It’s completely obvious to me why Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye shot to top of the charts practically all over the world. It is an amazing piece of work and here’s why. If you’ve ever loved a lover, truly loved a lover even just for a moment this song will speak to you. It doesn’t even appear that the lyrics to this song have reached a conscious level with music lovers. But sometimes that isn’t necessary. Catharsis is catharsis whether you’re aware of it or not.
Couple the lyrics with music and the profound societal connection is made. Billboard’s article by Richard Smirke probably describes the music the best. He describes the shuffling beat in the background as “…sparse, shuffling percussion; spooky tremolo sounds; and an earworm melody played on a xylophone…” These sounds coupled with the lyrics are responsible for the response this song has received worldwide and again I do not believe it is not yet a conscious response.
I immediately heard it and felt it as I listened to this music and watched the lyrics flow by. It was this line in the lyrics that is responsible for the songs popularity in my opinion. “Like when you said you were so happy you could die.” Every person who has loved, really loved someone for even a moment has felt this emotion; that they are so happy at that moment they could peacefully die. The relationship might end and it might continue, but the one moment that you feel so happy that you could die NEVER leaves you. Now blend that with the shuffling percussion in the background that evokes a feeling of mundane shuffling through life and you have two completely different contrasting emotions. Those contrasting emotions literally push a stop button that probably reminds any listener as they shuffle through the mundane aspects of their life of that moment when they felt so happy they could die.
This line comes at the beginning of the song and you can’t help but intensely listen to how their story is going to end. For as Gotye sings in the opening line, “Every now and then I think of when we were together”, don’t we all In the midst of our mundane shuffling through life every once in while you think of that moment, that one precious moment when you were so happy you could die?