A Year After Its Debut, The Song 'Cups' Becomes A Hit

Anna Kendrick's version of the song "Cups" is the number six song in the country right now, even though the movie the song was originally featured in came out last year. So just how did the song become such a phenomenon? Weekends on All Things Considered guest host Don Gonyea and Vulture's Amanda Dobbins help explain the evolution of the song.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

(SOUNDBITE OF CUPS GAME)

DON GONYEA, HOST:

Does that sound familiar? You may recognize "Cups" as a rhythmic game from your childhood or from the song "Cups" which is on Billboard's hot 100 as the number six song in the country right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CUPS")

ANNA KENDRICK: (Singing) When I'm gone. When I'm gone. You're gonna miss me when I'm gone.

GONYEA: That's Anna Kendrick in a version of the song from the movie "Pitch Perfect," which came out last year. Since then, it's blown up. Why is it so popular all of a sudden?

AMANDA DOBBINS, WRITER: The original version of the song was actually called "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?" And it is a 1928 recording by the original Carter family, the very first generation.

GONYEA: That's Amanda Dobbins. She's written about the "Cups'" phenomenon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WILL YOU MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE?")

THE CARTER FAMILY: (Singing) Will you miss me, will you miss me when I'm gone.

J.E. MAINERS MOUNTAINEERS: (Singing) You're gonna miss me by walk, you're gonna miss me by my talk. Oh, I know you will miss me when I'm gone.

GONYEA: Pretty soon after that, a group called J.E. Mainers Mountaineers - you're hearing them now - reworked the song. But where does the mashup of "When I'm Gone," now known as the "Cups" song, and the old "Cups" game come in? In 2009, a British band named Lulu and the Lampshades made this video combining the two.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CUPS (WHEN I'M GONE)")

LULU AND THE LAMPSHADES: (Singing) When I'm gone. When I'm gone. When I'm gone. When I'm gone. You're gonna miss me when I'm gone. You're gonna miss me by my hair, you're gonna miss me everywhere. And I know that you will miss me when I'm gone.

GONYEA: And from there, it didn't take long. A woman named Anna Burden saw that video and made her own.

ANNA BURDEN: And it was this version that became instantly viral.

GONYEA: Anna Kendrick saw that video, learned it, and it became part of the movie. And this year, the longer, radio-friendly version of the song that you're probably most familiar with was released.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CUPS")

KENDRICK: (Singing) I got my ticket for the long way round, the one with the prettiest of views.

GONYEA: I first heard this at a wedding back home this summer. And, of course, kids and adults have been practicing the game nonstop.

OK. From - wait, from where? From five?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: So, five.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: From five.

GONYEA: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: OK.

GONYEA: Clap, up...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Hit...

GONYEA: ...hit, down. And I'm clearly still perfecting the routine.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CUPS")

KENDRICK: (Singing) I got my ticket for the long way round two bottles of whiskey for the way. And I sure would like some sweet company...

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.