It was never my plan to write an entry about Kpop (Korean Pop), but I don’t think any of us saw Psy coming. Aside from the fact that the song is as catchy as the video is weird, he’s the first Kpop artist to crossover onto the Western charts. How much of that has to do with people’s fascination with the odd video and his quirky style or truly loving the song, I have no idea. But since so many of my friends and family members are now aware of “Gangnam Style,” I thought I’d drop some knowledge on y’all about the song and it’s eccentric artist. Let’s start off with what having “Gangnam style” actually means. Gangnam is a trendy, well-to-do suburb of Seoul often referred to as the Beverly Hills of Korea. So saying you’ve got Gangnam style is essentially like saying you’ve got swag. Mom: If you don’t know what swag means, go to the website Urban Dictionary and search for it. Actually, scratch that. Mom: NEVER go to Urban Dictionary. In the chorus, Psy repeats, “Oppan Gangnam style.” Oppan or Oppa means brother, and Korean women often use the term to refer to an older male friend. So now we have what basically means “big brother’s got swag.” While this probably sounds pretty lame to you or I, we’re not the target demographic. Korean women love it. For more on the translation of the lyrics, check out this site. It has not only the English translation of the lyrics, but also the Romanization of the Korean lyrics in case you want to learn how to sing along. It’s so prevalent here that my kindergarteners are not only calling each other sexy, but calling me sexy, as well. Awkward with a capital A. I also had to teach one of my older classes how to properly say “sexy lady” because I could no longer take them singing, “Hey, sheckshee ray-ray!” I am currently substituting in another kindergarten class in addition to my own. They were mad because they wanted to sing the “Gangnam song” but I told them we were playing Simon Says instead. In an effort to boost their spirits, I said, “Simon says Gangnam style.” Everyone one of them busted out in the exact same move from the video. Then I said, “Simon says ‘Hey, sexy lady!'” And they all shouted, “Oppan Gangnam style!” It was hilarious. I nearly died.
Now here’s some information about Psy. While he may become a one hit wonder in the Western world, he’s actually been a major player in the Korean Kpop scene for years. His first album came out in 2001, and “Gangnam Style” is his 6th studio album. The Kpop world is similar to the Western world of pop only, from what I hear, more extreme. Groups here will train for years before they’re allowed to release their first single. They practice not only singing and dancing, but they often must learn English as well. Kpop songs frequently feature an English line or two, often in the chorus, and they sometimes even make sense. The groups almost never do any of their own song writing or choreography. So Psy is somewhat of an anomaly in that respect. He not only wrote “Gangnam Style,” but he choreographed the video and produced both the song and the video. He doesn’t fit the physical mold of the typical Kpop star, either. If that wasn’t enough, if you pay close attention to both the video and the song lyrics, you’ll find that there’s actually a mildly subversive message therein. That may not sound like much to you, but Koreans are hugely proud of both their culture and their way of life. It’s almost impossible to make it in this country while criticizing it’s people. Almost. Psy managed to hide his message in a seemingly vapid pop song where most folks are none the wiser. Here’s a really great article all about what Psy is really saying. It also has the video in case you’re the only person on the planet that hasn’t seen it yet.
So, that’s “Gangnam Style” in a nutshell. Here’s video of Psy teaching Britney Spears how to do the Gangnam dance, in case you’re looking for a laugh or haven’t yet mastered the choreography. This is my favorite “Gangnam Style” parody. This is a parody actually filmed in the town in which I live. And, in case you haven’t had your daily dose of cute, this is all of the kindergarteners at my school doing the “Gangnam Style” dance in their hanboks (traditional Korean outfits) at the Chuseok party.