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

Liz Kang, CNN and Jane Sit, CNN

The early 2010s have been an period of instant hits. From the “Harlem Shake” to “Party Rock Anthem”, electronic platforms ushered in a new period of publicity — and virality.

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

“Gangnam Style” shortly went viral, generating waves about the planet. The tune hijacked the airwaves, the new music online video flooded Fb timelines and Psy’s slicked-back again hair and sunglasses confirmed up on American late-night time exhibits. The song debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 in September, in advance of climbing to amount 2 weeks later on. It also turned the initial video to strike 1 billion sights on YouTube.

Psy, who was presently well-liked in his house nation but hardly known globally, rapidly became just one of the most recognizable artists in the planet. Within a calendar year, he had broken 3 Guinness Planet Information and was performing at New York’s Madison Sq. Back garden with Madonna. For the then-35-yr-old from Seoul, the whirlwind accomplishment was a thing he could have never ever imagined.

In an job interview forward of the song’s 10-year anniversary, he compares that interval of his everyday living to celebrating a birthday. “On the working day prior to, you’re psyched in anticipation,” he tells CNN from the Seoul headquarters of P-Country, the file label and leisure agency he launched in 2018. “And then on the working day of … it is all a very little wild and mad.”

But the song’s impact stretched far over and above the music market. In actuality, the achievement of “Gangnam Style” is thought of a significant catalyst in the “Korean wave”, or “hallyu”, a term describing the modern proliferation of Korean tradition internationally — some thing the South Korean govt has been making an attempt to push by tunes and media considering the fact that the 1990s.

According to Gyu Tag Lee, an affiliate professor of cultural research 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 exterior of East Asia.

“These sorts of likely-viral-on-the-net media platforms, (these kinds of as) YouTube, created K-pop and hallyu genuinely well known and huge abroad,” he claims.

Paving the way

Fast forward a ten years and South Korean talents have reached new levels of world wide attractiveness and fandom.

K-pop band BTS was the world’s prime-offering musical act in 2021, and the team has considering the fact that done at the Grammys and built an visual appeal at the White Residence to examine Asian illustration and anti-Asian detest crimes. Female team Blackpink, in the meantime, has performed at the Coachella new music pageant and collaborated with the likes of Girl Gaga and Selena Gomez, with its 4 users all joining big models or luxury fashion homes as ambassadors.

Lee believes that these really productive K-pop acts are subsequent in Psy’s footsteps by employing shareable video clip content material to arrive at global audiences.

“Without the major hit that was ‘Gangnam Model,’ there could not have been BTS, there may perhaps not have been Blackpink,” Lee states.

BTS has often cited — and thanked — Psy for aiding globalize K-pop. One particular of the boy band’s members, Suga, even co-created and featured on “That That” , the direct one from the Psy’s new album, “Psy 9th”. Like “Gangnam Style”, the track is catchy and danceable, when the tunes video capabilities some of the singer’s signature humor and has already garnered a lot more than 272 million sights on YouTube.

In a powering-the-scenes video job 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 comply with that path more easily,” Suga states.

And the appreciation is mutual. “I imagine it is an unbelievable feat,” Psy says of BTS’ good results. “Every single portion of me applauds them and is cheering them on. That major burden that I felt in 2012 — BTS has been shouldering that for six or 7 many years now.”

Past breaking documents

For Psy, there has always been another aspect to his world good results. As psyched and joyful as he was throughout people “Gangnam Style” times, he said that executing and becoming on the highway remaining him experience “just much too overwhelmed” and “a tiny vacant within.”

Fame also introduced about new expectations — and the force to make more hits.

“When the tune is a hit, then your songs need to proceed to be hits,” he states. “When the human being is a hit, the success is more sustainable. In this case, I’m the previous and BTS is the latter.”

While Psy hardly ever replicated the success of “Gangnam Style”, he has put in the very last decade proving himself to be a musician and dancer with a singular generate to entertain. Considering that 2012, he has released 3 full-size albums that showcase his various fashion — from the dance hits he’s most effective regarded for, to softer, rhythmic ballads reminiscent of his previously output. Given that founding P-Country, he has employed the label to learn, produce and creatively aid the up coming technology of South Korean functions.

Amongst it all, Psy is however filling venues in his home nation. His once-a-year live performance series, “Summer Swag” is presently underway right after getting canceled because of to the pandemic.

“Interacting with audiences (and) sharing that practical experience is anything I just cannot even describe,” Psy states. “I feel very happy and information in that second.”

And his mission hasn’t improved since his breakout strike: “To make enjoyment audio, enjoyment dances and carry pleasure to my supporters.”

“That’s my hope,” he adds. “I was of the similar thoughts 10 several years in the past and I believe I’ll truly feel the exact way 20 many years from now as effectively. I’ll often be true to that.”

Enjoy the online video previously mentioned to hear far more from Psy.

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