Take an upended plastic beaker, add a few finger taps on the top, a slight scrape on a kitchen table and some handclaps, and you have a YouTube phenomenon that is currently uniting great swathes of the world.
The "cup song", as everyone calls it, is featured in the film Pitch Perfect. It is so-called because a plastic cup is used to accompany Anna Kendrick's acappella cover of You're Gonna Miss Me by Lulu And The Lampshades. Kendrick is auditioning for a place in the college singing group. When she shyly leans forward to take a beaker from the judges' table and then tips the pens and pencils out, they're puzzled. She sits at the edge of the stage, places the cup upside down in front of her and pauses. Then she claps her hands twice, taps the top of the cup three times and begins to sing, all the while maintaining a clever tap and clap and slide pattern with the cup beneath her voice.
This accompanying rhythmic pattern is very effective and it would be easy to spend the whole day watching uploaded videos of young teenagers trying out their versions of the song (in fact, let's do that - the rest of this column has now been outsourced to China).
Once you've seen 20 or so of these clips from around the world it can suddenly seem as if everyone is tapping and clapping and singing – and frankly, wouldn't that be a fine thing? Aren't there times when a song seems, well, one doesn't want to sound pretentious (hey, it doesn't matter – this isn't me writing this anyway, it's my guy in China) but back in the day (very back in the day) Luke talked about the "unum necessarium", the "one thing necessary". To put it another way, ballads not bullets, surely.
There's something moving about seeing all these kitchens and bedrooms and living rooms appear before your eyes, all these sisters or friends, or sometimes just youngsters by themselves, addressing the camera and either performing their version with harmony or as a tutorial, while behind them the kitchen sideboards are silent with their kettles and microwaves, and in the bedrooms you can see the posters on the purple walls, the notes and cards on the edges of the mirrors -
You feel you've been invited into their lives for a moment and have become part of some lovely, universal song.
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