Why are people arguing about Sabrina Carpenter's Espresso lyrics? What is the debate about the comma? What does the song mean?

Virgin Radio

29 May 2024, 15:30

L to R: Sabrina Carpenter

Credit: Getty/Instagram/@sabrinacarpenter

Sabrina Carpenter's new hit Espresso has fans buzzing over its cryptic lyrics and a peculiar comma debate. But what does it all mean?

Sabrina Carpenter has propelled herself into superstardom with her latest song, and fans are losing it over the wild meaning behind the cryptic lyrics of her hit, Espresso.

The debate over one tiny comma has sparked an internet frenzy. So, what's all the fuss about?



Sir Richard Branson on how 'delightful' David Bowie inspired his space travel

Oasis announce Definitely Maybe 30th edition with studio outtakes, unreleased recordings and more - all details

Bernie Taupin shares exciting update about new Elton John album


Who is Sabrina Carpenter?

First, let's get to know Sabrina Carpenter. For anyone over the age of, hmmmm...25? Here's the lowdown on the queen of nonsense pop.

Sabrina Annlynn Carpenter, is an American singer and actress who made her acting debut in 2011.

She gained recognition as a Disney Channel star, playing lead roles in Girl Meets World and Adventures in Babysitting.

She's also starred in films like Horns alongside Daniel Radcliffe, The Hate U Give, and Netflix hits like Tall Girl and Work It, the latter of which she executive-produced.

Carpenter moved into music in 2014 with her debut single Can't Blame a Girl for Trying, followed by an EP of the same name. Since then, she's dominated the charts with smash hits like Nonsense and Feather.

She's even supported Taylor Swift on her record-breaking Eras Tour, released a Christmas EP, and regularly gone viral with her filthy Nonsense outros.

Now, Sabrina has embarked on a fresh new era, and 'Espresso' is a sizzling anthem that puts her quirky sense of humour on full display. But what’s the song really about?

What are the lyrics to Espresso?

In Espresso, Sabrina playfully sings about being irresistibly attractive, likening her allure to the addictive nature of espresso, all wrapped in a bundle of cheeky innuendo.

The chorus goes: "Now he's thinkin' 'bout me every night, oh / Is it that sweet? I guess so / Say you can't sleep, baby, I know / That's that me, espresso / Move it up, down, left, right, oh / Switch it up like Nintendo".

In the first verse, Sabrina gets even more cheeky: "I can't relate to desperation / My 'give a f--ks' are on vacation".

The pre-chorus is equally playful: "Soft skin and I perfumed it for ya / I know I Mountain Dew it for ya / That morning coffee, brewed it for ya / One touch and I brand-newed it for ya".

The queen of euphemisms strikes again! Verse two continues the fun: "I'm working late 'cause I'm a singer / Oh, he looks so cute wrapped 'round my finger / My twisted humor make him laugh so often / My honeybee, come and get this pollen".

Fun, breezy, easy-going pop, right? No need to look too deeply, right? Well, NO! Online, the debate has begun to rage about just exactly what Sabrina means with Espresso.

What does the song mean?

Describing the song in an interview with Apple Music, Sabrina revealed that she wrote 'Espresso' while in France.

She said: "There was something really exciting about the fact that there was so much personality throughout the entire song, because those are the ones that are really, really fun to sing live with a crowd."

Sabrina added: "This was one of those times in my life where it was just like, I just thought I was the s*** in the moment. And I think you don't always feel that way, so you kind of have to capture those moments that you do because that's how you find those little…"

She ended by saying: "For me, equating it to caffeine and that addiction was really fun and I definitely have a caffeine addiction as it is. So it really ends up being a full circle for me."

In a separate profile with Vogue, Sabrina also said: "The song is kind of about seeing femininity as your superpower, and embracing the confidence of being that b****." Ok, well that seems fair enough. You get it, embrace your own positivity and the effect will make others fall for you or want to be with you.

However, the debate is much more pedantic and semantic than you could ever imagine.

Why are people arguing about Sabrina Carpenter's 'Espresso' lyrics? What is the debate about the comma?

Aside from the ear-wormy gobbledygook of phrases like 'Mountain Dew it for ya!' driving some to despair online, that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the debate. The key issue for fans of both Sabrina and linguistics is whether there is a comma between 'me' and 'Espresso'.

So to put it more clearly, is it: 'That's that me, Espresso' or 'That's that me espresso'?

It's an obsession that grabbed not only the internet with memes, but also writer Samantha Allen for Them.us.

In their article, they consulted with grammarian Jeffery Barg to get to the heart of the matter.

To understand the debate, we need to examine the line in its full context as it appears on most websites: “Say you can’t sleep, baby, I know / That’s that me espresso.”

The song's narrator is clearly addressing a man who is so enamoured with her that he “can’t sleep.” This part is straightforward, but the interpretation gets complicated from here.

Allen’s personal theory is that Carpenter uses “me espresso” as a deliberately playful noun phrase, where the pronoun “me” acts as an adjective, implying, “You can’t sleep, and that’s because of a certain quality I possess called ‘me espresso.’”

This isn’t entirely far-fetched; my favourite spin instructor, Brittany Espresso, often says motivational things like: “Have another shot of Brittany espresso” during tough climbs.

However, Barg offers a different interpretation. “Grammatically, I interpreted it differently than you did,” he tells Allen in one of the most critical phone interviews she’s ever conducted.

Barg explains that, rather than Carpenter suggesting: “That’s that thing about me,” he hears it as, “That’s that me,” followed by an implied comma, making “espresso” an appositive to “me.”

In layman’s terms, this means “espresso” is used as a term that could replace “me” while keeping the sentence coherent, similar to the way one might say: “I’m Samantha Allen, a GLAAD Award-winning journalist who has chosen to use her time on a lyrical analysis of ‘Espresso.’”

Here, everything after the comma describes the antecedent noun.

Barg interprets the chorus as “me” being the antecedent and “espresso” as its appositive, akin to “It’s-a me, Mario.”

From this perspective, Carpenter isn’t suggesting that an elixir called “me espresso” is keeping her admirer awake; she’s saying that “me,” a person who can be described as “espresso,” is what’s causing the sleeplessness.

It’s a nuanced but significant distinction that turns the debate on its head.

Adding major difficulty to the debate for all of us, and Allen, is the fact that everywhere prints the lyrics differently and Sabrina's previous thoughts do nothing to necessarily point to one way or the other.

Is it 'That's that me, Espresso' or 'That's that me espresso'? The world may never know, but one thing's for sure: Sabrina Carpenter has us all hooked on her infectious lyrics and enigmatic punctuation!