Monday, April 23, 2012

Notes on "Somebody That I Used To Know"

Gotye's "Somebody That I used To Know" unfolds not as song, but as story. It has three acts, with character introductions, climaxes and grieving along the way.

Don't bore us, get to the chorus? Pft. Gotye spends the first 1:30 of the 4:04 song in murmur mode. He's developing a character, a man relieved that an impossible relationship has finally ended.

Conflict is introduced at the beginning of the second act in the form of the chorus. Deep inside, our protagonist is confused and angry about just how completely his girlfriend separated herself. "But you didn't have to cut me off / Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing."

The third act begins at 2:33 with the introduction of the female lead. She has her own desperations and regrets. She feels her ex demanded a complete separation, that he told her it was the only way he could go on with his life. And at the climax at 3:02, his cries spill down over hers like a mountain waterfall that will not be pushed aside by the wind.

The dénouement starts at 3:47, the boiling subdued by haunting, inevitability and loss. Unlike classic dénouement, the protagonist isn't any better or worse off than at the start of the narrative. The story concludes with the same indie hopelessness that you'll find in movies like Winter's Bone. The characters have cried without finding a shoulder, opened their hearts and found nothing waiting.

[Ed. - I don't really like the video for "Somebody That I Used to Know," but you can watch it here. And I doubt "desperations" is a word. But it seemed so perfect, defining for me that feeling that you get when you have fucked up absolutely everything, and you don't know how to make any of it better.]

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