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While South Korea this week has been obsessed about collecting more gold medals than countries much bigger than it in the Summer Olympics, a considerable slice of the U.S. blogosphere has been obsessed with Psy’s new video “Gangnam Style.”
Psy, or Park Jae-sang, has been around for more than a decade. His new album, PSY 6, is his first in two years. And the first video from it was released on July 15 after a big build-up.
On “Gangnam Style,” Psy raps about the ideal girlfriend – one who is a smart and conscientious during the day and sexy and fun at night: “A girl who looks quiet but plays when she plays. A girl who puts her hair down when the right time comes. A girl who covers herself but is more sexy than a girl who bares it all.”
During the key lyric in the video, Psy’s background dancers turn to reveal that their plain-looking white blouses have a revealing backside.
The song’s chorus – “Oppa Gangnam style” – is a simple, catchy and repetitive hook. But what makes the video so memorable is Psy’s horse-riding dance move, which resembles a guy trying to appear cool on the dance floor of a wedding reception and not quite pulling it off.
The 34-year-old rapper moves through various Gangnam neighborhoods and scenes, from parks along the Han river to tourist buses and private saunas. It has none of the self-seriousness of many K-pop dance videos.
Comedians Yoo Jae-seok and No Hong-chul make cameos with their own dance moves. As an elevator opens, Psy lies on his stomach and elbows rapping beneath No who pulls off the pelvic-thrusting moves that became his trademark. (He did the same moves for Paris Hilton on a Korean TV show a few years ago.)
The video builds to an encounter between Psy and Hyun-a, one of the singers from 4Minute, in a car on the new subway line 9, which goes through Gangnam. The billiard-ball blouse she wears in the video instantly sold out from the Darling You boutique in Sinsa-dong.
The song currently tops the Korean sales and download charts. And the video has been viewed nearly 12 million times so far on YouTube.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how or why Psy’s video took off among America’s online hipsters. A tweet by rapper T-Pain on Sunday no doubt has a lot to do with it. “Words cannot even describe how amazing this video is,” he wrote.
By midweek, Psy was being talked about on Reddit and Gawker. Even political commentator Andrew Sullivan offered up the video as his daily “mental health break” to readers.
Perhaps, there’s no other reason to explore the American curiosity about — or popularity of — the video beyond the simple eloquence of Mr. Sullivan’s explanation: “Everyone needs a little Korean hip-hop now and again.”