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

Aug 18, 2013
Originally published on August 18, 2013 4:23 pm
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(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")

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?")

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)")

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")

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") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.