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Why Gotye's Somebody That I Used to Know is taking the UK by storm

by Matt Barden. Published Fri 17 Feb 2012 20:40, last updated: 17/02/12

Gotye’s 2011 track, Somebody That I Used to Know, is having a resurgence in the UK charts in 2012. Currently at No.2 on the UK iTunes download chart and peaking at No.1 on the UK single charts (currently 3rd), the Belgian-Australian singer-songwriter has created a single that infects it’s listeners.

It is simple, sounds sincere and, more importantly, has some feeling behind it – key elements in constructing a classic tune.

The beauty of the track, and the song-writing, is in the simplicity that Gotye expresses his ideas.

In an interview he says that the song is, ‘definitely drawn from various experiences I've had in relationships breaking up, and in the parts of the more reflective parts of the song, in the aftermath and the memory of those different relationships and what they were and how they broke up and what's going on in everyone's minds.’

The trick is he’s honed in on a feeling that nearly everyone can relate to – a lover or an ex who at one point was a huge part of your life and now is not. He sums that person up in six simple words: somebody that I used to know.

Jay-Z says that a great song ‘takes the emotions of a moment and holds it for years to come. It transcends time. A great song has all the key elements — melody; emotion; a strong statement that becomes part of the lexicon.’

Gotye’s words might well become part of our lexicon; somebody that I used to know is a way cooler way of referring to your ex-girlfriend or boyfriend.

The catchy chorus, sung in Gotye’s Sting-esque way, sticks in your head, they’re the words that you wish you’d thought of to express that feeling. Song-writers around the globe must be kicking themselves – it’s so simple and so effective, it makes no sense that nobody has thought of it before.

Tracks that have stood the test of time, Like a Rolling Stone, Imagine, Hey Jude, Good Vibrations, are all equal in their simplicity of expressing an idea or value, the message is clear and concise and while Gotye’s effort does not stand up to these classics, it does mimic the general building blocks.

The video for Somebody has racked up over 75 million YouTube hits, and is proof of how the Music industry is changing. Word of mouth is back and if a song is good enough it does not have to be an overnight success, or rammed down our throats by the labels.

Tracks can linger on the internet, waiting patiently for the right time to be discovered and shared.

Gotye has already had huge success in Australia (the song has already won 3 Aria awards), and with the viral and digital success of Somebody the Aussie already has a stable fan base, which should be reflected by a boost to the sales of his album Making Mirrors, which is out now.

Whether the album creates as much buzz or success as it’s single remains to be seen. Gotye may be a one-hit wonder or he might build on the success, but when all is said and done people will be screaming, ‘Your just somebody that I used to know’ in clubs and at festivals for quite some time.



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"Dumb post" Andrew, srg around 2 years, 3 months ago

"I find it amazing that so many people have been captivated by 3 simple chords - D minor C major and Bb major - and a simple message. :)" jay, australia around 2 years, 6 months ago

"One-hit wonder? Are you serious? This is not his first album. He's a true artist – as in he's in it for the art, not the fame. Genius." BenGMorgan, London around 2 years, 7 months ago

"its in your head you listen you turn it up you listen again you know you like it and you have been there good on him" ian, sussex around 2 years, 8 months ago

"It's an amazing song. I love it." Louise, UK around 2 years, 8 months ago