Apple launched its much-hyped Beats 1 radio station on Tuesday (June 30) with the debut show by British radio legend Zane Lowe. And, as with any debut, there were some surprises, some greatness and some unexpected moments in the first hour.
Twenty minutes before the official ribbon-cutting, Lowe could be heard checking his mic, calling out to some guy named "Jason" and making sure "everything's good" with London as Brian Eno's iconic chill masterpiece "Ambient 1: Music for Airports" filled the virtual airwaves. (Lowe had complained in a New York Times story this week that studio microphones weren't working properly.)
"All right man, gotta kick things off at some point," Lowe said at the crack of noon, breaking the (near) silence. The DJ said he's been thinking about the first song he should play for months, testing out the equipment to a particular track and cutting demos to see how it would fly. "It's not about fanfare," he said. "It's about quality and consistency. We're Beats 1, we're worldwide and from now on we're always on." He then queued up the rollicking "Spring King" from Manchester's City, singing along at points like a hyped club DJ.
And who embodies creativity more than Beck? Nobody, so Lowe dropped the digital needle on the two turntable king's new song, "Dreams." He also read off a list of global listeners who are already on board, from his hometown of Auckland to Idaho Falls, Chile, Barcelona, Ukraine, London, Philadelphia and Antwerp.
One thing was clear right away: American audiences are going to get a hard listen to Lowe's eclectic taste, so say hello to English grime rapper Skepta, whose "Shutdown" single was probably new to many ears.
The good news/bad news came pretty early into Lowe's maiden voyage: No guests, no interviews, nothing but music for the first 24 hours, apparently.
But Lowe promoted a big chat with Eminem on Wednesday, so that was something. Lowe's energy was truly infectious as he got jacked to play AC/DC's "For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)," a classic from the old school rockers who just made their back catalog available for download and streaming.
At half past every hour on the hour, Lowe said he'll be playing a "World Record," and on Tuesday it was the exclusive debut of Pharrell's latest, "Freedom," the jazzy track the super-producer debuted at the Glastonbury Festival over the weekend. Because he admittedly has no chill sometimes, Lowe went ahead and played it a second time in a row.
He cruised toward the end of his first hour with songs from Hudson Mowhawke, Courtney Barnett, the Chemical Brothers, Bully and the song that Lowe said you need to know if you don't already know, Shamir's "On the Regular."
Taking advantage of everyone who downloaded Apple Music right away, he played his first "World First" near the end of the hour, the chill R&B jam "Weight In Gold" from Los Angeles' buzz act Gallant. He finished out the hour with Chet Faker's "Bend," making for one of the most eclectic 60 minutes of music as you're likely to hear on any major radio station in the nation.
Lowe's on the air until 2 p.m. EST, when the action switches to New York for an hour, and then to London for British DJ Julie Adenuga's two-hour show. The nighttime will bring the debut of "St. Vincent's Mixtape Delivery Service" at 10 p.m. EST.