If you’re a fan you should stick behind your man
Wally de Backer, better known as Gotye, is a legend.
Not just because lately he has stoically endured a significant increase in strangers hideously mispronouncing his stage name as Goatee-yeah, Gotya and Goiter (it’s gore-ti-yeah), but because he’s a consistently creative artist who has made an art out of producing his own style of his music.
After owning the Australian charts late last year with Somebody That I Used To Know, Gotye’s hit whooshed to the top of the US Billboard charts this week, not long after it was performed on Glee. As one Twitterer put it, how often is a song at the top of the US charts recorded in someone’s home studio?
De Backer is the first Australian to top the US charts since Savage Garden in 2000. This follows him taking out the top gong in Triple J’s Hottest 100 this year, and chart-topping successes in Britain and throughout Europe.
The Poles and the Belgians have gone particularly crazy for him. Somebody, which also featured vocals from Kiwi up-and-comer Kimbra, sat on top of the Polish charts for 18 weeks straight. The Belgians have claimed him as their own because he lived there from ages naught to 2.
Somebody has been sold 5 million times so far and he’s earned a small fortune off the back of it. It’s welcome success after more than a decade plugging away producing ballads just like it. His hypnotic beats have gone platinum in Australia in the past, but only had some success overseas.
Hearts A Mess hit number 8 in the 2006 Hottest 100.
The only question now is whether will he become a victim of his own success.
Gotye’s got an incredible opportunity to capitalise on his success in the next few years with a follow-up album. It’s sure to be a sell-out.
But there’s often an attitude amongst a segment of the music nerd community that’s often the first to get behind new artists that, when an artist becomes successful, they’re not worth listening to anymore.
It’s a kind of tall-poppy syndrome: you’re either one of them or you’re one of us. It’s a kind of cynicism that believes that artists don’t love their music as much as they love their new rockstar lifestyles.
This is in part because of CRAP syndrome: Commercial Radio Annoying (over)Play. Victims of this include: Stone, Angus & Julia. Leon, Kings of. Red, Little. Monkeys, Arctic. Play, Cold.
According to ARIA, Gotye’s Somebody was played close to a quazillion billion times in the first few months of this year. It’s understandable that people are a little over it now.
But being successful doesn’t automatically mean you’re a sell-out.
I reckon Gotye’s got the musical nous and the modesty to hold onto his most devoted fans. He’s never betrayed his roots despite moderate success in the past. And this Fairfax profile of him on tour depicts a kind of guy who loves his music. Just listen to him speak:
It’s like a two-part fractal thing and they’re investigating if music and animation can be mapped onto it and triggered by a connect.’‘
‘Anyway, I was thinking, ‘how can I break this down into hooks and breaks?’ I’d like to turn [the song] into a six- or seven-minute thing that starts with loops of guitar and backing vocals. And as I did that I thought, ‘I still love this song’.
It’s easy to be a music cynic, but De Backer’s de backers have good reason to have his back.
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