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

June 1, 2012 |  3:02 pm

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.

Already floating around online is prog house DJ Tiesto's predictably un-nuanced remix, which adds cookie-cutter thumping to Gotye's vocals, and which only really shines during Kimbra's rebuttal when the excess is stripped away. Also slated to be on the official remix EP are, among others, Beastie Boy Adam "Adrock" Horovitz in his first project after the death of bandmate Adam Yauch (though presumably Adrock's take was submitted earlier in the year), New Zealand electro-house DJ Dan Aux, British abstract beatmaker Bibio, and others.

If you really hate "Somebody I Used to Know," one way to cope is to check out a recent 26-song Bandcamp compilation on which experimental beatmakers, punk bands and random renegades deconstruct it in wild and wonderful ways. In addition to providing evidence of the song's cultural impact, the collection, compiled by L.A. musician and promoter Kyle Mabson after requesting versions via social media, serves as a kind of mind-eraser.

If the original version is torturing you, make it vanish with Rhode Island-born Extreme Animals, who breaks it down and rebuilds it as a electro-geometric pastiche called "Sumbody Dot Wav Used 2 Kno." Feel like traveling back to 1992? Total Dicks' version turns it into an 808 drum machine rave jam. And the opening track, a dirty hip-hop version by Crumz Deep and Third Rate, is a totally schizophrenic cover that pitch- and tempo-shifts its way through about four or five different styles over three minutes.

Combined, the compilation is at times a difficult listen, but it's at these moments that its utility as an offensive weapon in the war on "Somebody" is apparent. Have any doubt? Listen to Large Talons' cover version. You'll never hear the song the same way again. Nor will you probably want to.


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-- Randall Roberts
Twitter: @liledit

Photo: Gotye performs on the third day of the Coachella Music Festival. Credit: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times