Given that Japan is the biggest market for K-pop outside of Korea itself, a number of commentators are wondering why the world’s biggest K-pop hit, “Gangnam Style,” has no traction in Japan.
The song and its creator, PSY, have been covered in the Japanese press, but it’s mostly in terms of the song’s popularity in the West.
“Gangnam Style” barely gets played on TV or radio in Japan, and most music fans are much more familiar with dance moves by the K-pop girl group Kara than PSY’s horse dance.
The Asian pop website Kotaku points out that online commentators in Japan think that PSY is popular in the West simply because Westerners think he’s funny. However, Kotaku also theorizes that PSY simply hasn’t entered the Japanese music scene the conventional way, by releasing a song in Japanese. Actually, he was planning to do exactly that. Originally, PSY was slated to release a mini-album with a localized version of his hit in Japanese called “Roppongi Style,” named after one of Tokyo’s more expensive areas.
The release was set for Sept. 26, but in the meantime he blew up all over the world with his Korean-language original. Whether his handlers postponed the Japanese release because of the contretemps between Japan and Korea over Takeshima island, which each country claims as its own, or they thought they would be better off selling the more famous original version of the song, nobody knows.
There is another idea circulating that in Japan: in a country where TV is instrumental in pushing music acts, TV stations just don’t consider PSY attractive enough, so nobody really knows about him.