Let me make this clear; this is NOT a review of Gangnam Style. In fact, Psy’s latest worldwide hit is one of those songs that I truly believe is universally recognized as incredible. Once you hear it, you know that something truly special is happening. So…rather than review the song, I simply wanted to treat this as an outlet for my praise of Gangnam Style, and give an American Kpop fan’s perspective on why the song is so awesome.
First of all, I don’t think I have to explain that Gangnam is an upper class district in Korea. Psy has already explained that it is the Korean equivalent of Beverly Hills. However, its more significant to know why this is important. The Korean entertainment industry is very image and glamour driven. Artists are virtually controlled by their managers in every aspect; their daily schedule, weather or not they have access to cell phones, what they can say in an interview, what they eat, how they live…its all directly controlled in order to present a specific image. Gangnam Style is a satirical commentary on this.
One look at Psy clearly shows that he is NOT interested in that high fashion, heavily controlled lifestyle. In rather than being controlled by his record label, Psy wrote, composed, choreographed this song. Gangnam Style is in every way his own creation, and the mark of a true artist.
The song’s lyric “Oppan Gangnam style” translates to “I am Gangnam Style,” and yet the music video and the artist himself are clearly NOT Gangnam Style. It can actually be seen as a very rebellious message. And yet, Psy isn’t criticizing the industry that he himself is a part of. Instead, he invites us to the party. His song is saying “Hey! We’re not Gangnam Style, but lets party like we are!” That is a message that is going to hit home with Americans!
That brings me to the reason that I believe that Psy’s song became a viral hit in the first place. Humor like Psy’s is something that is rarely seen in the Korean music industry. And yet, his random style of humor is something that resonates well within Western audiences. The music video is simply genius, and is the obvious reason that the video went viral. People are hooked in by this crazy Asian dude, but they stay for the song.
Gangnam Style, as a song, is simply awesome. The beat is insanely catchy, and the hook is a joy to sing along with. This is pure Kpop euphoria! And yet, it can easily find a home on American radio or American clubs. Psy is both a great rapper and singer, so his talent is undeniable. It also helps that he is incredibly charismatic on stage, and knows how to connect with an audience. I always said that it would be easier for a Korean solo artist to break through to the American market, and Psy proves that I was right.
Of course, there is the choreography. Psy proves that if you want the people to dance, you have to provide them some instruction. Its something that most Kpop groups try to do, but Psy also caught onto something else; the easier the dance is to imitate, the more people will like it. Nobody wants to have to look up a tutorial…they just want to imitate what they see. Seriously, when was the last time you saw someone actually shuffling to Party Rock Anthem? The horse dance may be incredibly cheesey, but that’s part of the appeal! All you have to do is see it once to be able to do it, so you can stop worrying about doing it right, and just do it. That makes all the difference.
I’ve been a fan of Korean music for ten years now. I’ve been familiar with Psy’s music for a good long while , and I never once thought that he of all people would be Korea’s break out star. And yet, looking at the pure genius of Gangnam Style, its easy to see why. I am simply in awe of all of the success that Psy is having. It feels incredible to finally see a Korean act getting such praise. Can I call Gangnam Style the perfect pop song? That may be an overstatement, but I don’t care. Oppan Gangnam style!