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Ringtone bangers: a journey through the classic mobile melody

Viral Twitter account @ringtonebangers selects the hottest mobile melodies worthy of the Ringtone Hall of Fame

Long before cellular advancement turned phones into pocket-sized supercomputers, there was the standard feature phone – now, commonly referred to as a ‘dumb phone’. Made up of fiddly press buttons and simple call-text functions, each block would come with its very own preinstalled set of ringtones – high-frequency sounds made up of short, ear-catching melodies designed to grab your immediate attention.

Technology has accelerated at breakneck speed since then, but these sounds are instantly recognisable, etched into our brains through relentless exposure. Take Nokia’s “Grande Valse”, for example, a simple composition, originally written by composer Francisco Tárrega in 1902, and later adopted by the Finnish company as the now-infamous Nokia Tune. In 2009, it was estimated that the ringtone was heard 1.8 billion times per day at 20,000 times per second, while a slow guitar version composed by Brian Eno was released in 2005.

Usually, these ringtones would be inspired by the sounds of the era. When you look at a lot of the stock ringtones from the early noughties, for example, you can see the influence of trance, R&B, or nu metal. There’s hints of videogame music too: “Many of these ringtone composers were inspired by video game music themselves, as I'm pretty sure many of them grew up playing them,” explains @ringtonebangers.

The viral Twitter account curates the hottest mobile melodies from past to present. With nearly 50k followers, it scours the depths of the web for the next jingle to make it into the ‘Ringtone Hall of Fame’. Two bangers are posted daily, which are then divided into ‘hardest bangers’ (ringtones that have at least 1k likes), ‘underrated bangers’, and miscellaneous. Each ringtone is then archived on a Google Doc, making the account perhaps the most extensive collection of mobile music out there.

But what exactly makes a ringtone banger? According to @fusoxide, the anonymous user behind the account, it boils down to listenability: is it a decent tune, or just another generic beep-boop made solely to grab your attention? “It must have substance and be enjoyable to the point you want to listen to it several times,” explains @fusoxide. “The vast amount of stock ringtones honestly aren’t bangers for this reason. While many of them are functional and work in context, would you really expect people to listen to old telephone rings on their own?”

“I try to avoid posting ringtones that feature overused chord progressions, are very simplistic, or are just unsatisfying and forgettable,” they add. ”I try to pick stuff that is similar to the music people actually listen to, as I have to sell the idea of ringtones being genuine bangers, and for many years a lot of people have overlooked this.”

Below, @ringtonebangers selects eight highlights.