It has also become a global hit, a rarity these days. The song crosses borders. From Korea to the US, Indonesia to Australia. It has also provided South Korea with an amazing marketing tool for its tourism push.
Lead sing Psy has become a global phenomenon. One minute holding free concerts in Seoul to 100,000 people (a rarity in Korea), the next appearing on Ellen and teaching Britney Spears how to do the “Gangnam Style” dance.
The song has even inspired West Side Story like “dance off’s” between gangs in Bangkok. Unfortunately on one occasion the dancing got out of hand and guns were pulled and dancing was the least of their problems!
The curious point about the song is that it’s actually a mickey take of a posh suburb of Seoul called Gangnam similar to Beverly Hills or The Upper East Side of Manhattan or Knightsbridge in London. The song itself is a satire on the Korean 1% who live in this suburb. Do you think they dance to the song in their mansions? Ironically?
The song encapsulates a lifestyle that people aspire to even though the video is taking the satirising it. Koreans work some of the longest hours in the world, Korean kids attend more after school classes than anyone else and they get more private home teaching and university students and are apparently constantly anxious about their grades. Fun and frivolity do not seem to pervade society let alone creativity.
The Korean government however have realized the power of music and a dance that has caught the world by storm. They are sparing no effort in linking the attention of the world on Psy back to Korea itself. They are tying in a tourism marketing campaign with the video which is filmed in Seoul and highlights some of the many things to see there. This all links in with the current President setting up a committee to “establish a national brand” for the young country with no natural resource.
This song enables that vision to become reality as unintended as it was in becoming a global hit, bearing in mind it was all built on that most important of marketing for music, word of mouth. “Have you heard”and “have you seen” were the two phrases linked with “Gangnam Style” more than any other. The web did the rest.
The attention to Korean arts benefits Korea as more people become aware of what else the western side of Korea produces. The Korean film “Pieta” became the first Korean film to win top prize at the Venice film festival and the Korean novel “Please look after mother” became a global best seller.
Glamour adds kudos to any brand and Korean brands like Samsung and Hyundai are benefiting from Korea being seen as a modern, sophisticated country with a glamorous capital city (even if it is three times the length of Singapore away from it’s airport…..).
KPOP stars like Girls Generation enable Korean brands like cosmetics brand Amore Pacific to charge premium prices in countries like China where a" made in Korea" label adds to it’s glamour.
The “Gangnam” song is this year’s “Maccarena” (which had about as much going for it musically as Gangnam Style and was equally irritating) but it has allowed KPOP stars to enable Korea to go from 23rd to 11th largest music market in the world and they will soon become a more consistent global power in this respect if this song is anything to go by. There's no accounting for taste as x-factor/idol/got talent shows.....
The irony of the song’s success is the star of the show, Psy. 34 years old, portly, can’t really dance, not at all sexy and yet he has a sense of humour, a personality, hard worker, writes his own songs and is the complete opposite to every other KPOP groups like Girls Generation who are all super slim, super sexy, are all co-ordinated dancers but don’t have a personality between them.
Psy has what they don’t have in charisma and now he has the biggest selling Korean song ever and most viewed video. Maybe this will inspire other Koreans to forget about the gym, anorexia and the dance classes and become more individually unique. Time will tell.