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"Gangnam Style" Fever, Just a Lucky Break?
By Kang Su-jin
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ㆍElectro, Comedy, Online… The World's Trend, All in Psy

The singer Psy (35) recently returned from a meeting with Canadian pop star, Justin Bieber, who expressed his interest in working with the Korean singer. Psy will head for another meeting next month to discuss the musical collaboration. Nothing is certain yet, but it seems likely for Psy to debut in the U.S. If so, will Psy be able to succeed with his music in the U.S. or was "Gangnam Style" just pure luck.

Lee Sehwan, a manager at Sony Music, an international record distributor, stated, "The craze over Psy is quite different from "Macarena," which was an international hit in 1996. It didn't come out of the blue. It's a phenomenon that appeared because everything fell into place with the global music trend."

He added, "If Psy can continue to receive support from the media, stars, and social network services in the States, he will be able to succeed there." Cho Hyewon, a manager at Warner Music claimed, "The 3~4 trends that are leading the international music world such as electro, comedy, the Internet and K-pop are all compressed and melted into Psy's music."

A scene from Psy's "Gangnam Style" music video in which he dances the comic horse dance. Psy appeared at the LA Dodgers stadium and on U.S. TV programs and displayed his horse dance. The horse dance has become such an international trend that pop star Britney Spears wrote on one social network service that she wanted to learn Psy's horse dance. YG Entertainment

▲ It started with YouTube, and spread through Twitter.
A hometown star becomes an international celebrity.
The word-of-mouth effect of K-pop fans contributed to his success.
He is likely to succeed in the U.S.

■ He hit the core of electro.

Currently, the winds of electro blow strong in the international music world. Cho from Warner Music stated, "Psy's ‘Gangnam Style' is in line with the popular genre, electro. The so-called main stream genres such as rock, hip-hop and pop are constantly trying to mix with electro, and these songs are the most popular."

In fact, the shuffle dance, which spread throughout the world earlier this year, also has its roots in electro. In addition, "We No Speak Americano" by the Australian duo Yolanda Be Cool, who became a star overnight rising to the top of the dance charts in 16 countries last year, is also electro with a simple pattern.

Psy, who has written Korean-style hip-hop songs for the past 10 years, surprisingly grafted electro into his music in "Gangnam Style," and his intentions fit the trend perfectly. Cho added, "There are a lot of calls about Psy from Europe, where there's a strong preference for electro. Recently a Spanish singer contacted us to ask who Psy was and if they could use Psy's recording."

Devices that highlight the appeal of electro are intricately weaved into "Gangnam Style," such as the fade-in and fade-out technique that let's the audience feel like they are entering a club, and the repetitive melody composition. Lee from Sony Music claimed, "For all I know, this song is probably resounding in clubs throughout the world."

A scene from Psy's "Gangnam Style" music video.

■ The comic touch is an international phenomenon.

Surprisingly, the craze for comic songs such as "Gangnam Style" is a phenomenon found throughout the world including the U.S., Europe, and Korea. The popular American electro duo LMFAO is just like Psy. In their music video, LMFAO appears in their underwear making funny poses.

The resemblance is also why many Americans called Psy, the Korean LMFAO, in their comments on YouTube. The Lonely Island, a three-member American parody group, became an unprecedented hit with their outspoken comedic music. T-Pain, the hip-hop star that praised Psy on Twitter, was also a sensation when he made a startling appearance on the music video of "I'm on a Boat," a song by The Lonely Island in 2009.

Things are pretty much the same in Europe. The music video by Sam & The Womp, a group that topped the iTunes single and album charts in the UK recently, is weird and offbeat. In the music video, a man appears holding dumbbells to the beat of the electro music, and a woman makes a commotion.

In the Korean music industry, music videos by groups with comedians as a key member such as UV, a group by Yoo Se Yun and Muzie, Hyungdoni and Daejuni, by Jung Hyung-don and Defconn, and Brave Guys are frequently stirring up the music charts.

Cultural critic, Ha Jae-geun claimed, "A taste for ‘bizarre' appeared on the Internet, and the current world trends of "surplus" and "B-list" also started out from the Internet. Online, where people look for simple and interesting topics, laughter and humor have especially far reaching powers." The "Gangnam Style" syndrome took off from Gawker.com, a famous U.S gossip site. It spread from there to CNN and Time.

A scene from Psy's "Gangnam Style" music video.

■ A different environment thanks to YouTube

In June 2009, Park Jin-young went to the U.S. along with the Wonder Girls to enter the U.S. market. The Wonder Girls just jumped in to the U.S. market trying to get their music careers to take off. Their efforts landed them in Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart at 76th in October 2009, and Boa landed 127th on the Billboard 200 album chart that April.

However, Boa's record was broken 3 years later by a singer who didn't even cross the Pacific. TaeTiSeo, a unit (a smaller team) of the Girls' Generation reached 126th, one place above Boa, this May with an album they released in Korea. Big Bang, which has never promoted their album in the U.S., also reached 150th on the album charts this March. Singers were able to climb Billboard's main chart without even going to the States.

The media environment surrounding popular music has changed dramatically. Most of the issues in the music world first begin online (YouTube, etc.), spread through the Twitter accounts of celebrities, and expand their reach when established media joins in.

The guitar genius, Jung Sungha, who has surpassed more than 500 million hits on YouTube, the Korean hip-hop duo DOZ, who starred in a Japanese commercial thanks to a comic music video where they repeat the expression, "Arigato Gozaimasu (Thank you in Japanese.)," The Applegirl Kim Yeo Hee, who was introduced on BBC (UK) and CNN (US) for singing along to music played on her iPhone, and the English singer, Conner Maynard, who recently released an album, all went through this process.

The Internet has become a major gateway for rising stars. Yang Hyun-suk, the CEO of YG Entertainment, was also aware of this change when he said, "It's now a time when you can get the world to focus on you from your own room."

■ You can't ignore the publicity effect of K-pop.

K-pop, which has already produced a large fan base around the world, also made a big contribution to introducing Psy's music to the world. Psy's video on YouTube has many comments in which the writers list the names of K-pop singers. K-pop fans spread around the world spread K-pop by sharing the K-pop videos on YouTube.

Hyun-A, a member of the girl group 4Minute who appeared in Psy's music video, is a K-pop star who has recorded 40 million hits with her music video "Bubble Pop" released last year. This means there are many people who were "mesmerized" by Psy's music video after they logged onto YouTube to see Hyun-A.

Noh Hyun Tae, Vice President of Cube Entertainment, the management company of 4Minute and Beast, stated, "We have to say that Psy's hit is an extension of the K-pop boom." The critic, Ha Jae-geun claimed, "Korea is the biggest beneficiary of the new media age. It is currently at an advantage, but it also faces the challenge to continuously produce good contents."

Copyright The Kyunghyang Shinmun. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution without permission absolutely prohibited.

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