Today’s guest post is from Charley Reed, who does public relations work of the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He’s also the guy I turn to when I need critical analysis of pop culture issues such as censorship and the show South Park or the status of video games as mass media. This entry is part one of a look at the global phenomenon (even galactic at times) Gangnam Style!
By now you have probably seen the music video called “Gangam Style,” or seen the crazy hopping-horse dance performed at weddings, sporting events, or even on shows like Saturday Night Live and Ellen. If you are like many people I talk to – you’re already tired of it and just want it to end so we can move on to then next fad.
I, on the other hand, am not tired of Gangam Style at all; in fact, I think it still has a wealth of entertainment value and a lot to tell us about the state of media today.
First, a little background if you haven’t seen the video – although you really should. (No excuses – It’s posted right here!)
The original Psy Gangnam Style video
The video, and song, are performed by Korean singer Psy, which is short for psycho (not surprising at all really). While he may be a one-hit wonder (so far) in the United States, “Gangam Style” is not some flash in the pan song. In fact, the song is on the album Psy 6, which – not surprisingly – is the 35-year-old singer’s sixth album.
In addition to the massively popular “Gangam Style,” Psy produced a popular “cheer song” for Korea’s Olympic teams, has worked with some of the biggest names in Korean Pop (KPop) and is well known in Korea for the satirical content in his songs, including Gangam Style.
The name of the song, specifically, refers to the “Beverly Hills” of South Korea – the Gangnam District. In his song and video, Psy parodies the Gangam lifestyle by looking suave but acting silly. While the silliness is what most Westerners pick up on, the context is actually pretty biting. As Jae Kim points out on her blog:
“In Korea, there’s a joke poking fun at women who eat 2,000-won (about $2) ramen for lunch and then spend 6,000 won on Starbucks coffee.” They’re called Doenjangnyeo, or “soybean paste women” for their propensity to crimp on essentials so they can over-spend on conspicuous luxuries, of which coffee is, believe it or not, one of the most common. “The number of coffee shops has gone up tremendously, particularly in Gangnam,” Hong said. “Coffee shops have become the place where people go to be seen and spend ridiculous amounts of money.”
Finally, even though you may have heard of Gangam Style on TV, or seen it at a baseball game, the song first blew up on the Korean billboard charts in mid July, but really garnered attention when it hit a million views in less than a week and, at one point, was averaging 9 million views per day. As of this writing, the view-count for Gangam Style on YouTube is at 302 million, and while there are other videos with higher numbers (Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” has 487 million, for example) Psy’s video became the most “liked” YouTube video in history with 2.9 million likes and counting.
It is also worth noting, briefly, that Psy signed a deal with Scooter Braun, who manages the biggest YouTube star to date: Justin Bieber.
Klingon Style Parody Video
Tomorrow: The impact of Gangnam Style.