'Hey! Sexy Lady!': 'Gangnam Style' Artist Hits the US
Senior Editor, Enterprise
Yeah, you can admit it. You’ve done the horse-riding dance across your living room. Or at the gym. Or on a dance floor.
At the office? OK, maybe just the arm movements.
The infectious horse-riding move combines shuffle dancing with the posture of horseback riding, all set to “Gangnam Style,” a song recorded in July by Korean pop singer Park Jae Sang, known by his stage name PSY. And if you’ve heard the song, it's hard to forget its wackiness and catchy lyrics: “Heyyy! Sexy Laaady! Oppan Gangnam style! Gangnam style!”
The song and music video are only gaining in popularity. And PSY is poised to become the biggest Korean pop music export, a music genre sometimes called "K-pop." (More:Move Over Bieber — Korean Pop Goes Global)
PSY, who attended both Boston University and the Berklee College of Music, is both part of — and a critic of — “K-pop.” The industry’s revenues hit about $3.4 billion in 2011, according to the Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA), a government group that promotes the country’s cultural initiatives. K-pop’s exports also rose to $180 million last year — jumping 112 percent compared to 2010. Exports have been growing at an average annual rate of nearly 80 percent since 2007.
On Sept. 3, PSY announced he had signed with Scooter Braun’s School Boy Records, which represents Justin Bieber as well as Carly Rae Jepsen of “Call Me Maybe” fame.
PSY is now in the middle of a U.S. media tour. On Tuesday, Britney Spears learned the horse-riding dance on “Ellen,” taught by none other than PSY himself, a surprise guest. ABC News' "Nightline" featured him, and he appeared on the MTV Video Music Awards. Plus, the TODAY show announced PSY will perform live on Sept. 14.
And it all began with a global, viral video.
Since the release of the song and music video in mid-July, the video has logged more 144 million views (and counting) on YouTube, and spawned dozens of parodies and copycat dance videos. It’s one of the most popular videos in the history of Google's YouTube.
“Gangnam Style” is a Korean term referring to the tony fashion and lavish lifestyle associated with Seoul’s Gangnam district. The neighborhood in southern Seoul includes plenty of fashionistas, decked in luxury labels from head to toe. It's South Korea’s One Percent, if you will.
“It’s like the U.S. Upper East Side plus Beverly Hills minus tradition; or I’d rather say it’s more like ‘Dubai’ built on Korean cabbage and Korean pear fields,” writes Jea Kim, the author of the blog My Dear Korea.
The video lampoons the Gangnam district's self-importance and wealth. If you watch the video, PSY is playing the part of a Gangnam man, but as a clown, according to Kim.
“Oppan Gangnam style” translates to “I’m Gangnam style.” "Oppan" is a Korean expression used by women to refer to older males. But, Kim points out, PSY refers to himself in the third person; and he keeps saying he lives or loves the Gangnam life. But in reality he’s far from it, which is evident as the video progresses. \(One notable example: when he looks like P. Diddy sitting in a chair, it’s actually the toilet he’s sitting on.\)
“Most Koreans are fed up with all those ‘nouveaux riches’ in Gangnam who became rich because…their real estate values skyrocketed overnight,” Kim writes.
So what's next for PSY, the first-ever K-pop star to hit it big in the States? He’s apparently not sure: "Oh I'm getting that question a lot," he told NY1 on Monday.
—CNBC's Deborah Caldwell