Gangnam Style Introduced the World to K-pop, but Also Plagued Its Creator

Gangnam Style Introduced the World to K-pop: The 45-year-old music executive in a sharp double-breasted suit and a coiffure fixed with enough hair gel to reflect the ceiling lights in Seoul reveals, as he scratches his temples, that he is, in fact, hung over.

Even though it is far past 2 o’clock on a Thursday in Seoul, he doesn’t mind lying in bed with a headache. He claims that the hangover haze is when he gets some of his best inspiration for songs.

Psy, a former online sensation whose viral music video and earworm of a tune, “Gangnam Style,” became the first YouTube offering to cross 1 billion views, is the man who is enduring the creative anguish.

Gangnam Style Introduced the World to K-pop
Gangnam Style Introduced the World to K-pop

Korean pop performers, or K-pop, have previously struggled to attain the kind of breakthrough, worldwide popularity that “Gangnam Style” and its accompanying video, which features Psy doing the song’s famous horseback dance technique in and around Gangnam, an affluent suburb of Seoul, did.

In 2012, the video’s cultural impact was so great that it was brought up in an interview with Barack Obama on Election Day. A spoof was videotaped by NASA astronauts, and the dance moves were then used by a North Korean state propaganda site to ridicule a South Korean politician.

Psy noted that despite his widespread popularity, the song’s success remained a source of anxiety for him for years after its first release. Instantly plunged into a Hollywood lifestyle complete with paparazzi stalking him around the streets of New York, signing with Justin Bieber‘s manager, and releasing a single with Snoop Dogg, he felt the pressure building to produce another smash hit.

He kept telling himself, “Let’s make just one more.” Far from his native South Korea, where he was a staple of the music charts and a source of comedic relief on ridiculous television variety shows, he uprooted his life and travelled to Los Angeles in an effort to launch his international career in earnest.

There were several attempts made to imitate the phenomenon of “Gangnam Style,” but none of them was even remotely successful. Psy wasn’t the only one curious about the phenomenon’s reproducibility.

The song “Gangnam Style” became so popular in South Korea that not only music industry professionals but also government officials and economists were trying to figure out what it was about the song, the lyrics, the music video, the dance, or the man that made it so successful.

Ten years after that song and video introduced the world to South Korean pop music, K-pop has become a cultural phenomenon, spreading from its original home in East and Southeast Asian markets to every corner of the globe.

Bands like BTS and Blackpink have an economic influence comparable to that of a small nation, as they command fan bases in the tens of millions. This enthusiasm is not just limited to the music industry; it has spread to the political arena, the academic world, and even Broadway.

Several commentators have pointed the finger at Psy.

“Psy single-handedly set K-pop on a different level,” remarked Kim Young-dae, an accomplished music critic. According to Kim, the song was a “game changer” for the Korean music scene, laying the groundwork for the subsequent interest and commercial success enjoyed by South Korean musicians.

Psy, whose real name is Park Jae-sang, returned to South Korea ten years after his “lightning in a bottle” incident and has since founded a record label and management company in an effort to inspire the next generation of K-pop stars.

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