Park Jae-sang is a South Korean singer/rapper, who is better known by his stage name, PSY, which stems from the first three letters of the word psycho. PSY is popular in his home country for the satirical slant of his songs and humorous videos and stage performances.
PSY attended Berklee College of Music for several years, before eventually dropping out. He told US radio host Ryan Seacrest: "I was at Berklee College of Music in Boston, but [I was] a freshman for four years. Class was too early for me. Yeah, freshman for four years — I was so fresh, ya know?"
PSY is no stranger to controversy in his home country. He was arrested for possession of marijuana and fined nearly $4,500 and the following year his album Ssa 2 was banned from being sold to those under the age of 19. In addition, after evidence came to light in 2007 that suggested PSY didn't properly serve his full term of mandatory military service, he was re-drafted to serve a second term until the summer of 2009.
This single was released on July 15, 2012. The song entered the Gaon Chart singles chart at #1 upon release, spending five weeks at the peak position. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 a couple of months later, giving PSY his first chart hit in America.
The song title refers to the luxurious lifestyle associated with the affluent and trendy Gangnam section of the South Korean capital city of Seoul. (Gangham literally means "south of the river.") PSY compares to the location a sexy lady who knows when to be refined and when to get wild.
The song has its own goofy dance, featuring comical, herky-jerky horse riding-esque moves. PSY debuted his Gangnam Style dance in the US alongside comedian Kevin Hart on September 6, 2012 on the 2012 MTV VMAs.
The music video features PSY appearing in various locations around Gangnam such as a playground, an outdoor yoga session and a sauna. We also see some women walking backward, a popular way to exercise in South Korea. "With this video and director we kept on focusing on to be ridiculous as possible, that was our point," PSY told MTV News. "So we were so serious thinking to be ridiculous."
PSY recruited Korean comedian Noh Hong-cheol for one of the scenes in the video, but his pal had no idea what he was getting in to. "He is a huge comedian in Korea and he didn't expect even filming this, he just came to the scene and he was there because he's a good friend of mine and he was there to cheer me up," PSY told MTV News. "We were suddenly getting on the elevator to move and to the next spot and I asked him 'Hey, why don't we make some film in the elevator?' and he did the dance move. This move is really dirty and really famous in Korea so I said, 'I'm gonna go underneath between your legs,' so it was really ad-libbed."
This was not the first K-Pop (Korean popular music) song to enter the Hot 100. The first one to do so was the Wonder Girls' "Nobody
," which peaked at #76 in October 2009.
PSY became the first South Korean artist to top the iTunes Music Video Charts when the song's clip climbed to #1 on August 21, 2012.
Following the initial success of the song in the US, Justin Bieber's manager Scooter Braun signed PSY to his Schoolboy Records label. Braun announced: "We've come to an agreement to make some history together and be the first Korean artist to break a big record in the United States."
PSY didn't set out to conquer America with this song, but when the video went viral, he came to the States to promote it, charming audiences and talk show hosts throughout September 2012. In addition to his appearance on the VMAs, PSY taught the dance to Britney Spears on Ellen, appeared on the Today show, and was part of a bit on Saturday Night Live.
The clip for the song was recognized by the Guinness World Records on September 2012 as the "Most 'Liked' Video in YouTube History, having been liked over 2,200,000 times. At the time its nearest competitor, LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem
" had 'only' accumulated 1,574,963 likes.
PSY became the first K-Pop artist to make it to the top of the UK singles chart when this song climbed from #3 to #1 in its third week on the tally. The previous UK chart-topping single to be primarily in a foreign tongue was Yolanda Be Cool's "We No Speak Americano
" in July 2010.
This won Best Video at the 2012 MTV Europe Music Awards.
It was announced by YouTube on November 24, 2012 that the video had been watched 805 million times, overtaking the record held by Justin Bieber's "Baby
," for most views.
Less than a month later, on December 21, 2012, it became the first video to reach a billion views on YouTube.
"Gangnam Style" ceased to be the king of video views on YouTube in the summer of 2017. It was usurped by Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again
," which hit 2,894,026,649 views on July 10, 2017, surpassing PSY's 2,894,022,885 views.
When PSY visited the White House to perform for President Obama and his family for the "Christmas in Washington" concert, he revealed that the US leader has been banned from doing "Gangnam Style" dance by the First Lady and his daughters. "He told me he's good at Gangnam Style but that the ladies at his house are embarrassed when he's dancing - so he's not doing it," said the Korean pop star.
This was featured in a commercial for Wonderful Pistachios that debuted during the Super Bowl in 2013. The spot featured PSY performing the song (with the lyrics changed to "cracking Gangnam style") among people dressed like the nuts.
The song forced YouTube into an upgrade after it broke the video-sharing website's hit counter. Once Psy's tune reached 2,147,483,647 views, the maximum positive value for a 32-bit signed binary integer in computing, the view-counter could no longer work.