Chances are by now you’ve heard South Korean rapper Psy’s hit K-Pop song “Gangnam Style”. Maybe you heard it on the radio, or at a football game, or you Google searched it after seeing the countless memes and parodies that have flooded the interwebs as of late. Either way, you’ve heard it. You might have disliked it at first—found it annoying, a little too flashy for your taste, but after a couple of listens you start to tap your foot, appreciate the tune a little more. You watch the video on Youtube several times, even download it on iTunes.
There is no denying it now. You freaking love this song. You love the outrageous video, the clothes everyone wears, the invisible horse dance, and that little kid with the righteous moves at the beginning of the video.
Well, it’s no surprise you love “Gangnam Style”, and there’s no surprise it’s so popular and that everyone who listens to it falls under its spell. There’s a formula behind it’s success.
First off, it’s exotic. At least to the Western world it is. We love music that comes from far off lands the same way countries overseas love American music. Think of the British Invasion: rock bands such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones swept across the US, dominating music charts. Language isn’t even a barrier when it comes to over seas music; let’s look at Nena’s “99 Luftballoons”, a German protest song about nuclear war that became extremely popular in the US in the 1980’s. People didn’t know what the song was about (since it was in German); they just knew it sounded good. Nena later released an English version, which didn’t perform well in the US. Another example of this is “Lady Marmalade” made famous by Labelle. The chorus, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)”, was blindly sung by people who didn’t know the English translation, which is “Do you want to go to bed with me (tonight)? The same can be said for “Gangnam Style”; people who don’t speak Korean have no idea what the lyrics are, but it’s still catchy as hell.
When a song has a line that sticks out, people are going to like that song even more. “Gangnam Style” has just that. “Oppan Gangnam Style”, which Psy says throughout the song, no doubt leaves a mark on listeners. When people are in a club and “Gangnam Style” is playing, you can bet that everyone will shout out “Oppan Gangnam Style!” It’s the equivalent of “I’m in Miami Trick”, or “I’m sexy and I know it”, both made famous by LMFAO. Another memorable line in the song is “Eyy, Sexy Lady!” I don’t think I need to tell you why that line makes the song popular.
Psy’s music video for the song is another reason why “Gangnam Style” has reached such a high level of popularity: people love zany, whacky music videos. Look at every Lady Gaga video and Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”. The video for “Gangnam Style” has, like I mentioned earlier, colorful, outrageous outfits, comic relief, interesting settings, and choreographed dancing that will blow you away. In short, it’s wildly entertaining.
Lastly, that dance. The little invisible horse dance that’s simple, but effective. Search “Gangnam Style” on Youtube and you’ll be going through pages and pages of amateur and professional versions of the dance, as well as tutorials. Remember the Achey-Breaky-Heart dance? Multiply that by at least ten and add the “Macarena” and you have the “Gangnam Style” dance. I can already imagine everyone in the club getting in formation when the song starts playing. Weddings and flash mobs will never be the same.
In all honestly, “Gangnam Style” is a good tune. It’s catchy, fun to listen to, and the video is probably the most entertaining music video on Youtube, and that is why we love it. If you haven’t given it a listen, now’s the time. And if you don’t like it the first time around, give it a second chance. You’ll be screaming Korean lyrics before you know it.