Gangnam Style: The World-Wide Phenomenon of Psy

By Natalie Cisneros

Since the release of ‘Gangnam Style’ posted on YouTube nearly two months ago, Park Jaesang, also known as Psy, has gained an unlikely popularity around the world with over two hundred million views. But what made this music video, which Psy claimed he didn’t intend for international fans, have such an impact on people all over the world? Even people who have never heard a Korean song in their lives and don’t know the meaning behind ‘Gangnam Style’ recognize the song and notable horse dance.

For many years, Korean singers, groups and actors have tried to make it big in America. Debuting with their song ‘Nobody’, Wonder Girls became the first Korean group to chart the Billboard Hot 100, and went on tour with the Jonas Brothers. Girls Generation appeared earlier this year on the Late Show with David Letterman and Live! with Kelly, promoting their first English album ‘The Boys’. Rain, who is considered one of the most famous idols in Kpop, starred in the American films ‘Speed Racer’ and ‘Ninja Assassin’ as the leading role and ultimately became the first Korean to win an MTV award for his performances. Several other famous Korean artists, such as Se7en, BoA, JYJ, made attempts to gain recognition in the States, but did not succeed.

Psy, on the other hand, has had an influx of celebrities and news broadcasters mention this video which ascended him to a worldwide fame. The reason for this enthusiastic reception by American media may be because Psy doesn’t quite fit the typical ‘idol’ standards that only tout good looks and synchronized choreography. People from other countries may be more open to see a goofy man doing a funny dance and find it much more enjoyable to watch. Plus, the addicting techno beat of this song can be compared to the likes of Big Bang’s ‘Fantastic Baby’ which became a very popular song but not in America. Maybe if this song were to include an engaging dance move in the chorus of the song and less of the standard look idols depict including the outlandish makeup and uniquely dyed hair, there would have been a chance for this song to rise to fame globally as well.

A reason for ‘Gangnam Style’ music video’s appeal in America is that it’s simply just a silly and fun video portraying a regular looking guy who is stepping out of the mold of Kpop. He seems to be making fun of himself and not taking himself so seriously, which can translate easily to people who don’t understand the lyrics. Another reason could be Psy’s educational background at Boston University and the Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts. After spending time being surrounded by the culture of the U.S., he may of become influenced by the music and outspoken attitude of Americans. This can be seen not only in ‘Gangnam Style’ but his other albums which are known for having blunt lyrics and bold confidence.

Psy’s song unintentionally gained popularity here so it may be difficult to live up to that and produce music directed to the American market, now that he has officially signed with Island Records. To some Americans, this music video can be seen as Korea’s ‘Macarena’ with its iconic dance and song.

Although it can be suspected as just a fad, with Psy’s eccentric personality and renowned background in the Korean music industry, he may be just the right person to jump start the American music industry with a more stimulating creativity and humor. If he were to succeed in releasing his upcoming album with his new record company, it may change the face of how people in this country view Asians in the entertainment industry.

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