Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock lately, you’ve heard Gotye’s hit, “Somebody that I Used to Know”—that sparse-sounding, walking-rhythmic breakup song featuring New Zealand vocalist Kimbra. It’s currently topping radio and download charts, and is becoming a re-mix favorite for DJs everywhere. (Coachella fans reportedly got to hear numerous versions of “Somebody” between sets, in addition to Gotye’s own appearance there.)
So who is this Gotye guy, whom no one really knew until a few months ago? And should we care?
Gotye (say “go-tee-yay”) is the stage name for one Wally de Backer, an Australian dude who’s been exploring electronic pop mixes and samples for several years now. After releasing a couple of albums drew modest attention, his third album Making Mirrors has taken off worldwide, with most of the focus going to “Somebody that I Used to Know,” making Gotye pretty much an instant global sensation.
But…and I might take some flak for this…for the life of me, I can’t understand why.
It’s not that Gotye isn’t talented, because he is. Nor is it that is music isn’t at least somewhat catchy, because it is. It’s just that I don’t hear anything, either in the hit or the album, that makes me jump out of my seat and say, “I HAVE to own this.” There are thousands of musicians just as talented as Gotye, who will never achieve the fame he’s found in the past few months. So why him? Why not someone else?
And most importantly—what will Gotye do from here to keep from being a one-hit wonder? How will he stay on top?
Just so you know, I’m not a hater. I’m not anti-Gotye. I’m just concerned that his fame is a bit of an anomaly—that perhaps “Somebody that I Used to Know” has found success through sheer repetition. If I’m right about that, then Gotye is going to have to do something deeply substantial to keep the fame he’s achieved, for whatever reason he initially achieved it. He hasn’t actually “arrived,” and any attempt to coast on his current successes could easily result in a fast downhill slide.
That’s the problem with instant fame; if there is substance behind it, it can carry an artist for years, but if not, the fame can fade just as quickly as it blossomed. And that’s my cause for concern with Gotye. He’s got basically one song that has propelled him to the top, but that one song alone is definitely not enough to keep him there.
So is Gotye a one-hit wonder, or is he going to be a force to be reckoned with? The answer lies not in what he’s accomplished so far, but in what he has yet to do. For whatever reason (whether through talent or chance), he’s got himself a hit that’s landed him on the world stage. But it’s also given Gotye a lot to live up to.
At best, he has the opportunity to make this last; whether he will do so depends largely on him.