Nokia Tune Dubstep Edition — Nokia Self-released; 2011 Worst New Ringtones
September 2001. My world shifted, and I’m not sure why. My thoughts — sure, call them that — were thrown asunder by nightmares of planes and jihad. But as a 13-year-old, transferring Jay-Z songs onto an MP3 player built from rare earth minerals I didn’t deserve, I wondered: Why Now? My thoughts weren’t on Afghanistan. I was considering my new phone.
The world. Your world. Friends, lovers, the back seat of a Saab. How had I found myself holding that silver bar? I’d switched off the shell, from blue to metallic grey — it was the early aughts, let’s not forget. Things swirled out of that phone as a world moved through tumult.
The Bush years. My first Nokia. What do you call crimes when the court’s as culpable? I threw my ham sandwich on the footpath and fired up Snake. Lunch was over. But the feeding had yet to commence. That dot matrix reptile was a lot like our country at the time — swirling, confused, always running into walls. God damn you, Cheney. I thought someone had texted me — at that time, our generation’s Pony Express — but it was just my mum again.
“I have to work late, take the metro home after practice.” Typical. The bourgeois order was funnelled through my Nokia daily, but belying all that noise was a melody. Digital. Cold–but refreshingly so. Ann Arbor lake water cold, not the coldness of the police state. Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo.
The Nokia tone was a ballast; the piping bleats of an underclass just opening its bleached eyes. It was universal. It was the womb. In its crests and valleys, we found a familiar call: Answer this, each Nokia purred, It’s your sister. Only the ignorant few called it beeping — I’m sure Seurat had his sceptics! It was Sputnik’s clarity, a telephone clarion akin to some national anthem for a culture not yet born. But it would be. And it would be undone.
“On the other hand, if there’s an underlying core of poetry that I go to, I go to the sea. I’ve lived on the sea all my life. I live on the sea in Cape Breton.” – Richard Serra
Some things have changed since those afternoons on the carpeted floor. Wars fought, debts unpaid. Dubstep.
To label dubstep merely a sonic movement is to call cubism an errant line. What sins have been committed in the name of occidental hegemony have found recourse in the harsh synths of London’s urban young. So what greater dismay could there be than to find this battle cry appropriated by the moribund corporate organ? The Finnish skeleton’s ruined it — this is Kissinger playing the saxophone.
The “Dubstep Edition” of the new tone (embedded above) — already cheapening itself with commodity parlance — mistakes familiarity for populism. Oh, the tropes are all there: the crushing bass, the suffocating synth maelstrom. But there’s no form. It’s as sterile and assembled as the 100 million handsets it’ll be preloaded on. Where lies the grit and triumph of the East End? Where do I hear the fingerprints of Skream on the wobble? Where is James Blake’s egg salad sandwich? This is no “ringtone” — this is a gravel heap of dreadful appropriation. No melodic tribute is paid to Nokia’s original, indicative of a company that’s lost its way.
The Dubstep Edition is neutered. The vocals creak. The bass, emasculated. The narrative, erased. Will I answer the phone when this ringtone harpie makes its cry? How could I? It’s a parody of itself, the open wound of a culture, betrayed. Today I finish my chai, and as one vessel dries, tears form. Equilibrium.
With apologies to Pitchfork