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Somebody We Used to Know: What Happened to Gotye?

Releasing one of the most memorable songs of 2010s the Australian singer, songwriter set himself up for mass success but decided to curate a career on his own terms.

Gotye performing
Image: Harmony Gerber/Shutterstock

His one-hit wonder became an instant classic and held the top spot on charts across the globe for several weeks, yet after his multiple Grammy wins Gotye resided back to his humble beginnings touring with his band and making indie tunes.

Who is Gotye

Born in Belgium in 1980, Wouter ‘Wally’ De Backer better known by his stage name Gotye, moved to Australia as an infant and began showing a talent for music as a child. By age 10 Wally had already mastered several instruments and enjoyed playing them. In 2003, Gotye formed a band with two fellow musicians, they called themselves ‘The Basics’. The three members create funk indie music traveling around the globe as a band, releasing new songs, and touring.

Creating, niche indie music, the band has found lingering success and is currently traveling in the States with their latest album B.A.S.I.C. However, the story of this alternative band’s lead singer is one of the creative mysteries and musical genius.

The Song

The 2010s saw the rise of artists such as Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and Taylor Swift. These musicians set the tone for a cultural shift in pop music and laid the foundation for this new era in the industry. Songs like ‘Baby’ and ‘Just dance’, became instant number ones, and rightly so. But on July 5th, 2011, smilingly out of nowhere, ‘Somebody that I used to know’ was released, by a small unknown artist. It came from Gotye’s second studio album ‘Making Mirrors’.

The song which features New Zealand artist Kimbra, became an instant hit topping global charts and peaking at number one. It remains one of the best-selling singles of all time and the most successful song of the 2010s by an Australian artist. Met with critical acclaim from the offset ‘Somebody that I used to know’, was the song of a generation and is still a classic today, with over two billion views on YouTube the song now holds valuable memories to those who first listened to it and those who have recently discovered it.

Gotye performing in Los Angeles in 2012. Image: Harmony Gerber/ Shutterstock

How It Became a Hit

Written from the perspective of a breakup, Gotye wrote the song from a biased point of view. In an interview about the hit, the singer stated that song sounded very one-sided, so he invited a female artist to add to the narrative. The song was written by De Becker in his parent’s house in Victoria, Australia as part of his upcoming solo album.

The ballad elaborates on a relationship ending badly and the other person cutting all ties with what they once had, a relatable stance for many. The lyrics are smooth and easy to understand while the soft tempo invokes a nostalgic lullaby feeling. Easy to remember and hum along to, the song was added to playlists across the world and was the theme tune to 2010s heartbreaks and parties.

Gotye and Kimbra performing in 2012. Credit: MPH photos/Shutterstock

A Lasting Legacy

The song won three Grammys in 2013 including a record of the year. Prior to his sudden success, Wally De Backer was a small-time musician playing gigs in his home country. His one-hit wonder could have shot him to selling out arenas and eventually could have led him to become a household name for decades to come. Unlike those who have tried unsuccessfully to win such esteemed awards, De Becker set out with the intention of creating art to be remembered not to be recognized a trope that allowed him to expand on his creativity.

The humble Australian man opted for a more solace lifestyle than that of award shows and paparazzi, returning to his band less than a year after his Grammy wins, he continued making music as a group rather than as a solo artist. The song remains one of the greatest one-hit wonders of all time and changed the way alternative music was perceived as a whole. To date, the song holds a deep sense of relatability and offers a sense of nostalgia. Gotye could have risen to astronomical fame through his talents but rather choose a life dedicated to art rather than fame, a lesson all of society could perhaps learn from.

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