[ back ]
One of the many convenient things about being American is that popular music is in our native language.
Americans and Britons pretty much invented the concept of pop music and international singing stars. There are plenty of new English-language songs being released all the time. There is no need and no market for foreign-language records in the United States.
The rest of the world isn’t as culturally isolated. The French top-40 includes new songs by Will.i.am and Carly Rae Jepson. There are Asian artists I’ve never heard of on the Japanese pop charts, but there are also the latest hits from Green Day and Owl City.
Other countries are eager to enjoy our music but we aren’t open to theirs. The last time America embraced a non-English pop song was 1975, when we all learned what “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?” means.
Knowing all that, I was surprised to read that the hottest song in the country right now is not from Taylor Swift or Katy Perry, but from South Korean rapper PSY. It’s called “Gangnam Style.” And it’s awesome.
The song itself is merely okay. It’s a bouncy dance/rap tune that is not so different than something Pitbull might record.
The music video, however, is a pure delight. PSY (Park Jae Sang) sounds like a normal rapper who happens to speak Korean, but he is not. The internet is overloaded with videos from tall, thin, young, heavily tattooed pop stars. PSY is none of those.
What he is lacking in sex-appeal, he more than makes up for in confidence and charisma.
When we meet PSY, he is just a normal-looking Korean man in a suit and sunglasses swaggering into a stable. Then the music picks up and he starts doing his signature dance, which makes it look like he is riding a bucking horse. It is insane, hilarious, and undeniably cool all at the same time.
Please don’t just read my description of it. Watch it yourself right now. There is a reason “Gangnam Style” has 400 million views on Youtube. It is extremely entertaining.
Okay. I’ll give you a chance to watch it. Fire up your computer or tablet and meet me back here in five minutes.......
....It’s pretty wild, right?
In case you’re wondering, Gangnam is the ritziest neighborhood in Seoul. It’s the Korean equivalent of Beverly Hills. Gangnam is where the rich, beautiful people are. And where the not-very-rich and beautiful people want to be.
In the video, PSY is a portly poseur who claims to be Gangnam but clearly is not. To Korean viewers, apparently, that’s the meaning of the video.
To Americans, though, it’s simply an energetic Asian guy dancing his tail off and making millions by doing it.
It is so rare for a foreign language song to be embraced by the United States. And PSY pulled it off. Good for him!
[ back ]