February 21, 2020

Gotye: Somebody That We Should All Know

posted on: Thursday March 1, 2012

Alexandra Tilden ’15/A&E Staff

Belgian-born Australian Wouter De Backer recently found himself thrust into international stardom when his one-man band Gotye produced the album Making Mirrors, which contains the unsuspecting gem “Somebody That I Used to Know.” This distinctively quirky and terribly catchy break-up song has proved appealing to an extremely broad range of listeners, regardless of their customary musical tastes and preferences. It’s even a regular on the Concannon Fitness Center soundtrack, a playlist that usually features only the most popular mainstream songs. Admittedly, Gotye may be a new discovery for me, but I’m more than happy to cheerfully and wholeheartedly jump on the bandwagon.

What’s admirable about Gotye is the way in which his newfound global celebrity seems almost as if it were a happy coincidence. Of the extreme popularity of his song, De Backer muses, “It hasn’t been by any kind of conscious construction to try and fit the current mold of pop music…It’s taken me by surprise.”

This staying true to character is apparent throughout Making Mirrors. Artistic liberty was clearly in full swing; to put it lightly, the album can be described as “varied.” There are animated and upbeat tracks like “I Feel Better,” similar to the buoyancy of bands like MIKA, and then there is “State of the Art,” a song with an electro vibe and unrecognizably dubbed vocals. In fact, the album as a whole seems to be an organic stream of De Backer’s consciousness, an understandablee outcome considering his admitted inspiration: an introspective reflection on past memories and emotions.

The fame of “Somebody”‘ is, in no small part, due to its music video, which has racked up over 62 million views to date. The decision to feature New Zealand native singer/songwriter Kimbra was probably De Backer’s most intuitive move, as her short yet intensely significant verse adds key dimension to the song, while her passionately earnest profile in the video is both the climax and the highlight. De Backer himself accurately describes her participation as adding exactly the right amount of “angst and multiplicity.” Often, sorting through the plethora of pop music nowadays to find a distinctive and inimitable song can prove tricky. Gotye has inadvertently eased our search; “Somebody” sticks out like a sore thumb—but a sore thumb that you eventually realize is really, effortlessly cool. “Maybe people are looking for a breath of fresh air,” he says humbly; as it turns out, a lot of us were.

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