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  • Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” features a singer he barely knew.
  • The track samples a famous nursery rhyme.
  • The track became a chart juggernaut.
Gotye and Kimbra of "Somebody That I Used to Know" fame standing next to each other
Gotye and Kimbra | Rick Diamond/WireImage

Not a lot of music directed at children does well on the pop charts in the United States. Despite this, Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” samples a famous children’s song. Gotye explained why he initially hesitated to use the sample.

Why Gotye decided to work with Kimbra even though they hadn’t seen each other in a long time

“Somebody That I Used to Know” is a collaboration between Gotye and Kimbra. During a 2012 interview with Vulture, Gotye revealed he first became aware of Kimbra when she covered one of his songs. Subsequently, he decided to go to one of her concerts.

“Maybe she was 17,” Gotye recalled. “She had just moved to Melbourne. We shared a drink. And then we didn’t really keep in touch.”

Another musician suggested they should work together. “Then five years later, [writer-producer] Francois Tetaz, who was working on Kimbra’s record and was mixing my album, suggested that I consider her for the song,” he said. “I took his suggestion, gave her a buzz, and sent her the song.”

Kimbra had a strong reaction to “Somebody That I Used to Know.” “She basically instantly said, ‘I love it. Let’s get together,'” Gotye recalled. “And the second she started demoing takes of the vocal I could tell that she was gonna be amazing.

Why Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ samples ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’

“Somebody That I Used to Know” samples part of the nursery rhyme “Baa Baa Black Sheep.” “I [almost] stopped myself because I thought, ‘Is this too cute?'” Gotye remembered. “But in the end, it had a rhythm and form.”

Gotye said the sample might have made the song appealing. “Maybe the reason it cuts to the core of people is because of something in childhood,” he said. “The song is very much about reflection: The whole first lyric is about thinking about old relationships and how I suppose memory can be quite unreliable.”


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How ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ and its parent album performed on the charts in the Untied States

“Somebody That I Used to Know” became a massive hit. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks. The track stayed on the chart for 59 weeks in total.

Gotye released “Somebody That I Used to Know” on his album Making Mirrors. The album reached No. 6 on the Billboard 200, remaining on the chart for 46 weeks. None of Gotye’s other albums peaked on the chart.

“Somebody That I Used to Know” is a pretty adult song for the pop charts even if it incorporates a children’s song.