Originally posted on Musings of an Inappropriate Woman.
“Do you know that song Telephone, by Lady Gaga?” I find myself asking over and over again, lately.
“Of course you do—it’s the biggest pop song of the year. Well, that’s how I feel at the moment.”
Except for all the drinking and dancing.
“Stop calling, stop calling,
I don’t wanna think anymore!
I left my head and my heart on the dance floor.
Stop calling, stop calling,
I don’t wanna talk anymore!
I left my head and my heart on the dance floor.”
Perhaps it’s because I just finished reading Kate Crawford’s meditation on noise and technology in the latest issue of Meanjin, but it’s only this week that it occurred to me that perhaps the way I’ve always interpreted this song (“Stop freaking calling me! I need some space to think/breathe!”) is the way Gaga actually intended. That as much as “Telephone” is about a) an assertion of independence, b) partying, c) nothing at all—just the joy of a good beat and melody—so too is it a song about d) the inescapable intrusion of modern technology.
“I shoulda left my phone at home,
’Cause this is a disaster!
Callin’ like a collector—
Sorry, I cannot answer!”
In her Meanjin essay, Crawford traces various historical movements to limit noise: against horsedrawn carriages, the din of conversation travelling through too-thin walls, the radio and the mobile phone. (I’m probably amongst the youngest of those to remember when owning one was tantamount to declaring oneself a wanker, something which only changed around 2000 or so.) She writes:
“In the early twenty-first century, there is a new kind of noise problem: networked conversation. This is not the street noise that floats into open windows, but it finds us nonetheless: via text messages, Twitter, Facebook and emails. It does not cease.”
In “Telephone”, Gaga and Beyonce make a similar claim:
“Not that I don’t like you,
I’m just at a party.
And I am sick and tired
Of my phone r-ringing.
Sometimes I feel like
I live in Grand Central Station.
Tonight I’m not taking no calls…”
This post feels very first year Media Studies, but I don’t think the leap I’m making here is that large. The key to Gaga’s success, after all, is her ability to tap into the zeitgeist, and I do detect a grimace on her face when she sings “stop calling, stop calling, I don’t want to talk anymore” in the final choruses after she and Beyoncé commit mass homicide.
Like Crawford, I’m no luddite, and I don’t believe that switching off altogether is the answer. I love my internet dearly, and I will happily talk to anyone who will listen about how my iPhone revolutionised my life. (The major difference? Lack of a need for forward planning due to constant access to Facebook, email, text and GPS.)
When Crawford described her tinny mobile phone “alarm clock”, I hummed the familiar tune to myself, and I’d probably be very sad indeed if everyone stopped “telephonin’ me”.
But damn if I don’t relate to Gaga sometimes.