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Songs About Coffee: The Hit Parade

Coffee is always a hit. Sometimes it's a hit for songwriters, too, as we see in our latest installment of songs about coffee... Suzanne Vega: Tom's Diner (DNA Remix) Some artists dread the sophomore slump. Suzanne Vega's second album, however, spawned the hit single "Luka," and the album met with commercial and critical success. The album would have a second life of sorts a couple of years later, thanks to the album's lead track, the a capella "Tom's Diner." A slice of life that owed as much to Lou Reed as it did to Vega's own folky roots, the song was a minor hit that received some airplay, and was in occasional rotation on MTV. That would change in 1990, when British duo DNA filled in the blank spaces in Vega's original with sparse beats and textures. The remixed version became a worldwide smash. The song begins with the singer "waiting at the counter for the man to pour the coffee," and unpacks her observations once the coffee's poured, from the diner's patrons, the horoscopes, the bells of the cathedral, and the rain, until "I finish up my coffee It's time to catch the train"

Crash Test Dummies, "Afternoons and Coffee Spoons" (from "God Shuffled His Feet") Literature and rock music make interesting bedmates, whether it's Sting's Nabokov allusions in "Don't Stand So Close To Me," They Might Be Giants' shout out to Greek mythology in "Birdhouse In Your Soul," or The Cure's oft-misunderstood appropriation of Camus in "Killing an Arab." Therefore it's neither unprecedented, nor all that surprising given that he was a one-time Literature major, that Crash Test Dummies' Brad Roberts would find a way to shoehorn a T.S. Eliot reference into the followup to the group's hit "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm." The song's lyrics: Someday I'll have a disappearing hairline Someday I'll wear pajamas in the daytime Afternoons will be measured out, measured with Coffee spoons, and T.S. Eliot find an echo in Eliot's "The Wasteland" For I have known them all already, known them all: Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons; I know the voices dying with a dying fall Beneath the music from a farther room. So how should I presume? No word from either Roberts or Eliot on their preferred ratio of grinds to water...

The Beastie Boys, "Intergalactic" (from "Hello Nasty") The Beasties took their songcraft at least as seriously as Vega, and could drop literary references with the best of 'em (see "Shadrach" or "Bodhisattva Vow"). What they never did during a career that spanned three decades was take themselves seriously. At turns cryptic (as on the mind-bending "Negotiation Limerick File"), parodic (as on the brilliant video for "Sabotage"), eclectic ("Root Down," "Sabrosa") and downright hysterical (you're never quite sure whether to laugh or facepalm at "The Biz vs The Nuge" or their stoned-sounding take on "Benny and the Jets"), the Beasties never failed to surprise. One of the biggest surprises came with "Intergalactic," the lead-off single from 1998's "Hello Nasty." Each new Beastie Boys album inevitably raised two questions: Can white guys rap? And did the Beastie Boys still have it? Step inside the party, disrupt the whole scene. When it comes to beats, well, I'm a fiend. I like my sugar with coffee and cream Energetic, funky, and loaded with the Beasties' trademark smartassery, "Intergalactic" answered both questions with a resounding "yes" and a middle finger for good measure.

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