One year after 98.9 FM’s country makeover — and subsequent rebrand — we look at how Seattle-Tacoma’s dueling country radio stations compare.
By Michael Rietmulder, Seattle Times music writer
Election season is over but Western Washington is still a battleground. Another showdown — one that cannot be won with red or blue lawn signs — wages on outside of Zac Brown Band concerts and during awards-show commercial breaks.
Roughly one year ago, a shake-up on the local radio dials saw Seattle country bastion 94.1 KMPS go soft rock after 40 years of honky tonkin’. In its stead, a new, separately owned station emerged shortly after to challenge Western Washington’s reigning country leader, the more-than-a-decade-old 100.7 The Wolf, for the top spot in your car radio presets. Months after Rock 98.9 traded Soundgarden for Sam Hunt, the Hubbard Broadcasting-backed station had a slight reboot, rebranding its newly christened country station as 98.9 The Bull this spring, promising to play more new country than its fellow animal-themed rival.
Battle of the mascots
An organization is only as cool as its mascot (take heed, future Seattle NHL team), so we’ll start here. Bulls are inherently country, evoking images of an angry bovine ready to be tamed by some 5 o’clock shadow in flatteringly tight Wranglers. Indeed, the wolf is a noble predator striking fear into the hearts of livestock owners. But you can’t drink beer while watching a guy named Rex with a groin of steel cheat death trying to ride it, so we’re calling this one for The Bull.
One of the biggest gripes about commercial radio stations is playlist repetition, a criticism neither of Seattle’s country pillars can duck. With either station, expect to hear Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line’s crossover megahit “Meant to Be” or [name any Jason Aldean song] enough times to question whether other country songs ever actually existed. Understandably, much of the modern country stations’ playlists overlap. But a tip of our Stetson to The Wolf for more readily throwing in the occasional “oldie” from stars of the past two decades, creating greater distance between Thomas Rhett’s latest and, say, hearing Chris Janson encourage mixing whiskey with Mountain Dew (the whiskey-mixin’ stops at Dr Pepper, Janson).
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