Heartbreaking listening

In the home of the power ballad, desperation can strike at any time

Oh yeah, Heart 106.2, a station traditionally fonder than others of the power ballad. Its ideal listener has now firmly solidified into a dumpee in a deepwater hell of longing, gripping the sink as the waves of personal loss overtake them, then mouthing the words "You will be mine again," as they lug their belongings out of the apartment.

"How can I make you love me?" wail the Corrs. "Just get here," threatens Oleta Adams. "If not now then when?" begs Tracy Chapman. Occasionally a DJ interjects but it's not always happy news. ("It's dustbin day today in Hammersmith. You can get a DVD telling you how to throw away paper.")

Heart's big guns are the "Heartbreakers", a half-hour stretch of songs of bald desperation which can occur at any point in the day, but especially at 11am, precisely when the city is experiencing a sugar low and checking its phone for messages that will never come. "I'm forced to fake a smile every day of my life! I was so young! You should have known better than to lean on me . . ."

At present Heart is particularly keen on the young Welsh singer Duffy, who has a beautiful, broad, "kitchen sink" face, a face born to be nightly rubbed raw by Alan Bates in a damp bedroom. Duffy's unyielding voice goes through a person like insufficiently defrosted shrimp, but she rules when it comes to music videos in which she cries stoic tears in the back of taxis, staring into the deep middle distance to show that she's not really singing to us, but to all the men lining up to hurt her.

Duffy's on Heart a lot. And look, here's Hugh Grant in an advert for Marie Curie Cancer Care ("It's Hugh Grant. I'd like to talk to you about dying").

Late in the evenings, things on the station frequently tip into bitterness. "Because of you I'm ashamed of my life," hollered Kelly Clarkson the other night. "Because of you I'm afraid. Because of you I find it hard to trust not just me but everyone around me." Man, that's some baggage. We were reminded by the DJ to keep texting in with our tales of lost love.

Cheryl emailed to ask if her pillow would ever be where it was before. The tone darkened further, compulsively. "How about a round of applause?" spat Rihanna from the turntable. "Trying to apologise! You're so ugly when you cry . . ."

In the early hours of the following morning I came to during a conversation with a caller identifying her hottest newsreader.

"Huw Edwards?"


"David Suchet?"


"Jon Snow?"

"Definitely not."

"Trevor McDonald?"


"Who is it then, woman?"

"Andrew Marr."

An uncomprehending pause. "Are you married?"

"My life is complicated. I'm in a partnership, yes. With a man. Colin."

A request was made for Gary Barlow. I went to shut the window in the kitchen. The police helicopters were out again. Listen up, Colin. How about putting your feelings last for a change? Haven't you heard of compromise? No, we will not make the same mistakes again! We will not break! But - if you'd only give us another chance, how we'd love, love, love.

Pick of the week

Last Night of the Proms
13 September, 8pm, Radio 3
At last it ends.

Let Me Entertain You
13 September, 10.30am, Radio 4
John Sessions on the history of pre-technology popular entertainment.

Night Waves
15 September, 9.15pm, Radio 3
A rare interview with Philip Roth.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 15 September 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Inside Iran