We’ve long surpassed the point of evolution where common people can still have a rudimentary understanding of how the newest technological advances actually work. You did not have to be a genius to have a base knowledge of how a car or a plane or even electricity functions. But now we’re surrounded by — and we rely on — science too advanced to even bother being impressed by it. Remember how cool it was in “Minority Report,” which was released in 2002 but set in 2054, when the pre-crime officers would manually manipulate the size and focus of computer screens? Well, we can all do that now. With our phones.
That said, I am still awed each time I experience the wonder of my iPhone pairing seamlessly with my car. I open the door, I sit down, I buckle my seat belt, I press the ignition button, and then the Bluetooth Fairy magically appears. And then the music on the phone in my pocket plays on my car stereo. It’s sorcery!
Sometimes it’ll even pick up exactly where a song left off the last time I was driving. Which is weird. (Imagine listening to “Gimme Shelter,” getting out of your car halfway through the song, and getting back in to Mick Jagger screaming “MURDER, IT’S JUST A SHOT AWAY!”) But still appreciated!
But then sometimes I am not awed. Sometimes I want to perform a seance. Or maybe just give the phone an exorcism. And that is when I repeat the pairing process, but instead of playing a curated playlist or one of my favorite podcasts, I am kidnapped into listening to U2’s “Songs of Innocence,” the unkillable neoliberal virus infecting my iPhone’s central nervous system since 2014.
There I am, ready to listen to Pusha T or “Still Processing,” and then Bono appears, like a haunted Irish pirate, to scream “YOU’RE GONNA SLEEP LIKE A BABY TONIGHT!” in my ear. No, Bono. I will not sleep like a baby tonight. I will not sleep at all. Not as long as I know there are goateed billionaire ghosts lurking inside of my phone. Actually, calling this a “ghost” isn’t accurate. Because ghosts can be really sleepy (like Bruce Willis in “The Sixth Sense”) or friendly (like Casper) or even vengeful and sexy (like Patrick Swayze in “Ghost”). No, this album isn’t like a ghost. It’s like a roach. Because each time I hear one of those depraved choruses, my spine chills at the thought of a dozen more hidden and unheard, waiting to infest my ears.
The haunting would be less harrowing if the album was actually good. But each song sounds like elevator music to Hell. And not the fire and brimstone Old Testament perdition. But the soul-sucking damnation of a never-ending networking happy hour. (“Don’t forget to bring your business cards for 40 percent off craft beer from 6 pm until ETERNITY!”) This album is a drink ticket for Zima. It sounds like misspelled nametags on lanyards. It should have been titled “Convertible Porsche” instead of “Songs of Innocence,” if only because “A Rich Man’s Midlife Crisis” would’ve been too on the nose.
The haunting would be less harrowing if the album was actually good. But each song sounds like elevator music to Hell.
I assumed that this shameless paean to late-stage capitalism would be easy to get rid of. “I’ll just wait until I get a new phone. That should take care of it,” I said to myself, stupidly, multiple times in 2014. I’ve gone through approximately 423 iPhones since then. I’ve lost pictures, videos, passwords, text messages and phone numbers during these upgrades. But somehow this album always survives. Always returns. And there’s no rhyme or reason for when it decides to remind me it’s still alive. Sometimes I’ll go weeks — months! — of getting into my car and hearing the songs I actually want to hear, and I’ll forget about it. But then it becomes sentient, senses I’ve let my guard down and decapitates me with the guitar from “Cedarwood Road.” This album is death.
To be honest, I’m terrified to delete it. At least now I know where it lives and haunts, and I can hope to contain it. I can study it, and learn how it feeds and breeds. But if I wipe it off my phone, what’s stopping it from infecting my watch or my TV or my toaster and screaming “EVERY SAILOR KNOWS THAT THE SEA IS A FRIEND MADE ENEMY!” each time I burn an Eggo?
Like Verbal Kint said, how do you shoot the devil in the back? What if you miss?