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The Fascinating History of Gangnam Style

PSY performing “Gangnam Style” during Future Music Festival

The song “Gangnam Style”, released on July 15th, conquered the music charts in South Korea soon after its release. During the time, K-pop was gaining recognition across the world, but despite being from Korea, Gangnam Style was nothing like K-pop. Although expected to rule the charts once again in Korea, people did not expect it would become an international hit.

Release and Reception

After its release, Gangnam Style could boast 500,000 YouTube views on the first day. With enthusiastic dance moves and high energy music, it suddenly became viral. Although PSY was quite popular among the Koreans for his humorous videos and stage performances, he was not a global figure. Celebrities from across the globe tweeted about the video. It is said that it was the Australian cricketer, Tim Paine’s, tweet that got the song on the stratosphere.

It was retweeted more than 2,000 times and caught the attention of more people making the song go viral. What happened over the next few months was unexpected.

The Concept

The song and the video went viral for the seemingly funny dance moves and the portrayal of the luxurious life that PSY was living. Park Jae-sang, known professionally as PSY, was born in 1977, in a wealthy family in Seoul. Having been a part of the neighborhood, he portrayed the caricature of a clownish man belonging to Seoul very aptly.

However, the video had a deeper meaning. As PSY would later explain, it was a satirical reaction to the life that people lead in the Gangnam, Seoul. Although PSY had already made a reputation with his silly dance moves, he claimed that he was under pressure to give his fans something new.

The video came with the show of the luxurious and ostentatious life of Seoul that people have heard of. The video is an example of subtle sarcasm on people who have dreamt of living that life and don’t really know what the reality of that life is.

The Video

It was not so much the lyrics but the video that caught the attention of people all around the globe. The video used the appearance of celebrities to enhance the impression of the rich life. The appearance of three celebrities made the song a hit in South Korea. The first was a seven-year-old boy named Hwang Min-woo. He was a dancer who appeared on a show called Korea’s Got Talent and gained popularity in Korea. The second was Yoo Jae-Suk, who is a popular comedian and TV show host. He appears in a bright yellow suit, upholding the comedy that was intended. The third one is Noh Hong-Chul, who became famous as the Elevator guy, for his appearance in an elevator in the video. He is also a comedian.

The video features a dance move that resembles riding an invisible horse. It became a famous style that inspired a number of attempts to imitate it, along with many parodies and mimicries too. The video kept grabbing views and soon was to become the most viewed video on YouTube.

The Climb to Fame

PSY already had many subscribers on his YouTube channel, which was enough to grab him 500,000 views within 24 hours. However, soon Gangnam Style got surrounded by controversies as would any hit that gets viral on social media. But these controversies only helped the song gain more views. The more it was being talked about, the more people were intrigued to watch it.

PSY was accused of stealing dance moves from an American band, LMFAO who had gone viral for Party Rock Anthem. Whatsoever, the debate helped Gangnam Style procure more views throughout July and August. Soon, newspapers and media houses were talking about it, and Billboard published an article featuring Gangnam Style on July 31st 2012. At the beginning of August 2012, the official YouTube blog published an article calling Gangnam Style the International hit of the month.

In September, PSY uploaded a video of him sharing a drink with Scooter Braun, a talent manager in the USA. This got people talking about PSY as a global sensation. Braun also helped PSY appear on the MTV awards, adding to his already soaring fame.  Britney Spears noticed the video and tweeted about it for her millions of subscribers to see. She thanked PSY for the amazing video and talked about his appearance on the Ellen show. It was retweeted more than four thousand times, making it all the more viral.

Following the trend, other celebrities tweeted about the video as well, including the famous Katy Perry and Justin Bieber. Other celebrities followed the trend, and it is said that the word Gangnam Style was tweeted more than a million times on Twitter during those days.

The video grabbed some awards during the two years from 2012 to 2014, including the People’s Choice Awards and the American Music Awards. Awards or no awards, it did secure a place in the world record department.

World Record

Perhaps after taking over the world, all that was expected was the announcement of the world record that came along on September 20th, 2012, just 2 months after its release. The video had secured a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the most liked video on YouTube, leaving behind, the “Party Rock Anthem”, Justin Bieber’s “Baby” and “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele.

The video just couldn’t stop making it to the news. Once again, it made news when it reached 1 Billion views on YouTube in December and became the first-ever video to do so.

Popular Mentions

No one was bringing Gangnam Style down. It was not only a social media sensation but was talk of the town everywhere. Even the politicians loved to chuckle about it in their speeches now and then.

The Gangnam Style had implications as well. In 2012, Boris Johnson, who was then the mayor of London, said in a speech that he and Prime Minister Cameron had danced the Gangnam style.

A South Korean politician and UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, said that he had heard the song and hailed it as an ambassador for peace, for music did not need any specific language. And songs like this could be the source of peace in the world.

The significance of Gangnam style soon came to light, as it proved a trigger for the introduction of Korean pop music that had yet failed to earn recognition in the west. Although K-pop did great in Asia, even around the world at that time, it was majorly PSY whose Gangnam Style became the vessel to take Korean Pop to the west. Moreover,the song was so famous that it was being played in every other house and party in America at that time.

It appears that the memory of Gangnam style is going to last for generations to come. Today, one can visit the Statue of Gangnam Style in Seoul. It is a big Golden sculpture, showing two fists overlapped in the manner of Gangnam Style’s horse-riding dance move.

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