Meaning of Gotye “Somebody that I used to know”


Meaning of Gotye “Somebody that I used to know”

Challenge accepted…

Summary:

He hasn’t come to terms with his break up with his former lover.   He is particularly affronted that what he called love was nothing to his former lover and is scared that it will happen again.[1]  He becomes involved in a new relationship.  His new lover explains how he has hurt her because he hasn’t “let it go”.  He recognises that he’s being a heel.  He signals to her that he has faith in her/is ready to “let it go”.  She signals her faith in him/the relationship.  There is an opportunity for reconciliation.

Discussion

Throughout the video Gotye sings to the camera.  Kimbra sings to Gotye.  The thing which Gotye and Kimbra have in common is the painting.   The painting starts after the end of the first stanza.  By then we know:

(i) he has already broken up with whoever he is addressing;

(ii) he knew the old relationship was empty;

(iii) he feels hurt that his old lover thought it was nothing (/less than  nothing?).

The fact that his old lover cuts him off (even though the break up was amicable) suggests that his old relationship was not just empty, but was illusory – and that he had committed to this illusion.  He thought it was love.

The painting is the start of his new relationship with Kimbra.  That relationship develops through the second stanza.  It is only after the relationship has developed that we are introduced to the Kimbra character.  (He has his back to the wall, but she has her front to the wall –  I assume there is nothing in this other than the desire to have a G rating for the video.  Neither character acknowledges the existence of the wall/painting [see also note 1])

As Kimbra starts singing she turns her head so that:

(i) the green paint on her cheek aligns with the rest of the painting/relationship

(ii) she is addressing Gotye.

When she says he “screwed [her] over” he sighs noticeably.  When she says he hurt her (“believing it was something I had done”) he closes his eyes.

Just before she sings “I don’t want to live that way” she motions noticeably to break herself from the painting/relationship before approaching Gotye [see note 3].  She is still painted at this point.  They are almost touching – she addresses him but he continues to address the camera.   When she says that he had promised her that he was over his old lover Gotye closes his eyes/looks down, away from Kimbra.  When he starts singing again he still talks about how he was hurt by break up of the old relationship/confused by his realisation it was nothing.  Perhaps he is scared that his new lover will also think he’s nothing/that the new relationship might also not be real.  What if he commits to this new relationship and discovers she too thinks he/it is nothing? [Kierkegaard/Existentialism – how can you commit your whole being to something which you know can end – if that happens, won’t it destroy you too?]

While he is singing about his hurt, she seems to be imploring him to acknowledge she is there.  He doesn’t look at her.  She starts to move off.  He realises his new relationship is not an illusion/not nothing [see note4].  He starts to look towards her (he has not done so earlier).  She returns to her original position [does this put her “back to where they started”?] and the painting/relationship begins to come off her. As this happens his singing becomes increasingly more subdued.  He spends more time looking to her.

As the painting/relationship comes off her, he sings partly to the camera, but also partly to her.  When he is saying “you” in “you’re just somebody that I used to know” he addresses the camera.  But when he is facing Kimbra he’s singing “somebody” and “used to know”.  After she has moved away from him his singing doesn’t return to his earlier hurt.  All he sings about is how the old lover is somebody that he used to know – he is over her/her opinion of him now.  He also increasingly looks towards her – while she walks away there are cuts with him looking towards her and at the camera but he spends all of the end of the video (the last 15 seconds or so) looking at her.  His subdued singing, the content of what he is singing and the fact that he is looking to Kimbra is signaling that he’s ready to have faith in the new relationship.

While he does this, their stances are reversed.  She faces the wall/painting/relationship while he is looking to her.  As the song ends, she stops looking at the wall and turns her head to look at him.  Both of them sing the last word (“somebody”) to each other (they “harmonise”/”in harmony”).  This is the only time that they sing together – in fact it’s the only time they communicate with each other directly.  It is also the only time they make eye contact.  They are signaling faith in each other to each other.  She has faith that he has put his past experience behind him, he has faith that she believes in him/the relationship.  When the video ends they are both in frame, he is painted and she is not – she is ready to start anew.[2] The painting on the wall/relationship is still there.  They are looking at each other.

Whatcha think?

Conclusion

He hasn’t come to terms with his break up with his former lover.   He is particularly affronted that what he called love was nothing to his former lover and is scared that it will happen again.  He becomes involved in a new relationship.  His new lover explains how he has hurt her because he hasn’t “let it go”.  He recognises that he’s being a heel.  He signals to her that he has faith in her/is ready to “let it go”.  She signals her faith in him/the relationship.  There is an opportunity for reconciliation.

Note:

Natasha Pincus, the film maker behind the music video has a different view, implying Gotye is singing about his current relationship with the Kimbra character.  Michael Cathcart describes it as a break up song/tiff song.  It is not either.

PostScript [4 June 2012]: What if Kimbra is the “Old Gf”? – The Two Person Interpretation

An anonymous commenter below says I am way off and there is no new girlfriend, just the old one.  This is what I thought when I first heard the song (and is consistent with the Pincus (that is, the author of the video!) statement linked to above).  I couldn’t make sense of video if there were only two people, him and his ex-gf.  The problems I had with the 2 person interpretation (2PI) are:

(i) Gotye doesn’t sing to her.  If she was in the room and he was upset with her, why wouldn’t he look at her?  Especially when she comes up beside him.
(ii) Kimbra is literally singing to him. This is inconsistent with what Gotye is saying she does/has done – according to him, she didn’t even show up to collect her records, and has cut him off and treated him like he was nothing.  Whatever she’s doing, it’s not shutting him out and treating him like nothing.
(iii) (incidentally) the singing to him is also inconsistent with the idea that maybe she’s off somewhere else thinking about him and telling her story from afar
(iv) Kimbra complains about him being hung up on somebody that he used to know.  Why would she say this if Gotye was singing about her? (See below)
(v) if you interpret the painting as the relationship, then it only starts after Gotye has already broken up with whoever he’s singing about. If you don’t interpret it that way, what is it?  It starts after they have broken up, yet is part of him, her, and “the background”;
(vi) Gotye says that they broke up because they “found that they did not make sense”.   This isn’t consistent with what Kimbra is complaining about.

(vii) they harmonise right at the end.  Why would they do this if it’s all over and they’re not having anything to do with one another anymore?

So, is it possible to resolve these problems and make sense of the 2PI?   I really like the way Anonymous tackles my issue (iv) above – Kimbra’s statement is about herself – why are you complaining about the way I treated you, when you always told me you wouldn’t get hung up on anyone (and therefore wouldn’t get hung up on me).

Unfortunately I can’t get the proposition that they are singing in response to each other, mainly because the conversation doesn’t make sense to me.  If she is saying to him “look, schmuck, this is the reason I didn’t talk to you after we broke up” then:

(i) why is she bothering to tell him anyway?  She’s broken off all ties, how did they get back in the room together all painted?

(ii) she says “now and then” I think about stuff.  She doesn’t say, at some time in the past when we were in the relationship I thought about stuff and that’s why I broke it off and that’s why I didn’t talk to you afterwards.  That is, it explains why she doesn’t want to talk to him now (despite the fact that she is) but doesn’t explain why she cut him off when they broke up.  This is a tense problem similar to (iii) below.

(iii) the tense is wrong.  She says “but I don’t want to live that way, reading into every word you say”?  She is expressing what she doesn’t want to do now.  Why doesn’t she say “I didn’t want to live that way”;

(iv) after she has just explained to him why she did what she did, not only does he say “[well, you didn’t have to cut me off]” he also says “but you treat [not treated] me like a stranger and that feels so rough” – but she’s right there beside him, decidedly not treating him like a stranger (this bit – how could he say she is treating him like a stranger when she’s there talking to him – actually drove me a bit nuts trying to decipher it initially);

(v) she said that they could be friends, then cut him off.  He thinks they broke up because “we found we could not make sense” – consistently with him feeling lonely with her.  Now she’s saying they broke up because he was a jerk? But he felt that there was something wrong with the relationship.  It’s not really consistent with her breaking up with him because he was a jerk.

(vi) what is the painting?  It only begins after they have broken up.  Before she sings it is already complete and she is already a part of it.  How can she be explaining what she did after they broke up if she’s still part of the relationship?  If it’s not the relationship what is it?

Now, maybe the painting is not their relationship.  Maybe it’s their network of friends connecting them and they’re sending the message out to her.  I quite like this interpretation, but it also doesn’t make sense.  It’d explain why she’s back in the room with him, but wouldn’t explain why the painting comes off her at the end of the video.   The background of mutual friends would presumably get smaller as time went on, not more elaborate.  Moreover, if it was friends connecting them, why is the wall blank at the start?  Wouldn’t the network already be there, but with certain links becoming more emphasised?  It also spreads out above and beyond both of them so is not merely a communications channel.  I do hope it’s not his Facebook “Wall”(!!)

Maybe it’s a flashback?

I can almost pull off a 2PI if he is having a flashback of some sort.  Then, the Kimbra we see is not the “real” Kimbra, rather it’s the Kimbra in his mind’s eye.  It is him resolving for himself the criticisms he is making of her.  I think the argument that “hung up on somebody”  means “hung up on Kimbra” is even stronger in this case, because it would be him chiding himself about what he had said earlier and the tense problems are more easy to dismiss.  The problems with this interpretation are:

(i) if it is her in his mind’s eye, why doesn’t he address her directly?  If she was physically there, maybe he’d be too hurt to look at her, but that makes no sense if it’s his recollection;

(ii) there no interaction between what he says and the explanations she is providing.  If it his recollection of her, he is the source of the explanations, so you’d think there’d be better matching;

(iii) similar tense issues with what Kimbra say, perhaps not as strong;

(iv) the ever-present problem of the painting.  What is it? Why is it on him and her?  Why is it removed from her but not him?  On this interpretation it can’t be their relationship, because she’s just a figment of his imagination.  It might be his emotions and angst at trying to sort everything out?  But the progress of the painting doesn’t seem to be tied to what he’s singing – the painting starts after his first stanza and continues through the second.  It is finished on the wall by the time he starts his chorus “But you didn’t have to cut me off…”.  During his chorus it engulfs him.  If the song is about him providing an explanation to himself, it’s hard to interpret the painting anymore – if he has a resolution at the end of the song, why isn’t the whole of the painting removed?

Additional Conclusion

One of the strengths of the piece is its ambiguity and the manner in which everyone can see something of their own experience in it.  That ambiguity might be because it’s just plain inconsistent.  The painting, in particular, yearns to have a meaning applied to it, but it is hard to give it such a meaning in any way which is consistent with the rest of the song/video. It might be this lack of clear meaning that is the real reason it is such a good piece.

End Notes:

1: The issue is not that Gotye is upset at losing the previous relationship.  He admits that the relationship was empty, is happy they split up and asserts that the old lover is just somebody that he used to know.  The issue is that the old lover really is “just somebody that [he] used to know”.  That is, the relationship was nothing when he thought it was something.  We know his new relationship is “something” because it’s all over the wall – it literally (err… in a figurative sense) exists outside of him/her.  However, he doesn’t seem to see it so can’t be sure about it, and this is what is hurting her.

It may be that Kimbra faces the wall because she can see that their relationship is meaningful, while he has his back to the wall because he hasn’t seen it.  She never turns fully with her back to the wall.

2: The removal of the paint from Kimbra is actually pretty hard to parse.  If she is leaving the relationship, why does she stay in the picture?  Why does she face the wall/relationship?  Why does she sing to/with Gotye? Why doesn’t the paint cover her face as it does Gotye’s? (and why does she have such heavy eye makeup??) [Update 4 September 2013: I really like Daniel Gomes suggestion that the painting is his memory of the old relationship, so that’s how he initially sees Kimbra, but now he’s seeing her for what she is.  This interpretation is broadly consistent with the argument above. +1 Daniel!]

From her point of view, she can’t see the paint on her own back.  Does the removal of the paint mean that this is how Gotye sees her – she sees him as being part of the relationship, but he doesn’t see her that way?  Does it mean that Gotye sees her as a person/for what she is rather than as an adjunct to the relationship?

3. The way Kimbra removed herself from the painting annoyed me for a while.  If she was tearing herself away, then it would be more pronounced.  In retrospect she is not breaking from the relationship, so much as loosening herself from it. Seen in this way the less pronounced movements make more sense.

4. A less sympathetic interpretation is that he’s worried that if this relationship ends the current gf will also treat him like it was nothing.

75 Responses to “Meaning of Gotye “Somebody that I used to know””


  1. 1 Anonymous 3 May 2012 at 3:07 am

    Love the way u put it. Anything could be a possibility. Do u happen to be interested or studied Literature?

  2. 2 brendanscott 3 May 2012 at 11:14 am

    Thanks. I didn’t study literature. I guess I am interested in it though.

    Cheers

  3. 3 Amanda 25 May 2012 at 6:35 pm

    That was awesome! i really enjoyed reading this!

  4. 5 Way off. 4 June 2012 at 11:18 am

    I appreciate your effort to dig deep into the song, but I can’t help but feel that your interpretation is way off. Kimbra is the “old lover”. Gotye is singing to Kimbra about how even though they agreed they were breaking up amicably and were going to be friends, she completely distanced herself from him. There was no post break up friendship and he is hurt that whatever they had going on before meant absolutely nothing to her and they are existing like they don’t even know each other. To this Kimbra is responding by saying that u screwed me over a lot while they were together, and made her feel like whatever was wrong in the relationship was her mistake. But she doesn’t want to live that way and read into every word he says, and then she reminds him that when they broke up he had said that he could let it go and she wouldn’t catch him hung up on her. He agrees, he acknowledges he said that hence the sigh and looking down in the video. But he still doesn’t understand why she had to sever ties with him completely. And argues all the way to the end. The beauty Of the song is the two are really arguing with each other but musically. The rise in voice and tone when he starts with “but u didn’t have to…” represents his frustration so fully, and when she says “hung up on somebody that u Used to know” we totally get it, both sides of the argument. The fact that at the end her painting disappears but his remains probably suggests that she has moved on but he hasn’t.

    • 6 brendanscott 4 June 2012 at 10:16 pm

      Wow, that’s great. I love your argument that she’s telling him he’s said he wouldn’t be hung up on her. I have expanded the article with some reasons why I chose the interpretation I did over this one. Give me a consistent interpretation of the painting though. On this approach it must be something that starts after they have broken up/cut him off.

      • 7 phil 13 June 2012 at 12:41 pm

        Hi. I tend to go along with the ‘Kimbra is the old GF’ version, but with this difference. Kimbra’s verse is explaining why she had to cut him off. After the breakup, when they ‘could still be friends’ he ‘screwed her over’, blaming her for the breakup. She is no longer prepared to put up with his games (‘I dont want to live that way…’), especially when he had agreed he could ‘let it go’ (which he obviously hasn’t). When she says ‘and I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know’, she is throwing his words back at him – if I am just somebody that you used to know, why do you still care and why are you still so angry?

        I also think perhaps the Gotye verses are post-hoc rationalisation. Maybe there were problems in the relationship, but he is exaggerating to the point of ‘well, if you don’t want me, then I really didn’t want you after all, and you don’t mean anything to me’ – it is all very much ‘bat, ball, go home’ and emphasises the point of Kimbra’s last line.

        And FWIW, I totally identify with him.

    • 8 Right On 21 June 2012 at 12:02 am

      Way Off, I totally agree with your interpretation. I also believe Kimbra is the old lover he is referring to. She moved on and cut him out of her life entirely (changing her number) because he was still hung up on her and wanted her back. Great song, great video. It leaves room for much interpretation.

      • 9 SDCE 8 October 2012 at 10:07 pm

        I think in the video the shrug she gives is her shrugging of the old relationship. they are both constrained by the lines of the painting which signifys the relationship. She shrugs and breaks free. In doing so she has become able to give her views clearly as she is ‘over it’. when she returns to her old pose the paint is stripped from her – Signalling a complete transition. He however is still constrained by the sharp lines of the painting – this signifies his ‘integration with his emotions and the past and reveals he is still bound by it

    • 10 Suzy 19 August 2012 at 4:20 pm

      That’s what I think the song means, too. I love the way they are “arguing” musically at that point in the song. He’s the one who told Kimbra that he wouldn’t be hung up on her and he didn’t need her, but that is a lie. He’s that guy who always wants what he can’t have, and now that she’s gone he wants her back but doesn’t want to tell her that. I feel like Gotye’s character was someone who is always unhappy in relationships (but that was love and it’s an ache I still remember). Kimbra knew he was unhappy and thought it was something she’d done, but when she realized that’s how he is she left him. And now that he doesn’t have her, he’s actually insulted that she’s moved on. I find his paint colors are drab, while hers are vibrant and full of life. Then when her paint is erased you see that all color has gone from his life, and it’s dull and drab. Lovely discussion – it’s great when a song’s lyrics and video make us think and look for metaphors and meanings.

    • 11 Anonymous 19 September 2012 at 1:15 pm

      Well said…that is how i interpreted it, but you said it so clearly. The lack of paint on her means she is “clear” and able to move on. He, on the other hand, is still caught up in the past. Even though he knew it wasn’t right, he is annoyed by her ability to detach from him and move on.

    • 12 Anonymous 12 January 2013 at 4:37 pm

      gotta agree, Kimbra is so obviously the past love.

      Another observation…when she is singing “Somebody” so defiantly right in his face while he is doing his reprise, is it maybe done with a ‘lalalalala i can’t hear you’ attitude?

      What a great song! How many of us are there?

    • 13 skb8721 12 March 2013 at 2:07 am

      I agree with Way Off’s interpretation.

      Also, I think there is a darker aspect of the story that the lyrics don’t tell us: At first Gotye is a sympathetic figure, but then we hear Kimbra’s side of the story. The fact that she sent friends to collect her records and then changed her phone number suggests she was ultimately frightened or creeped out by Gotye, and hints that not only was he unable to “let her go,” but perhaps that he was harassing her or stalking her — why else would she change her number?

      • 14 skb8721 12 March 2013 at 2:09 am

        Also, I agree with Goyte fan’s interpretation (below) about the meaning of the painting — that it represents his world, from which Kimbra eventually removes herself. But to me it also looks like the painting is fractured (representing a complex, overly complicated world) and also bears a resemblance to spider webs (ensnaring Kimbra).

      • 15 Sofía 21 September 2015 at 5:51 pm

        Totally agree with that

    • 16 Gemma Willow 23 July 2016 at 5:38 pm

      Hi, I also agree that Kimbra is the previous lover. I felt as though Kimbra was sort of taking revenge on Gotye considering he was the one who hurt her in the first place. Due to this, she treats him like a stranger and acts as though their love means nothing to her.

  5. 17 brendanscott 13 June 2012 at 4:17 pm

    @Phil – so what does the painting represent?

    • 18 phil 13 June 2012 at 4:31 pm

      I am not sure the painting (as used in the video) means anything. Gotye’s father is an artist and the painting is one of his. It is used on the album cover. Although, you could say that at the end, when Kimbra has lost all the paint, she is no longer ‘in the picture’?

      • 19 Goyte Fan 13 August 2012 at 2:18 pm

        I’m pretty sure the picture has plenty meaning in this video and wasn’t random visual eye candy. In fact, you kinda hit right on it. The picture symbolizes the tapestry of the scorned lover’s life. It’s his world basically including the drama he has built around this woman. When the woman finally confronts him about his conflicted emotions he has involved her in (hence her being painted into his frame) she steps back and the paint is removed from her, symbolically being completely “out of the picture”. It’s the ultimate closure… (until he tries to add her on Facebook 10 years later and stalk her all over again. Lol!)

      • 20 Goyte Fan 13 August 2012 at 2:23 pm

        (clarification) …the woman being an ex-lover who he thought he could still be friends with after the break-up but she clearly sees its not going to work because of his lingering feelings and so she takes herself entirely out of the picture…. I’ve had this actually happen to me so I’m really feeling the video! =(

    • 21 Gemma Willow 23 July 2016 at 5:45 pm

      Personally, I think that the colours in the paining represent the “colours in the relationship.” Gotye is coloured in mostly browns and whites because he feels as though the relationship is empty and plain with nothing special.

  6. 22 Lis7 17 June 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I enjoyed reading your review very much. I also think that Kimbra is the person he is singing about, but she is the second lover. He is stating his case to the audience and trying to elicit sympathy. He almost has us believing him, and then Kimbra explains her view of their relationship. So I agree with Phil up to a point. However, I think there is a double irony in the lyrics. When Kimbra sings “hung up on somebody that you used to know” SHE is talking about a former lover of his that he couldn’t let go. He wasn’t emotionally available in the relationship because of this, and he gaslighted her, making her think that she was the distant one and the cause of the relationship ending, projecting his own issues onto her. I’ve been in a relationship like this, and I have to say that the verses Kimbra sings make perfect sense to me in that context.

    As far as the meaning of the painting, I think that the painting indicates the layers of entanglement and hurt that they each felt. At the end, she sheds the painting, indicating that she has been able to express her hurt and free herself emotionally from the relationship. (Another view would be that she is open to a new, “clear” relationship with him, but I think she would be setting herself up for a redux, as he’s clearly not over the first lover.)

    • 23 brendanscott 17 June 2012 at 2:25 pm

      “I think that the painting indicates the layers of entanglement and hurt that they each felt. ”

      Yes, I was wondering if it might be something like that after Phil’s comment. I need to think about what you’ve said about K being his second lover more though.
      Cheers

      • 24 Lis7 19 June 2012 at 11:33 am

        I think Kimbra’s lyrics give this song an unexpected twist. “Rumour Has It” by Adele also has a twist near the end of the song.

    • 25 brendanscott 19 June 2012 at 12:14 pm

      Not emotionally available +1
      gaslighted – I learnt a new word.
      Painting: The painting starts after his first verse, so it can’t represent what’s gone before. I think you could argue that the painting is recrimination. That seems to be consistent with when it starts and the fact that it is on both him and her. It is a little less clear what it means to be on the wall though. This would only make sense if they’ve already broken up – inconsistent with Kimbra being the second lover?
      Or you’re saying she is the second lover and they have already broken up?
      ?If he was addressing the audience he’d say “she” not “you”?
      I can’t get him as addressing Kimbra because she’s not “treating [him] like a stranger”. Maybe it’s just inconsistent on this?

  7. 26 Latte 25 June 2012 at 8:08 am

    Wow, your interpretation is so detailed! It’s interesting the way you put it. I was curious to see how other people view the song. If you’d like to see my take, you can check out: differentceleb.blogspot.com

  8. 27 Anonymous 26 June 2012 at 6:16 am

    i think that

  9. 28 Anonymous 26 June 2012 at 6:17 am

    they are both loser who have fell in live deeply…… bla bla bla.cba….

  10. 29 Anonymous 26 June 2012 at 6:57 am

    I love your interpretation! I think that would have been cool and made a lot more sense in my opinion. When listening to the song and watching the video my first question was always who is kimbra talking about? Whoever said that she could be saying you always said you’d never get hung up so why do you care and I guess that makes sense too but it seems to make a lot more sense the way you described it. Unfortunately I’m pretty sure that’s not what Gotye was intending when writing it. I’ve watching interviews where he said he wasn’t going to add her part and but his “character” had run out of story and that it was “the other side of the coin” Meaning her argument to the story. Also if you watch them do it live he sings to her once she comes in the picture as if she’s the only person involved. I thought your interpretation made a lot of sense but If I had come to the same conclusion as you originally I think I would have thought her being washed off all paint at the end indicated that she was no longer a part of it that was her washing her hands of the whole thing if you ask me.

  11. 31 Q 28 June 2012 at 4:05 am

    I’d have to disagree with this interpretation. The video adds a lot for sure and Gotye’s expressions tell a lot. If you look at the first time you see his face, you see that he is reflecting. He is in thought. That should set the tone for the entire song. This is being played out in his mind via his memories.

    You make so much of the direction he is facing, but if you really step back and look at it, he is only NOT looking forward for the end and in those shots he looks in three different directions, at Kimbra, at the Camera and away from Kimbra. All three directions while saying the same lines. In fact, right as she starts her lines, he looks away and his expression is that he doesn’t want to hear it. You can tell he knows what she’s saying is true but he won’t allow himself to accept it. From this shot alone, you know he is singing about Kimbra. So your making so much of his direction is completely misplaced. He refuses to look at her because he refuses to acknowledge her point. He doesn’t start singing AT HER again until she’s moving away. and he’s just reinforcing “somebody I used to know.”

    Now, what does the painting represent? The painting represents his thoughts on the relationship. As he comes to the conclusion that Kimbra is just somebody he used to know, his thoughts are complete. Hence he is completely part of the painting as the video pans out to reveal Kimbra. She is already starting to fade from his life as her face is already not part of the painting. As most people do, he starts to question himself, he remembers her argument to him – that he consistently screwed her over but made her feel it was her own fault. Hence why she’s still somewhat in the painting.

    He is reflecting on himself / his life / his relationship. (mirrors = reflection). Him part of the painting means he’s innocent (doesn’t know he’s nude), but Kimbra is already somewhat losing her innocence (her face is not painted). As she walks away she is completely removed from the painting, he will not acknowledge his faults, to him she is not innocent, he is. It’s her fault, she’s completely wrong.

    He’s still in denial…

  12. 32 Anonymous 28 June 2012 at 11:05 pm

    I totally agree that Kimbra is the new lover and he can’t get over the old lover which has killed his new relationship with Kimbra. Love this song. Great interpretation, Brendan Scott.

    • 33 Anonymous 10 July 2012 at 5:50 am

      My thoughts on the painting with regard to either Kimbra being the new love or old love are similar to the person that said it represents their entanglement. I don’t think the painting represents an actual relationship; it represents baggage and the feeling of being a background object in your own life. Being a painting is to become stagnant. The shared painting simply indicates that their baggage stems from the same place/events/people. Kimbra becoming unpainted signals she is moving on. Goyte, regardless of whether he looks at Kimbra or not, is still painted, still stagnant; he’s not ready to move on.

  13. 34 Analyzer 14 July 2012 at 4:18 pm

    I too have watched the video numerous times and pondered the words and artistic message. I’ve always felt that the story of the song is about the two of them. The painting reflects that they were once together, but just as the song ends, so does her bearing the same markings of their relationship. He is definitely the one who has not gotten over it, and she is reminding him that he stated he could. The song emits the frustration each share; he hasn’t gotten over it which is why he complains about her cutting him off. She apparently tired of being made to be the blame of everything and leaves him, and does not want him in her life anymore, yet he continues trying to be. The classic lover vs friend tug of war in the heart and mind. I think she has always felt she was out of it, but as he sees it, via seing her still painted, she is still a part of his life. At the end, he realizes it is done, as he is looking at her while the paint disappears, and sings the last word with her, signifying their final goodbye. Awesome video interpretation of the song.

  14. 36 Cabbage 9 August 2012 at 3:55 pm

    I really like your idea about what Somebody I Used To Know. It all makes sense and everything matches just as you said, all your paragraphs are really easy to understand. I would love to read another of your explainings of songs (:

  15. 38 brendanscott 28 August 2012 at 12:12 pm

    I wanted to add – to the people who say he’s in denial/not over her – that I think this is accusation is unfair to him. He says that he “admits” he is glad it is over, that he felt lonely in her company etc. I don’t think it’s fair to say that he’s either making it up or that he’s lying when he says these things, especially given that he’s so explicit about what it is that upset him (that she cut him off etc).

  16. 39 SomebodyYouNeverKnew 4 September 2012 at 2:15 pm

    To me, the entire song represents relationships in general, and reflecting on them. In many relationships, we fall in love and want things to work out, then break up and the person is vanished from our lives. Reflecting on this, it is painful and doesn’t make sense. How can we be in love, then suddenly the other person is just another somebody? How can they erase themselves so completely from our lives and hearts? We are in love, then completely cut off, and it’s never our fault. It’s always the other person’s fault, regardless of what happened in the relationship – regardless of how we treated that other person. I think it’s a song that reflects on what most of us have felt more than once…. not just on one relationship that one person has experienced.

  17. 40 hollie 12 September 2012 at 7:01 am

    I disagree. I belive that Gotye is telling everyone his story and saying that its kimbra’s fault. Kimbra refuses to be apary of his story though and tells the truth. He doesn’t look at her because he’s ashamed. She breaks away and the paint comes off.

  18. 41 Roy Anderson 16 September 2012 at 11:30 pm

    Can’t believe how everyone has fallen for the covered up meaning of this song !! This song is about heroin and what it done to their relationship. All that cutting up of the body is the heroin tracks left on your body after using for a while..! ” you didn’t have to cut me up” Heroin…, get it. Please listen carefully this is just a cover up interpretation.

  19. 42 Goosh 26 September 2012 at 2:04 pm

    I like your take on this song. that’s what makes songs great, everyone gets a different meaning from them. For instance, this song to me, represents a couple who have been together for quit some time. Seems like neither party really wants to be in the relationship anymore….but it is hard to step out because of the memories or ties that they had, so why change normalcy?
    Maybe she was starting to open her social patterns and began making different friends, while he stayed the same. (what I mean is, she began to become a different person, someone she wanted to be rather than being the person everyone else wanted her to be, or who he wanted her to be) I feel like she cut him out cold heartedly because as she’s trying to leave he keeps bringing up the past a lot to continue the relationship….. like when “so happy you could die.” so instead of arguing with, she just left.(maybe because she knew if she stayed, she would again give into every thing he says.) She cut ties probably in hopes to be friends down the road after he got over the hurt and pain.
    From her verse it sounds like he has definitely hurt her a lot. (emotionally)…to me sounds like manipulation or control. Sounds like he would want things and she wouldn’t, but he would talk her into it.or twist his words so it sounded like he was making a good point… and everything was her fault. (maybe her fault for the relationship ending , (because she left)..he makes it seem like nothing that he did was wrong) she is trying to change who she has become with him because she doesn’t like that person anymore. She is trying to be herself, she doesn’t want to be manipulated anymore, by anyone. She doesn’t want him to be hung up on how she used to give in to him all of the time. She is now, somebody that he used to know, because now she is a different person…a person able to stand up for herself. ????????

  20. 43 Paul 29 September 2012 at 7:40 am

    Interesting argument but then if Gotye is talking to a third person, then why on this live performances he turns around to face Kymbra and she just turns his back on him? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8V6Z41UyHOE …. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5N5mq8MxZMw&feature=related… And why he doesn´t sings “But SHE didn´t had to cut me off”??

    • 44 brendanscott 29 September 2012 at 10:14 am

      I haven’t seen the live performance. However, I’m interpreting a specific video. If the the words are played against a different video their meaning can change. “She” vs “You” good point, but to me it’s like a soliloquy, and that’s part of the reason the Kimbra character is upset. He’s so hung up on the old gf he isn’t acknowledging the new gf’s presence.

  21. 45 Karen 10 October 2012 at 10:10 am

    I think ur wrong. He was visible to her when they started dating because she “saw” him & loved him. But he treated her poorly until she no longer saw him & he became invisible to her -just blending into the background (paintrd). But she was always invisible to him. He treated her poorly & took her for granted, never really “seeing” her. She was just a part of the scenery to him. Until she left him & then he really SAW her & realized what he lost (her becoming unpainted & therefore no longer invisible to him). Typical she loved him & he took her for granted, but when she no longer loves him (sees him), he suddenly sees all she was. That’s my take on it. Nothing too specific or complicated. By her saying he told her he would never be hooked on somebody that he used to know I took it to mean he led her to believe he wouldn’t be bothered if she was gone, but obviously he IS and she’s rubbing it in his face.

  22. 46 Tiger427 23 October 2012 at 3:53 pm

    I agree with Lis7, and I think the clue to the song is in the first and second verses. Kimbra, as his second lover, was totally into him, which is why he reports that he remembers her saying that she was so happy she could die. But Gotye, on the other hand, was never really into her (because he was hung up on his first lover) and is trying to delude himself by saying that he had told himself that Kimbra was right for him, even though he admits he felt lonely in her company.
    And then he says “but THAT was love and it’s an ache I still remember.” But the question is what is “THAT.” I believe “THAT” was his first love, because it doesn’t make sense that a love where he’s deluding himself that it’s “right” and where he feels lonely is strong enough to be an “ache” he would still remember.
    This interpretation is further supported by the first two lines of the second verse. He says he can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness (meaning his first love) “like resignation to the end, always the end.” Now he might have felt resigned to continue his relationship with Kimbra, which accounts for the word “resignation,” but, under that interpretation, why the focus on the “end”, which is emphasized by the phrase “always the end.” It’s much more feasible that his sadness is due to his resignation about the end of his first love – which he cannot help thinking about – and that is why he emphasizes the phrase “always the end.” (Basically, the end of his first relationship is like a film loop playing over and over in his head – and the sadness he’s addicted to is his resignation that this scene is one he can’t escape.)
    His obsession with his first love leads both to he and Kimbra deciding that their relationship didn’t make sense and to his relief that he didn’t have to pretend any more that he was in love with Kimbra when he couldn’t get his mind off of his first love. And it also explains Kimbra’s line that he’s hung up on somebody he used to know.
    Regarding some of brendanscott’s objections to the “2PI” interpretation, I believe the reason he doesn’t look at her is that by the time this song is sung, she truly is someone he used to know and he won’t acknowledge her existence by looking at him. She, on the other hand, is confronting him with the reasons why they broke up and why she felt she had to change her number and have her friends get her records.
    With regard to brendanscott’s objection that the tense is wrong in the line, “but I don’t want to live that way, reading into every word you say”?, I believe that the present tense “don’t” is meant as one would say “I don’t ever want to live that way.” For instance, if someone asks “Were you drunk on New Year’s Eve?,” the answer might be “I don’t drink and drive.” Even though the event they’re discussing is in the past, the present tense is used to reflect a continued resolve.
    Finally, with regard to the painting, I think the reason that the painting covers him after he and Kimbra break up is that it represents a prison for him that he cannot escape either the pain of his first love or the pain from Kimbra’s rejection of him. When we first see her, she is also covered by the painting, because she is imprisoned by her pain that he was carrying a torch for someone else, but, by the end of the song, she’s had her say and is ready to move on – so the paint disappears from her body – while he is still covered with paint and imprisoned.
    Thoughts?

  23. 47 veryhappy 6 November 2012 at 5:53 am

    Just curious, what is your perspective if a past lover (male and one that you hadn’t had contact with for years) posted a link of this song on a public page and you knew it was a message for you. How would you receive it?

  24. 48 Sameera Udayanga 20 November 2012 at 12:39 am

    wow……. Great … i read it all.. im a sri lankan boy….. i love this song. and i like the way you present it….. keep it up…. thumbs up……. Sameera

  25. 49 katster 6 January 2013 at 2:02 pm

    I love this song and I just wanted to know what it means. Thank you.

  26. 50 bridget 24 February 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Your whole interpretation is wrong my friend. Clearly…as has happened to me… He is trying desperately to convince himself that the old relationship meant nought to him …But having tried to contact her…only to find she had changed her number !!!! Double affront.. He is trying to save face by saying he is not bothered … that he was glad it was over..but clearly not ! Hence the chorus… U didnt have to cut me up….

  27. 51 C.J. 9 April 2013 at 2:21 am

    I agree with your assessment. I also believe he’s singing to an “ex”. And the painting begins after the first verse when he is emotionally ready to form another relationship. And that painting is HIS interpretation of that new relationship. And he’s painted Kimbra into his interpretation.

    But, by being stuck on the ex, Kimbra has removed herself from his interpretation, signaled by her shoulder shrug, symbolizing her ‘shaking free’.

    And at the end, the tables have turned. You’re right, he is singing to her. Now, because she chose to leave the relationship, she is now not painted, she has become somebody that he used to know, much to his chagrin. Now she has become Gotye—the person hurt because they realized that what they thought was happening, their vision of love, wasn’t necessarily what they were getting in return. Not only is she somebody that Gotye used to know, in that their relationship is over, but Gotye is somebody that SHE used to know, in that she wanted more and he couldn’t give it to her. And so the circle continues. It’s like a quote I read once, “Hurt people hurt people.” He was hurt so he inadvertently hurt her by ignoring her and being stuck on the ex. Now she’s hurt, but hopefully she will break the cycle.

    • 52 Brendan is mostly correct 4 June 2013 at 8:58 am

      Spot on. My thoughts exactly. As the video ends they both sing at the same time whilst facing each other “Now you’re somebody that I used to know” as she leaves him in the tapestry artwork symbolic of his fractured heart – that had once consumed them both. She’s had enough.

  28. 53 Anonymous 14 July 2013 at 5:14 pm

    This is exactly what I have been going through. and I am so happy to know that other people have well. my ex moved to another place I was very hurt but I did let him go. he wanted to remain friends I did not I change my number cut him off. one day he emailed me said that he was coming for a visit and wanted to see mebut he was the one who left me broken hearted and said that he good deal with it.but when he found out that I was dating someone else that’s what he wanted to come and visit he did not get over me. playing with my emotions what’s going on its been 2 years that he has been gone but he has come back4 A visit several times is still not over I am torn and I’m in love with him now love is crazy insanity

  29. 54 Lukáš Havlín 20 July 2013 at 9:10 pm

    In my oppinion Kimbra still could not accept the fact, that they are not supposed to be a couple and her distance from Gotye was an act of self defence.

  30. 55 Daniel Gomes 4 September 2013 at 10:58 am

    For me, he learned how to separate his past (the painting) from the present (Kimbra) and that’s why her painting dissapears. The past is still impregnated in him, but he will not let it affect his new relationship anymore.

  31. 57 average joe 24 October 2013 at 12:43 am

    The painting is their relationship. Kimbra is the old girlfriend and she was totally committed to the relationship when they were together, but he was not. That is why, at the beginning. She is totally painted already and he is not. As the video goes on, They break up and he thinks he will be able to move on without any problems, but he can’t. He begins to get painted more and more as time goes on after the break up, until he is finally completed covered by the relationship. Kimbra on the other hand, loved him, but realized that she was being screwed over, so she separates herself and begins to move on. As she moves on, her paint comes off. So the irony of the song is Gotye didn’t really want her when they were together, and thought he was not connected to the painting/relationship, but after the relationship ended, he realized that all along he was caught in the relationship. In the end, She is the one that is able to separate herself and Gotye is the one stuck in the relationship. He didn’t know what he had till it was gone.

  32. 58 Lots of writing for misunderstanding a video 6 December 2013 at 5:06 pm

    One guy, one girl, one relationship.

    The painting appears immediately after he says “…Remember”, hence the the painting is symbolic of their relationship he was remembering. She appears, listens to him bitch about how she disappeared after the breakup, she gives her side of things, and then she moves on (paints herself out of the picture). He remains in the painting (hung up on somebody that he used to know)

  33. 59 No Face (@MiniNymph) 9 December 2013 at 10:56 am

    Perhaps the painting represents the emotions regarding breakup which bubble up when they meet again. It isn’t on Kimbra’s face because she does not show the emotions she feels and cuts him out. She is over him by the end so has no paint left on her. They state different reasons for the breakup because they had different perspectives in the relationship and, due to the lack of communication between the two, they don’t really know the other’s perspective. I imagine he doesn’t look at her because he has never really listened to her and was completely unaware of what a jerk he was being. He starts to look at her because he is beginning to work out her side of things. She is depicted looking at him because she knows him properly.
    I don’t notice any tense problems, it sounds like they are bickering after a chance encounter. Most of the lines are about the past and I don’t see why they would be confusing, the use of “now” is the only time they refer to the present.
    The phrase “like we were nothing”, key word being “like” as in ‘similar to, but not actually the same thing as’ meaning their relationship was something and did impact her as well as him which is why they are so upset about it. She was not disinterested by him, she “felt so happy [she] could die”.
    The whole song is another incident where he is making her feel like it’s her fault.

  34. 60 Jason Cook 5 January 2014 at 10:42 pm

    …so there I was, standing in Court and recieving an AVO by ‘Somebody that I used to know’. One hour beforehand, I watched/listened to this Song in a KFC outlet – which apparently grabbed my attention.The ‘Art’ involved in this clip – sybolises the ‘illusion of love’ that existed between them and how she ‘washes herself clean’ from it to show him the ‘real’ her that he never really ‘got to know’ …and never will. Why? Because he was still hung up on ‘Someone Else’ and in my case – it was my wife!

  35. 61 VFXLady 11 January 2014 at 4:45 pm

    I also think you are way off in your original interpretation. He is speaking to his ex, she is there to respond.

    He starts off non-painted because he’s aloof, not connected. As the song progresses he shows his “true colors.” In that although he continuously states he doesn’t care, he doesn’t need her, he was relieved when it ended, he still wants her attention even though he won’t even commit to looking at her. He’s selfish.

    On the other end, she starts off painted and looking right at him. She immediately addresses the “one sided” nature of the relationship. She starts off painted, invested, ready to be honest. He won’t look at her because she’s directly stating things she let him get away with in the relationship. She’s confronting him when she leaves her portion of the painting, going outside the boundaries. He still can’t look at her because he knows what she’s saying is true, he’s still lying to himself.

    She walks back, ready to move on. Her being unpainted is her letting it go, which he states he can do, but he can’t, thus he remains a part of the pattern. In the end, was it love? Probably not. She most likely felt resentment because he was aloof during the relationship letting her believe his disconnection was her fault, but when it was over and she really moved on, he didn’t like it.

    I love this song. I believe it’s a wonderful and simple depiction of relationships between folks in their early to mid 20s. Just before many people let go of the old ideals and break down walls they’ve had since puberty. This song is a last conversation between exes.

  36. 62 Anonymous 28 March 2014 at 2:27 am

    awesome

  37. 63 Anonymous 6 June 2014 at 5:53 am

    This is how I interpreted the song and video. It is about the past relationship with Kimbra. He is disappointed that she cut him off, but at the same time keeps repeating that he was glad it ended and didn’t need her love, which in itself is ironic because obviously he does. He keeps going on about how he didn’t need her love but it was low that she now has nothing to do with him. Then we see Kimbra’s side, which is that he was so hung up on his last relationship that he didn’t treat her well. He keeps singing the same old song and we know that Kimbra will now be the one he is still hung up on when he does start a new relationship. I think the painting is the relationship and when Kimbra is in the painting she is in the relationship. When she is unpainted, she is out. He is stuck in a cycle.

  38. 64 arpita 6 August 2014 at 6:01 am

    maybe you are right…bt the way I see it…kimbra and the guy were in a relationship and she ‘cut’ him off..as in disconnected with the guy without any prior explanation…as evident by sending her friends to collect her records. and changing numbers..etc….
    but she later comes back to explain herself..(because of guilt? because she doesn’t like the way things ended?) and the guy, hence doesn’t look at her initially…because he is angry…and he begins by counting off all the ways in which she slighted him and taunts repeatedly… emphasising again and again that he was not happy even when they were together…
    the girl in her turn through out the song looks at him and explains her side, why she left the way she did…’ I don’t want to live that way’ ….and then challenges him in turn…if he was as miserable with her as he makes himself seem..
    then why does she catch him still hung up on her….when she has gone out of her life?
    at the end the guy finally looks at her and they both decide the other has finally become ” someone that I used to know”…as all the unsaid matter has been cleared…
    kimbra leaves and the paint falls of symbolising her release from her relationship….they both are ready to move on….

  39. 65 Astra 10 October 2014 at 3:08 am

    I think your interpretation is almost perfectly aligned with my own. I just kinda thought she was leaving the relationship in the end because of him being so caught up with the previous relationship. He eventually realises though that she really loves him and so is trying to be more into the current relationship. Your interpretation was excellent though, loved reading it!

  40. 66 Daniel 8 February 2015 at 1:59 am

    Aw Crap! Now I’m going to have to listen to this song another hundred times to analyze it and give my thoughts.

  41. 67 Courtney 1 March 2015 at 7:16 am

    Is it too late to share my opinion on this?

    I’ll admit I didn’t read every comment here thoroughly, so I could easily have missed something, but I don’t think anyone interpreted the song quite the way I did.

    Kimbra is definitely the old love–that’s been well addressed. The way I see it, though, is that there are still three people involved (even though there are only two people singing). Let’s start off with Gotye’s point of view: He reflects on his relationship with Kimbra, stating that while they were both relatively happy together, he was still lonely, though we don’t know why. He admitted to being glad when they broke it off, but was content to remain friends. Then the chorus starts, and you can just feel his hurt and confusion–all of a sudden, Kimbra has left him entirely, going so far as to change her number so that he cannot contact her anymore. Judging by the lyrics, he seems to be utterly bewildered by her actions. I don’t see it as him “not being over her” at all; on the contrary, he states quite clearly; “I don’t even need your love.” He doesn’t want a romantic relationship with her; that was his whole point. But they seemed to get along just fine as friends, and he doesn’t understand why they have to treat each other like strangers.

    Then you get to hear Kimbra’s side of the story. I remember hearing it for the first time, and thinking to myself that it didn’t seem to fit with his version of events–why would he be so hurt and confused if he had treated her so poorly?–and then she delivered this line, her voice rising with each syllable and culminating in a shout of indignation and resentment with the last three words: “And I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know!

    And then it all made sense.

    *Oh*, I thought to myself, realizing. This has happened *before*.

    Strangely enough, everybody seems to be overlooking the significance of this line. To me, this is what ties everything together. Gotye had some kind of relationship in the past, before this–we’re not given many details, but we can assume that, for whatever reason, she was cut out of his life in a similarly abrupt manner. Maybe it was a bad breakup leading to her departure; maybe she moved away; maybe she died. Whatever the case, he hasn’t fully gotten over it. When he chose to get into a relationship with Kimbra, he tried to convince himself that she was the right one for him, because they probably did get along quite well. But the relationship failed because they did not make sense together as romantic partners, which happens. The problem is that Gotye, still somewhat hung up over past events, did not realize that he was being neglectful to Kimbra who, meanwhile, was actually quite emotionally invested in the relationship (she said at one point that she was “so happy she could die”). While Gotye was struggling with his mixed feelings, she was the one who had to deal with his mixed signals. He did not feel the same chemistry with her as she did, but there were some wonderful things about the relationship despite that, so he figured that if he waited long enough and pushed himself through it his feelings would start to change. Unfortunately, that kind of investment can only come off as halfhearted at best, especially the longer it goes on. So Kimbra, who probably only had a few minimal details of his past relationship to go on, interpreted his lackluster enthusiasm as a sign that she was doing something wrong and that deep down, he must want his old girlfriend more than he wanted her.

    Finally, they both realized that the relationship was going nowhere and decided to break it off. At this point, Kimbra had endured months of what she believed to be a profound lack of reciprocation, so she knew that this was the right decision, but she was still heartbroken. Gotye, meanwhile, not realizing what he had been putting her through, felt only relief that it was over, because he no longer had to try and convince himself that they were meant for each other when they really weren’t. He made the mistake of assuming that Kimbra understood this and felt the same way, so when she suggested they remain friends, he allowed his relief to show clearly. And that, for Kimbra, was the last straw.

    From her point of view, Gotye’s relief was a sign of complete indifference. She had invested so much of herself into this relationship, and when the time came for it to end, he wasn’t even the slightest bit unhappy about it. He must have not cared about her from the start. “Screw this”, she thought. “If you wanted me that little to begin with, you don’t want me now either.”

    So, hurt and angry, she cut herself out of his life–completely.

    And Gotye has no idea why.

    He thought everything was fine. He thought they were still going to be friends. He takes her actions as a massive betrayal, and one completely out of left field. He doesn’t know what he did wrong; all he knows is that Kimbra is going to every possible length to ensure they never speak to each other again, causing history to repeat itself. The chorus is a desperate plea to be heard and understood–“Look, I don’t want you to love me, but I still want to acknowledge what we had! Why can’t you at least tell me what I did wrong? You’re treating me like a stranger now and I don’t want that.

    You might be wondering, “why didn’t he just explain his feelings to her at the beginning?” Well, I’m sure he did–at least, I’m sure he tried. But as with most guys, he probably wasn’t the best at communicating his feelings. If he told Kimbra, “there’s someone who isn’t in my life anymore that I still miss”, in combination with his actions, she’s going to take that as “I still have feelings for this person and that’s why this isn’t working out”. He wouldn’t even think to clarify that the reason he’s not into this relationship with her is because they genuinely aren’t a good match–he’s still trying to convince himself that they are, after all. But whenever he neglects her or shuts her out without meaning to, it’s the result of him knowing at his core that they are not suited for each other. Then he remembers what happened in the past, shakes off his doubts, and tries again–because he doesn’t trust his feelings, and he doesn’t want them interfering with a relationship that he enjoys and could possibly work out. The problem is that to Kimbra, this would indeed look as though he is fighting with some hidden desire to get back together with his ex. So she tells him to stop getting hung up over a person that he used to know. He, in turn, promises to try and let it go, assuming that she understands what he’s going through when in fact she’s thinking the complete opposite, and slowly growing more and more resentful as time passes.

    The entire situation is one giant miscommunication.

    As for the painting, honestly, I haven’t really thought about it that much. The message I got from the song seemed clear and obvious to me at the time, so I assumed the painting would make sense in combination with the lyrics. Then I realized everyone else was interpreting the song differently, so I shrugged and moved on. But as for your questions:

    (i) why is she bothering to tell him anyway? She’s broken off all ties, how did they get back in the room together all painted?

    I think you’re taking this a bit too literally. Kimbra’s verse is there so that the listener can hear both sides of the story. I’m sure, in her mind, that she’s directing these thoughts at him, which is why she’s facing him in the video. But I never once thought that they were actually speaking to each other.

    (ii) she says “now and then” I think about stuff. She doesn’t say, at some time in the past when we were in the relationship I thought about stuff and that’s why I broke it off and that’s why I didn’t talk to you afterwards. That is, it explains why she doesn’t want to talk to him now (despite the fact that she is) but doesn’t explain why she cut him off when they broke up.

    That’s because she didn’t fully realize (at least, from her point of view) the degree to which he did “screw her over” until after the relationship ended. They ended it because they knew they didn’t make sense together; the moment he showed relief is when she thought he never cared about her to begin with. Now, in retrospect, she sees past events with that new perspective.

    (iii) the tense is wrong. She says “but I don’t want to live that way, reading into every word you say”? She is expressing what she doesn’t want to do now. Why doesn’t she say “I didn’t want to live that way”;

    Same answer as the last one. Also, both tenses apply. She didn’t want to live that way, and she still doesn’t.

    (iv) after she has just explained to him why she did what she did, not only does he say “[well, you didn’t have to cut me off]” he also says “but you treat [not treated] me like a stranger and that feels so rough” – but she’s right there beside him, decidedly not treating him like a stranger (this bit – how could he say she is treating him like a stranger when she’s there talking to him – actually drove me a bit nuts trying to decipher it initially);

    Again, you’re being far too literal. These are their respective thoughts; the song is arranged in such a way that the listener can see each of their perspectives and how one might respond to the other. They’re not actually singing in a room together with paint on their bodies.

    (v) she said that they could be friends, then cut him off. He thinks they broke up because “we found we could not make sense” – consistently with him feeling lonely with her. Now she’s saying they broke up because he was a jerk? But he felt that there was something wrong with the relationship. It’s not really consistent with her breaking up with him because he was a jerk.

    Already explained in my interpretation.

    (vi) what is the painting? It only begins after they have broken up. Before she sings it is already complete and she is already a part of it. How can she be explaining what she did after they broke up if she’s still part of the relationship? If it’s not the relationship what is it?

    Yeah, still not sure about that. But my guess is that the painting doesn’t represent the relationship itself, but that it’s a metaphor for something else. I’m sure there’s a way for it to make sense.

  42. 68 Daniel 2 March 2015 at 2:08 am

    OK folks I’m ready to comment, and I had to listen to the song 3 times in a row just before writing this.
    This is quite simple, This ex-couple see/meet each other, perhaps casually. But most likely in a private setting and were afforded the opportunity to express the feelings of their break up to each other. He reminisces of the great times they had together. He starts to see his ex-girlfriend because he somehow felt lonely.Then the argument starts. He’s pissed because at some point she finds out he’s still “hung up” with an ex-girlfriend (how she found out is not known, but clearly states that his ex-girlfriend is something that she believes he could not let go). She says they could still be friends but is too hurt, and also quite pissed off as well. So she starts the steps she took, treating him like a stranger, cutting him off, stooping low, friends collecting records, and changing phone #s, treating him like they were nothing etc…. Note: There is a possibility that some or all of these things could have happened prior to the actual break up. All though I believe the most of it happened after the break up.
    At any rate this is a kick ass song. As for the body paint I just think it’s there for eye candy while that Kimbra gal is so damned hot its pathetic.

  43. 69 Oshani 6 September 2015 at 3:57 am

    In my point of view I think: He was in a relationship with her and he felt lonely staying with her for so long ( he was fed up ), so he made-up with another girl. When they ( he and the one who was there from the beginning ) found that they didn’t make sense cause he was cheating on her, and were to break-up, the girl had said that they could still be just friends but it was soon over and now the boy is happy that it happened that way ( Perhaps because it would mentally hurt both of them to be just friends after being in a relationship )

    And after they broke-up the girl had treated him like a stranger/ like she never knew him. Changed the number may mean that she completely changed everything without leaving anything- not even the number ( like she completely erased all the memories ). And now the boy doesn’t need her cause now she’s just somebody that he ‘used to know’.

    [ After a long time they meet together now ]
    And now the she blames on him for what he did in the past saying that he/ his bad behaviour ( him cheating on her ) was the reason behind their break-up.

    And she says that she still thinks of all the times that he screwed her for his faults. And he had told that the new relationship that he started was because of her making him feel lonely in her company. ( saying that it/ that boredom in their relationship lead him to make a new relationship with another ) And she says that still she doesn’t wanna live that way ( meaning that she wasn’t treated fairly by him and telling that she hated that way of living – getting scolded for others faults ).

    And she’s re-reminding ( re-reading the memories in her mind ) the words/lies that he said when he was in that relationship. She says how he told that he will let her ( the other girl ) go and won’t let her see him hanging around the other girl again. ( like he’ll cut the other girl off his mind and be good with her/ faithful to her ). Here with the phrase ” ….hung up on somebody that you USED TO KNOW” means that he had broken-up with the other girl before they ( he and the girl who complains/ first girl ) broke up, and he had been doing all this to her for the anger of breaking up with the second girl.

    And then again he blames her for completely cutting him off ( meaning that it was not that serious, and she must have given him a second chance to at least correct his fault ). He’s angry that there are even worse guys who were treated better by their exes after these kind of faults ( saying that he deserves better ) so that he says that he doesn’t even need her love telling that she’s so cruel to treat him this way ( ” I don’t want love from such a rude/cruel person” ), Says that he didn’t do a very bad thing for him to be treated like a stranger ( again meaning that she must have treated him better after the break-up ).

    Maybe she comes to be friends with him again giving him another chance but he’s so angry for what she did and keeps on blaming for what she did not admitting his fault though he was the first to misbehave. And she thinks that he’s not the kind of man who’ll admit his fault and there’s no sense of talking/ being with him. She starts to move on without him though she looks a bit sad ( maybe on her decision of ignoring him, realizing that she must have treated him better ). Realizing that he’ll never change she completely removes their entire bond from the root, letting go all the memories/ all the moments they spent right from the start, Erasing all the memories ( forgetting unwanted memories in purpose which is also known as “Motivated Forgetting” ) and leaving him alone in his self-centered world. However this shows that she gives up on the entire thing.

    And at last she too says that now he’s just somebody that she used to know. ( It shows that she doesn’t know him anymore and it’s all completely over now )

    I would explain the visual this way:

    First his life’s emptiness is shown by the plain background. ( His life is empty cause he lost both the girls and he’s stuck in the past )

    And then again the first girl comes into his life with the past memories – which is shown by the painting. ( The painting covering the girl shows that she too still has the past memories in her but not completely cause her face is not covered- maybe cause she moved on before by ignoring him )

    The girl getting closer to him shows that she’s trying to give him another chance feeling sorry for him.

    The boy not even caring shows that he’s so angry at her being mean ( he’s rude too ) . And also that he neither wants her second chance nor her love. Not even to see her face ever again.

    The girl going back in sadness expresses her regret of what she has done too. ( even a little )

    The boy looking at her shows that he gives his last Goodbye! ( Though in an unexpected/ bad way )

    The painting getting off the girl shows that she gets out of all the memories and goes to start a new life.

    The boy still being covered in paint shows that he’s still stuck in the memory of her.

    At last from the above points it’s proved that the background painting represents the memories of their past relationship.

  44. 70 Lorena Ramirez 26 September 2015 at 10:57 am

    I like a boy named Jesse but i don’t no
    If he likes me

  45. 72 Anonymous 20 July 2016 at 6:16 am

    For me, it’s all about Kimbre being the one love and object of the song. I understand the argument of an old relationship being the focus and cause of the break up with Kimbre, with all the reasons above already gone through, but this is incorrect. Way off has it nailed and I want to expand on that.

    The relationship was completely one sided with Gotye believing it was complete Love, but with Kimbre not committing. The line of “being so lonely in your company” is indication that although “She was so happy She Could Die”, Kimbre wasn’t actually giving him anything in return for his feelings. Gotye carried on with it as he believed it was only a matter of time before Kimbre came round and committed to the relationship completely, but this never happens. The relationship becomes solely about what he can provide and do only and is not a “partnership” at all. His only option is to end it as to continue is just toxic and will make him feel worse. But, as he does Love Her and sees her positive qualities (The ones he fell in Love with) he is happy when she says let’s stay friends.

    When she severs contact completely, there are two issues:

    1 – He has lost control. Up until this point he is rational and able to control the situation and has done so by ending it for the right reasons. He has the High Ground. However, with Kimbre now forcibly missing from his life, he inexplicably (to him) feels a need for her again – this is what he is trying to verbalise and work through. “Why if I ended it, for the right reasons, do I still want Her?”. I know this may seem like the usual “Guy wants what he can’t have” situation (which has been noted above), but the loneliness line after the Happiness line seals it for me that he had Her, tried it and found it wasn’t reciprocated and never would be.

    2 – He has confirmation of his worst fears that for Kimbre, it actually did mean nothing to her in the end. This is possibly worse for him as when coupled with the loss of control he now has, the feelings of Love are overwhelming him and he is broken.

    When Kimbre starts her verse, it starts normally but soon becomes competitive towards him and then accusatory. The sigh from Gotye implies “Here we go again”….it is all his fault, he made her feel this way and he is the one to blame. Her accusations are all regarding his actions towards her and nothing at all about how she feels towards him regarding the relationship. Did She love him? We don’t know as it is not said or mentioned – only that she doesn’t want to live that way, which for me confirms how one-sided it was. Again, the line of “So happy you could die” is pertinent here; She told him this ‘in the moment’ but doesn’t feel it relevant to highlight her lost happiness when confronting him. It has been noted that Gotye is the selfish one, but the above omission tells me Kimbre was the selfish one: Either telling him what he wanted to hear or just purely living in the moment and not thinking about a future together – She was just having fun.

    The accusatory tone builds in Kimbre as she is angry at being rejected and now that she knows he cannot move on, it is now more about “How dare you be hung up on me now – you are nothing to me”. This can be seen in the way Kimbre moves across the painting. The Shrug (Yeh I know, its sublime) is quite telling and I’m amazed it hasn’t been picked up on yet. This is movement from someone who is used to being wanted and is doing it on purpose. This is the start of me getting out of your life and you will never have this again. Ever. ‘You rejected me’ (I’m not even sure Kimbre would even know why at this point or indeed ever as it’s all about Her) ‘…so I’m going to make you pay’. From the initial look over her shoulder at the start to the end look where she looks him up and down, Kimbre never stops giving him a look of utter contempt. He is dead to her completely so it’s easy for her to sever all contact and move on. There is one look though, just before the final look, where she looks a little hurt when called “Low” but its quickly covered up by ‘shouting’ again. She knows she’s wrong in this instance, but will never admit it.

    The loop of lines from Gotye is him telling himself he did the right thing. He is also trying to convince himself he made the right call while still trying to deal with the loss of control, her ability to move on so quickly and that it meant nothing after all.

    Gotye is the typical Nice Guy that meets a Whirlwind. He stands no chance getting over her once she plays the exit strategy. He’s wide open and unfortunately for him, fell head over heels in love with Her so stands no chance in the games that follow – he’s not even playing the same game! Gotye is stuck in the painting until he meets someone else…Kimbre is out having Fun. I particularly like the idea that they have recently met (accidental or planned, it matters not) and this is the final goodbye conversation. He is hung up on her and she knows it, so is pressing the buttons to hurt him.

    I first heard this in 2012 and it passed me by as a cheap Police rip off, but the hook was good and I idly hummed and sang along. Fast forward to this year and wow, this has just happened to me so this song now screams at me. The above may be biased to my view and experience, however the similarities are overwhelming to me. I ended a toxic relationship and was cut off completely, which crazily, killed me. I was told it was toxic; I knew it was toxic and I know I made the right decision but to lose the “high ground” is a loss of control. To then feel the loss of Her and ask yourself “Did I make a mistake” is only human but also hugely crippling.

    There are so many levels in this song and I love how everyone can take away their own meaning from it.

    Love: Who needs it… ;)

  46. 74 Seyon 3 December 2016 at 12:22 am

    I don’t know if you’ll see this or reply to it.

    I think Gotye starts out singing about his ex-girlfriend, the refrain is always about her, how she cut him off and how she didn’t give him closure. Kimbra is his current girl, but she’s not able to reach him, even when right next to him and screaming at him. Gotye just repeats the refrain of his ex as Kimbra’s tears fall, until she pulls away from him too. As her body paint falls off the camera cuts to make Gotye look at her. This is the critical part, now that Kimbra’s an ex-girlfriend, the refrain becomes about her until another girl comes in and he stays hung up on his new ex. A vicious cycle.


  1. 1 Happy Things « Frankly, my dear Trackback on 11 August 2012 at 10:31 pm

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