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Music, listener interaction, shows and disc jockeys. That sums up what KISS 98.5, the station voted No. 1 last year by NeXt readers, is all about.

It seems simple enough: The station's job is to play songs people like. However, a lot of hard work goes into each day's broadcast.

And how does the station decide what songs will be played?

Program director Dave Universal says: "We have two to three spots for new music each week. I get about 50 songs and have to narrow it to about 10. Then Sue O'Neil (operations manager) and Brian B. Wilde (music director) and I meet to decide which of those songs will go on air. In addition, we look at national charts, international charts (where Eiffel 65's "Blue" came from) and other stations like us across the country . . . there are so many factors to consider in choosing songs."

Once a song becomes popular, the work doesn't end. The station continually has to look toward the future to see what is going to be the next big song/group/trend.

He insists, though, that "it's hard to foresee one particular trend . . . what we do is play the best of each genre."

It may be hard to predict music trends for this year, but 1999 clearly showed the end of Top 40 success for some. Alanis Morissette and Jewel, in particular, haven't had great success with their latest releases ("Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie" and "Spirit", respectively). Universal thinks that the style the two singer/songwriters led has ended, emphasizing that most people want to hear "happy, fun songs."

There are some stars that Universal thinks will continue to shine, particularly Jessica Simpson and Christina Aguilera. Even country stars like Lonestar, Shania Twain, Leann Rimes and Faith Hill have been heard on Kiss in the past.

Listener involvement is also key to KISS' success. Last year's contest to win a concert by 98 Degrees brought an avalanche of more than 14 million index cards from area high schools.

The station plans to continue the "high school spirit" contest. There will be some changes, including a second prize and an end to the index cards. The station plans to unveil details in March about the contest, which will benefit charity. 98 Degrees might reprise their role as the grand prize, and if they don't, Universal says, "It will be someone (or a group) people know already." It can be confirmed, however, that 98 Degrees will release an album in May and tour this summer.

Certainly the most popular boy band has been the Backstreet Boys. Rumors have persisted that the fivesome will be coming back to Buffalo in February, but they are not true. The good news is that they will be stopping in Hamilton and Toronto.

Given the band's popularity, KISS will be giving away tickets starting in early February each day until the shows occur. A new album from the Backstreet Boys should follow in October.

The Backstreet Boys, along with 'N Sync and Britney Spears, are no strangers to the KISS 10 at 10, a show whose lineup is decided by listeners. At any time, you can call 644-9850 with your request for a particular song.

The requests are then tallied and ranked from one to 10. The order in which you hear them each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday night reflect the number of requests each song gets.

The morning show, airing from 6 to 10 a.m. with hosts Janet Snyder, Nicholas Picholas and Wease, is very popular with KISS listeners and requires much preparation.

Explains Snyder: "We have to know what is going on not only in music but also in our community and the world. We're at the station from 4 in the morning until noon."

There have been some highlights for Snyder in the various interviews done for the morning show: "Chris Farley was a touching interview; he talked to us two months before he died. He talked about his family and growing up. We gave his parents a tape of the interview after he died. It meant a lot to them.

"Adam Sandler is adorable and down to earth. He is real fun to talk to, as is Puff Daddy and Doug Flutie."

Universal has also met many stars. "The Goo Goo Dolls, Mariah Carey, TLC, Barenaked Ladies, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, 'N Sync and Celine Dion are all very nice. I also met Madonna early in her career. Out of all the music people I've met, I'd say I'm closest with 98 Degrees."

KISS' current DJ lineup is Van Dusen from 10 to 12, Chrissy Cavotta from 12 to 3, Donny Walker from 3 to 7, DJ Anthony from 7 to 12 and Shy Guy Shawn from 12 to 6.

Donny Walker and DJ Anthony both say it takes some time to learn how the studio works. Both DJs make it look easy, though -- they know exactly when to change songs (which are played from CDs) and talk on air.

Want to know more? Go to the Web site at

Gabrielle Grubka is a junior at Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart.

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