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Best 10 Apps for Classic Rock Radio
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Classic Rock Radio

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Classic rock radio is a type of station that predominantly plays popular favorites in the rock genre. The songs mostly date from the last four decades of the 20th century.

Classic rock radio is a term commonly used to denote a type of station that predominantly plays rock music from the mid-1960s to the late 1990s. The focus is on popular numbers which place this type of programming into the more commercial niche. Such music is commonly enjoyed in the car or at work as a steady stream of classic hits provides a soundtrack for everyday activities. This type of repertoire has its roots in the album-oriented rock (AOR) format of the 1970s. Blues-rock and hard rock are perhaps the most prominent subgenres, with male singers dominating both.

Classic rock radio stations traditionally cater to the baby boomer audience and have been a permanent fixture for several decades. More recently, the pendulum has begun to swing toward the younger generation as more people in their 20s and 30s turn to discover these older hits. Coupled with YouTube and streaming services, the format has generated an interest in the style and helped revive its aesthetics in the modern world.

Rock music is arguably the most important genre of the 20th century. It arose in the 1950s, first under the name of rock and roll. Its roots lie in blues, gospel and, to a lesser extent, country music. It later morphed into a range of different styles, many of which are now barely related to each other. The initial creative impulse came from pioneers such as Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Elvis Prestley in the US, followed by The Beatles in the UK which launched the so-called British invasion and cemented the status of the genre on both sides of the Atlantic. This could also be considered the beginning of classic rock in its purest form.

Led Zeppelin and Queen followed in their footsteps, especially when it came to innovation. James Brown and Ike & Tina Turner, on the other hand, shifted the focus more toward R&B. During the 70s and the 80s, many other subgenres appeared on the scene, including hard rock, metal, punk, new wave, and goth - each driven by a heavy guitar sound. In the 90s, grunge and alternative rock marked the end of what is considered the "classic" era, ushering the way for a number of indie artists. Over time, stylistic overlaps and cross-pollination occurred between various genres - the already mentioned R&B, folk, classical as well as country music.

Since the days of FM and AM radio, classic rock stations have developed and retained a formula that has proven successful. They usually play music recorded between 1964 and the mid to late 1990s, eschewing confrontational and politically charged themes, instead focusing on a more friendly image and romantic aesthetics. The Beatles, Queen, AC/DC and Deep Purple feature heavily on the playlists, as do Led Zeppelin and The Eagles. The Rolling Stones are another staple, while the harder sound of The Cult or the gothic aesthetics of The Cure will appear only sporadically. Punk is almost completely absent.

The programming remains largely Anglo-centric with rare forays into Scandinavian music. The latter are included only by stations that also play metal and other more niche styles. Still, most classic rock radio will focus exclusively on the "safe" genres, excluding anything that might be deemed extreme or confrontational. Many stations are still hesitant to include most grunge or alternative rock artist for this specific reason, even if many indie rock bands have made their way onto the playlists.

Classic rock radio aims to appeal to a wider audience. High listener recognition and identification are valued assets that make these stations a go-to place to hear old favorites. Some music enthusiasts have named this the soft classic approach. It is a winning formula that has required very few adjustments over the years. Still, classic rock radio has also shown to have a few drawbacks. The format heavily favors older, familiar works, leaving little room for musical exploration or showcasing of younger talent. 

It has also been criticized for being almost exclusively focused on white male acts from the Anglosphere, self-aggrandizement, and politically undemanding ideologies. Some sociologists have gone so far as to deem it politically regressive. Despite all this, its non-offensive stance and romantically oriented lyrics retain the attention of the large segment of the public. Even today, the average classic rock channel will usually gather a large audience rivaling that of pop or hip hop music.

The new millennium has brought little change to the tried and tested programming. Still, from a purely technological point of view, radio in general and classic rock radio, in particular, have gone through revolutionary change. The rise of the Internet has allowed a much wider audience to access many different styles of music but also to cluster around familiar themes and common grounds. Classic rock, catering to a wide demographic, has retained its stronghold and has worked quite well with the advent of online streaming and downloads to create a new audience for the genre.

The app format, in particular, has made it possible for users to listen to their favorite tracks on their smartphones wherever they are, with or without radio or mobile signal. Software such as iHeartRadio and iTunes has made it extremely easy for listeners to discover new material and explore any genre. Paradoxically enough, many people continuously return to familiar classics, helping the radio format retain much of its appeal. Creating a playlist requires an effort but tuning in to your favorite program while driving is a sure way to hear the best without even trying.

Best 10 Apps for Classic Rock Radio

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