Gangnam Style – WTF’s That All About Then?

If we didn’t know it’s high time we found out, what with PSY’s hideously catchy single – pitched somewhere between LMFAO and some crazed Ukrainian polka – heading for the top of this Sunday’s official singles chart, and the video breaking 200 million views on YouTube. That’s TWO HUNDRED MILLION.

And it’s only been there for two months. So who’s PSY and what’s it all about?
Gangnam Style

Who is PSY?
Real name Park Jae-Sang, PSY is a big-shot K-Pop star in his native South Korea, racking up six albums to date and upsetting the powers that be with his outlandish presentation, but ‘Gangnam Style’ is his biggest home hit and, clearly, the first to conquer the world. P, S and Y, if you hadn’t guessed, are the first three letters of “psycho” and our portly hero realises his madness by bounding about in the ‘Gangnam Style’ video on an imaginary horse. It’s one way to channel your disorders, and the video is a dayglo riot of blinding CGI and local celebs and dancers who won’t mean a thing over here. But beneath the cavorting there’s a serious message.


What is Gangnam?

Gangnam is a small and exclusive area of Seoul where the real fat cats live. Whether PSY is about to become minted enough to join them is a moot point, but right now he’s satirising the lifestyle of these fabulously rich ivory tower-dwellers by lolloping around in a variety of garish, tight dinner suits. Seen from that perspective, ‘Gangnam Style’’s an effective weapon – as long as everyone gets the joke.

Gangnam Style

What does this mean for K-Pop?
Well, PSY doesn’t really see himself as K-Pop at all – and breaks the mould by writing his own music – but that’s the sign of a star looking to break out to new things. South Korea’s K-Pop fusion of electro, hip-hop and Europop is a largely underground sensation worldwide that’s occasionally seen the odd act sneak through – The Wonder Girls have made inroads into the Billboard charts; 2NE1, another K-Pop girl group, have targeted next year for their full proper UK debut – so maybe now the time has come? Anyone following in PSY’s slipstream wants to speed up their release schedule.

The cultural impact

Satire or straight pop phenomenon, ‘Gangnam Style’’s gone viral now. There’s the inevitable ‘Call Me Maybe’ mash-up, endorsements from Katy Perry (lost “in a gangnam style k-hole”) and cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson, and a lesson in Gangnam dancing for Britney Spears. Not bad for a 34-year-lold K-Pop veteran.

So ‘Gangnam Style’ is upon us, and once it’s ensconced at the top of the charts there’ll be no escaping it for months. Enjoy the rest of the year.

Gangnam Style


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