"Gangnam Style" Launched K-Pop, But Plagued Its Creator (2023)


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In 2012, the song took the internet by storm and helped pave the way for the worldwide success of Korean pop. But Psy, the artist behind it, tried for years to reproduce the phenomenon and failed.

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"Gangnam Style" Launched K-Pop, But Plagued Its Creator (1)

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SEOUL (AP) — He may not look right in a sleek double-breasted suit and slicked-back hairdo with enough hair gel to reflect the overhead lights, but the 45-year-old music executive reveals a secret as he rubs his hands together. temples: have a hangover.

But he doesn't mind taking care of that headache long after 2 PM. on a Thursday in Seoul. Some of his best songwriting ideas, he said, come from the sick feeling that follows a night of drinking.

The man who causes creative suffering is Psy the Oneglobal internet sensationwhose 2012 went viralvideo musicaland the catchy song, "Gangnam Style," became the first YouTube offering to surpass 1 billion views and sent the world racing with it.

The eccentric yet irresistibly catchy song and its accompanying video, in which Psy performs the song's signature horse dance move in and around Gangnam, an upscale neighborhood in Seoul, has achieved huge worldwide success from pop artists. Korean, or K-pop had largely escaped. then.

The video, which already has around 4.6 billion views, was as culturally popular as Barack Obama was in 2012.asked about itthe day of the elections. NASA astronautsmade a parody, and a North Korean state propaganda websiteevoked the movement of the dancemocking a South Korean politician.

But for several years after all his viral fame, Psy said, the song's success dogged him. Even when he was thrust into an overnight Hollywood existencechasedNew York City paparazzi hired Justin Bieber's manager and released a single featuring Snoop Dogg - the pressure was mounting for another hit.


Let's do another one, he told himself.

He moved to Los Angeles in an effortlaunch a global raceseriously, an ocean away from his native South Korea, where he's been a fixture on the music charts and a source of comic relief on silly TV variety shows. But neither attempt came close to the formula that made "Gangnam Style" a worldwide hit.

Psy wasn't the only one trying to figure out how to reproduce the phenomenon. In South Korea, not only the music industry, but also government officials and economists were investigating what it was about the melody, the lyrics, the video, the dance, or the man that elevated music to such a unique ubiquity.

And in the decade since the song and video introduced South Korean pop music to many around the world, K-pop has become a cultural giant, spreading from markets in East and Southeast Asia to cover all corners of the world.

Artists like BTS andblack Rosethey have a loyal following that numbers in the tens of millions, and the gangs wield economic influence that rivals the GDP of a small nation. The passion went beyond musicPolicy,Educationit is includedBroadway.

Some say that Psy deserves a lot of credit.

"Psy single-handedly took K-pop to another level," said Kim Young-dae, a music critic who has written extensively about the industry. The song was a "game changer" for the Korean music scene and paved the way for the growing interest and commercial success experienced by South Korean stars who followed it, Kim said.

Now, 10 years after his blitz-in-a-bottle moment, Psy, whose real name is Park Jae-sang, is back in South Korea, where he founded and is trying to build his own record label and music company. management to recreate the magic. with the next generation of K-pop talent as one of the pioneers of the industry.

"One of the things I like best about this job is that it's unpredictable. We tell each other we're in the 'costume business,' because you don't know what you've got until it opens up," Psy said in a interview at the offices of his label, based in, where else? – the Gangnam district of Seoul. "You don't know which cloud will bring the rain."

With 10 artists under his wing, including a newly formed six-piece boyband, TNX, Psy says he feels a lot more pressure to shape and direct other people's careers than when he's solely responsible for his own.

And while you can offer your rising stars advice based on decades of industry experience, you can't give them foolproof instructions on how to create a hit record.

In all his years of thinking and talking about "Gangnam Style", he's still as surprised by its success as anyone.

“The songs are written by the same person, the dance moves are by the same person, and they are performed by the same person. It's all the same, but what was so special about that song? said psycho. "I still don't know to this day."


Psy and his "Gangnam Style" are the epitome of a one-hit global wonder. But already known in South Korea as a rapper and musician for a decade, he embarked on a path that set him apart from many of his peers by not relying on the push of appearance or shyness to avoid arguments.

He never had the chiseled look sought after in the South Korean pop music industry, and since the release of his first album in 2001, he has become known for his forceful, profane, and sometimes crude lyrics. "I Love Sex" was one of the tracks on his debut album, Psy from the Psycho World!, the sale of which to minors was banned at the insistence of the country's Christian ethics movement.

Despite, or perhaps because of, their iconoclastic and uncompromising nature, college dropouts have consistently racked up best-selling albums and sold-out house shows in South Korea for the past two decades.

"It's a bit ironic that it's become so iconic: it went from being occasionally censored to being widely acclaimed," said Bernie Cho, president of DFSB Kollective, a Seoul-based creative services agency that provides marketing and distribution solutions for artists. Korean musicals and their label offerings. "He disrespectfully went from K-pop bad boy to K-pop golden boy."

For a pop song, "Gangnam Style" also set off an avalanche of depth.think partsmiThe analysisDifferent aspects of South Korea and Seoul were ridiculed: the hypocrisy of the nouveau riche, the superficiality of their social standards, and the inequality exemplified by the affluent Gangnam neighborhood.

Psy insists that the song was never intended to provide deep social commentary, he just wanted to give people a few minutes of mindless fun and a break from reality.

In fact, he said he's making fun of himself for not aesthetically fitting the bill for a fancy Gangnam venue.


"It's funny because someone who doesn't look 'Gangnam-style' says they are," he said.

Originally planned for development in the 1970s to expand Seoul south of the Han River, Gangnam has become a sought-after location where many of the capital's wealthy people congregate and where the best schools are concentrated, which is probably guaranteed by an educational gap.inequalitiessymbolized by the neighborhood continued into the next generation.

In the years since Psy made Gangnam a globally recognized household name, the neighborhood has become increasingly out of reach for the average South Korean. there is no placerunaway real estate pricesas steep as in the Gangnam area.

"If you say you live in Gangnam, people look at you differently," said Jin Hee-seon, a former deputy mayor of Seoul and a professor of urban planning at Yonsei University. "It is an object of desire and envy."

Psy, who grew up in the Gangnam area in a family that ran a semiconductor company, now lives north of the river with his wife and twin daughters and says he spends little time thinking about the place.


What he has returned to recently is his live performances.

Their concerts are legendary in South Korea for their exuberant fun. His loud and energetic music is often accompanied by equally outrageous dance moves that have him jumping, kicking and waving his arms wildly in the air. During his six-city tour this year, his first since the pandemic, he said he was surprised to find his middle-aged joints and limbs more agile than ever.

On his latest album, released on April 9, he collaborated with BTS rapper Suga on a single titled "Eso Eso". In the music video, Suga hilariously duels, and kills, the blue-tuxedo-wearing Psy from the 2012 music video. (That video garnered 369 million views.)

As for the quest for stardom that once drove him half crazy, he says he's made peace with its absence.

"If another good song comes along and it happens again, great. If not, then so be it," he said. "For now, I'll do what I do in my rightful place."


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