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OK, What The Hell Is 'Gangnam Style'?

By 08.23.12

Since first appearing on YouTube in the middle of July, the music video for “Gangnam Style” by South Korean K-pop rapper Psy has been viewed over 50 million times. The single currently sits at #65 on iTunes’ most popular downloads chart, above of tracks from Usher, Taylor Swift, and Coldplay. Even Simon Pegg and Katy Perry — yes, EVEN The Katy Perry — have tweeted about it. But what the hell is it? Well, we’re here to explain.

The first thing you need to know about “Gangnam Style” is…well, watch the video first.

OK, the second thing you need to know about “Gangnam Style” is:

Yes, Psy’s trademark dance, which he recently performed at Dodger Stadium, involves him pretending to ride an invisible horse. SOLD. But what kind of rapper, who grew up idolizing 2Pac, mimics horseback-riding, though? Good question, hypothetical person. Psy, real name Park Jae-Sang, is a star in Korea, thanks to his flamboyantly comic, ever enthusiastic persona; even his nickname is short for “Psycho.” He has money, but he’s not above poking fun at those with even more money than him. Think Weezer’s “Beverly Hills,” but not infuriatingly pointless. Like Weezer’s “Beverly Hills.” Gangham is a wealthy district in Seoul where, presumably, a lot of people wear nice suits while hanging out in stables and riding merry-go-rounds. The lyrics translate thusly:

Oppa is Gangnam style
Gangnam style

A girl who is warm and humanly during the day
A classy girl who know how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee
A girl whose heart gets hotter when night comes
A girl with that kind of twist

I’m a guy
A guy who is as warm as you during the day
A guy who one-shots his coffee before it even cools down
A guy whose heart bursts when night comes
That kind of guy

Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Now let’s go until the end

Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style

Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh

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
A sensable girl like that

I’m a guy
A guy who seems calm but plays when he plays
A guy who goes completely crazy when the right time comes
A guy who has bulging ideas rather than muscles
That kind of guy

Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Now let’s go until the end

Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style

Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh

On top of the running man is the flying man, baby baby
I’m a man who knows a thing or two
On top of the running man is the flying man, baby baby
I’m a man who knows a thing or two

You know what I’m saying
Oppa is Gangnam style

Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh (Via)

If you think it sounds like he’s saying “open condom style,” you’re not the first. Though the lyrics and message of the song seem pretty goofy, they’re actually quite subversive, at least according to the Atlantic’s Max Fisher:

This skewering of the Gangnam life can be easy to miss for non-Korean. Psy boasts that he’s a real man who drinks a whole cup of coffee in one gulp, for example, insisting he wants a women who drinks coffee. “I think some of you may be wondering why he’s making such a big deal out of coffee, but it’s not your ordinary coffee,” U.S.-based Korean blogger Jea Kim wrote at her site, My Dear Korea. (Her English-subtitled translation of the video is at right.) “In Korea, there’s a joke poking fun at women who eat 2,000-won (about $2) ramen for lunch and then spend 6,000 won on Starbucks coffee.” They’re called Doenjangnyeo, or “soybean paste women” for their propensity to crimp on essentials so they can over-spend on conspicuous luxuries, of which coffee is, believe it or not, one of the most common. “The number of coffee shops has gone up tremendously, particularly in Gangnam,” Hong said. “Coffee shops have become the place where people go to be seen and spend ridiculous amounts of money.” (Via)

But the subtext isn’t why “Gangnam Style” is so popular; it’s the wonky video.

I mean, what’s not to like? You can find “Gangnam Style” on Psy’s sixth album, PSY 6.

(Via) (Via)


TAGSgangnam stylepsyrapsouth koreawhat the hell is...?

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