A couple of months ago, my father, who takes great pride in having never owned a mobile phone or credit card, and has never used an ATM (he refuses to make a financial transaction with a machine), asked if I had bumped into Psy (since he and I both live in the same city – my father may not understand that greater Seoul has slightly more residents than Australia), and that yes, of course he knew Gangnam Style!
Ok, so the world by now may arguably be completely fucking fed up with Gangnam Style, the song only understood by the one percent of the world’s people who happen to be Korean speakers, but which happens to also have redefined the boundaries of the Youtube generation, for reasons nobody seems to know.
The satirical parody of Korean wealth and excess (a feat in itself in a country where publicly criticising the rich and powerful is a criminal offence) has now, as of December 21, 2012 (the day designated by the ancient Mayans as end of the world, or at least corresponding with a monumental societal shift), become the first Youtube video to be viewed one billion times. At time of writing, it has been viewed 1,024,000,000 times and, inexplicably, shows no signs just yet of slowing down.
The knockers will always form a disorderly queue to disparage the successes of others, though it can’t be denied that the guy called Psy has achieved something remarkable. I personally can’t think of a Youtube video in various lists of most watched uploads that is not an English-language video. The fact that it is a K-pop clip that eventually shattered every record of the current generation, and in only 5 months… where the hell did that come from??!!
Personally I admire the guy (and I’m not into this style of music at all…). Psy has single-handedly, if inadvertently, achieved what the big Korean producers have been trying to do (crack the US/global market) for years. He did it simply by making a catchy tune, a bizarrely funny video and not taking himself too seriously.
Seeing a guy acting all gangsta, playing the big-shot (before the camera pull back to reveal that he’s sitting on the toilet)… and to think of what all those girl-bands have been put through – the endless hours of dance training, the starvation, the multiple plastic surgeries… apparently all the world needed was a fat guy with swag, sitting on the toilet and riding an invisible horse (only about 40 years after Monty Python did the same thing)
I reckon Psy should enjoy his 15 minutes. He did more to promote Korean tourism and the national brand in four minutes of silliness than all those overpaid government think tanks with their ridiculous slogans and the inexplicably misspelt Dokdo billboards in Times Square would achieve in a hundred years.
After a billion views and counting, the kids (and at least one ajumma) show that Gangnam Style, for whatever reason, is still going strong.