I hadn’t heard Zane Lowe, as I mentioned before. So when Apple Music launched, with its Beats 1 streaming radio service, for which Zane is the flagship DJ, I was interested to check him out.
A number of sources had led me to the belief that Zane, at Radio One, had effectively been the new John Peel. Nobody can live up to that claim, I suspect, but to me it meant that he must have a particular set of talents and abilities:
- plays music of their own choice, free from playlists mandated by the station management;
- actively seeks out new music;
- communicates their enthusiasm to the listener;
- plays the tracks in full, without talking over the beginning or end.
I’ve now heard Zane on Beats 1 a couple of times, and he certainly fulfils the first three of those criteria. But he fails dramatically on the fourth.
The thing with Peelie was, he played the track. He respected it, gave it space to succeed or fail on its own merit. Certainly he’d say, “This is the new one from so-and-so, and I think it’s great,” or whatever; but then he’d let you hear the record. The actual record. All of it. The whole thing.1
Zane does not do that.
No, I’m afraid he talks over the records. And not just over instrumental intros or “chasing the fade,” either. I’ve heard him popping up right in the middle of a song with a word or two.
So when I heard Mr Lowe talking over the tracks, I tweeted with the #AskUpgrade tag, which is one of their feedback mechanisms:
#AskUpgrade Myke, if Zane Lowe is so great, how come he talks over the records (err, tracks)? Isn’t meant to be in the Peel mould?— Martin McCallion (@devilgate) July 10, 2015
They read out my question on the next episode, 45, I think. Make said I sounded “very angry”, which I wasn’t — just disappointed. And then we exchanged a few tweets:
@imyke Thanks for answering my Zane Lowe question on Upgrade. I wasn’t “very angry”, just disappointed, as I’d hoped for a new Peel.— Martin McCallion (@devilgate) July 14, 2015
@imyke One of Peel’s gifts was that he talked about the music between the tracks. (Which among other things made it easy to record them.)— Martin McCallion (@devilgate) July 14, 2015
@devilgate I don’t know if I’d call that a ‘gift’ If all you’re looking for is the music, subscribe to zane’s playlists— Myke Hurley (@imyke) July 14, 2015
@imyke No, “trick”, or “technique”, maybe. Thing is I’d like the talk, the enthusiasm; just not over the music.— Martin McCallion (@devilgate) July 14, 2015
And that’s about where we left it. I don’t think I got across my main point very well (140 characters is hard sometimes). But I’ve expressed it clearly enough up top there, I think.
Beats One is still interesting, and Apple Music has many interesting features. But I’m still looking for a DJ that knows how to treat records right.
Sometimes that was true even when “record” equalled “album”. ↩