The Bottom Line
Pop perfection does not come along often, but Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know" is flawless. The song is compelling enough with its intriguing, minimalist opening, tale of a relationship gone bad, and Gotye's Sting style wail on the chorus. Then we hear the female side of this story, and "Somebody That I Used To Know" is elevated to brilliance. The song is not flashy, but it is instantly memorable and destined to be a classic.
- Spare, elegant arrangement
- Compelling and haunting lyrics
- Gotye's emotional vocals on the chorus
- Pop perfection
- Written by Gotye
- Produced by Wally De Backer
- Released January 2012 by Universal Republic
Guide Review - Gotye - "Somebody That I Used To Know" featuring Kimbra
There is an aura of 80s pop that hangs over Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know." The spare opening may remind a few pop fans of the intimate percussive feel of classic pop songs by the Thompson Twins. The use of both the male and female voices and words describing a relationship gone bad is reminiscent of Human League's classic "Don't You Want Me." Then there is the dead ringer for Sting on the chorus. However, there is something about the intimacy of this recording that makes it not a copy but an elegant and clever use of influences to create something that stands tremendously well on its own.
Gotye has clearly updated his sound with contemporary digital technology. He says that a number of his "instruments" are virtual representations of real life equipment. The sounds have the slightly futuristic shimmer of electronic music, but they also retain the warmth of their predecessors. The song "Somebody That I Used To Know" first came to the attention of many US pop music fans through its recreation on an acoustic guitar by the Canadian group Walk Off the Earth. The durability of the song has already been proven through a wide range of cover versions.
By the time the song winds down to a close with both singers uttering "Somebody...," where do our sympathies lie? Or is it simply a relationship that wasn't meant to be? The lyrical brilliance of "Somebody That I Used To Know" is that it lays bare the pain in the unfortunate end to this pairing, but in realistic form it raises more questions about the protagonists than it answers. Most of us can also relate to the gnawing pain of someone important becoming simply, "Somebody that I used to know." Gotye has riveted the attention of pop fans worldwide with this song. It has already reached #1 in seven different countries around the world. "Somebody That I Used To Know" has climbed into the top 10 on both the rock songs and alternative songs charts in the US. It is beginning to explode with pop audiences. This will be one of the songs of the year for 2012.