A commercial photographer named Jessica Crosby sent me a link to a music video she made and posted on YouTube. It’s just her doing an inspired cover version of “Cups” from the film Pitch Perfect. I admit, at first, the performance seemed borderline nerdy. But then Crosby’s earnest delivery began to grow on me. She has a sweet, almost meek way of selling the lyrics, and the cup/hand-clap part lent an eerie Children of the Corn vibe. In the end, after a handful of views, the homespun aspects of the performance grew on me to the point that I had to know about the cup thing: how the hell did she do that?
“I taught myself by listening and watching [actress] Anna Kendrick...it’s really easy to copy something you’ve seen someone else do,” says Crosby.
Otherwise, was this a hard thing to perfect? “It took me about three hours to be able to put it all together.”
Most challenging aspect of the whole experience? “First, I had to learn the cup routine, which I taught myself in a simple eight-count pattern. Second came the lyrics, which are in a 4/4 pattern. However, the lyrics are slightly off-beat from the cups, and they’re never where you would instinctively think they should be. So, the first step was putting those two elements together. Then came the hard part — harmony. I wanted to add my own harmonies. I had to reteach myself the entire feel of the song. I changed the key while leaving the original cup rhythm, after which I added harmonies of my own that were unique to my voice and style of singing while honoring the original song.”
Any recommendations on, say, the right type of cup for people who may want to try this at home? “It depends what you are planning to do. When I first was learning the routine, I was using a metal pencil holder. I don’t recommend performing or recording with that. For the recording, I used the same plastic measuring cup that you see in the video, except, when I recorded the track, I stuffed it with paper towels to deaden the plastic echoing noise.”
Plans to do any future cups songs? “Yes. I’ve been studying up on how to create different sounds with different cups and watching all the different things people have done, but I want my next step to be creating my own routine with my own lyrics.”