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Cups (song)

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"Cups (Pitch Perfect's "When I'm Gone")"
A woman is seen with headphones around her neck looking to the corner. Above her, the words Anna Kendrick and Cups (Pitch Perfects "When I'm Gone") are in bold.
Single by Anna Kendrick
from the EP More from Pitch Perfect
Released
  • March 26, 2013 (US single)
  • October 28, 2013 (UK single)
GenreFolk pop
Length2:07
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Music video
"Cups (When I'm Gone)" on YouTube

"Cups" (officially titled "Cups (Pitch Perfect's "When I'm Gone")") is a song recorded by American singer and actor Anna Kendrick for the 2013 soundtrack EP) More from Pitch Perfect. It is adapted from the 1931 folk song "When I'm Gone", but rather than using percussion, incorporates a cup game inspired by Lulu and the Lampshades' 2009 viral cover on YouTube. Kendrick first performed "Cups" as a part of the 2012 musical comedy Pitch Perfect during her character's audition.

Republic Records released a remix subtitled "Pitch Perfect's When I'm Gone" for digital download and streaming in 2013. The song was incorporated into a mash-up titled "Freedom! '90 x Cups" that was released on November 21, 2017. It includes verses from George Michael's "Freedom! '90" and "Cups (When I'm Gone)". A full-length collaborative video for the mash-up was released on the same day.

The song was positively reviewed and reached number six on the US Billboard Hot 100, giving Kendrick her first top-10 hit in the United States. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the single triple platinum and it reached the top 20 in Canada and the Netherlands. It's music video, directed by Pitch Perfect director Jason Moore, was released in April 2013, and depicts Kendrick working in a diner and imagining staff and customers drumming their cups with her. Kendrick promoted the song by performing it on the Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Background and composition[edit]

British group Lulu and the Lampshades (pictured in 2010), were the first to use the cup game as percussion when performing the song.

"Cups" incorporates lyrics from the 1931 song "When I'm Gone", which was written by A. P. Carter and later recorded by the Carter Family.[1][2][3] The song was reworked in 1937 by J. E. Mainer's Mountaineer and was retitled "Miss Me When I'm Gone".[3] It has been described as an Appalachian folk song.[4] Since its first release, "When I'm Gone" has been recorded by many artists, including Charlie Monroe.[5] Lulu and the Lampshades was the first musical act to use the cup game as the song's percussion.[3][a] Their version of the song was uploaded to YouTube in 2009 with the title "You're Gonna Miss Me".[3] In 2011, Anna Burden covered Lulu and the Lampshades' version of "When I'm Gone";[3] Burden's version was uploaded to YouTube and went viral after being uploaded to Reddit, leading other musicians to record cover versions of the song that used the Cup Clap technique.[3][4] "When I'm Gone" was soon referred to as "The Cup Song".[4]

Anna Kendrick first performed her version of the song as a part of the 2012 American musical comedy film Pitch Perfect.[7] In the movie, the main character Beca Mitchell (Kendrick) performs the song during an audition for a college a cappella singing group the Barden Bellas.[7][8] Kendrick's character plays the song using a plastic cup and she claps the rhythm.[9] When Kendrick appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman in October 2012, she told Letterman she taught herself to play the cup song: "I saw this viral video on Reddit, and it's just this girl doing this thing with the cups. I thought the best way to spend an entire afternoon would be like watching this video 50 times and teaching myself how to do it."[10] When she appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Kendrick told Fallon she came up with Beca Mitchell's "Cups" audition scene.[11] The film's script originally called for Mitchell to perform the nursery rhyme "I'm a Little Teapot" (1939) for her audition.[9][12] When Kendrick was asked to show her singing ability before filming began, she performed "Cups"; the film's producers liked her performance so they wrote it into the film's script in place of "I'm a Little Teapot".[11]

Kendrick said she had no idea the song would be used for Pitch Perfect.[9] In an interview with Vanity Fair, Kendrick explained the process of choosing the perfect cup for Mitchell's audition scene:

"The director, Jason Moore, and I were like going around like collecting cups that we would just see on set to see like what would make the best sound for that scene. And we had this little collection of like a dozen cups to try once we actually got to that location and I could test them out on that stage."[13]

Kendrick recorded a 76-seconds-long cover version of "Cups" titled "Cups (Movie Version)", which was released on January 1, 2013, as part of the soundtrack for Pitch Perfect.[14] Republic Records sought to capitalize on the song's popularity and teamed up with Universal Pictures president of film music and publishing Mike Knobloch to produce a new, longer version with new instrumentation.[15] Republic Records and Universal Music Enterprises released a remix of Kendrick's version of "Cups", titled "Cups (When I'm Gone)", for digital download and streaming as More from Pitch Perfect's lead single on March 26, 2013, on mainstream radio.[16][17][18][19][20] The remix was released as a single in the United Kingdom on October 28, 2013.[21][22]

"Cups (When I'm Gone)" was also included in the 2015 sequel film Pitch Perfect 2,[23][24] in which the Barden Bellas perform the song as a ballad.[25] The ballad version of the song was included on Pitch Perfect 2's soundtrack with the title "Cups (When I'm Gone) [Campfire Version]".[26] A mash-up of George Michael's song "Freedom! '90" and "Cups (When I'm Gone)" was released on November 21, 2017, with the title "Freedom! '90 x Cups".[27][28] A full-length video collaboration was made for the mash-up and was released on the same day.[29] It includes the Barden Bellas and the top 12 contestants of the 13th season of The Voice.[27][28][30] The mash-up was later released on the soundtrack Pitch Perfect 3 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack).[28]

Musically, "Cups (When I'm Gone)" is a folk pop track.[16][17] The composition of "Cups" is credited to A. P. Carter and Luisa Gerstein.[31] The remix version of the song has a new bridge section and also features folk pop string arrangement.[16] It also had additional instrumentation added by American Music Award-winning music producer Ali Dee Theodore, Jordan Yaeger, and Harvey Mason Jr and was also extended by an additional minute.[31] Lyrically, "Cups (When I'm Gone)" is about a person asking their loved one to meet them and travel with them around the world.[32] Kendrick sings about leaving her hometown and traveling around the world. She tells her lover how lonely she would be without them by her side.[32]

Critical reception[edit]

Heather Phares of AllMusic commented; "Anna Kendrick surprises with some strong singing on 'Cups'."[33] Mile Raymer, writing for the Chicago Reader, said he "appreciate[s] the song itself" and that "the state of having a song that fits this long and confusing (on several levels) description has made the Hot 100 a much more interesting place for the past year".[34] Writing for Digital Spy, Ben Lee gave the single a positive review, saying, "we had [her] music video on repeat for an evening to practice the song".[35] Samantha Schnurr of Bustle magazine called "Cups (When I'm Gone)" an "incredibly catchy" song and said she was impressed with Kendrick's "cup coordination skills".[36] Jeff Benjamin from the television channel Fuse called the track "undeniably catchy" and praised Kendrick's audition scene, calling it an "awesome musical movie moment".[16] Allie Fasanella of Teen Vogue labeled Kendrick's version of the song "amazing".[37]

Douglas Wolk of Time magazine placed the song at number nine on his end-of-year list, saying Kendrick's version has a "terrific arrangement" and gets "bonus points for being a hit single that's just over two minutes long".[38] Marcus Jones, writing for Entertainment Weekly, put "Cups (When I'm Gone)" at number nine on his The best songs from movies of the 2010s list, saying it would go down as one of the "wilder examples of an unexpected celebrity hitting the Billboard Hot 100 off a standout musical scene".[39] He also said the song "cemented Kendrick as a leading lady and set the foundation for Pitch Perfect to become a surprisingly bankable film franchise".[39] Nicholas Howe of Screen Rant placed the song at number one on his Pitch Perfect: Top 10 Covers In The Movie Series list, noting its near-universal popularity.[40] In a less-enthusiastic review, Vice writer Alex Zaragoza described the song as "cringy" and said Pitch Perfect and its sequels "forced us [to listen to it]".[41]

Many music critics preferred the film version of the song over the remix. Stacy Lambe, writing for Entertainment Tonight, stated "Cups (When I'm Gone)" became a massive hit when Kendrick performed it for Beca Mitchell's audition to be a Barden Bella.[42] Chris Molanphy of Slate magazine said the "late-emerging 2013 radio edit neutered the starkness of the near–a cappella (save for cup percussion) of the original". He also said he would have Kendrick's "weird-America ditty any day, even if it's under a minute and you have to loop it to get it near song length".[43] Writing for Billboard magazine, Andrew Unterberger praised the original track, describing it as "totally charming", but labeled the remix as "mumfordized" and "needlessly extended", and said it "still hits one hell of a flat note".[44] Kelly Lawler of USA Today stated Kendrick's performance of "Cups" in Pitch Perfect is "cute and all" but that "it's really not all that special".[45] She commended Kendrick's "spontaneous performance" of the song on the Late Show with David Letterman.[45]

"Freedom! '90 x Cups" also received mainly positive reviews from music critics. Laura Beck, writing for Cosmopolitan praised the mash-up, saying it transported her "to a land where a capella is celebrated as the uplifting art form".[27] Cat Williams of Entertainment Tonight Canada described it as an "epic music mashup".[46] Alyssa Norwin of Hollywood Life wrote Kendrick is the "star of the video" and "looked incredible while showing off cleavage in a sexy black ensemble".[47] Chris Harnick of E! Online described "Freedom! '90 x Cups" visual as an "ear-pleasing music video".[48]

Commercial performance[edit]

Prior to its release in March 2013, "Cups (When I'm Gone)" debuted at number 93 on the US Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending on January 12, 2013.[4] Sixty-nine percent of its chart points were from digital sales while thirty-one percent came from streaming, and 0 percent came from radio.[4] With radio playing the remixed version of "Cups (When I'm Gone)", the song reached the top 40 in its 21st week on the Hot 100, rising from number 44 to number 36.[4] The track rose from number 13 to number 10 in its 28th week on the chart, earning Kendrick her first top 10 in the United States.[4] At the same time, "Cups (When I'm Gone)" completed the fourth-longest rise to the top 10 for a woman in the Hot 100's 55-year history; Kendrick was only beaten by Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats" (2006), and Faith Hill's singles "This Kiss" (1998) and "The Way You Love Me" (2000).[4] In its 32nd week on the chart, "Cups (When I'm Gone)" peaked at number six.[49] The song spent 44 weeks on the US Hot 100.[49][50]

By October 2013, all versions of the song had sold 2.5 million downloads in the US.[51] Kendrick shared her reaction to the chart success of "Cups (When I'm Gone)" in August 2013 with an Instagram video[52] that was captioned "How I feel about having a song in the billboard top ten for five weeks. #ItDefiesLogic".[53] It shows Kendrick looking around the room in disbelief before breathing heavily.[53] She also shared the video on Twitter, saying; "Just need you to know that I get it too, guys. It's very very odd."[52] In November 2016, during an interview with Today, Kendrick said she was staying at a church in Harlem, New York, while shooting an independent film when she received an email telling her "Cups (When I'm Gone)" had reached number six on the Hot 100.[54][55] Kendrick is only the second artist to have earned a top-10 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and be nominated for a Tony Award and Academy Award.[56] The other performer to achieve the same accomplishment is Barbra Streisand.[56]

"Cups (When I'm Gone)" debuted on the US Mainstream Top 40 radio airplay chart at number 40 after Republic Records remix. Around the same time, Republic senior VP and head of radio and video promotion David Nathan promoted the track by saying, "Anyone that has a preteen knows 'Cups'. Pitch Perfect is a cultural phenomenon and we're very happy to be a part of it."[4] The track later rose to number eight on the Mainstream Top 40.[57] "Cups (When I'm Gone)" rose from number 11 to number 9 on the US Adult Top 40 chart for the week of July 11, 2013,[4] later peaking at number two.[58] The song was most successful on the US Adult Contemporary radio airplay chart, ascending from number two to number one in October 2013 and becoming Kendrick's first track to top any Billboard chart.[51] Kendrick was the first artist to top the Adult Contemporary chart after the Lumineers' single "Ho Hey" (2012) spent eight weeks at number one, holding the position since the week of May 4, 2013.[51] She also became the first female artist to top the Adult Contemporary chart since Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" (2009).[51] "Cups (When I'm Gone)" topped the Adult Contemporary chart for three weeks before being displaced by Katy Perry's "Roar".[59] The single was certified 3× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting track-equivalent sales of 3,000,000 units in the US based on sales and streams.[51] It was the 21st-biggest single of 2013, beating songs by Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Jay-Z.[60] "Cups (When I'm Gone)" experienced similar success in Canada, peaking at number 12 on the Canadian Hot 100.[61]

The song was moderately successful outside North America. In the United Kingdom, the song spent two weeks on the singles chart, peaking at number 71 on the chart dated January 19, 2013.[62] In Australia, "Cups (When I'm Gone)" reached number 44 on the ARIA Singles Chart.[63] The song was certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipments of over 70,000 copies in the country.[64]

Music video[edit]

Background[edit]

The music video for "Cups (When I'm Gone)" was directed by Pitch Perfect's director Jason Moore and choreographed by Aakomon Jones.[22][65][66] It was released on April 12, 2013, via Kendrick's YouTube channel.[66][67] Because of the song's success, record company executives asked Kendrick to make a music video for "Cups (When I'm Gone)".[68] Development for the video began in March 2013.[15] Kendrick hinted in an Instagram post the music video for the song was in production.[65] Her post showed a photograph of an overturned cup in the midst of flour and dough; she tagged it with "#coveredinflour".[65] During an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Kendrick said she was not playing Beca Mitchell in the video.[69] Kendrick said she was not keen to make a solo album but wanted to film the music video for "Cups (When I'm Gone)".[69] She also said:

I agreed to the music video mostly 'cause I wanted to work with Jason again 'cause I'm totally obsessed with him, and because this idea of an entire diner full of people doing the 'cup thing' really satisfied the Busby Berkeley lover in me. I was really excited to come and do this music video."[69]

Summary[edit]

Kendrick stands in a restaurant's kitchen, cutting dough into biscuits with a plastic cup while looking at some postcards from places such as Scotland and Paris that are stuck to a refrigerator. Kendrick puts the biscuits into the oven, sets a timer, and dusts her hands off with an oscillating fan. Stopping for a moment, Kendrick stares at the cup on the table,[70] takes it and lightly taps it on the table. She starts to tap the cup on the table and clap the song's rhythm.[71] She puts the cup down and washes her hands while taking a plate of food from the chef and walking out into the dining area, where the customers start drumming their cups in various ways on their tables.[72]

The camera follows Kendrick as she collects dishes and cleans tables, before it zooms around her and backs out to a wide shot showing the diner's staff and customers playing their cups and performing the routine during the song's bridge section.[73] The camera returns to Kendrick, who walks back to the kitchen and passes the chef, who is now drumming with a cup instead of wooden utensils, and follows her back to the table where she made the biscuits.[74] She drums the cup on the table and sings again before the timer rings.

Once "Cups (When I'm Gone)" ends, Kendrick looks back towards the dining area, where the customers are eating and talking normally. She realizes she had imagined the incident and looks at the chef. Kendrick smiles and leaves through the diner's back door.[70][74]

Critical reaction[edit]

Writing for E! Online, John Boone praised the music video, saying; "Anna Kendrick remains amazing and we would not want to challenge anyone from that diner in flip cup".[74] Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Grady Smith called the videol a "beautifully shot clip".[72] In the The Wall Street Journal, Alexandra Cheney lauded Kendrick's performance, said that Kendrick gave a "whole new meaning to flip cup", and described the flip-cup scene as an "epic proportion".[70]

Live performances and covers[edit]

Kendrick performed the song on the Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live in 2012, 2014 and 2017, respectively.[10][9][75][76] "Cups (When I'm Gone)" has been covered a number of times. In December 2013, 1,500 Canadian students performed a cover version of the track. The performance included children drumming cups underwater, in a gym and in a playground. The performance set a new world record.[77] In January 2015, Jim Huish, a member of the Tennessee band Amber's Drive, performed "Cups (When I'm Gone)" with guns, which he fired at red containers.[78] On March 11, 2016, Mithila Palkar uploaded a cover version of the track to YouTube. She sang the Marathi song "Hi Chaal Turu Turu" to the track's rhythm. The cover became famous overnight.[79]

In April 2016, 11-year-old Cruz Beckham covered the track in an Instagram video.[80] During an October 2016 interview with MTV, American actor Ben Affleck sang "Cups (When I'm Gone)" for Kendrick.[81] In May 2020, Pakistani film and television actor Hania Amir covered the song; according to a staff writer of The Express Tribune, Amir played a golden cup, "effortlessly" as a percussion instrument. The writer also called it a "calm and decent version" of the song.[82]

Track listings[edit]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[64] Platinum 70,000^
United States (RIAA)[106] 3× Platinumdagger 3,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

dagger Since May 2013, RIAA certifications for digital singles include on-demand audio and/or video song streams in addition to downloads.[107]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The cup game is a children's clapping game that involves tapping and hitting a cup using a defined rhythm.[6]

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