Move over Mariah, Celine and Shania, suddenly the Beastie Boys, once dismissed by radio programmers as too hip for the masses, are dominating the airwaves like never before.
The band's current single, "Intergalactic," is racking up radio airplay at a dizzying array of formats within the fragmented world of radio. Already a hit at modern rock and college radio, where the Beasties have always been embraced, the song is now storming the charts at active rock (which champions acts such as Creed, Korn, etc.), mainstream pop (Savage Garden), rhythmic top 40 (Aaliyah) and even crossover (Big Punisher). The fact that "Intergalactic" is a hit on a hard rock station like WAAF Boston, where Sevendust's "Black" is No. 1, and on hip-hop crossover Power 106 in Los Angeles, where JD and Jay-Z's "Money Ain't a Thang" is the top song, is an unheard of accomplishment these days.
It seems to be feast or famine for the Beasties. Ever since the band's debut hit single "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right To Party," which hit No. 7 on the pop charts back in 1986, radio has been relatively chilly toward the Beasties. Even the group's 1994 smash "Sabotage" only climbed to No. 18 on Billboard's Modern Rock radio chart, and, like most other Beastie singles, went nowhere at other formats.
"Intergalactic" is changing all that. "It's an ideal record that crosses the color line," reports Cat Thomas, program director at KLUC in Las Vegas, where "Intergalactic" is sandwiched between hits by R&B crooners Monifah and Brian McKnight. Thomas admits the fact that the Beastie Boys' Hello Nasty sold nearly 700,000 copies its first week in stores (1.5 million in just five weeks) convinced him the band had become a phenomenon that needed to be put into play. But just as convincing, he says, "was when you pumped 'Intergalactic' up at the nightclubs, people just went berserk. I hadn't seen an instant reaction like that since B.I.G's 'Mo Money, Mo Problems.' And the fact that "Intergalactic" does not sample a golden oldie for its hook, Thomas says, proves the Beastie Boys have, what they call in radio land, "a mass appeal hit." Who'da thunk?