‘Gangnam Style’ at 10: How Psy’s smash hit sent Korean culture global

Liz Kang, CNN and Jane Sit, CNN

The early 2010s were an era of fast hits. From the “Harlem Shake” to “Party Rock Anthem”, digital platforms ushered in a new period of publicity — and virality.

On July 15, 2012, South Korean singer and rapper Psy broke on to the international new music scene with a vivid blue tuxedo, an unforgettable horse-using dance and an energetic defeat that dropped to the catchy lyric, “Oppan Gangnam design and style.”

“Gangnam Style” before long went viral, building waves about the globe. The music hijacked the airwaves, the songs video clip flooded Facebook timelines and Psy’s slicked-back again hair and sun shades confirmed up on American late-evening shows. The track debuted on the Billboard Very hot 100 in September, just before climbing to number 2 months afterwards. It also became the 1st video to hit 1 billion views on YouTube.

Psy, who was previously well-liked in his house state but scarcely recognized globally, immediately grew to become a single of the most recognizable artists in the environment. Within a 12 months, he experienced damaged 3 Guinness Environment Records and was undertaking at New York’s Madison Square Backyard garden with Madonna. For the then-35-year-old from Seoul, the whirlwind achievements was anything he could have never imagined.

In an interview ahead of the song’s 10-year anniversary, he compares that period of his lifetime to celebrating a birthday. “On the day right before, you are thrilled in anticipation,” he tells CNN from the Seoul headquarters of P-Country, the file label and enjoyment agency he started in 2018. “And then on the working day of … it’s all a minimal wild and mad.”

But the song’s affect stretched considerably over and above the songs marketplace. In simple fact, the accomplishment of “Gangnam Style” is regarded a main catalyst in the “Korean wave”, or “hallyu”, a term describing the latest proliferation of Korean culture internationally — anything the South Korean government has been trying to force as a result of audio and media because the 1990s.

According to Gyu Tag Lee, an associate professor of cultural reports specializing in K-pop and hallyu at George Mason University’s South Korean campus, it was “Gangnam Style” that gave Korean pop lifestyle mainstream recognition outside the house of East Asia.

“These kinds of heading-viral-on-the-net media platforms, (this sort of as) YouTube, built K-pop and hallyu genuinely well-liked and large overseas,” he claims.

Paving the way

Quick ahead a ten years and South Korean abilities have arrived at new levels of world acceptance and fandom.

K-pop band BTS was the world’s best-promoting musical act in 2021, and the group has since carried out at the Grammys and produced an visual appearance at the White Household to examine Asian representation and anti-Asian detest crimes. Girl group Blackpink, meanwhile, has executed at the Coachella songs festival and collaborated with the likes of Lady Gaga and Selena Gomez, with its 4 members all joining key makes or luxurious trend homes as ambassadors.

Lee thinks that these extremely profitable K-pop functions are adhering to in Psy’s footsteps by using shareable online video content material to arrive at international audiences.

“Without the massive strike that was ‘Gangnam Design,’ there may well not have been BTS, there may not have been Blackpink,” Lee states.

BTS has normally cited — and thanked — Psy for encouraging globalize K-pop. 1 of the boy band’s users, Suga, even co-manufactured and featured on “That That” , the direct solitary from the Psy’s new album, “Psy 9th”. Like “Gangnam Style”, the music is catchy and danceable, while the new music video options some of the singer’s signature humor and has previously garnered a lot more than 272 million views on YouTube.

In a at the rear of-the-scenes movie interview, posted to Psy’s YouTube account, Suga expresses his gratitude for the “Gangnam Style” singer.

“He paved the way for K-pop in the US, which allowed (BTS) to adhere to that route additional comfortably,” Suga says.

And the appreciation is mutual. “I consider it is an amazing feat,” Psy suggests of BTS’ accomplishment. “Every single part of me applauds them and is cheering them on. That large stress that I felt in 2012 — BTS has been shouldering that for 6 or seven many years now.”

Beyond breaking records

For Psy, there has constantly been a different side to his global achievement. As fired up and content as he was during those people “Gangnam Style” times, he said that executing and being on the road left him experience “just much too overwhelmed” and “a very little vacant inside.”

Fame also brought about new anticipations — and the pressure to make a lot more hits.

“When the song is a strike, then your songs have to have to continue on to be hits,” he suggests. “When the individual is a hit, the good results is more sustainable. In this circumstance, I’m the previous and BTS is the latter.”

While Psy by no means replicated the results of “Gangnam Style”, he has used the final ten years proving himself to be a musician and dancer with a singular push to entertain. Considering the fact that 2012, he has produced 3 comprehensive-length albums that showcase his numerous design and style — from the dance hits he’s ideal recognised for, to softer, rhythmic ballads reminiscent of his before output. Considering the fact that founding P-Country, he has used the label to discover, establish and creatively aid the up coming era of South Korean acts.

Involving it all, Psy is continue to filling venues in his property place. His yearly concert collection, “Summer Swag” is now underway right after currently being canceled due to the pandemic.

“Interacting with audiences (and) sharing that experience is anything I just can’t even describe,” Psy says. “I come to feel extremely proud and content in that instant.”

And his mission has not changed considering that his breakout hit: “To make exciting music, entertaining dances and convey joy to my fans.”

“That’s my hope,” he adds. “I was of the same thoughts 10 yrs back and I think I’ll really feel the very same way 20 several years from now as effectively. I’ll generally be legitimate to that.”

Watch the video clip previously mentioned to hear a lot more from Psy.

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