All Music Is The Same: Introducing the “Gotye Interval”

March 17, 2014 | Andy Cush

A leap of a minor sixth or perfect fifth, beginning on a key’s fifth or sixth note and jumping up past the tonic to its fourth, before resolving down a half step to the third. It’s a cheesy, melodramatic melodic move, and it’s popped up in its fair share of pop songs recently. Often, the associated lyrics involve the words “heart,” “feel,” and “love.”

YouTuber ii Membrane dubbed the motive “The Gotye Interval” after its appearance in the titular singer’s most famous track, and made the  silly supercut above to show just how pervasive it is, turning up in hits from Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, and Enrique Iglesias in the years since “Somebody That I Used to Know.”

Of course, the Western tuning system has only 12 notes, and there are only so many ways those notes can be arranged in a melody, so melodic similarities across different songs are inevitable. There’s something about the way the move is used in these songs that feels cynical and manipulative — across the board, it’s placed in the chorus and meant to signify heart-wrenching catharsis — but ultimately, the Gotye interval is a testament not to songwriters’ laziness, but to our continued fascination with and willingness to be moved by the same simple musical themes. All of these songs, after all, cracked the Billboard Hot 100.