Saturday, February 25, 2012

If you like Gotye, thank The Police


Belgian-Australian performer Gotye (pronounced GO-tee-ay, like the French "Gauthier") burst onto the scene earlier this year with the wildfire-like success of his single "Somebody That I Used to Know," a collaboration with Kimbra from his 2011 release Making Mirrors. The song's mass appeal is understandable; it combines an unusual beat with multi-instrumental accents like xylophone, distorted surf guitar, and a strange, haunting guitar effect that sounds like a theremin. The song is primal in its subject matter, but manages to express a very familiar human emotion over a sound that feels fresh and cutting-edge.



But if you're at all like me, the first time you heard this song, you thought, "Who's doing this great cover of a Police song?"

Because every single element that Gotye uses to his advantage in "Somebody That I Used to Know" was pioneered by Sting and company in the late '70s and early '80s. These elements can be found in just about any song by The Police from that era, but perhaps no song better illustrates this point than "Can't Stand Losing You" from their debut album in 1978:



First, the obvious parallels: these two songs are in exactly the same key and are powered by the same unusual, reggae-inspired beat. They are both about lost love. (Nothing terribly amazing there; half of the songs ever written are about lost love, the other half are written about love not yet realized.) Both use the technique of a restrained, single voice on the verse before opening up into a full-chord harmonization on the choruses.

But then there are the subtler similarities, like the way Gotye apes Sting's phrasing (both plaintive and powerful) when he goes full-throated on the choruses, or the way the drums come in splashy toward the end of the song to kick up the energy level.

In almost every way, "Somebody That I Used to Know" sounds like a direct reference to "Can't Stand Losing You." So if you like Gotye, remember... thank The Police.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think the 'somebody' tune sounds like
Sting being backed by Japan

Lin said...

'...the first time you heard this song, you thought, "Who's doing this great cover of a Police song?"' That is exactly what happened! Thanks for your insightful analysis of this song and the music. Love your blog...I am now a follower.
Lin
Triwithallmyheart.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

YES! Before I heard the original version of this song, I watched the duet on Glee. I texted my mom, "Did you see that duet? Was it a Police song?" Thanks for the validation!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, this is exactly what I was thinking too! I am not crazy.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it sounds like the Police as much as it sounds like Cutting Crew's (I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight.

Fluffykira said...

THANK you! I have been listening to this song on the radio for days. Finally I looked it up because I was convinced the chorus was Sting, but not the verses. Looks like I'm not the only one who thinks that. :)

Anonymous said...

Belgium is the best country in the world.

Kasi said...

Gotye vs The Police in:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7fMZxJ0EVg

Barbara Franceschini said...

ohhhhhh!!!
finally I've found someone with my same opinion!!! I've thought the same things when I've heard this song the first time!!! :D

If you want, there's a photocontest on my photoblog!
www.photographyforpassion.blogspot.it

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this article. I remember hearing Somebody That I Used To Know and thinking "Why do I like this? Probably because it sounds like The Police." I'm glad I'm not the only one who made the connection -- but really, how could you miss it if you are, in any way, familiar with The Police's work?lol

Anonymous said...

I actually thought sting released a new song. lol

Gotye is Sting's son said...

Of course you should thank the Police for Gotye! https://www.facebook.com/gotye.is.stings.son

Anonymous said...

Gotye is/are The Police for the 21st Century. Who would cover for whom in a Road Tour?

Anonymous said...

I thought it was Sting too. Oh well, now I want to hear more of this guys music.

Anonymous said...

I was actually arguing with a buddy in my car when we heard this song. He was claiming it was new and I though I heard this song 10 years ago and that it was by The Police. Thanks for reaffirming that I'm not crazy!!

Jez Kemp said...

A lot of people are exaggerating the similarity between these 2 songs. The production on the drums, bass, rhythm guitars is very different. "Can't Stand Losing You" is British, ska, rock, and upbeat, while "Somebody I Used To Know" is none of these things!

Escape Concrete Jungles said...

I thought it was an old Police song. Glad to know it wasn't just me.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was Sting on the radio. Somebody totally has the signatures of a Sting.

Anonymous said...

I think King of Pain resembles a lot more to somebody that i used to know... just my 0.02 USD

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuOPRfq-q6U

Anonymous said...

you're right--King of Pain, that's it. I believe that's the connection that my mind hears everytime I hear this song. I, too, thought it was a remake, and my musician-husband claims I can "name that tune/artist" like no other! Isn't there a Sting/Police tune that contained that phrase,"someone that I used to know-or love"??

Lachappelle said...

The guy is a complete fucking ripoff and fraud....quit being PC pussies and say what needs to be said, loudly and bluntly. He copied Sting, robbed him blind, plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

To me it sounds exactly like a blend of King of Pain and Wrapped Around my Finger, but with production that sounds more like that from The Soul Cages. But there's no doubt that Gotye sounds exactly like Sting, with the Police or solo...

Anonymous said...

Or, even more obscure, like Lazarus Heart at around 75% speed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwpLXHpzBpc

Marty said...

IMHO it doesn't sound like early Police at all- none of the ska/reggae sound they had then. Bruno Mars is ripping off that era :D Agree about the similarities to King Of Pain and Peter Gabriel singing with a higher range. A bit like Sting I admit, but his voice is thicker like Gabriel's.

Marty said...

IMHO it doesn't sound like early Police at all- none of the ska/reggae sound they had then. Bruno Mars is ripping off that era :D Agree about the similarities to King Of Pain and Peter Gabriel singing with a higher range. A bit like Sting I admit, but his voice is thicker like Gabriel's.

Anonymous said...

The beat sounds like the Police song, but I think the melody is more similar to Phil Collins' "Another Day in Paradise"

I also had the feeling that 'Somebody that I used to know" was a remake of an 80s song. Was surprised to see that it's a recent song.

Anonymous said...

Wait .... I think I just got it. The vocals sound like Sting for sure, and the intro sounds like Baa Baa Black Sheep, but the rest of the song is "Caribbean Queen" by Billy Ocean

Suzzy said...

Please anyone help me find the female singler who has a song similar to gotye. Who has a music video where she is singing and dancing with 60's retro short short dresses in only black and white.
Her song was out before Gotyes. just 6months to 1 year.

i will be very gratefulif anyone can solve my riddle since it has been bugging me for quite some time

Anonymous said...

Thanks. When I first saw the video clip (and heard the song) I was struck by how much like Sting is seemed. I thought it was just that he looks a bit like Sting and sounds like him (when he cuts loose in the chorus) but now I realise there was more to it than just that. Still a great song and Kimbra is awesome on this track.