In “Cup of Coffee” by alternative rock band Garbage, coffee has again worked its magic in love. Unfortunately, it’s black magic. A cup of coffee is the accompaniment to a breakup.
“You tell me you don’t love me over a cup of coffee / And I just have to look away,” sings Garbage vocalist Shirley Manson. She admits she’s devastated. There are now “a million miles” between them. The universe has come apart, with “planets crashing to dust.”
The lyrics perfectly evoke post-breakup heartbreak and the obsessive behavior that often goes along with it. The narrator isolates herself from her friends. When she’s not just lying in bed staring at the walls, she wanders the empty streets hoping she might meet her former lover. She even smokes the brand of cigarettes he smoked, praying that he’ll call.
But she doesn’t take action to get him back. And no, they can’t be friends. She knows it’s the end of the story. “It took a cup of coffee / To prove that you don’t love me.”
The heartbreaking lyrics of “Cup of Coffee” are perfectly rendered by Manson’s vocals, which are both ethereal and emotional. Anyone who has lost at love can feel her pain — whether or not the romance ended with a cup of coffee.
Along with Manson, Garbage includes Steve Marker on guitar and keyboards, Duke Erikson on guitar, bass, and keyboards, and Butch Vig on drums and percussion. The band was formed in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1994, when Marker, Erikson, and Vig — all producers as well as musicians — heard Manson in the Scottish band Angelfish and invited her to join them.
The band had a major success with its first album, Garbage, released in 1995. In 1997 the band received Grammy nominations for Best New Artist, Best Rock Performance By a Duo or Group With Vocal, and Best Rock Song. “Cup of Coffee” is one of the tracks on the band’s third album, Beautiful Garbage, released in 2001. The album held the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums Chart for seven weeks and was named one of Rolling Stone’s Top 10 Albums of the Year.
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