This is truly a global society. For the first time in history, a pop artist from Korea can put up a video of a pop song on YouTube and start a worldwide dance craze. Thanks to nearly 200 million views to date of his video “Gangnam Style” online, K-pop artist Psy (pronounced “sigh”) is now a chart success in the U.S., and last week started making the rounds of the talk shows (and even Saturday Night Live) to teach people the incredibly simple (and cheesy, and fun) dance that goes with the song.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that a popular single has inspired its own dance craze. (Anyone remember the Macarena? YMCA? The Twist?) But it is arguably the first time that a song/dance from the Pacific Rim has gone worldwide, at least in such a short period of time. And certainly it’s unusual for a song sung mostly in Korean to chart in the U.S. (To our American ears, Far East languages set to pop music just sound sort of funny—if you want a real belly laugh, check out Chinese rap sometime.)
Nevertheless, here we are. “Gangnam Style” is tearing it up, and it’s likely only to get more popular in the coming weeks. And I have to say, it’s little wonder. The song is unbelievably catchy, and the dance is so simple almost anyone can learn it. Not to mention that Psy himself is so endearing with his ability not to take himself too seriously.
For those who like the background story, “Gangnam Style” refers to the Gangnam District, one of the most upscale areas of Seoul, Korea, while according to Psy, the dance itself was inspired by none other than a galloping horse (which should be obvious once you see the dance). During his appearance on Ellen, during which he taught the dance to Britney Spears, Psy said, “[The] mindset of this dance is, dress classy and dance cheesy.”
What will this all mean for Psy’s career? History shows that most of these song/dance crazes are short-lived, creating more one-hit wonders than probably any other popularity trend. Psy was already popular in Asia before showing up on the radar over here, so chances are his career will continue to do well overseas, but it will be a surprise if he produces any more chart successes in the U.S., at least anything as close to “Gangnam Style.”
But for the time being—he’s here, and he’s brought us a really fun, cheesy song and dance. I dare you to watch the video and not smile. More likely than not, you’ll do more than smile–you’ll get up and dance.
P.S.: Just for fun, here’s Psy teaching the dance on The Today Show: