Hype Check: ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ Hits 50 Million Views

A small-time Australian artist lands the first viral smash of 2012 with an infectious track about the end of an affair.

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud

You may have heard a simple but hopelessly catchy song about heartbreak over the past couple weeks called "Somebody That I Used To Know," by Gotye (Gaw-TEE-ay). It's intense, intimate and achingly relatable to anyone who's taken part in the death of a relationship, with a video depicting symbolic paint shading on the naked bodies of the two people in the clip. It also happens to be far and away the most successful music video of 2012 so far.

Australian musician Gotye is the man behind the music – it's his face and naked body which is slowly painted with geometric shapes in pastel shades until he blends into the wall pattern behind him.

"I don't even need your love, but you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough," he laments before the verse is taken over by New Zealand artist Kimbra Johnson. As she loses her own paint as a symbol of the pair's growing distance, they sing at each other with a level of authenticity that evokes the painful disconnect of an ending affair.

It's simple, it's dark, it's beautiful – and it's also a staggering success. Forget about current YouTube champions Jessie J (her "Domino" video has been seen 16 million times) and Lady Gaga ("Marry The Night" has 30 million hits). "Somebody That I Used To Know" is now about to surpass 50 million views.

The song has been in rotation since last July, where Australians picked up on it right away, making it the longest-running chart-topper by a local artist in 15 years. It has since exploded worldwide. An impressive cover of the song by Walk Off The Earth has on its own gained nearly 30 million views.

As for Gotye, the man behind it is a 31-year-old musician known as Wouter De Backer (Wally to most), who has been releasing records with Rock trio The Basics, as well as the sample-based electronic solo act Gotye for around a decade. Small-potatoes local success was all the man knew until the release of "Somebody That I Used To Know," which is changing everything in his life.

The album the song is on, Making Mirrors, is quite a bit more abstract and challenging than the lone single, but it's worth an exploration. Dig into Gotye's work at his official site.