“Boom boom boom boom, I want you in my room.”
It was a lyric from a song that, until a cold winter day last December, I hadn’t heard on the radio since 1999 or 2000: “Boom Boom Boom Boom” by the Vengaboys, a sublime mix of catchy melodies, booming bass and stupidly simple lyrics, dating back to the days when Euro dance-pop was at its peak.
And it’s wretchedly embarrassing.
That’s the point, said Nora and JP Sheehan, laughing, when I told them how I first heard their now-defunct radio show, “The Guiltiest Pleasure.”
Nora is a 20-year-old junior at UW-Madison majoring in microbiology. Her brother, JP, is 22 and a first-year grad student studying plasma physics.
The two have been DJing various shows at WSUM for years. JP had an electronica show as an undergrad and has been preparing for a one-hour show of swing music starting in the spring semester. Nora played folk, independent music and oldies on the air during her freshman and sophomore years, and co-hosts a continuing fashion talk show, “I Hate Your Style.”
The brother-sister duo co-hosted “The Guiltiest Pleasure” during the fall semester, but are now planning to pursue their own shows.
“The great thing about WSUM is that there’s so much freedom that one can go from electronic music to guilty pleasure music to swing,” said JP.
Coming from a generation whose media options have mushroomed like no other, from Twitter to Tumblr, the siblings still see radio as a vital source in their lives. WSUM recently moved from a studio on State Street into a brand new facility with professional-grade equipment in the Lucky building at 777 University Ave.
If the hours of live programming per week are any indication, WSUM is thriving. The clamor for slots is so great that students are willing to take undesirable times, like an hour on Wednesday at 3 a.m.
“Usually we have about 140 hours a week of live programming,” said JP Sheehan. “It’s easily the best student radio station in the state. I have nothing but the highest hopes for it.”
The idea for a brother-sister show started, incidentally, with the Vengaboys. They wanted to do a show together, but didn’t find much overlap in their musical tastes (JP likes electronica and dance music, Nora prefers folk).
Then, while listening to the radio in their hometown of Milwaukee, a Vengaboys song came on the radio.
“He just mentioned he wanted to listen to that song over and over again,” said Nora. And thus the concept was born. A guilty pleasure is the music you’re too embarrassed to admit you like.
“The real test,” said JP, “is if you’re going to go pick someone up for a first date. The CDs that you take out of your car, that’s a guilty pleasure.” His are Kylie Minogue, Lady Gaga and other dance pop.
Nora's guilty pleasures are the pop-rock ballads of the late '90s and early 2000s, like Goo Goo Dolls.
"They're horrible, but I love them so much and I know I'm not the only one," she said. "They're the kind of songs where, if they come on the radio when you're driving your car, you turn it up but you roll up your windows so that no one knows."
They've never gotten flak from the other WSUM DJs for playing decidedly uncool music. There's a "ridiculously wide variety of music" played on the station to begin with and everyone is pretty accepting. "There aren't genre-based cliques or anything like that," said JP.
The siblings are already really close, they said, so working on the radio show didn’t exactly bring them closer. But it did give them an excuse to see each other at least an hour every week. Their only arguments were over guilty pleasures, and they enjoyed irritating each other with music.
“I have a small spot in my heart for surf rock, and Nora hates it,” said JP. (“I do! I just can’t do it,” she said.)
They decided not to continue the show because JP wanted to focus on his new swing music show, “Swing Set,” which debuts this week. He’s been collecting music for it, and has plans to air it in the style of an old radio show from the ’30s or ’40s, complete with fake sponsorship spots and “This Week In History” segments.
Nora is continuing “I Hate Your Style” on Sunday evenings, and said she’ll be listening to her brother’s “Swing Set” every week (swing music being an genre they can agree on).
They both want to host a show together again at some point.
“I can never stay too serious when I’m hanging out with him,” she said.
On WSUM 91.7-FM:
-- "Swing Set" with JP Sheehan, Thursdays, 9 to 10 a.m.
-- "I Hate Your Style" with Nora Sheehan, Eric Moody and Molly Crickman, Sundays, 7 to 8 p.m.