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#ThrowbackThursday: “Gangnam Style” by Psy

Image via YG Entertainment/School Boy/Universal Republic Records
  – Image via YG Entertainment/School Boy/Universal Republic Records

By Sean Smith

Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth have made internet history. The duo’s 2015 song “See You Again,” which was recorded for the Furious 7 film, became the most watched YouTube video in the history of the website. As of the time of this writing (July 11) their tribute song to the late actor Paul Walker is approaching 3 billion views, currently sitting at 2,894,763,875.

Up until this week, the title of most viewed YouTube video in history had been held by a man that was relatively little known on the world music stage prior to his viral splash in 2012. That man is South Korean K-Pop artist Psy, and his viral hit was the ever-so-catchy “Gangnam Style.”

Long before Psy hit it big on the world stage  five years ago this month, he was a well known and controversial musician in his native South Korea. He released his debut album Psy from the Psycho World! In 2001. The content of the music was a bit too edgy and profanity filled for many in his home country. The result was a fine being levied against Psy by the government and the album could not be sold to minors. So how did he respond? He released his second album Sssa2 in 2002, which included even more explicit lyrics. He was fined again and one more his album could not be sold to minors.

Psy released his third album in 2002, his fourth in 2006 and his fifth in 2010. While he continued to make a name for himself in South Korea, he had yet to be able to make an impact internationally. However, that would all soon change.

On July 15, 2012, Psy released his sixth studio album, aptly titled Psy 6 (Six Rules), Part 1. The six song EP had one promotional single, which was released on the same day. That single was “Gangnam Style.”

The song’s title is referring to the lifestyle that many people who live in the Gangnam section of the city of Seoul, South Korea lead. That lifestyle is one of refinement, but mixed with a wild side. The track is essentially talking about a love interest who knows when to be classy and when to party. The refrain in the chorus “Oppan Gangnam Style” roughly translates to “big brother is Gangnam Style. The older brother being referred to here is Psy himself.

What truly made “Gagnam Style” as popular as it was, a viral sensation, was the music video which was released for the song. The video sees Psy walking around the Gangnam section of Seoul and engaging in various shenanigans. The video has Psy dancing as if he is riding an imaginary horse. The dance associated with the hook of the song had a huge impact on the reason for the song’s overall success.

Psy’s “Gangnam Style” became so popular in the United States that the song, almost entirely sung in Korean, reached as high as the #2 spot on the mainstream Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was only the second time a K-Pop artist entered that specific chart. The first artist to do so was the Wonder Girls with their 2009 song “Nobody,” which reached a high point on the chart at #76.

So with Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s “See You Again” becoming the most watched video on YouTube a few days ago, this week we take a moment to remember the previous holder of that record with Psy’s 2012 hit “Gangnam Style.” Enjoy.

Psy

“Gangnam Style”

YG Entertainment/School Boy/Universal Republic Records

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Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth
“See You Again”
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