Terri’s Take: PSY’s Gangnam Style
~Cloud Cover by Terri :-}, Managing Editor
Okay, okay. I know the world has gone crazy over PSY’s Gangnam Style and that there have been more articles about that one song and its success lately than there have been Beliebers tweeting about Justin. So, right about now, you’re wondering why in the world I might want to write another article of my own on the same subject?
Well, because for all that has been said about PSY and his scrumptilicious song, there are still a few things that haven’t been said. Like what, you ask? Like the fact that although people all over the world have been philosophizing over and dissecting that song ad nauseam, they have been forgetting the most important point: PSY himself.
Which brings us to my first point: Who the hell is PSY? And why does he matter? Well, he is a South Korean rapper and he matters a lot. To me, he does anyway. What matters even more is his recent success in the U.S.A. and what it says about my peeps here at home, which is that there may be some hope for them on the international music consumption front after all. I know that may sound a little harsh and judgmental, but from where I’m sitting, as the co-founder of Cloud USA and the Chief Editor of hellokpop.com, it’s not judgmental at all. It’s realistic.
Apparently, most people in the West, particularly in the U.S.A., live in an odd isolationistic bubble—a bubble where popular entertainment and culture from other countries simply does not exist. For that reason, until the Gangnam Style music video hit PSY’s YouTube Channel and American celebrities started talking about it all over the Internet, many people where I live had never even heard of PSY. Friends, all I can say is if you didn’t know who PSY was before Gangnam Style became a worldwide hit, then you really need to get out more.
We live in a global society, and we live in that global society whether you like it or not. We are connected to other countries in more ways that the average American citizen would care to admit. When the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 hit, it resulted in the total collapse (and bailout) of large financial institutions and downturns in stock markets across the entire world. It was a global financial crisis, not a local one. When OPEC raises crude oil prices, our gas prices in Atlanta, Georgia are affected. Via social media like Twitter and Facebook and using services like Skype, we can talk to neighbors and friends not just down the street, but also in Asia and Europe at a moment’s notice.
Yet, even in this advanced day and age, the entertainment industry is still using mainly local marketing methods to peddle its wares and consumers are still in the mode of consuming only what feels safe and familiar to them. I have my reasons as to why that is still happening—much of it having to do with territorialism, the intrinsic nature of capitalism and marketing and corporate greed, but I don’t want to wander away from the main point of my article. So, I’ll just leave it at that for now.
My point is that while most of the rest of the world’s music consumers have spent years not knowing who PSY was, South Korean music fans knew very well who he was. Well, of course they would, you might say. They would know him because he is from their own country. While that may be true, how do you explain the fact that if you ask any music fan in South Korea who Rihanna or Justin Bieber or Usher or Katy Perry is, most of them are at least going to know who those artists are—even if they may not be familiar with all of their music?
The problem is you can’t. Frankly, neither can I, because personally, I just don’t get it. I am a person who loves the world-at-large so much that, even though I am a proud American, I have still spent much of my adult life learning other languages and studying other cultures. My parents raised me that way and I have raised my children to be of the same mind. So, my boys frequently listen to music from around the globe on their own, without my coaxing.
The problem is not all Americans are like me and my family. And you know what? That’s really sad. Why? Because to me, really living means escaping the artificial boundaries set by prejudice and ignorance and stepping out and exploring a world that is larger than myself and my own country. The idea that only music, art, and or culture from my own country is worth listening to, looking at, or appreciating is as ludicrous to me as is the idea that people of a different race, religion or national origin are somehow inferior to me. It’s just plain stupid.
Which brings me to my next point. Will PSY’s success in the U.S.A. last? My answer is: that depends. If PSY is willing to continue his career as “court jester,” then he will likely do very well here in The States. Why? Because people of other countries who are funny aren’t threatening. If he ever tries to step out of that mold, though, all bets are off.
Which brings me to my final point. What made Gangnam Style so popular? The main reason that people here in The States like Gangnam Style has very little to do with the symbolism or social commentary. No matter how you slice and dice it, the main reason people are loving the song so much is because PSY is really funny in the song and the song itself is just plain fun.
It is fun for me, a K-Pop lover, who has been a PSY fan for years. It’s fun for my son’s girlfriend’s teenage brother who, for some reason last week, couldn’t stop himself from watching the video over and over and over again and driving his family crazy. It’s even fun for PSY himself, who is enjoying one hell of a run here in the United States with this thing.
All I can say is I hope PSY’s run lasts a long, long time—and not for any other reason that simply because he deserves the attention. For many people in the know, PSY is a smart and talented musician whose music deserves to be heard and appreciated not just by people in South Korea and Asia, but also by people everywhere.
There are a lot of other artists across the world who are similarly deserving. Like Rain, for example—and BoA and The Wonder Girls and 2NE1 and Se7en—some of the other Asian artistes whom have been working so hard to break into the U.S. without much success to date. So, my hope is that with the success of Gangnam Style, perhaps some of the people who liked that song will be more receptive in the future to other Asian artistes.
Oh well. A girl can dream can’t she? :-}
Just for fun, here’s MY favorite video of Gangnam Style. It’s PSY performing the song at his Summer Stand Concert in August 2012, in Seoul, Korea. What a crowd!
Terri @CloudUSA :-}