How do you follow “Gangnam Style”? From its release last July, it was simply another single release from South Korean musician PSY. By August it was going viral, with international coverage and spiralling YouTube views. By September its potential was starting to crystallise as it started topping charts globally; for a Korean-language song this was a feat unheard of in many nations. By December it had become the most-viewed music video on YouTube, and by the end of 2012 it become the first video to reach one billions views, with the IFPI naming it third biggest selling download of the year.
Like the New Year’s Eve parties it soundtracked, “Gangnam Style” left heads spinning worldwide. How did this happen? How has the combined might of the record labels of the world not engineered something this big before? There are only an estimated 80 million Korean-speakers (and a good 25 million of those don’t have access to Youtube in North Korea), so how did a foreign-language song break through so spectacularly?
In my idealist mind, this will bring the potential for more foreign-language hits as people realised that they only need to enjoy themselves instead of fully understand the lyrics (I mean, have you listened to LMFAO lyrics lately?). Clearly YouTube was crucial to the song’s global reach, as well as the media being more than happy to cover whatever relevant trends are going on, particularly something like “Gangnam Style” whose cultural impact might be far deeper than some imagine.
So where does a bewildered and filthy-rich PSY go from here? It feels like pretty perfect timing to launch a new single, giving “Gangnam Style” a chance to finally calm down, even as its YouTube views have rattled past the 1.5B view mark.
He’s giving more of the same but it’s not a carbon copy at all, a slightly cooler and less poppy brother of his hit single. That repetitive electro riff really sticks in your head, and I’ve been enjoying this all day. It’s more of an electropop track than anything, with the same energy and occasional English outbursts.
If you’re really after another global smash, the video really has to live up to its predecessor, particularly now the US Billboard charts count YouTube views towards its ranking – a move that must surely guarantee it a huge debut Stateside since it’s gathered 67 million views in the two days it’s been released. “Gangnam Style” was held off the top spot there for several weeks, I wonder if this could go all the way like Baauer’s “Harlem shake” did a few months ago.
The video made me laugh anyway, and I’ve watched it a few more times since. PSY is being a bit of a dick, pranking strangers in immature (and therefore funny) ways, before picking up a similarly naughty female and doing another dance routine in some eye-popping locations.
It just feels still like the K-Pop I remember, i.e. shunned by most of the West, a niche interest for those of us who love some fun Asian pop music. But in a post-“Gangnam” world, who knows what’s going to happen? Maybe I’m being cautious, but if I was him I’d be getting an album out before the zeitgeist moves on.