Posts Tagged ‘American Idol’

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Gotye: The Instant Classic of “Somebody That I Used To Know”

April 15, 2012

 

 

 

The difference between a song that’s a chart topper that quickly fades away and a song that endures to become a classic is relevance.  New listeners over generations can project themselves into a classic, each hearing something a little different, each moved based on their own life experience. A classic song isn’t just beautifully built like a house, it has body and soul and new life is breathed into it with each person who experiences its words and melody.

And every so often there comes a song that saturates the airwaves, becomes an internet obsession, launches an artist worldwide…a song that sets trends, has deep meaning in the simple language of its verses, an irresistible chorus, and a video to go with it that is not just artistic but the perfect marriage of the song’s vocal and visual story.

Right now that song is “Somebody That I Used To Know” by the Australian singer songwriter Gotye. Last night he performed the song on “Saturday Night Live.” Tonight he’ll perform it at the Coachella Music Festival in California.

Gotye’s song tells a story that is as old as time: man, woman, relationship down the drain and the hard feelings that linger. And the nagging hurt that each treats the other like a stranger when they once shared their most intimate feelings and desires. Gotye’s decision to write a verse with the woman’s alternate perspective (sung by breakout artist Kimbra) was an ingenious decision in storytelling and is probably why the song became such a hit. It’s not often that both sides in the relationship-gone-bad song get a voice.

But when a friend sent me the link to “Somebody That I Used To Know” being performed as a cast number on  “Glee” I confess I was skeptical. I believe the word “vomitous” came up when I learned the song had been turned into a production number. I did not want to see a this song that is singlehandedly resuscitating what’s left of Top 40 and adult contemporary radio and the one new song that we want on the ipod,  diminished into a platform for contrived teenaged angst or  the quarterback-cheats-on-cheerleader high school plot.

But a classic song will also surprise you. And that’s how I felt after watching the “Glee” version. Will it ever be my favorite cover? No. (Neither will the cringe inducing duet performed on American Idol by contestants Elise Testone and Phillip Phillips). But the way in which “Glee” used the song to tell story of the estrangement of two brothers is interesting. It speaks to the scope of Gotye’s writing. The song has the depth and breadth to have relevance in relationships that I had never envisioned. Not just romantic but between siblings, a parent and child, or best friends.

And that’s how classics are born.

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