clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Antiquated Tech Pop Lyrics Museum

A compilation of songs centered on beepers, emails, and other mediums of casual correspondence that have fallen out of favor

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Myspace Tom may have come out on top in the social media wars, but Myspace itself certainly did not. Still, for a time, pop music referenced the platform, just as various songs did in earlier eras with email, beepers, and … the Nextel Chirp. In honor of these comically dated bangers, Ringer staffers submitted their favorite pop songs from years past that members of Gen Z wouldn’t understand. This is the Antiquated Tech Pop Lyrics Museum.

Three 6 Mafia, “2-Way Freak”

Donnie Kwak: In light of hip-hop’s current Three 6 Mafia renaissance—no fewer than three hits in the past year reinterpret late-’90s/early-aughts Three 6 songs—one would presume that the Memphis collective’s catalog is ripe with more remake material. “2-Way Freak,” however, is not a likely candidate.

The 2001 ode to Motorola keyboard pagers is delightfully outdated, from the hook’s reference to “beaming”—users could point their two-ways at each other to transmit contact info—to the music video, which features members of Three 6 rapping from inside a two-way mainframe. (Male paranoia about girls rummaging through their devices, though? Hasn’t aged a day.)

At their peak, Motorola two-ways were used by at least a million people. “Some of the most passionate,” reported The New York Times, “are members of the African American elite in entertainment and sports.” Meaning, mostly, rappers: A two-way ringtone even became the foundation of a street anthem. At the time, the comparatively staid BlackBerry had only 380,000 users. But RIM soon turned two-ways into the telecom version of Betamax, and then the iPhone came through and crushed the buildings. Wait, does “DM Freak” have the same ring to it? Hmm, maybe it does ...

’NSync, “Digital Get Down”

Rodger Sherman: ’NSync figured out how to connect the sex appeal and bad boy charm they were trying to project with the growing popularity of the internet: Get everybody to imagine JC Chasez jerking off! “Digital Get Down,” off the seminal album No Strings Attached, is, with no exaggeration, an ode to cybersex. The singers’ voices are all Auto-Tuned, because future; the band performed the song by dancing in weird metal outfits in front of pictures of keyboards.

The chorus notes that even though their lovers might be “20,000 miles away ... we can get together on the digital screen.” (Note: It’s about 11,000 miles from wherever you are to your antipode on the opposite side of the globe. ’NSync were apparently having e-sex with people in low earth orbit. (“a/s/l?” “22/f/Hubble Space Telescope!”) JC is apparently using some sort of prehistoric 2000-era FaceTime, since he “sees you on the screen and gets to freakin’.” Justin Timberlake, though, isn’t quite so technologically advanced. He apparently has only a phone, which is “bouncing me from satellite to satellite” because he “loves the things you do for me late at night.” And it’s not even a cellphone! He notes that if he’s “not home,” you should leave a message—“the type I like to get back to.” It’s funny enough that this song is meant to be about “getting nasty nasty” and “freaky-deaky” online. It’s even funnier that whoever wrote it couldn’t come up with enough internet things to write about and included a full verse about Justin Timberlake getting horny with his landline’s answering machine.

Backstreet Boys, “The Call”

Victor Luckerson: The year 2000 must have been a glorious time for cheaters. They could use cellphones to flake on their girls with weak excuses and then blame the weakness of the excuse on the shoddiness of said phones. Imagine this exchange happening today to justify a one-night stand, when the quality of cell service is not dictated by battery life and people track each other’s nightly exploits across half a dozen platforms.

Shit wouldn’t fly. The answer to “Where were you?” can no longer be “... out” in 2018. You better have the name of an establishment. If you don’t have the name of an establishment, you better have an address. And if you don’t have an address, you better drop a pin.

Britney Spears, “Email My Heart”

Kate Knibbs: Email still technically exists, so I suppose Britney’s preferred method of digital romance hasn’t gone totally obsolete … except she wanted her paramour to email her heart, rather than her AOL account or whatever. This leaves us with two interpretations: Either Britney was way ahead of her time, envisioning a messaging system that bypasses screens to arrive directly within a person’s emotional reception center (or “heart”), or she was just confused about how email worked. (I can only imagine a heart took up more than 25 MB.)

Village People, “Sex Over the Phone”

Michael Baumann: “Sex Over the Phone” grooves with the power of the Earth’s rotation, because it’s a Village People song, and that’s what they do. But even this late (1985) entry into the Village People canon might as well be about carvings of ancient fertility goddesses. When looking up this song, I Googled “Sex Over the Phone” without including “Village People,” and phone sex is so archaic that the entire first page of results was Village People–related. Phone sex lines are obsolete in the age of internet porn. Hell, talking on the phone is pretty much obsolete. I’m so old I haven’t been single since online dating gained mainstream acceptance, let alone Tinder, Bumble, or whatever digital key party The Youths go to nowadays. The romantic implications of voicemail, pagers, and email—the technology of the 1990s, and technology that differs from modern technology in degree, not kind—are farther removed from the present than this red-hot but archaic Village People banger.

Gym Class Heroes, “New Friend Request”

Alyssa Bereznak: Say what you will about Gym Class Heroes, but there’s no denying that “New Friend Request” is a vivid description of online life circa 2006. “I remember when I first laid eyes on you / My man Tom introduced us but I was too shy to say hi,” raps lead singer Travie McCoy, in reference to—yes, yes, oh god, you guessed it—Tom Anderson, the founder of Myspace. McCoy then leads us step by step through an extremely thirsty (and maybe somewhat creepy?) attempt to slide into a stranger’s DMs, before we ever used that term. The experience is punctuated by a chorus in which he pleads his crush to click the “approve” button and end his anguished yearning once and for all. Between references to the “Top 8” and “Who you’d like to meet” features, it is clear that the members of this band were pioneering power users of this inaugural social platform. It’s a shame we never got to hear about the agony of their Tinder usage. But considering how poorly this song and video have aged, I suppose it’s for the best.

Destiny’s Child, “Bug A Boo”

Ben Lindbergh: Beyoncé is the rare long-standing celebrity whose approval rating and cultural relevance are far greater today than they were two decades ago. The best way to put her impressive staying power into perspective is to point out that she once cowrote and performed a song that included the couplets, “It’s not hot that you be callin’ me / Stressin’ me pagin’ my beeper”; “You make me wanna throw my pager out the window / Tell MCI to cut the phone calls”; and “I wanna put your number on the call block / Have AOL make my email stop.” Beyoncé aged better than every reference in the song.

Needless to say, “Bug A Boo” was not one of the Destiny’s Child songs brought back for Beychella. The lesson: Don’t construct a chorus around current technology.