Contemporary hit radio

Contemporary hit radio (also known as CHR, contemporary hits, hit list, current hits, hit music, top 40, or pop radio) is a radio format that is common in the United States, Brazil, United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, and the Philippines, that focuses on playing current and recurrent popular music as determined by the top 40 music charts. There are several subcategories, dominantly focusing on rock, pop, or urban music. Used alone, CHR most often refers to the CHR-pop format. The term contemporary hit radio was coined in the early 1980s by Radio & Records magazine to designate top 40 stations which continued to play hits from all musical genres as pop music splintered into adult contemporary, urban contemporary and other formats.

The term "top 40" is also used to refer to the actual list of hit songs, and, by extension, to refer to pop music in general. The term has also been modified to describe top 50; top 30; top 20; top 10; hot 100 (each with its number of songs) and hot hits radio formats, but carrying more or less the same meaning and having the same creative point of origin with Todd Storz as further refined by Gordon McLendon as well as Bill Drake. The format became especially popular in the sixties as radio stations constrained disc jockeys to numbered play lists in the wake of the payola scandal.


Mainstream CHR

Also known as CHR/pop or teen CHR. Plays pop, and dance, and sometimes urban, alternative, rock, and country crossover as well. Often referred as "top 40"; in terms of incorporating a variety of genres of music, CHR/pop is the successor to the original concept of top 40 radio which originated in the 1950s. Examples of CHR/pop stations in the United States And Brazil include WHTZ in New York City, KIIS-FM and KAMP-FM in Los Angeles, Jovem Pan And Jovem Pan FM In Brazil, KLUC in Las Vegas, KRBE in Houston, WIOQ in Philadelphia, WXKS-FM and WODS in Boston, WKSC-FM and WBBM-FM in Chicago, WFLZ in Tampa/St. Petersburg, WHYI in Miami, WNCI in Columbus, Ohio, WZPL in Indianapolis, and KDWB in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Adult CHR

These stations typically are hybrids of the contemporary hit radio (CHR/pop) and hot AC formats. This format contains a strong focus on current chart, contemporary and recurrent hits as well as placing a minority of older, classic hits from the 2000s and early to mid 2010s onto the playlist. Adult CHR stations play pop-friendly rhythmic, dance and hip hop titles from artists such as Rihanna, Beyoncé, Pitbull, Flo Rida, Britney Spears, Usher or Ne-Yo while still shying away from hardcore hip hop.

Examples in the U.S. include WKRQ in Cincinnati, WWMX in Baltimore, WKFR-FM in Kalamazoo, WROK in Rockford, Illinois, WKCI in New Haven, WZYP in Huntsville, KBMX in Duluth, WMXZ in Charleston, Sirius XM Hits 1, WNDV in South Bend, WIXX in Green Bay, KLTG in Corpus Christi and KZZO in Sacramento. United Kingdom (UK) media regulator Ofcom states: "where a format requires a contemporary and chart music service, the main diet must be of modern music, reflecting the charts of today and recent months. Older, classic tracks would not be out of place, but only as spice to the main offering."[1]

The adult CHR format is sometimes utilized by stations which are heritage Top 40/CHR outlets in their respective markets which have been in the format since the 1970s or 1980s or FM successors to former AM top 40s. See also: Adult Top 40, a US Billboard chart.

Rhythmic CHR

Also known as CHR/rhythmic, or CHR/urban. These stations focus on hip-hop and dance-pop. There are differences between CHR/rhythmic and the urban contemporary format; urban stations will often play R&B and soul songs that CHR/rhythmic stations will not, and CHR/rhythmic stations, despite playlists heavy with urban product, sometimes have white disc jockeys and will include EDM and rhythmic pop music that urban outlets will not play. KYLD in San Francisco, WQHT in New York, and KPWR in Los Angeles are among the most successful CHR/rhythmic stations in the U.S. and among the pioneers of the format.


Playing dance remixes of popular songs with perhaps some current hits from the dance charts. Pure dance-music radio stations (as opposed to CHR/rhythmic and rhythmic AC formats such as MOViN) are not very common but tend to have loyal audiences in the markets where they do exist. Examples include KDHT-FM in Denver, WPTY on Long Island, NY and KNHC in Seattle. See also: Dance/Mix Show Airplay


Stations with this format are similar in some ways to the adult CHR and mainstream CHR/pop formats, but also incorporate modern rock and modern AC titles in an upbeat presentation. Examples include KSXY in Santa Rosa, California and KKCK in Marshall, Minnesota.

An early version of rock-leaning CHR is "Rock 40", which was popular in the late 1980s. This format, developed by Joint Communications who servicemarked the name in 1987, is a young-male-targeted hybrid of CHR and album-oriented rock (AOR) that combines the formatics of the former with the music mix of the latter. After a short period of successful ratings, the Rock 40 format began to decline because it was too similar to conventional AOR yet lacked appeal among CHR fans who desired less emphasis on rock. According to Lee Abrams, a pioneer of the AOR format, Rock 40 was "too wimpy for the real rockers and too hard for the mainstream people".[2] Stations that previously broadcast the format include KEGL in Dallas, KQLZ (Pirate Radio) in Los Angeles, KRZR in Fresno, California, KXXR in Kansas City, and WMMS in Cleveland.[3] Rock 40 stations eventually segued to CHR or an AOR spinoff format such as active rock or modern rock.

Other variations

There are also ethnic variations, such as CHR/español (Latin pop), and CHR/Tejano (Tex-Mex and Tejano) which are commonly found in Arizona, Texas, California, and Mexico. In Greater China (People's Republic of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong), there is also Mandopop and Cantopop which are the top 40 variants in that language.