Today I thought I'd start with what I considered to be the best mainstream pop song in 2012, Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know.
Looking back on it, it's pretty hilarious that this song was one of the biggest chart smashes of 2012. After roughly a decade of very vapid and very shallow club/party music stinking up the Billboard Charts, we suddenly found ourselves with this pretty well crafted song listed uncomfortably alongside Pitbull and Ke$ha.
Now prior to 2012, there were a handful of these kinds of acts that managed to find some mainstream success. Foster The People and Owl City immediately comes to mind, and even after/around the same time as Gotye, acts like Imagine Dragons, Fun., Lorde, Bastille, The Neighborhood and Nico & Vinz managed to find some success. If only for one song.
And yet this song, it's quite different from them all. It doesn't sound like anything you'd hear on the mainstream radio. Especially not the year that brought us all this.
And honestly, that's what I like about it. It's different. It's got substance. It's better than that party rock noise everybody was obsessed with the year before.
Now the lyrics and the story they present is quite clear and pretty much spoon fed to us. So much so that I suspect a big reason why this song got big is because even casual music listeners who don't know how double entendres work could follow it. It's a post break-up song where a guy is sad and depressed and obviously not over it and is trying to portray his ex has some heartless savage.
But you didn't have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don't even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough
No you didn't have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
I guess that I don't need that though
Now you're just somebody that I used to know
I say trying because it's quite clear the person Gotye is portraying is sort of in the wrong, intentionally. When most people break up, they often do cut the other person off and treat them like a stranger. There are exceptions (of course) but it does happen. The last bit where the ex changed their number might indicate that they did out of spite, but more likely they changed it because the narrator kept calling/texting/annoying them. Or at least I think it's more likely. I mean just look at how the narrator is being melodramatic at the beginning. Talking about he's totally okay even though he's not.
Now and then I think of when we were together
Like when you said you felt so happy you could die
Told myself that you were right for me
But felt so lonely in your company
But that was love and it's an ache I still remember
You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness
Like resignation to the end, always the end
So when we found that we could not make sense
Well you said that we would still be friends
But I'll admit that I was glad that it was over
The song then gets a big boost when the guest performer Kimbra shows up as the ex in question and provides a whole other perspective on this.
Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
But had me believing it was always something that I'd done
But I don't wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn't catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know
Their relationship didn't work because narrator kept screwing his ex over and was manipulating her into believing it was her fault. But she couldn't take it anymore and when they split it was her understanding that the narrator wouldn't make a big fuss about it.
Basically the ex destroyed the narrator with this verse. The way the song has Gotye signing the hook one more time probably indicates that the narrator tried to defend himself by throwing the same BS at her again but at the same time we all know that they got BURNED.
Despite how the song doesn't lend itself to interpretation I quite like it. It's direct and to the point. And it's interesting. Gotye was smart enough to create this song and give the two different perspectives it needed to work. An idea he apparently had after writing the hook and finding that his character was pretty much in a corner.
Now I have pretty much no clue what the instruments used for this song were - I understand a xylophone was used at one point - but the music is pretty great IMO. It's the kind of indie-pop that you'd be hard pressed to find have mainstream success in pretty much any time period.
Unfortunately this has pretty much been Gotye's only hit and he joins a long list of musicians who were quite talented (seriously, Making Mirrors is a great album) but yet only had one hit. Who knows though, he might have a cult following and he himself has said that he's fine with his legacy.
And no I will not make that joke about how Gotye became somebody that we used to know. I just did didn't I? DOH!
I can't say that this song was the best song in 2012 (I heard a lot of great music that didn't do jack on the charts that year) but as far as mainstream pop songs go it's probably my favorite song on the Billboard Top 100 list. It's a bit unfortunate that this didn't become the standard for pop music in the 2010's and the pop charts went to having awful dribble like this and this be what sells. At least we have this song to remind all of us that occasionally we can find a diamond in a great big pile of garbage.
As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).
Lyrics Courtesy of AZLyrics