Category: Gotye

Gotye's 'Somebody I Used to Know': remixes transform (ruin?) a hit

We're all sick of it. OK, at least most of us. That plonky keyboard melody that drills itself into your subconscious and starts floating in your head just as you're falling asleep, or as you're exiting a shop, or doing laundry. You hear it coming out of speakers as you're walking by an outdoor cafe, at Ralphs, at your favorite cafe, and it attaches itself to you like shackles. Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" has become, like Lady Gaga's "Pokerface" and Katy Perry's "California Gurls" before it, omnipresent in American life.

The song, No. 1 again this week for the seventh straight week, has taken on a life of its own. And the singer, who duets with New Zealand solo artist Kimbra on it, continues to capitalize on its success -- even if, judging by his early-set intro at Coachella in April, he seems to be getting sick of playing it live.

Still, like a record-setting hitting streak or pitching a perfect game, something like "Somebody" usually only comes around once in an artist's life, and as such, Gotye is taking advantage by announcing the impending release of a new project that will pit the song against 10 remixers hoping to shed new light on a melody and a meme.

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Album review: Kimbra's 'Vows'

Kimbra's 'Vows'Pity Kimbra, but just a bit. The young New Zealand singer-songwriter has an elastic, soulful voice and an ear for arranging screwball samples. But she entered the international limelight as the second-verse sidekick to another South Pacific-area singer with similar talents (hint: his name rhymes with “Gaultier” and he’s a fan of face paint).

That should all change with “Vows,” her international major-label debut that works like a more domesticated Björk effort. It’s a showcase for her wide-ranging vocal skills with a polite sonic adventurousness.

The opener, “Settle Down,” is a surprisingly funky beatbox boutique about knocking out kids, and that generally sets the tone for the rest of the record. The lite-jungle “Cameo Lover” is make-out music for people staying in modernist hotels with complicated faucets; “Good Intent” and “Plain Gold Ring” pitch-shift R&B harmonies and jazz instrumentation into something like dinner-party music for wine-buzzed androids.

Sometimes she’s self-consciously eccentric with her vocal tricks, but given her 1990s birthday, one can cut her slack for exploring how far she can push herself. Kimbra’s American fame may have come on the heels of someone else’s single, but there’s a vision here that’s entirely her own.

Warner Bros.
Two and a half stars (Out of four)

— August Brown


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The latest force on the pop charts is ... Lionel Richie?

Lionel Richie
Going country has turned out to be a rather shrewd move by crooner Lionel Richie. This week the artist scores his first chart-topping album in more than 25 years, as his twang-enhanced "Tuskegee" scoots into the top spot after a 35% sales jump. "Tuskegee" sold more than 128,000 copies over the past week, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and surpassed releases from Nicki Minaj and Adele in its ascent to the pole position. 

On "Tuskegee," Richie revisits his hits from the '80s with country stars, including Shania Twain, Willie Nelson, Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles, Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton and others. The last time Richie topped the Billboard chart, in fact, came in 1986 courtesy of his "Dancing on the Ceiling," reports the keeper of the U.S. pop charts. Now in its third week on the boards, "Tuskegee's" sales burst was inspired by last week's CBS special "ACM Presents: Lionel Richie & Friends in Concert." Thus far, the album has sold 423,000 copies.

Minaj, who topped last week's tally with her "Pink Friday ... Roman Reloaded," is at No. 3 this week, having sold an additional 81,000 copies. Thus far, Minaj's latest has sold 874,000 copies. Meanwhile, the album's single, "Starships," has sold more than 1.6 million downloads.

Minaj thus far is faring much better than Madonna with her new release. It was the latter, of course, who drafted Minaj for a cameo during her Super Bowl halftime show, but Madonna's "MDNA" has drifted out of the Top 10 in its third week on the chart. "MDNA" is at No. 18 this week with 21,000 sold. Thus far, it has sold 428,000 copies.

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Review: Gotye at the El Rey Theatre

Gotye performing at the El Rey Theatre Thursday night in Los Angeles
There are many ways to get famous on the Internet, from cutting a warbly music video about your favorite day of the weekend to being a New York congressman with an uncertain grasp of Twitter’s direct-message function. Here’s how the 31-year-old Australian-Belgian musician Wouter De Backer, who sold out the El Rey Theatre on Thursday night when he performed as Gotye, got noticed.

First, he recorded “Somebody That I Used to Know,” a quiet, stately breakup song brightened around the edges with samples and vocal harmonies. Then he made a modest video in which he’s painted to blend into a mural and gets an earful when the song’s guest vocalist Kimbra emerges -- painted in similar stripes -- to tell him off.

An adorable cat video should be able to tear this clip to ribbons in Internet traffic figures. But “Somebody That I Used to Know” is currently zeroing in on 60 million views, and it's making an American star of the genre-bending Gotye. He had a long career before this, releasing multiple independent albums of reggae-influenced, electronics-infused folk-pop in Australia, where he’s already a major artist. But he may be one of the best examples of YouTube helping to break a non-novelty pop star in America. His El Rey show proved there’s serious musicianship behind those online likes.

De Backer cut a nice-guy, alt-dude visage onstage at the El Rey, complete with bedhead, a deep V-neck T-shirt and a heartfelt vocal performance. His last L.A. show in the fall, at the Silver Lake indie-rock club the Satellite, sold out rapidly, and for this tour with a full backing band Gotye proved he's already aiming for festival crowds.

De Backer (a drummer and multi-instrumentalist) decked the El Rey stage with acoustic and electronic percussion kits that he wandered among between verses. At the back of the room, a video-manipulator tweaked animation samples that lent sometimes-amusing, sometimes-haunting edges to his songs.

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