In the past few weeks the biggest viral pop hit in the world has undoubtedly been “Gangnam Style” by the Korean rapper known as Psy.
As of this writing the YouTube video for the song has more than 30 million hits, and it’s been covered extensively by the media in America. Though a whole raft of K-pop stars have worked themselves to the bone for this kind of popularity, Psy achieved it by not really trying. The song, which is almost entirely in Korean, was never intended for foreign markets.
According to the website KpopStarz, Psy’s management always had confidence in the song but never expected it to receive the kind of attention is has, especially from overseas.
Psy has been popular in South Korea since 2004 when he was 24. He credits his success to what he calls “grade B sentiments,” by which he means that his sense of style is basically cheap.
Slightly pudgy and not conventionally good-looking, Psy makes music that some call “satirical” – Gangnam is a high-rent area of Seoul that Psy sends up by showing how he doesn't seem to fit in there. But it’s really meant to show that however popular he is and however much he tries to make himself glamorous, he’s just like everybody else.
In the beginning of his career, he also made fun of idol boy bands, who he accused of not being sincere since they obviously lip-synced to their hits in concert.
“Koreans are third-class, and so am I,” he once told an interviewer, a comment that many might take offense to but which nevertheless endeared him to a wider cross section of people.
In truth, he is from a well-to-do family and even attended the prestigious Berklee Music School in the U.S.
In addition to his own material, he’s written hit songs for other stars. And while Psy isn’t particularly original—the “horse ride” dance featured in “Gangnam Style” was popular back in the ’80s – he is nothing if not energetic. His concerts are said to be exhausting.