What do you get when you cross LMFAO-style beats, Korea, and horses? That’s a weird one, I know. Think about it for a second.
Nothing? Ok, I’ll tell you. You get K-Pop artist PSY and his viral rap sensation, “Gangnam Style.”
Have you heard of this? I hadn’t until yesterday, when my Asian friend Kai forced me to watch the video. “This is weird,” I said.
“It’s a huge thing,” he told me. “Like, everyone knows what it is.”
“Yeah right,” I said. “You’re just saying that because you’re Asian.”
“No, it has like 100,000,000 hits on YouTube. It’s big.”
I gave him my best you-have-to-be-joking-I’m-a-pop-culture-princess look. “You’re talking to a pop culture blogger,” I said. “If I’ve never heard of it, no one has.”
Well, you know what they say about pop culture bloggers who don’t blog for months: sometimes they’re wrong. This video actually does have over one hundred million hits on YouTube, and for good reason: it’s hysterical. Ostensibly, it’s about a chubby korean dude who loves horses (like, a lot). But underneath it’s about so much more. Take a look, and please, for the love, at least watch through the two minute mark; my favorite scene starts at 1:55. Then, read on to see what Gangnam style is all about.
So catchy, right? I mean, like, terrifyingly catchy—this song has the potential to be the Macarena, Call Me Maybe and the YMCA all rolled into one. And the crazy thing is, the American public is pretty into PSY. Just today, I heard “Gangnam Style”—a song which, need I remind you, has approximately three English words in it—on Los Angeles’ NEW hit radio station, Amp FM, sandwiched between Gotye and Usher. A few weeks ago, they played this song at a Dodgers/Giants game, turning the Dance Cam on fans (and even on the randomly present PSY himself) who have perfected the video’s signature horsey dance (watch that here).
What’s interesting about the Gangnam phenomenon, however, is that it makes us Americans look supremely stupid. But I’m about to make y’all look real smart, so PAY ATTENTION.
If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say the majority of folks watching this video (myself included, up until a few hours ago) have absolutely no clue what it’s about. It’s funny and memorable, which is enough for them, enough for radio stations, and enough for Scooter Braun, who apparently just signed this guy. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with Scooter, he is Justin Bieber’s manager.) To the masses, PSY probably seems like a slightly more talented William Hung: A flash-in-the-pan joke.
Take some time to look into “Gangnam Style,” however, and you’ll find that the entire video was meant to be a joke—on Koreans, that is. The Wall Street Journal takes a more in-depth look at the impetus behind PSY’s song, which was originally conceived as a caricature of of Seoul’s Gangnam district. According to Korean writer Sukjong Hong, Gangnam is akin to “Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Beverly Hills, Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and Miami Beach all rolled into one.” She goes on to say that “PSY does something in his video that few other artists, Korean or otherwise, do: He parodies the wealthiest, most powerful neighborhood in South Korea. Sure, he uses physical humor to make it seemingly about him, a man who wants to project glamour but keeps falling short. All of his mannerisms, from the curled upper lip to a sinister neck-stretching move, come from the repertoire of a rich playboy, and in his hands, they become a little laughable. But ultimately, by declaring ‘Oppa [essentially, ‘big brother’] is Gangnam Style,’ he turns the lens on Gangnam, getting specific about power and privilege in a country where a single district has long dominated in almost every arena.”
So, my blarflings, now you know! When someone is all like, “look at this weirdo Korean dude in this video! How random and hilarious is it?!” You can be all like, “Hey, you’re dumb, this video is a powerful political statement.” Then you guys can turn it up and rock out.
Heeeeeeeeey, sexy lady.