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Random Jukebox: Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know

The one that sounds like Sting….

Gotye’s worldwide breakthrough came with his third LP, Making Mirrors. Originally born in the beautiful canalside city of Bruges in Belgium, the young Wouter André ‘Wally’ De Backer moved to Australia with his family at the age of two, where he settled in Melbourne and listened obsessively to electronic rock acts like Depeche Mode.

He went on to independently release a pair of low-budget albums in 2003 and 2006, respectively, to moderate chart success.

Somebody That I Used To Know, the big breakthrough, still maintains that do-it-yourself attitude, being a self-written, self-produced and partially self-performed track, albeit one that samples Brazilian jazz guitarist Loiz Bonfa’s 1967 instrumental Seville.

In an interview with Sound on Sound, Gotyle himself explained how the song started with that sample and then came to be: “Writing Somebody was a gradual and linear process. I started with the Luiz Bonfa sample, then I found the drums, and after that I started working on the lyric and the melody, and added the wobbly guitar-sample melody.”

In another interview, the Melburnian stated that the meaning behind the lyrics was “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.”

I hope you like feet.

Singer and song-writer Kimbra is featured on one of the verses, which The Guardian characterised as “delivered in a near-whisper” and “quietly devastating”. They also added that “the way her voice rises to a shout on the title phrase as ominous military drums appear brilliantly captures the dynamics of an argument.” The whole song was generally praised by the critics.

Somebody That I Used To Know shot to pole position in 18 countries, including Australia, Belgium, the UK and the US, where it enjoyed eight consecutive weeks at number one on the American Billboard Top 100, before being dethroned by Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe. Time magazine singled out three elements as responsible for the song‘s success, namely “lyrics that speak to the universality of heartbreak, while steering clear of the cliché”, “production that conveys what words can’t” and “an epic chorus of catharsis and vindication”.

On top of it all, Somebody That I Used To Know won a pair of Grammy Awards, for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Now that‘s what I call bonzer.

Steve Pafford

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