Song Review: Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are, you have heard the song “Somebody I Used to Know” by Gotye. In case you haven’t yet heard the song, please listen to this cover version by Walk Off The Earth that I think is better than the original.

Once you’ve gotten over the wow factor of five people playing the same guitar simultaneously, take a second to think about the song. Did the lyrics disturb you a little? They certainly disturbed me. Here is my interpretation of the message of this song.

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

In this verse, the male is reminiscing about a former relationship. It doesn’t sound like a happy one. When you have to tell yourself that this person is right for you, despite the fact that you don’t actually enjoy being around them, it definitely ISN’T love. I’ve also never heard anyone actually say “I’m so happy I could die” in a relationship, unless they were in the honeymoon stage of an abusive cycle.

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 it was over

Dude, you sound depressed. And I hate to be the one to break it to you, but “We can still be friends” is generally a line that one partner tells another to soften the blow of the breakup. You probably will never actually go have a beer after work and discuss your current relationships. That isn’t how things work when a bad relationship ends.

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 I feel 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

Aha! Now we know the real reason you wrote this song. You are angry and hurt that the line “We can still be friends” didn’t actually mean still being friends. It is normal and healthy to put some distance between yourself and a former lover when the relationship ends. Treating you like a stranger also screams that the relationship probably wasn’t a healthy one. Asking a friend to pick up your possessions is normal, and it sounds like she was probably avoiding seeing you. But the real indicator here is that she changed her phone number. Speaking from experience, that generally only happens when someone is scared of stalking, or is being harassed. Gotye, are you an abusive stalker?

Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
Part of 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

Here it is, straight from her. When you are in an abusive relationship, you are conditioned to believe that any argument, any fight, even your partner’s bad moods are somehow your fault. It is never because your partner has mental issues, it’s because YOU did something. You are also conditioned to listen closely to the words that your partner says, because you have to be on guard for any indication of an impending abusive episode, and though you try your best to defuse it, it never works. So she left him. He probably said something along the lines of “I’m better off without you, anyway!” In reality, she’s better off without him.

Could someone please explain to me how a song that is clearly about an abusive stalker of an ex-boyfriend has somehow become a hit single? And WHY nearly all of my female friends are so in love with this song?

Posted on May 25, 2012, in Dating, Media and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. First – I don’t think anyone knows what it means.
    Second – I think people relate to this song, just being cut off from a relationship in the past. Being told “I’ll always be there for you,” and then having the person disappear. I don’t dislike the song – I think it’s way overplayed – but I think I relate to both the male and the female – and sing along as if it was only one person singing.

  2. I think Soon2BeCatLady is right, a lot of people never actually listen to lyrics, but also i personally just relate to it from an abusive point of view and it’s a catchy tune. I totally understood this song as soon as i heard it. I felt it related to how I felt when it happened to me.

    Now do’nt get me wrong this is exactly how I’m taking this song, however I have a feeling that isn’t exactly how Gotye really meant for it to be taken. He said it was taken from personal experience but if he was the abusive stalker then he wouldn’t have put the female voice to fight in there. I think he just felt this was a topic few covered, or perhaps he’s actually taking the female side in this situation, he doesn’t have to be the male singer just because he’s singing it (in the real world).

    So I totally agree with your take on the song from a lyrical perspective but I do’nt think he meant it that way from his perspective.

  3. The song is definitely relatable and the music is simple enough to be an easy earworm. Agreed, though, the lyrics are rather trite and the whole thing is WAY overplayed. It’s enough to send me flying into a rage whenever it comes on (which, on KROQ, is at least once every commercial rotation). Your Favorite Martian did a cover of it as well, which I think is pretty excelsior.

  4. I think you’re totally misunderstanding the song. He was still hung up on a previous ex, so his girlfriend got upset and they broke up. She could not handle the rejection, so she cut him out of her life. He never really loved her as much as he loved the woman he was still “hung up on”, but it still hurts that she won’t even speak to him. It’s not about abuse or stalking.

  5. I think this is a character song – he’s singing in the character of a kind of creepy, somewhat stalkerish person. There aren’t many character songs on the radio, but I think that this is one. Songs can be about people other than the singer, even if they’re in the first person.

  1. Pingback: Your Questions: Answered! « Nice Girls Like Sex Too

Leave a Reply to Soon2BeCatLady Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: