Jan 14

DEEP BLUE SOMETHING – “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”

Popular140 comments • 10,896 views

#746, 5th October 1996

dbs It’s by no means a hard-and-fast rule, but if you’re writing a break-up song it’s often a good idea to try to make your protagonist sympathetic, or at least not a fool. Here we have a guy who knows his girlfriend is going to break up with him and clutches at an Audrey Hepburn-shaped straw as evidence that maybe – just maybe – the two still have a chance. Your judgement may rest on whether you think “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” trades in bathos or pathos. Is it a merciless document of the kind of undignified rhetorical lunges men will make to avoid being dumped – or is it supposed to be touching?

Probably both. “We both kinda liked it –“ – this comes across as baffled politeness from the girl, and establishes only the feeblest of rocks to cling to. The attempt to stall an oncoming end is surely doomed. But the song, for all its conversational pretences, isn’t necessarily happening in the real world. As “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” frames with its title, the track nods to romcomland, a special place where predestined lovers ultimately overcome their differences, however unpromising the start.

The song’s clunking reference fits ever so slightly with the zeitgeist, at least. Outside the charts, we’re in the age of early Tarantino films – mixing stylishly choreographed violence with nerdish dissection of cheeseburgers or Madonna – and more pointedly of High Fidelity, with its seductive (if ultimately doomed) intertwining of music taste and romantic destiny. Both nail particular tropes of what will become “geek culture” and its relationship with consumption and preference. “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” shows one logical extension: if being into the right things is a precondition for love – the geek romantic dream – then breaking up when you both like an old film really is an injustice.

Or the man’s a ridiculous whiner. Anyhow, when I first realised I detested this record – a minute or two after I heard it – the lyrics weren’t my only problem. It mixes ingredients in the same broad way the Cranberries do – light indiepop guitar hooks on a bed of mild post-grunge crunch. Neither element does the other any favours. The song is too self-pitying to have any bite, but the attempt to flex its muscles and telegraph serious feelings just underlines how over-sensitive and entitled our hero sounds. Almost no mid 90s American alt-rock made it successfully to Britain – even the fakiest most corporate examples tended to stall or go unreleased. So it’s hard to know how typical this weak effort was, even of the blandest end of modern rock radio. Probably “Breakfast” was a harmless fluke. But to this day I’m annoyed far more than I should be by its sulky self-importance, its overwrought beating on a very puny chest. Just let her go, man!



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  1. 121
    swanstep on 14 Jan 2014 #

    @118, leveret. The Onion’s AVclub has a ‘Hatesongs’ feature series where it invites one musician each week to talk about his or her most hated record. ‘One Week’ has featured. Take it away Evan Linger from Skeleton Witch (consensus Popular’s inner metalhead?):
    “I did a lot of soul searching on this one. There are a lot of songs I hate, because I’m naturally a hater. I just hate this one the most. In the late ’90s, music really took a turn for the worse, grasping at the straws of all this alternative music. So there’s stuff like Sugar Ray—those songs, they’re so bad. Hootie And The Blowfish: terrible. Blues Traveler: terrible. But those are rock songs. At least someone was trying. “One Week” wasn’t even a rock song. It’s a weird college-rock song with some rap in it, and it doesn’t even qualify as music.”

  2. 122
    Andrew Farrell on 15 Jan 2014 #

    A nearby message board had a discussion of BNL’s fist album cover, with a friend noting that every time you decisively settle on one element as the worst, your eye is inexorably drawn on to something else, in a cycle of the damned.

  3. 123
    Patrick Mexico on 15 Jan 2014 #

    I see talk of 4 Non Blondes – I don’t understand why What’s Up gets all that stick as “one of the worst nineties songs.” Yes, it’s melancholic, overblown and prosaic to the nth degree – but thankfully, that makes it both endearing and hilarious, a rare delight in anything remotely “grunge” by 1993. Especially when Linda Perry hits that perfect beat on “And I pray.. for REVOLOOSHON!” That He-Man viral is perhaps humour beneath most people who comment here, but hell, it’s faithful to the song’s camp kitsch.

    Very How Soon Is Now, in fact. Initially alarmed most bands mentioned in this thread embraced all the problems of the Smiths and none of the genius, but perhaps they’re totally innocent compared to some bunnied little shits from the autumn of 2006.

  4. 124
    D.C. Harrison on 15 Jan 2014 #


    “Hey Jealously” probably is the best thing the Gin Blossoms did, though “Found Out About You” runs it close. The reason everything subsequent wasn’t up these may be that the guy who wrote them shot himself around the time they got released, having been sacked from the band pre-fame.

    A happy story, there.

    As for this song… meh. I guess it somehow stuck in my mind, as I can remember how it goes without going back to it. I’d have preferred “Roll to Me” to get the top spot – great little song. Surprising how small a hit it was here compared to over in America – top ten there, don’t think it troubled the top twenty here.

    I always chuckle when I see Cumbrian comment, as we’re pretty much the same age, from the same part of the world. I know you didn’t go to my school, though, as an admiration of Semisonic would have been grounds for a kicking, if discovered.

    And the derided Counting Crows song was “Mr Jones”, pedant fans.

  5. 125
    swanstep on 15 Jan 2014 #

    @122, Andrew F. Jesus, but that’s an ‘alternative’ cover, as opposed to this, which is the only cover I’ve ever seen.

  6. 126
    Nanaya on 16 Jan 2014 #

    I wanted to hate this song at the time, I really did, but I found myself obscurely fond of its clunky charms, like fawning over a clumsy puppy or something.

    Tom, considering you draw out the music/romance/general pop culture connection as key to the ethos of the song, I’m surprised you didn’t mention that it gets a nod in Garth Ennis’ “Preacher” as one of Arseface’s covers. An obvious, unsubtle dig at the thing, but perhaps further confirmation of the intertextuality BAT is trading on? It feels like a curious sort of victory, somehow.

  7. 127
    Tom on 16 Jan 2014 #

    Ha – good spot! I gave up on Preacher pretty early though so while I recall Arseface well enough I don’t remember his pop career. Sounds like a nice bit of John Wagner style broad satire.

  8. 128
    tm on 16 Jan 2014 #

    I used to enjoy this sort of stuff as methadone-grade jingle jangle but I can’t stand it now. I’m amazed by the affection felt for Semi sonic and their ilk. Like raving about Gap clothing or Clark’s shoes (the plastic soled ones Geography teachers wear, not the desert boots). I’m not trying to be snarky, I’m just really surprised!

    The lack of ambition is galling: with these sort of bands I always get the impression that they’re quite musically literate and technically adept but for some reason (commerce?) choose to be this boring.

    The first band to be called power pop I think were The Who, who, in the mid sixties had both the catchy hooks and

  9. 129
    tm on 16 Jan 2014 #

    a feral kinesis thanks to Moon and Entwistle. By comparison, these sort of bands seem to lack both power and pop.

  10. 130
    redhairkid on 26 Jan 2014 #

    Had lost all interest in the charts by this stage but I did like this one. Gets an 8 from me.

  11. 131
    Middlerabbit on 7 Apr 2014 #

    I remember this record and I’m not prepared to listen to it again as a result of disliking it quite substantially at the time.

    What I recall about it is this: every time a DJ played it, or it was on telly, someone would pipe up ‘Oh, that’s a quirky song, isn’t it? None of it rhymes!’

    Which, added to the overall non-threatening-every-member-of-the-band-looks-like-an-extra-in-‘Friends’ feel, left me feeling nausea at the purposeful inoffensiveness of the entire shebang.

    I have never seen an entire episode of Friends. Until recently, I never even got past the start bit where they’re all faffing about in a fountain. It made me feel sick. Not because of outside water based hi-jinks, but because I knew what they were doing and I knew why they were doing it and I knew the sort of people who’d suggest such a thing and I wanted no part of it. Not for me.

    There’s a word for this sort of thing, from where I come from and that word is ‘nunty’. I won’t go into it here, but if you’re wondering what ‘nunty’ means, listen to this record. Everything about it is Nunty.

    Deep Blue Something. A band who wanted to be perceived as something in particular, but with no desire to actually work at whatever it was they wanted to be perceived as.

    Ironically, for a one hit wonder, this is career rock at its very worst. Don’t know what else to do? Let’s be in a band. Is that allowed? Let’s not offend anyone and maybe they’ll let us do it forever.

    Turgid and wrong.


  12. 132
    Mark M on 19 Aug 2014 #

    Busker watch: a trio were playing Breakfast At Tiffany’s by the river in front of Tate Modern at lunchtime. They were doing reedy but agreeable harmonies and adding a bit of rhythmic dynamism on their acoustic guitars. Which is to say, they sounded better than the record. Nonetheless, I felt no urge to linger.
    I’ve become pro any busker(s) who isn’t(aren’t) the blokes by the wobbly bridge doing the same bloody Bob bloody Marley bloody songs every day. I know it’s not their fault, it’s the market. I wonder how much I’d have to offer to get them to have a go at Two Sevens Clash or Police And Thieves…
    There was a guy with an 808 (or something that sounded like one), doing live techno one day. That was a bit different at least.

  13. 133
    Erithian on 2 Feb 2016 #

    Rereading this thread, Mr Mexico’s “And I said, what about, Sex Lives of the Potato Men?” was a real spit-coffee-on-keyboard moment. Rendering a not particularly interesting conversation as a tune so it doesn’t scan and there isn’t much to it, you’re doing rather well to have a hit with it. I suppose there is a bit of quirky originality to the idea, but it’s far from convincing. I like the little guitar figure at the end of the chorus, and there’s a nice little bass cluster leading into the third chorus, but beyond that …

  14. 134
    Mostro on 20 Nov 2016 #

    #107 Lørd Sükråt; “And I said, what about Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence”

    If the film they “both kinda liked” is “Human Centipede 2”, they probably *do* have something more in common than the people in the actual song. Just not something we probably want to dwell upon here…

    As for the song itself… bland, bland, bland. Vaguely alt-rock trimmings with anything remotely “alt” totally leached out. Lazy- or cynical- attempt to piggyback on the appeal and cultural associations of a well-known film.

    Heard this playing over the tannoy when I emerged from the finish area after completing my first marathon a couple of years back and associate it with that now too. That should have put a more positive gloss on it, but really… no, it doesn’t. It’s still utterly insipid.

  15. 135
    Girl with Curious Hair on 20 Nov 2016 #


    If they’d been known as The Pipes they could have done a double-headlining tour with The Pipettes. One of popular music’s great missed opportunities obvs

  16. 136
    flahr on 21 Nov 2016 #

    Or team up with The Drums to cover “Amazing Grace”.

  17. 137
    Patrick Mexico on 30 Jul 2019 #

    And so, the apocalypse begins.


  18. 138
    Gareth Parker on 30 Apr 2021 #

    I have to say I find this to be one of the more irritating #1s of the 90s! A 2/10 from me.

  19. 139
    Gareth Parker on 30 Apr 2021 #
  20. 140
    Mr Tinkertrain on 11 Feb 2022 #

    I love this sort of late 90s radio-friendly alt-pop-rock, whether it’s stuff that I remember from the time (this, or other similar tracks from Semisonic, Fastball, Gin Blossoms, Tal Bachman etc) or stuff I discovered much later (The Wallflowers, Dishwalla, Better Than Ezra). So it’s high marks from me (probably an 8). Surprising that this made it to the top though when similarly radio-friendly singles from the acts mentioned above were only minor hits or didn’t make the top 40 at all.

    I still hear this song far more than most of the other number 1s from this era too, so that counts for something.

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