercials for WXRT, a radio station in Chicago. (Do radio stations advertise on TV anymore?) WXRT was an adult contemporary station, which is an oldies station for people whose long-term pop culture knowledge goes back no more than 5 years. These same people are going to absolutely love Wham! and subsequently George Michael, because “This Is It”, with its breathy delivery, vaguely self-affirmative lyrics, and faux-exotic loungy melody, is essentially a template for George Michael’s early career.
Who are these people, these people who gave Kenny Loggins 13 vapid top-40 hits in as many years? My guess is that these were people whose musical tastes were transitioning from what they listened to in college to what was being played in the registrar’s office at same-said college. Why the transition? Their reasons for listening to music had changed. They’re no longer using music as a mood setter for drinking, flirting, dancing, having sex, or whatever; now music is a mood setter for parenting, typing, shopping, or eating tuna salad. It’s a method for reducing tension, not increasing it. There’s always going to be a band of people making this social transition — new parents, people newly in the work force — but I think in times of high cultural volatility, it’s easier to recognize those people from their consumption habits than it is at other times. The early 80s were one of these dramatic shifts, as we saw last week with Blondie’s “The Hardest Part“, and the result is increasing specialization of radios stations, giving rise to stations like WXRT. Contrast to today, where most radio stations playing contemporary music are playing very similar playlists — this is a period of low cultural volatility. I hesitate to speculate who is the Kenny Loggins equivalent of this particular cycle and just relish the thought that this too shall pass.