“Oppa Gangnam Style”

In the beginning the Earth was created. Then Man said, “Let there be music”, and there was music. Then one Korean man called Psy decided to storm the Earth with the most infectious piece of music in the history of pop culture: oppa Gangnam Style!

Some people disapprove: it’s music-video-reliant; it’s an insult to credible singer-songwriters and bands; it’s just garbage, just like all pop music nowadays. It’s popular, though: over 300 million hits on YouTube, number one in Korea, New Zealand, Canada and the UK. It’s also top three in various other countries including number two in the USA; this song has been force-fed upon us like baby food.

Psy does owe a huge part of the song’s success to the music video though. With explosions, snow-machines and giddy-up-horsey dances, it’s an epic, cinematic masterpiece that makes a David Guetta video look like the Antiques Roadshow.

Psy doesn’t take himself too seriously either, singing on the toilet, sitting in a sauna wearing a towel like a woman to cover up his moobs, and lying down in a lift between the legs of a nutty, groin-thrusting Korean making obscene faces at the camera. One can imagine the teenage tweets: “OMG this video is soooooo random LOL #GangnamStyle!”

Stating the obvious, most of it is in a foreign language. We’ve never had anything Korean in the UK charts before, so when a song is released and it’s not in English, we listen. The lyrics, translated, are actually quite profound.

“Beautiful, lovable” and “A girl who covers herself but is more sexy than a girl who bares it all” shows a higher sensitivity to your average “shortaay-on-the-dance-flo” popstar. In fact, Gangnam Style refers to the more refined lifestyle of Gangnam, a wealthy district in Seoul, South Korea. To do it “Gangnam Style” is to do it the classy way.

But what does Psy’s high class of success say about the music industry today? Shall we be forever dominated by the mighty power of crazy K-Pop? Will Gangnam Style overthrow credible music from the void of reality, replacing it with a gloomy hodgepodge of manufactured trollop? Not likely.

Although sad to say, Gangnam Style will probably be a one-hit wonder. This song is to the charts like chocolate is to dieting; it’s alright once in a while just as long as it’s only once in a while. Just as long as there’s a healthy, credible selection of music on the side, we’re allowed to have a portion of sweet silliness.

This song won’t represent the whole of pop culture in the recent past, nor in the recent future. Pop moves on, and while we’ve had “Barbie Girls”, “Blue-Da-Buh-Dee-Bah-Bun-Dies”, “Cha Cha Slides” and “Crazy Frogs”, you can guarantee there’ll be something completely different around the corner, perhaps an operatic ballad about talcum powder or a cow mooing to fused jazz-dubstep or something along those lines.

Soon, we’ll have a new “most infectious song in the history of pop culture”, and we’ll look back, thinking, “Why on earth did I buy/download that?”


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Sam Day

April 2021
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