“Gangnam Style” by Psy

The titular Gangnam is actually a location, being a trendy part of South Korea’s capitol, Seoul. And of course the singer himself possesses the “Gangnam style”. However, the purpose of this song is not for him to come off as being rich and materialistic. In fact the interpretative understanding is that Psy is using it as a means to mocking peers who pretend to be paid when they aren’t.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Psy's Gangnam Style at Lyrics.org.

Thus it is partially centered on a female enjoying coffee. This is reportedly an allusion to the fact that some young ladies in Korea feel compelled to buy expensive coffee (via Starbucks) just because doing so is considered to be cool (i.e. costly and classy) in their ‘hood. And in the night said lady transforms from her refined demeanor into something like a party animal.  Moreover and perhaps most importantly, she has piqued the romantic interest of the singer.

So in kicking it to her, Psy presents himself as someone with similar qualities, i.e. classy yet wild. Therefore he also enjoys coffee like she does, and as with her his “heart bursts when the night comes”. But being that he is indeed trying to pick her up, there is an element of machismo. So in touting his coffee-drinking skills, he actually exclaims he can down a hot cup in ‘one shot’.

A Pickup Song

But all things considered, this is fundamentally a pickup song. Psy is someone who was known as a comedic entertainer even before this song dropped. So basically he uses the backdrop of liking a lady to also delve into the topic of wannabe-rich people. Indeed the lady herself is apparently one of such individuals. And being interested in her, the vocalist also adopts a Gangnam style where he is boasting about things which cannot actually be true. Or put differently, he is representing Gangnam even though he cannot actually afford the swanky lifestyle which the area is famous for. 

So in the case of the wanna-be rich, Psy is in fact making fun of them by adopting the personality, from his comic perspective, of a member of that group himself.

But that does not negate the fact that both he and his romantic interest like to get down at night. So even though they may be falsely presenting themselves as rich by drinking pricey coffee, their tendency to enjoy the evenings is very much real.

Music Video

We often talk about how certain songs’ music videos have contributed to them blowing up. There is perhaps no song in history where this is more true than “Gangnam Style”. For instance, it made history itself by actually being the first video ever to garner at least one-billion views on YouTube. This occurred on 21 December 2012. It subsequently went on to also become the first to reach two-billion views.

In fact YouTube had to modify its counter in order to accommodate for all of the views “Gangnam Style” was receiving. But it’s unlikely they will have to do so again. And why? They have now set the maximum number of their counter to over nine quintillion.

Guinness World Records

Earlier in September of that same year, Guinness World Records also declared the video for “Gangnam Style” to be the one with the most likes on YouTube. And it won an MTV Europe Music Award in the category of Best Video, even though Psy is a South Korean artist.

American Celebrities publicly express Love for Video

Amongst the American celebrities who publicly took a liking to the video are Kay Perry, Tom Cruise and Britney Spears. But it is hip-hop artist T-Pain who is recognized as perhaps the first to have really caught on to the phenomenon, in addition to actually promoting it.

Role in making YouTube an important Tool in the Music Industry

This song also helped established YouTube as an important and powerful tool in the music industry. Under traditional circumstances, the artists featured on music videos that blow up on YouTube are already popular in their own right. But this was a case of a singer who was by and large unknown becoming one of the biggest celebrities of 2012 as a direct result of his entertaining clip being featured on the medium.

In fact via “Gangnam Style”, Psy earned more money from YouTube (i.e. associated advertisements) than he did via royalties from the song.

Prominent Celebrities in “Gangnam Style” Music Video

The music video was filmed in Seoul, which is the capitol of South Korea. In fact its director, Cho Soo-hyun, set it within the Gangnam District itself, which is a part of Seoul.

The video features a number of South Korean celebrities. The guy in the yellow suit is a comedian by the name of Yoo Jae-suk. The guy humping the air in the elevator is yet another celebrity and friend of Psy’s, Noh Hongchul.  And the young lady dancing in the subway is actually a professional musician, Hyuna, who is a member of a K-pop group called 4Minute.  Meanwhile the small boy busting the Michael Jackson-like moves, who was five-years old at the time, is someone named Hwang Min-woo whom Psy discovered right before shooting the video. Psy discovered him via a short-lived television show entitled “Korea’s Got Talent”.

Horse Dance

The “horse” dance associated with this song became so popular that prominent world leaders took a stab at it. 

World Leaders comment on “Gangnam Style”

This iconic track itself has over the years been recognized by a number of prominent world leaders. For example, it was recognized by former UN Secretary-General Bon Ki-moon (2007-2016) as fostering world peace. 

Former US President Barack Obama (2009-2017) also accurately acknowledged it as being instrumental in promoting Korean culture worldwide. He even admitted that his ‘daughters taught him a pretty good Gangnam Style’.

And in fact Obama’s statement that “Gangnam Style” had contributed to the Korean Wave, i.e. the propagation of South Korean culture around the world, is more or less considered to be scientific fact. And if nothing else, it definitely led to K-pop being recognized outside of Southeast Asia itself. In fact for a lot of global citizens, this may have actually been the first K-pop song they were actually introduced to.

When was “Gangnam Style” released?

The official release date of “Gangnam Style” is 15 July 2012.

The track served as the lead single from the album “Psy 6 (Six Rules), Part 1”.

The labels behind the initial publication of the song are the Universal Music Group and YG Entertainment, a South Korean outfit Psy had been a part of since 2010. In fact the success of the song was so phenomenal that YG Entertainment saw its shares increase by over 500% as a direct result.

Awards and Accolades

Indeed “Gangnam Style” has won awards all over the world. Most of these were actually in recognition of its music video. And countries in which the video itself have been awarded are Brazil, France, Germany, the US and of course South Korea.

Psy performs “Gangnam Style” for Ban Ki-moon!

Shortly after the success of “Gangnam Style”, Psy was personally invited to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City to show Ban Ki-moon how to bust a Gangnam Style. Indeed the overall success of the tune had contributed to the singer becoming an international celebrity and mingling with a number of the world’s elite in a number of different spheres.

Major Global Organizations acknowledge “Gangnam Style”

Amongst world-renowned organizations that have publicly acknowledged the existence and influence of “Gangnam Style” are the following:

  • United Nations
  • World Bank
  • The South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism
  • The International Criminal Court
  • Greenpeace
  • NASA

Most Parodied Song on Earth

This iconic tune has also been parodied perhaps more than any other song in history.

“Gangnam Style” allows Psy to rub shoulders with major American-based Stars

In fact as a result of “Gangnam Style”, Psy eventually signed a contract with an American record label, School Boy Records. This is the same company artists like Justin Bieber and The Black Eyed Peas are/were signed to.

“Gangnam Style” hits number 1 around the Globe

The countries in which “Gangnam Style” went to number one are too numerous to mention here. But let’s just summarily say that the song managed to do so on practically every continent. And in fact it was the first song ever belonging to the K-pop genre that actually managed to top the UK Singles Chart.

Generally speaking, the track charted in over 40 countries. This includes peaking at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

And accordingly “Gangnam Style” has also achieved multi-Platinum status in over 10 nations.

Who wrote “Gangnam Style”?

“Gangnam Style” was written by Psy. He also co-produced the track with another South Korean musician, Yoo Gun-hyung.

1 Response

  1. Eileen Jones says:

    11 yrs. later I still love that song and learned the Korean lyrics and sing along ….Love it Psy !

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