Strutting to ‘Gangnam Style’

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It seems like I can’t go anywhere without someone talking about “Gangnam Style.” At first I thought I could avoid it like most memes, but I can’t. Even Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has gotten in on the fun with his own parody video.

In the two months that I have been writing The High Note for, I have watched a lot of weird music videos. Being of the MTV generation I can appreciate a good music video, but I don’t consider myself a music video aficionado. “Sabotage,” set the bar pretty high for me as a young lad. By the time The Box came around, I could watch any video any time I wanted… that was until my mother got the phone bill.

Now in the era of YouTube, music videos have mutated into a wonderful world of weirdness. For example, recently I reviewed Ben Fold Five “The Song of the Life of the Mind.” For it, Nerdist creator Chris Hardwick produced a video for “Do it Anyway” featuring The Fraggles. It pretty much blew my mind. I understand I’m in the narrow demographic that finds both Folds and Fraggle Rock awesome and even more amazing is that music video could only happen now, 2012. The same could be said for global Gangnam.

Music is a democratic process and as of this writing, the music video for “Gangnam Style” by Psy has been viewed 531,984,265 times; that includes the 33 times I watched it while writing this column. That’s not a typo – more than 531 million hits.

Since being posted July 15, Psy now holds the Guinness World Record for most ‘liked’ video on YouTube as of Sept. 20. This is for having amassed more than 2,141,758 likes on YouTube. That is a big number. On the other hand, 4 minutes and 13 seconds is not a whole lot of time. The sum of their parts began my journey into Psy and the cultural phenomena that is “Gangnam Style.”

Psy, the South Korean pop rapper who has taken America by storm, is clearly a genius. I honestly don't mean that in a sarcastic way.

First, I want to say that it is incredibly fun to think of all of the things this video could be. At first, I thought we were a country of suckers for buying into a dance craze based on a song spoken in another language. That is dangerous; after all, this is America. We speak English and expect everyone else to, as well, and that includes our singers, too. ABBA anyone?

Is that part of the appeal? Do we care what he’s saying? The only words I recognize are “sexy lady,” and “Know what I’m sayin’,” and of course “Gangnam style.”

Psy’s body language seems pretty clear. That’s enough for me. Who’s to say Psy doesn’t have moves. After all, his horse trot past the girls doing yoga is far better than I could ever do.

Psy isn't taking himself seriously and that is what is so appealing in this video.

Just look at how tough Puffy and Mase look in "Mo Money, Mo Problems." Look at those spaceman tracksuits. Is that any less hilarious than a grown man in a tux doing a horsey dance in a real horse stable? If you remember when Puffy put Ben Stiller in the video for “Bad Boy for Life,” you’ll appreciate where Psy is coming from.

You might have guessed at what Psy is telling us by the guy trying too hard in the yellow suit and the Mercedes. In interviews, Psy describes Gangnam as the lavish upper crust section of Seoul, South Korea. He’s taking shots at those “posers” from the steam room to the streets. The beauty is how Psy crafts the glitz of the fake snow, beautiful women, a beach made from a sandbox and an explosion from the “Dukes of Hazzard” into a masterful tale.

The song itself has a decent dubstep beat and is a lot of fun. There are plenty of opportunities to shout “Hey” during the song because as we know, audience participation is important.

He even includes things that wouldn’t make it into a serious music video, like rapping on the toilet, to cameos by comedian No Hong Chul (the guy in the elevator) and Korean pop icon Kim Hyun-a from the girl group 4Minute.

The truly genius aspect of this video is that Psy didn’t intend to make a meme or a “viral video.” These things must happen organically because with enough eyes watching these videos, a fake is always sniffed out and disposed into internet purgatory; dropped into one of those green pipes from Super Mario Bros., with a plumber-eating plant on the other end.

Ultimately, “Gangnam Style” is a modern Korean evolution of “A Modest Proposal,” into Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” and “Mo Money, Mo Problems.” Psy is showing how silly he thinks the elite are. By staying true to his ridiculous roots, Psy has become a worldwide phenomenon. Because, when you reach the “High Note,” you know you’ve made it in the music industry.

But, he has not only made it, he has reached a new level of success. There have been a slew of parody and lipdub videos; he was even a guest on Saturday Night Live. My personal favorite spawn of “Gangnam Style” is a mashup with “Ghostbusters.”

It’s incredible how far that imaginary horse has taken Psy. I just hope he remembers what Biggie Smalls told us – “The more money you make, the more problems you get.”

What’s your favorite part of or parody of “Gangnam Style.” Comment @DBCurrent #TheHighNote

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