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by Rob Harvilla

February 14, 2012

Who? | Pop

Who Is Gotye?

by Rob Harvilla  |  February 14, 2012

Welcome to Who?, a possibly reoccurring new Rhapsody feature addressing artists, songs and general cultural phenomena that seem to come out of nowhere. Our first subject is Belgian-Australian (yes!) quirk-rock sensation Gotye, whose lithe, catchy, xylophone-driven single "Somebody That I Used to Know" is rocketing up any chart you'd care to name. Let's try this.

Who? Gotye, aka Wouter "Wally" De Backer, making him quite possibly the first "Wally" in popular music, which it's about time.

What? One of those one-man-band types who plays, like, dozens of instruments, he's broken through big-time with his third solo effort, Making Mirrors, which transports Beck's sample-heavy junkyard-pop cheeriness both forward into the 21st century and back to the '80s. "Somebody That I Used to Know" sounds like Sting fronting Men at Work; with a vocal assist from New Zealand chanteuse Kimbra, the song now joins the hallowed "post-mortem he said/she said breakup songs" canon alongside " Don't You Want Me" and The Postal Service's " Nothing Better."

Where? Born in Belgium, he moved to Australia as a toddler and is now a big whoop there.

When? Making Mirrors came out in Australia in August 2011. Like most overnight sensations, he's actually been at this forever -- he's a veteran of several bands and released his first solo album in 2003.

How? Since being uploaded to YouTube in July 2011, the "Somebody That I Used to Know" clip (leg-hair alert) has racked up nearly 66 million views at press time; just for reference, Lana Del Rey's "Video Games," which so far has inspired more heated Internet verbiage than the 2012 presidential election, has garnered about half that.

Why? "Somebody" is indeed the jam, with an infectious air of melancholy and a breezy Tropicália air. Pastiche is sort of his thing: Mirrors has plenty of similar joys, from the Motown ode "I Feel Better" to the George Michael/Michael Bolton walking-on-sunshine jam "In Your Light" to the more current (ha) chillwave-ian overtones of the lovely "Giving Me a Chance." Plenty of future YouTube sensations lurking here.

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