That’s That Me Espresso! How Sabrina Carpenter brought nonsense back to pop

What exactly has Sabrina Carpenter put in our coffee? As she sits pretty at the top of the UK charts for the fifth week in a row, we chart the rise of the pint-sized pop star whose irresistibly cheeky summer anthem has fans everywhere declaring "that's that me, espresso".


Whether you’re tuned into daytime radio, scrolling YouTube or apparently, listening to literally anything on Spotify, there’s been an early contender for song of the summer. We hardly need to mention its title, because everyone from your next-door neighbour to Adele has found themselves muttering its most iconic line: “I’m working late, cos I’m a singerrrr…

At 25 years of age and with ‘Espresso’ to her name, Sabrina Ann Carpenter is currently living out her double-shot, mochaccino, extra sprinkles fantasy. Getting her start as a Disney girl (amidst various other TV roles), she was primarily an actress before signing to Hollywood Records in 2014, releasing a steady stream of modestly successful albums. 

Amidst rumours that she might be ‘that blonde girl’ depicted in Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Drivers License’, she moved to Island Records in 2021, where things properly clicked into place. Her fifth studio album, ‘Emails I Can’t Send’ (2022), became her highest-charting release on the Billboard 200, with ‘Nonsense’ and ‘Feather’ (included on the deluxe edition) going on to perform especially well as streaming singles. More recently, a support slot on the Eras tour (and a romance with Saltburn actor Barry Keoghan) have been the publicity cherries on the top of her hard-working cake, turning her from a promising up-and-coming musician into a bona fide, 4-foot-9 celebrity.


Her trajectory was already looking good, but when she dropped ‘Espresso’ as a standalone single in April, its instant-coffee appeal was still a bit of a surprise. Written by Carpenter alongside Amy Allen, Steph Jones, and Julian Bunetta, its premise is fairly simple. Having ensnared her boy, she uses a groovy, tropical-pop melody to remark on just how readily she perks him up, adding a layer of pin-up glamour with its petty-theft caper of a music video. 

It’s also a masterclass of relative silliness, perfectly optimised for social media. ‘Walked in and dream-came-trued it for ya’? ‘My give-a-fucks are on vacation’? ‘That’s that me, espresso’? It’s been years since we had a pop singer so willing to throw both grammar and sentence structure to the wind in the name of crafting a hook that translates just as well at Coachella and SNL as it does in rainy, rainy Luton. At time of writing, it’s been sat at UK number one for five weeks, and has racked up a reported 400 million streams on Spotify, tying with Taylor Swift’s ‘Fortnight’ for the second most days at #1 on the Global Spotify chart in 2024 by a female artist. 

‘Espresso’ works, quite simply, because it’s catchy, delivered by someone who knows how to deliver all the right smirks and winks. But for Ed, 19, it’s also the sign of an artist learning to distil years of market research. Having followed her career since the Disney channel days, he became a true fan with the 2016 release of ‘Thumbs’, and set up the @charts_sabrina account a few years later in High School, growing steadily to become one of her largest stan communities. 

“Many artists in the last couple of years have received an incredible amount of success for one song, but have failed to translate that into a brand that people can recognise them for,” he says. “Sabrina is different. She has been in the game for a long time and has tested many different sounds, styles and teams to see how a crowd works.

The music, the performances, personality, even her outfits…they’re all things that other people want to recreate. My friends and I all agree that [she conjures the feeling] of early 2010s pop stars, when they were all just tweeting and saying anything and being themselves. Onstage she’s charming and charismatic; she gives off the perfect amount of “pop star” energy without driving people away.”

Sabrina’s musical lightheartedness is definitely a solid counterbalance to some of the other successful breakthrough women in the musical landscape. Where Olivia Rodrigo, Phoebe Bridgers, Taylor Swift and Arlo Parks have all levelled up through association with big feelings and personal angst, Sabrina Carpenter (honourable mention also to Chappel Roan) has decided to occupy the more optimistic end of the spectrum, occupying the proverbial ‘hot girl summer’ instead of ‘sad girl fall’.

There are nuances to this of course (and Sabrina herself has been known to dabble in a break-up ballad or two), but it still remains true that outside of hip-hop, it has been a while since we had a new female artist so committed to believing in her own sauce, writing songs about the simple pleasures of flirting and getting laid. Whether it’s her cosplay-worthy combo of babydoll dresses, flicky fringe and chunky boots, or her insistence on rewriting the final chorus of ‘Nonsense’ to raunchily-namecheck each city she performs in, she’s proven herself to be a smart and funny cookie, a dedicated graduate of ‘viral fan marketing in the age of online’.

“Seeing her grow into mainstream success by updating fans about her daily stats has been an incredible journey that makes me really proud and happy,” says Ed, reflecting on the community he’s been able to build in her name. “I am also grateful that Sabrina has acknowledged my work in the past; giving me free merch, a handwritten letter and sharing my tweets multiple times across the years. She is a genuine and sweet person who actually cares about her fans and has done the most to be able to stay in contact, even though she’s not as present on Twitter as she was before, and rightfully so. She’s somebody who was born to be a mainstream success.”

Above all, variety in pop is important.  We need great popstars who make us feel cosy and emotional and cathartic, but we also need those who are willing to take up the mantle of geeing you up, telling you you’re hot and he’s not and that everything is going to work out just fine. 

There has been some controversy from listeners who feel that Sabrina might be glorifying stereotypes about black men and their stereotypically ‘large’ equipment, or that her sound and aesthetic aren’t really that different from what someone like Ariana Grande was offering at the end of the 2010s. But for the most part, Sabrina Carpenter has been celebrated as someone who is embracing girlhood, pushing back against slut-shaming narratives. She knows how to sexualise herself as a giggly, wiggly pin-up, but she also instils lessons of self-confidence, teaching her audience to be wary of settling for less. Whatever Sabrina serves up next, we’re likely to be sipping – on a bright summer’s day, that’s that me is a little bit of us.