PSY’s Gangnam Style May Be A Crossover Hit In US, But Is The Satirical Message Lost?

When I was driving in Los Angeles last weekend, a booming “Oopa Gangnam Style!” surprised me as it came out of the radio. “What’s that?” aske The Daughter. “You haven’t seen that music video?” replied her white roommate. Gangnam Style seems to be appearing everywhere, and is shaping up to be a real crossover hit for K-Pop.  Along with being Number 1 on Billboard’s YouTube video chart, parodies, flash mobs, and all kinds of Gangnam Style related videos are popping up.  As it gains in popularity, many Americans do not realize that Gangnam Style really contains a satirical message.

If there is any sign that Gangnam Style has become a hit, seeing it played at a Dodger’s Game is that sign:

All kinds of people are doing his horse dance, and the crowd roared when the camera focused on Psy, even before his name came up on the screen.

The Fine brothers did a video called “Teens React to Gangnam Style.”

I generally thought that video was annoying, but I did think one teen’s comment was on the mark, that Psy’s horse dance could be the next “Dougie.” Looks like she is right, with instructional videos popping up.  I like this one, as it actually is Psy in it.  The video is the first time I have heard his speaking voice, and he is speaking in English too.

Number One Son showed me a dance video made by some kids from his high school:

And of course, there are parodies:

This one from the University of Oregon censors the word “sexy.”  Why?

Even as Psy has an American hit, Jeff Yang points out that Koreans are somewhat perplexed that of all of their performers, Psy is the one who successfully crossed cover. This is especially ironic as the video is actually a commentary on materialism in Korean society.  Psy himself says “I didn’t make this for foreign countries. This was always for local fans.” In my opinion, that subversive element plus his original focus on Koreans makes it even more wonderful that Gangnam Style has become a US hit.

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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