My passion for breakfast extends to just two opinions: 1) It’s the best meal to eat at a restaurant. 2) Those who like their eggs over medium are not to be trusted (just commit!). Beyond that, I don’t really feel much for the most important meal of the day.
So when I was told to dive deep into the apparently classic CCM song “Breakfast,” by the Newsboys, my first reaction was confusion. I wasn’t around late-’90s Christian culture. What was this? A worship song about breakfast?
After a few minutes on Google, my confusion gave way to fascination, and after a few seconds with the song, my fascination gave way to utter perplexity. “Breakfast” is like nothing I’ve ever heard.
“Breakfast” is about—I swear this is true—these guys who mourn the death of their friend by honoring what he loved most in this world: breakfast.
The song combines food puns (“Rise up Fruit Loop lovers, sing out Sweet and Low”) with funeral iconography (“With spoons held high, we bid our brother Cheerio”) to strike a nice, healthy, balanced tone of swashbuckling humor and oh-by-the-way-our-friend-is-dead-forever morbidity. Also, there are damnation warnings (“They don’t serve breakfast in hell!”).
“Breakfast” spent 13 weeks—that’s a quarter of a year—on the CCM charts. It peaked at the No. 4 position in January 1997, a time when Toni Braxton, the Spice Girls and Blackstreet (yep) were jockeying around the mainstream Hot 100. It would go on to appear on a staggering nine other albums, including about a half-dozen different Newsboys Greatest Hits collections. In other words, the Newsboys were really, really proud of “Breakfast,” and Christians were really, really jamming out to this song 11 years ago.
However, “Breakfast” has not aged well. Despite its color, the song can be pretty tasteless at times (kind of like Lucky Charms). Let’s look deeper into the lyrics:
Hold the milk, put back the sugar / They are powerless to console,
We’re gathered here to sprinkle ashes / From our late friend’s cereal bowl
“Breakfast” sets a scene (table?) of a group of friends gathering to scatter the ashes of their dead friend. Those ashes are irreverently stored in a cereal bowl, which, it should be said, carries no distinction from other types of bowls. Ashes should at minimum be stored in a lid-tight container, or else you’re going to have ash everywhere.
Also, do they plan to eat out of that bowl later? That’s revolting. Dead-friend residue is going to be all over that thing. Are you going to just rinse that out in the sink? Run it through a dishwasher? Next time you eat cereal out of that cereal bowl, won’t those ashes color the milk? That’s the worst kind of cereal-milk you can have, probably.
[Side note: The best cereal milks come courtesy Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Apple Jacks and Cocoa Puffs. The worst cereal milks come courtesy Corn Pops (ugh, corn milk?) and Trix (imagine drinking milk except you dumped 15 spoonfuls of sugar inside—it coats your teeth).]
Breakfast clubbers, say the motto / That he taught us to repeat:
‘You will lose it in your gym class / If you wait till noon to eat’
Theory: The Newsboys didn’t date a lot in high school. Exhibit A: They were in a breakfast club. Exhibit B: That breakfast club cared a lot about gym class performance. Exhibit C: It isn’t the jocks who care about gym in high school, but rather, the nerds. For jocks, gym class is high time for punking all the low-lifes around them; they take it for granted. Only nerds care about doing well in gym, and only nerds would seek to do that by eating a wholesome, nutritious, balanced breakfast. Exhibit D: The only reason a nerd would want to do well in gym is to impress the girls in their class, and since in high school, the least-cool thing you can do is care about anything, the Newsboys’ gym-class effort did not lead to impressing said girls. Therefore, the Newsboys didn’t date a lot in high school.
Back when the chess club said our eggs were soft / Every Monday he’d say grace and hold our juice aloft / Oh, none of us knew his check-out time would come so soon / But before his brain stopped waving, he composed this tune.
Dark biological death images aside, we now know this breakfast club was maligned by the chess team. The chess team. I’ll say it again: The Newsboys didn’t date a lot in high school.
When the toast has burned / And all the milk has turned / And Captain Crunch is waving farewell / When the Big One finds you / May this song remind you that / They don’t serve breakfast in hell
Ah, the chorus, where the Newsboys leverage the powers of breakfast to warn their dead friend that he better come to Jesus, or else he’ll never eat his favorite meal again. Interesting evangelizing tactic.
This does beg the question: What does breakfast in hell look like, if they indeed have breakfast? One rule for our answer is we can’t manipulate the food, so “a yogurt parfait, except the yogurt is Elmer’s glue, the granola is fingernails, and the fruit are bloody eyeballs cut in half” doesn’t count.
No, breakfast in hell is probably unstirred Greek yogurt, fruit salad that’s just honeydew and plain spam. The coffee is instant, too. And decaf.
Breakfast clubbers dropped the hankie / Though to some our friend was odd / That day he bought those pine pajamas / His check was good with God
I only stop here to say that “pine pajamas” needs to be co-opted into more sinister contexts. Imagine if you owe someone money and you go up to their desk to ask for a longer grace period and they ask, “Hey, do you own any pine pajamas?” And you say, “No.” And they say, “That’s too bad. I’ll send you a pair.” BOOM: the best fake Sopranos scene of all time. Instead we have a Newsboys song.
Those here without the Lord, how do you cope? / For this morning we don’t mourn like those who have no hope / Oh, rise up Fruit Loop lovers, sing out Sweet and Low/With spoons held high, we bid our brother Cheerio
Look, I don’t know if this dead friend is real or not (what could possibly inspire this song, anyway?), but for their sake, I hope they really are gone from this world, because to be honored in this way by your friends is to have no true friends at all. Your breakfast hell might be IHOP at 4 a.m., a restaurant featuring avocado toast, or anything described as “continental,” but nothing can match a descent into “Breakfast,” the song. This isn’t a tribute, it’s a travesty, like eating Mini-Spooners instead of Wheaties.