SEOUL, KOREA - “Oppam Gangnam Style.” In the span of a few short months last year, that small phrase literally took over the pop culture market throughout the world. Online, on the radio, in shopping centers, it seemed like wherever you went, ‘Gangam Style’ was there to greet you.
By the end of 2012, Psy’s massive hit song was the first YouTube video ever to surpass the ludicrously large figure of one billion views, and this has continued into 2013 where the video now holds more than 1.5 billion views. How did Psy achieve such unprecedented international success Is it a result of blind luck or brilliant execution Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that led to Psy’s global takeover.
When audiences generally think about K-pop, they associate the genre of music with well-dressed, young handsome men or beautiful women, involved in synchronized dancing and flaunting sex appeal in both their appearance and the lyrics of their songs. However, Psy vastly contradicts this stereotype. As a 34 year old whom most would not consider to be good looking, he has embraced his appearance and utilized this to his advantage by diverging himself from the conventional K-pop style and allowing himself to stand out.
Psy also seemingly possesses a strong sense of humor and charisma. Despite the fact that few international audiences actually understand the lyrics of Psy’s massive hit song, the video went viral. This is largely because of the humor in the video. The body language Psy uses allows him to transcend the limits of language in ways that make audiences laugh despite their ethnicity. Psy has also taken advantage of his bilingualism in English and Korean, landing interviews on some of the biggest shows in America including ‘Ellen’ and subsequently boosting his profile.
Also contributing to the success of ‘Gangnam Style’ was the dance moves. The dance itself has been replicated innumerous times, and is renowned for its originality and also the fact that an individual does not have to be immensely talented in order to perform it.
Of course it is no secret that Psy’s success is also a product of timing and the advancement of technology. If ‘Gangnam Style’ was released ten years ago, it is highly unlikely that it would have garnered the same international recognition. However, Psy took advantage of the smart phone generation, where YouTube videos are only a click away no matter where you are. This has allowed viewers to take notice of Psy in ways that would have been unheard of in previous generations. Although part of this is attributable to luck, it is also a result of brilliant marketing on the part of Psy and his music label.
Then there is the music itself. Although many songs in this day and age are brilliantly catchy, it takes a relatable product for most people to accept it, especially as such a substantial amount of music is available these days. Using a backdrop of electronic music, a genre that is extremely popular in the United States, alongside an extremely catchy chorus, Psy was able to deliver a musical product that was relatable to audiences worldwide. Once the song gets in your head, you have a difficult time getting it out.
Will this success carry forward, or will history look back on Psy as a ‘one hit wonder’ and a case of the right place at the right time It appears as though the former notion is holding true. On April 12, ‘Gentleman’, the follow up single to ‘Gangnam Style’ was leaked on the Internet. As of the writing of this article, the video for ‘Gentlemen’ had already received almost 215,000,000 views. Psy appears to be here to stay. One thing is for certain, Psy has put the Korean wave, and the country itself in the international spotlight in a way that could never have been anticipated. How will this transcend into the future Only time will tell.