Hear ye, hear ye! Let it be known that on this date, October 9th, 2012, we mourn the passing of “Gangnam Style.” May it quietly be forgotten, and not bandied about on the Disney Channel in endless rotation, enduring the same fate as previous “fad” songs, “Whoomp, There It Is!” and “Who Let The Dogs Out?!”
“Gangnam Style” passed away shortly after coming into sustained contact with corporate entity FOX, much like Myspace did before it. In this case, it was Fox’s NFL Pregame Show, with Terry Bradshaw, Jimmy Johnson, and Jay Glazer mechanically sucking the life from PSY’s baby. “Jimmy, in particular, looks … just awful. God, so awful,” someone watching the video over my shoulder was heard to declare. Truly, he looks like a wax robot trying to ride a camel.
Though FOX sounded the official death knell for the K-pop song, “Gangnam Style” had been substantially weakened in recent weeks through such parodies as “Mitt Romney Style” and (sigh) “Gandalf Style.” Comedian Chelsea Handler, on her talk show, even unironically likened PSY to pop fad Ricky Martin. Realistically, it was impressive that the tune was able to hang on as long as it did.
“Gangnam Style,” born on July 15th, 2012, was the lead single off PSY’s sixth studio album, “PSY’s Best 6th Part 1.” It enjoyed a healthy birth, with over 500,000 downloads in its native South Korea. Quickly popular with the international crowd in its infancy, “Gangnam Style” attracted the attention of hip hop artist T-Pain, a musician noted for his use of Auto-Tune (which itself had a short-termed shelf life). T-Pain’s tweet, reading, “Words cannot express how amazing this video is …” with a provided link to the video, gained the attention of media site Gawker, who then asked the apparently rhetorical question, “Did this underground Hip Hop artist from South Korea just release the best music video of the year?”
On August 20th, I happened to be at a Dodgers-Giants game where a diminutive Asian man was forced to perform horse-riding dance moves to appease the Jumbotron, as a funky unintelligible song boomed in the background. This was my first interaction with “PSY” and “Gangnam Style,” and as I was two-deep into Dodger dogs and brewskis, I had no idea that the man and the song would become the bulk of my writing fodder for the next several months. Nor did I anticipate that I would soon be documenting the tragic life of a song whose death, maybe didn’t come quite soon enough.
“Gangnam Style” next took its infectious beat to VH1’s Big Morning Buzz Live, where PSY taught the show hosts how to do the song’s signature dance. Nobody could have predicted that it was the beginning of something huge, but also, that it was the beginning of the end (ominous music).
The song grew quickly, as if it had that Robin Williams disease from the movie “Jack,” and a media blitz ensued, with PSY going on TV show after TV show, endlessly teaching news anchors and talk show hosts how to dance “Gangnam Style.” The Associated Press astutely reported that PSY was “currently having a pop culture moment.” He even taught Britney how to “Gangnam Style” on “Ellen,” and still, it all seemed so fresh and innocent.
On August 28th, “Gangnam Style” overtook “Call Me Maybe” on YouTube’s Top 100 Music Videos. By September 1st, it was the biggest K-pop song on YouTube ever. Scooter Braun, manager for YouTube pop wunderkind Justin Bieber, quickly signed PSY to his “Schoolboy Records” label. It was a move that future historians will doubtlessly label, “sweet poison.”
By September 20th, the Guinness World Record committee, desperate to regain relevance, declared “Gangnam Style” a record holder for “Most Likes” on YouTube, yanking the title from the recently-crowned, “Party Rock Anthem.” Dancing hamsters in obnoxious Kia commercials quietly took note.
“Gangnam Style’s” undoing likely came, Frankenstein-like, in the form of its own creator. PSY had waived his right to the copyright on the song, declining to take legal action against “homage artists” who unlawfully used the song for their own personal gain (namely, making their peers think they were socially “cutting edge”). The result was a mountain of “parody” videos clogging up my inbox from “well-wishers.” Sure, PSY’s laissez-faire attitude made the song soar to now over 400 million views on YouTube, but in the end, it was also what attracted the attention of FOX, like a devil moth to a pretty flame. “Gangnam Style,” may you rest in peace and know that you were loved by people in over 222 countries.
While you, in your short life, never made #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (damn you, Maroon 5’s “One More Night”), I once danced to you three times at a single wedding and was even drunk enough, that had you played a fourth time, I would have danced to you again. Goodnight, sweet prince.