Artist Profile: Australia’s “Gotye” and “Kimbra”

As of September 22, 2011, the #1 single on Billboard’s Hot 100 list is a band familiar to those who have tuned into the radio airwaves in the past half-decade or so. Maroon 5′s “Moves Like Jagger” has brought the band back to a popularity they’ve not seen since the mid-2000s when their album Songs About Jane dominated Top-100 radio stations around the U.S.

Yet across the Pacific in Australia, one song has kept “Moves Like Jagger” from taking the top spot. The #1 position on the ARIA Charts, Australia’s version of Billboard, has been dominated for the last 10 weeks by an artist little known in America. So unknown, in fact, that Australian singer-songwriter Gotye‘s single “Somebody That I Used to Know (feat. Kimbra)” makes for perfect hipster fodder. Ironically, the hit single is so underground in America that it hasn’t even registered on any of Billboard‘s charts. “Somebody” comes from Gotye’s third album Making Mirrors, which was released on August 19 of this year and currently resides in second place on ARIA’s Top Albums chart.

Featuring vocals that are eerily similar to Peter Gabriel’s and some seriously catchy pop hooks, “Somebody” has been stuck on repeat in my brain for a week:

Listen to this song two times and it becomes impossible to get out of your head. Just try! As for the songstress in the video with Gotye, Kimbra Johnson, she is kind of like New Zealand’s more soulful version of Florence Welch. Her song “Cameo Lover” is dangerously dance-inducing.

Kimbra has also gone mostly unnoticed in America despite her debut album’s success; Vows opened at #5 on the ARIA Charts and is currently residing at #4. Not bad for the 21-year-old kiwi (unfortunately, her album is not currently available to American customers on iTunes).

But this raises a pretty big question: What other awesome music are we missing out on in America? In my travels to Europe, I noticed how much pop culture the United States constantly exports to other countries, but besides a few major British bands it seems like we hardly import any foreign music. How can the #1 single from Australia’s #2 album go almost unnoticed in America? I might blame the firm grip that American record companies hold on Top-100 radio stations, but we do live in the era of the Internet. Shouldn’t music be selected and accessed more democratically these days? Perhaps it’s because Gotye and Kimbra have yet to “release” their albums in America that these pop stars are unknowns here. But it is a tragedy that we are potentially missing out on a wide range of music

So let’s try to correct this oversight. If you like either of these songs, I suggest buying the albums. They are both enjoyable records from across the (bigger) pond. And if there are any great foreign musicians or bands flying under the radar here in America, leave a comment.

What other Aussie artists are tragically under-appreciated in America?

Jeremiah Wood I am currently a graduate student at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA studying American literature. I am an art enthusiast, avid reader and pop culture junkie. Follow me on Twitter @jeremiahgwood.

View all posts by Jeremiah Wood

2 Responses to “Artist Profile: Australia’s “Gotye” and “Kimbra””

  1. Rob

    A great article. Unfortunately, America has been shutting out great artists for decades, even some American artists who are huge everywhere else! (heard of Anastacia from about a decade ago?).

    For example, Australia’s second best (in my opinion) rock band after AC/DC is unknown in the US. They’re called COLD CHISEL. As if our biggest selling male artist, John Farnham (look up the monster worldwide smash, You’re the Voice from the 80s).

    Also, the fact that DARREN HAYES (savage garden) new album SECRET CODES AND BATTLESHIPS has been ignored in the US is criminal!

    However, having said all that, there are many aussie acts that have done very well in the US – The Bee Gees, Olivia Newton-John, AC/DC, Little River Band, Air Supply, INXS, Men at Work, Crowded House, Savage Garden, to name but a few.


Leave a Reply