Year in Ideas: What a Korean rapper taught us about pop culture today
The video for Gangnam Style, the unlikely hit from South Korean rapper/fancy dresser Psy, has been viewed on YouTube more than one billion times since June. Of these, half a billion involved people watching it so they could memorize the moves for their own Gangnam Style parody and a quarter billion that involved curious watchers who, at the end of four minutes and 13 seconds, were left baffled as to how that song became the most-watched internet video of all time. (These are estimates only.)
But aside from the fact that people still seem to get a kick out of bow ties, the Gangnam phenomenon says something about how we experience culture in an internet world. Just don’t expect Psy to be a big deal in 2013, too.
Psy is not particularly handsome, nor does he approach adorable. Fans of Justin Bieber, whom Psy surpassed to break the YouTube record, generally consider their man to be one or the other. Gangnam Style has an undeniable earworm quality to it, but it’s hardly the first catchy song to be released in the YouTube era. And, the lyrics? Who knows? There’s the part where he says “Gangnam Style” and the part when he says “sexy lady”, then all the other stuff in Korean. He could be reciting the dictionary for all most of us know.