We Are Young and Somebody That I Used to Know
May 17th, 2012
Todd plays "We Are Young" on his piano,...
FUN ft. Janelle Monae - WE ARE YOUNG
...and plays "Somebody That I Used to Know"
GOTYE ft. Kimbra - "SOMEBODY THAT I USED TO KNOW"
A pop song(s) review
- Video for "We Are Young"
- fun.: Tonight...
Todd (VO): Strange things are happening around here. [Video for "Somebody That I Used to Know"] Strange, naked, indie-rock things. Let me...
Todd: ...try and figure out what the hell I'm doing. Give me a second, I...I need to get my stories straight.
- Video for Adele - "Rolling in the Deep"
Todd (VO): Okay, about a year ago, I remember saying that the pop charts were taking a turn for the better, as evidenced by the unexpected success of Adele, [pictures of...] Cee-Lo Green, Lupe Fiasco; but [clip of Lupe Fiasco - "Superstar"] their hits weren't that strange, they'd all had pop hits before.
- Clip of Foster the People - "Pumped Up Kicks"
- Foster the People: All the other kids...
Todd (VO): I had a lot more trouble understanding the sudden success of Foster the People, but the more "Pumped Up Kicks" got played, the more it seemed to fit right in, and after a while, they didn't sound out of place at all.
Todd: But then, a couple of months ago, Billboard got taken over by two indie rock songs that stubbornly refused to make sense within the pop landscape as I understand it.
- Video for "We Are Young"
Todd (VO): And for months now, it's been those two songs topping the charts—[Billboard magazine cover with fun.] "We Are Young" at #1 and [web article: "Gotye tops Fun. on Billboard Hot 100 chart] "Somebody That I Used to Know" at #2, or vice-versa.
Todd: Understand, the only rock songs to reach the top of the charts in the past, like, four and a half years are [clips of...] "Viva la Vida" by Coldplay and "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5, and really I wouldn't even call those rock songs.
- "Somebody That I Used to Know"
Todd (VO): On top of that, as someone who's spent most of his energy in the past three years thinking about Rihanna, I'm a little stymied by having this whole other genre invade my space.
Todd: It's like if I was a person who read a lot of [covers of Clive Barker's In the Flesh, Stephen King's Pet Sematary, Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat, Scott Smith's The Ruins, Max Brooks's World War Z] horror novels and worked really hard to understand horror novels and how they work and tried really hard to be one of the best horror novel reviewers around, and then you came up to me and said, "here, now, review this brand of [picture of...] toothpaste."
But you know what? Fine. Today I'm gonna force myself to be the best damn toothpaste reviewer I can be.
- Clips of both videos
Todd (VO): Because one of these songs going to #1? That's a fluke. Both of them going to #1? That's a coincidence. But both of them going to #1 back-to-back?
Todd: That's a trend.
Todd (VO): So I'm reviewing these two not because I want to or because I have any idea how, but because if this is the direction the pop charts are going in and this is the stuff I'm going to be handed to review from now on, well...
Todd: ...I'd better start getting used to it now. [Deep breath] Okay.
Todd (VO): So we have two acts here. One, a New York-based indie rock band whose [Google search of "fun"] name is un-Googleable, and the other, a Belgian-born Australian man whose name is ["Gotye" written] unpronounceable.
- fun.: Let's raise a cup
Todd: I'll level with you, I may have disliked fun. right from the get-go just for their ["fun." written] hipster-ironic name, which comes complete with [arrows pointing to...] lack of proper capitalization and blunt period at the end for maximum irony. If they were any more hipster, their logo would be upside-down or maybe they'd have a ["fun the noun"] "the" in the middle of their name. And [trying to say...] Gotye [Todd says "go-t-yuh"]...well, that's not a word, damn it.
Todd (VO): I wouldn't be surprised if this guy picked his stage name by slamming his fist down on his computer keyboard and reading the results.
Todd: [laughs a little] Jokes. Totally not stalling here. Okay.
Todd (VO): Let's start with, um... Well, for one, where the hell did these people come from? I understand with all the club music that oversaturated the market, something was gonna replace it, but why these guys?
Todd: Why were they the ones that broke through the pop chart's rock barrier and not, say, bands that already had chart success like...
Todd (VO): [pictures of...] Linkin Park or, God forbid, Nickelback or even the Neon Trees? [Clips of M83 performing "Midnight City" on Last Call] Or for that matter, why not some newer act with mounds of buzz like M83 or ["Lonely Boy by...] the Black Keys? ["Shake It Out" by...] I mean, Florence + the Machine had, like, three years of hype, and she can't get her newest single higher than the mid-70s, and a naked Australian goes to #1? And it's not like I don't try to keep my ear to the ground. I just...was really taken by surprise that the indie breakthrough came from [pictures of...] fun. featuring Janelle Monae, and Gotye [he says "go-tee-ya"] featuring Kimbra.
Todd: Of those four acts I just listed, I had heard of exactly...
- Clip of Janelle Monae Ft Big Boi - "Tightrope"
Todd (VO): ...one of them before these songs got big, and I'm not actually certain she's on the track at all.
- "We Are Young"
- Janelle: Carry me home tonight
Todd (VO): Oh, that part's her? That little part? That counts? I didn't even recognize her, I didn't even recognize that was even a different person singing. What, that three seconds got her a "featuring" credit?
Todd: Oh, by the way, guys, you didn't know this, but this video is actually a crossover with, uh...JewWario. Look.
JewWario: [quick cutaway, waving] Hi.
Todd: Ooh, best crossover ever! So great to collaborate with you, J-Dub.
Todd (VO): Okay, for real, I'm on that song almost as long as Janelle Monae is, so that wasn't what made it popular.
Todd: But it was a rhetorical question anyway; I can tell you right now where these songs came from.
- Clip from Glee, the New Directions vocalizing the opening of "Don't Stop Believing"
Todd (VO): [sigh] Yes, Glee.
- Finn: Just a small-town girl
Todd (VO): Okay, I don't really watch Glee.
Todd: I think it promotes the unfair stereotype that gay people make [picture of cast] horrible television shows. I mean, I tried. I tried watching it, but...
- Narrator: So here's what you missed on Glee. Sue's pregnant, which is crazy. She won't say who the father is, but insists that he's famous. New Directions beat Sebastian and the Warblers, and Sebastian made up with Blaine after he realized life's too short to blind people with rock salt. Quinn thought Rachel and Finn were too young to get married and refused to go to the wedding, then she changed her mind and started texting while she raced to the courthouse and her car got hit by a truck. That's what you missed on Glee.
Todd: No. No. But I think we need to understand Glee's importance here anyway.
- Clip of New Directions singing "We Are Young" at the end of the episode "Hold On to Sixteen"
- New Directions: Tonight...
Todd (VO): Glee began fun.'s push to #1 by covering the song way before anyone even heard of it. [clip of Blaine and his brother Cooper singing "Somebody That I Used to Know" during the episode "Big Brother"] And while it did not start Gotye's chart climb, it definitely finished it because their cover is what pushed him over the top. And even with the glut of music talent shows we have right now, there is really no other force on television that has the power to influence our pop charts like Glee does. What I am saying is...
Todd: ...Glee is our [moonman image with Glee plastered over logo for...] MTV. Let me repeat that. Glee is now our MTV.
- Clip of Will's performance of "Thong Song" from the episode "Mash-Up"
- Will: She had dumps like a truck truck truck
- Thighs like what what what
- Baby move your butt butt butt
- I think I'll sing it again
- fun. performing "Carry On" on iHeartRadio Live Series
Todd (VO): Okay, so to be fair, neither of these acts came totally from nowhere. fun. is a band that's been around for a few years, they opened for Paramore a few years ago, and they're on [logo and official site of...] Fueled by Ramen, the record label that brought you Panic! at the Disco, Fall Out Boy, Cobra Starship, Gym Class Heroes...
Todd: ...basically every rock band with any pop success in the past five or six years.
- Clip of Gotye - "Hearts A Mess"
Todd (VO): And Goty... well, he's been building up buzz in his home country for a while.
Todd: Still, both of these songs are pretty safely outside the mainstream.
Todd (VO): "We Are Young" has these rambling verses, unrelated chorus, and out-of-nowhere tempo change. For pop music, it may as well be a seven-part avant-garde opera played on the bagpipes. And this other one, "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Go-Tie-A? Maybe Peter Gabriel or the Psychedelic Furs could've got something like this on the radio back in the mid-80s, but for me, it's immediately different from anything I've ever heard on the radio in my lifetime. Listen to that weird instrumentation, that high, ghostly wail of a voice. I don't often hear pop songs that sound like a lost song from the [album cover of...] Corpse Bride soundtrack. Like, how did this get picked? Maybe people mistook this Kimbra person for Katy Perry?
- Kimbra: I don't wanna live that way
Todd (VO): I mean, lots of people seem to be trying to rip off her. Looking at you, [picture of...] Jessie J. But otherwise, I mean...does this sound like anything else? Like, what even is that, a xylophone? A marimba, maybe? Maybe that's a Kimbra.
Todd: But another part of what makes these two songs such a shock is their more literate, more detail-oriented approach to songwriting. Most pop songs are, you know, pop songs.
- Clips of Justin Bieber - "Boyfriend" and Chris Brown - "Strip(Ft Kevin Mccall) "
Todd (VO): They're...they're just love songs full of lovey-dovey cliches and stuff like that. You're just not ever gonna hear Chris Brown write anything as writerly and thoughtful as these two songs.
Todd: Now take "We Are Young". It's just full of interesting lyrical details about...about...actually I just realized I have no idea what this song is actually about.
Todd (VO): From the giant, fist-pumping chorus, you'd think that "We Are Young" is a song about being young and conquering the world, drinking all night, all that fun stuff. But it's definitely a kind of fun that comes in lower-case with a period after it. I honestly can't tell where they were going with this.
- Nate Ruess: Give me a second I,
- I need to get my story straight
Todd (VO): But he never really does get his story straight. There are a lot of things going on here, but it never really coalesces into anything for me. Let me...try and put it together. See, I understand that he's at some New York hipster bar.
- Nate: My friends are in the bathroom getting higher than the Empire State
Todd (VO): His friends are doing a lot of drugs.
- Nate: My seat’s been taken by some sunglasses asking 'bout a scar, and
- I know I gave it to you months ago
Todd (VO): Okay, so he gave her a scar. Emotional? Physical? I'm gonna guess emotional. If it was a literal scar, I doubt some hipster wearing sunglasses inside at night could see it.
- Nate: The holes in my apologies, you know
- I’m trying hard to take it back
Todd (VO): Well, he's definitely sorry about it, whatever he did. How this all figures into burning brighter than the sun and setting the world on fire, I don't know. Seems to want something from this woman, but I have no idea what.
- Nate: Now I know that I’m not
- All that you got
Todd: Where is this going?
- Nate: But our friends are back
Todd (VO): It's like he was trying to write a completely different song, but then his drunk, high friends came back and were too distracting, so he wrote a song about getting shitfaced instead.
- Nate: So if by the time the bar closes
- And you feel like falling down
- I’ll carry you home
- fun.: Tonight
Todd (VO): Okay, well what if the bar doesn't close? What if she leaves before then? What if she's perfectly capable of taking herself home at the end of the night? What's your apology good for then, huh? Now what's your song gonna be about? I mean, it's a nice gesture, but not much of one really, although I guess it works out for him.
- Nate: ‘Cause I found someone to carry me home
Todd: But I just don't get this song. It's...it's kind of a partying song, it's kind of a breakup-slash-apology song, but mostly it's not either of those things.
Todd (VO): As a love song, it's unfocused and frustrating; as a party song, it's dull. It's like a [picture of...] spork, you know? Two things combined together thoughtlessly into one ineffective, half-functional thing you don't know what you're supposed to do with. I don't hate this song, but I just don't have any emotional clarity about how I'm supposed to respond to it; and in the end, I guess I decided to respond with nothing at all.
Todd: The song doesn't really do anything for me. Sorry. Just doesn't.
- "Somebody That I Used to Know"
Todd (VO): "We Are Young" is full of interesting lyrics, but it's muddled and confused. The picture painted by "Somebody That I Used to Know", on the other hand, is not confused. In fact, it's quite devastatingly precise. [Brief clip] I suspect that "We Are Young", with all its mumbled, jumbled half-apologies, might be about a douchebag. "Somebody That I Used to Know" is different, though, because it's definitely about a douchebag.
Todd: Not by a douchebag, but definitely about one.
Todd (VO): At the beginning, this song starts as just general post-breakup sadness.
- Gotye: Told myself that you were right for me
- But felt so lonely in your company
Todd (VO): But somewhere along the way, it becomes pretty clear that the narrator is, uh...kind of a whiny dick.
- Gotye: ...that I was glad it was over
- But you didn't have to cut me off
Todd (VO): Here, let me sum it up for you.
Todd: Breaking up with you really sucks and I'm really sad, not that I miss you or anything. But remember how you said you love me? Not that I miss you 'cause I definitely don't. It's just...you're really mean to me now, you're just a really mean person. But I don't need you anyway, you don't mean anything to me anymore, so...whatever.
- Gotye: But you didn't have to cut me off
- Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
- And I don't even need your love
- But you treat me like a stranger and I feel so rough
Todd (VO): She doesn't wanna talk to you anymore? After the breakup, she treats you like a stranger?
Todd: Oh my God, that's...common.
Todd (VO): Come on, dude, have you never had a breakup before in your life? I mean, even if I bought that your ex's behavior was above and beyond normal breakup awkwardness, I suspect the problem is not her.
- Gotye: No you didn't have to stoop so low
- Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
Todd (VO): Not picking up her stuff in person, I...I guess that's kind of bitchy, but people don't generally change their numbers out of spite. They change their numbers because...
Todd: ...their exes won't stop calling them with passive-aggressive bullshit. Just saying.
- Gotye: Now you're just somebody that I used to know
Todd (VO): So yeah, like I said, dude sounds like a dick. But I'm pretty sure that's deliberate. If the song had stayed on this level, it might have turned out a little insufferable. But then the song takes a turn for the awesome by having the girl in the scenario walk in and give him a nice, lyrical...
Todd: ...punch in the balls.
- Kimbra: Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
- Part of me believing it was always something that I'd done
Todd: Oh yes, the contrast is exquisite.
Todd (VO): See, Goatse here is all euphemisms and innuendo and guilt-tripping, and then Kimbra comes in and just cuts right through the bullshit.
- Gotye: So when we found that we could not make sense
- Well you said that we would still be friends
Todd: Yeah, why was it we didn't "make sense"?
- Kimbra: ...all the times you screwed me over
Todd: Oh right, yes, that.
- Kimbra: You said that you could let it go
- And I wouldn't catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know
Todd (VO): Ohhhh, yeah, that's satisfying. Matter of fact, the fact that he gets dressed down so thoroughly actually makes the guy more sympathetic.
Todd: Yeah, I'd be wailing in pain too, buddy. Ouch.
Todd (VO): I do like this song a lot, but honestly, I also feel a little distant from it. Maybe the buildup is a little too slow, it doesn't really kick in for me until the second chorus. It's just...not a song that hits me right in the gut, you know? It...might make my Top 10 this year, it might not.
Todd: Hmm, you know, I still don't feel like I've done enough here. Maybe I just need to listen to more songs from these two acts before I come to a conclusion.
Four hours later...
Todd: Okay, I just took my crash course on all things fun. and Gotye. These guys better not turn out to be flashes-in-the-pan, or I've just wasted a lot of time. Well, anyway...
Todd (VO): ...I've listened to a lot of fun.'s songs now, and now that I've gotten to sample a larger segment of their work, I can say this definitively.
Todd: These guys have listened to a lot of Queen.
- Clip for "Some Nights (Intro)"
- Nate: Why you want to stay
- fun.: Oh my God
Todd (VO): Like, a whole lot of Queen. The other thing I've discovered is that lead singer Nate Ruess is [side-by-side pictures, with not-equal sign in between, of Nate and...] not Freddie Mercury. At least not on their biggest song. I think that may be why it doesn't work for me. Of all the fun. songs I listened to, "We Are Young" felt the least Queen-like, especially in the vocals. Nate could've definitely stood to sing this with a little more pomp and circumstance, you know? Without it, "We Are Young" just ends up sounding lumbering and slow musically. It's basically just a Coldplay song on steroids.
Todd: Then again, I suppose there are worse ways to sing it.
- Clip from Glee
- Rachel: Give me a second I,
- I need to get my story straight
- My friends...
Todd groans with head in hands
- Video for "Eyes Wide Open"
Todd (VO): And Gotye? Well, I can tell you that all his videos look like slightly happier versions of Tool videos. For another thing...
Todd: ...this guy is really good.
Todd (VO): In fact, honestly, I like "Somebody That I Used to Know" a lot, but I think I like all his other singles even more, especially "Eyes Wide Open".
Todd: And while we're at it, I really liked all the other fun. songs I listened to too, so I guess my final verdict is mixed-to-positive on their big hits, but it's definitely a big thumbs-up for both of them as a whole. I'm...I'm glad they're here to mix things up.
- "We Are Young"
Todd (VO): Not only do they not sound like stuff that gets popular, it sounds like they weren't trying to be popular. They don't sound like anything else out there. They...they don't even sound like each other really. ["Somebody That I Used to Know"] And what this definitely signals is that people are hungering for something more. They want better than what the pop charts provide. [Both videos side-by-side] What we are seeing now is the dawn of a new age, where people demand more thought, more feeling, more depth in their music.
Todd: Everything changes now.
- #3 on the Hot 100: Maroon 5 ft. Wiz Khalifa - "Payphone", performance from The Voice
- Wiz Khalifa: I'll be out spending all this money
- While you're sitting round wondering
- Why it wasn't you who came up from nothing,
- Made it from the bottom
- Now when you see me I'm stunting
- #4 on the Hot 100: Carly Rae Jepsen - "Call Me Maybe"
- Carly: Hey, I just met you,
- And this is crazy,
- But here's my number,
- So call me, maybe?
- #5 on the Hot 100: Flo Rida ft. Sia - "Wild One"
- Flo Rida: Oooh
- Said I gotta be the man
- When they heading my van, mic check one two
- Shut them down in the club while the playboy does it
Todd: Or not. Look, change doesn't happen overnight, people. What do you want from me?
Closing tag song: Community - "Abed's Glee Song"
"We Are Young" is owned by Warner Music Group
"Somebody That I Used to Know" is owned by Geffen Records
This video is owned by me