Hair slicked back and wearing a tacky light blue suit, Psy galloped his way to become an international sensation. Since the release of his hit single, “Gangnam Style,” in July 2012, the South Korean rapper, Psy has taught Britney Spears how to dance, performed for President Barack Obama and broke YouTube.
Gangnam Style received 500,000 views the day it was released on YouTube and in two months, it surpassed 5 million views. Then in December 2013, the media had a field day as the music video broke YouTube’s viewer counter as it reached 2 billion views and the video-sharing website was forced to update its view counter.
YouTube “never thought a video would be watched in numbers greater than a 32-bit integer (=2,147,483,647 views), but that was before we met Psy,” according to an article in Time. And what everyone including linguists as well as Internet consumer psychologists is wondering is why and how Gangnam Style had gone viral.
Psy, whose original Korean name is Park Jae Sang, made his way to the stage in 2001 as he debuted as a South Korean hip-hop artist. He started to become well known for his flamboyant style and wackiness. He had several tribulations such an arrest and probation for marijuana possession before he signed with YG Entertainment, one of the three prominent entertainment companies in South Korea, in 2010. Then two years later, Gangnam Style was released in July 2012 in his ‘PSY 6 Part I’ album and the Psy Revolution began.
The creator and co-producer of the Gangnam Style, Psy, was very much surprised as the experts in the United States when his song became number one on iTunes for more than 30 countries overnight. The artist told Reuters “the YouTube video never targeted foreign countries. It was for local fans.” However, whether or not the 34-year-old rapper was ready for the international limelight, Gangnam Style became the world’s newest mania.
According to an Internet consumer psychologist, Dr. Brent Coker, it was no accident that Gangnam Style had gone viral. On Webreep, Coker’s research blog, the psychologist listed two elements of viral marketing techniques that Gangnam Style possessed: curiosity and message congruency.
“Emotion is key to creating this viral effect, but the art is in how the emotion is crafted. Chopping and changing between uncomfortable humor and surprise works. Emotional contagion caught from the expressions and actions of others also works,” Coker wrote. “What is unique about Gangnam style is that it is neatly captured in a music video.”
Therefore, as Gangnam Style became viral, the United States wanted a piece of Psy as well. Scooter Braun, the music executive who discovered Justin Bieber, first made a love call on Twitter when he tweeted: “HOW DID I NOT SIGN THIS GUY!?!?!?!” After Psy signed with Braun’s record label, School Boy Records, in September, he was officially introduced to the United States’ entertainment realm. He danced on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and sat through a “Today Show” interview. After performing on Saturday Night Live (SNL) as a musical guest, he was on stage with Madonna at Madison Square Garden. By the end of 2012, Psy was performing “Gangnam Style” for the president of the United States while starting 2013 by performing with M.C. Hammer during the annual Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration.
While there are those that are in awe as Gangnam Style dominated both the cyber and the entertainment world, there are some who are not buying the instant act. “The fact that most of us still know little beyond his name and that hypnotic horse-riding dance says a lot about what can happen when a foreign star gets American-style coverage,” Diana Brady wrote in her Bloomberg article. While Psy was able to give “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” the best TV ratings since 2003, Brady noticed that the host “barely spoke to the artist.”
“By the way, can I introduce myself, not just dance? I’m Psy from Korea. How are you?” Psy had to introduce himself before teaching Ellen and Britney Spears his signature horse-riding dance. As Brady studied Psy’s appearances on western media, she concluded that despite Psy’s viral hit, it didn’t mean that he could get the usual Hollywood treatment.
And Psy felt the pressure as well. As he was preparing to release his follow-up single, Psy shared with MTV that the week he was releasing the new song, “Gentleman,” was “like hell” not only because of his jam-packed schedule but because he was anxious about how the world would react to his new creation.
“I honestly changed this song so many times until the very last moment. I was not excited, I was terrible; I was so nervous,” Psy said. “My only goal was to avoid being called a One-Hit Wonder. So that was a very nervous moment right before the premiere; and in two weeks, with 230 million views, I’m not a One-Hit Wonder. I’m really happy and relieved about that!”
“Gentleman” set a Guinness World Record for the most viewed video online in 24 hours as the video hit 38 million views. While the Gangnam star was definitely not a One-Hit Wonder as he hoped for, maybe he is a Two-Hit Wonder. After the second sensational hit with his follow-up single, Psy started to gallop away.
The YouTube view count for “Hungover,” the collaboration with Snoop Dogg that was released in the summer of 2014, still remains in the low millions in 2015. And the only time Gangnam Style was resurrected for a brief second was when the video broke YouTube for exceeding 2 billion views. People quickly moved on from galloping to Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” and watched Taylor Swift “Shake It Off.”
But where is Psy now? According to Music times, Psy was seen dancing for YouTube’s 10th Anniversary on Valentine’s Day. He is still riding his horse. Will he be able to stop dancing, leave Gangnam Style behind, and pursue a music career that doesn’t require any galloping and wacky, blue suits? Or will he be the Korean artist who briefly tasted Hollywood and visits the realm once in a while to read a mean tweet or two late at night with Jimmy Kimmel.