Gangnam Style
by Psy

Album: Psy's Best 6th Part 1 (2012)
Charted: 1 2
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • In August 2012, word got out about this absolutely bonkers Korean video that you had to see to believe. It was "Gangnam Style," a K-pop sugar rush starring the South Korean singer/rapper Psy, who despite being somewhat egg-shaped, could really bust a move.

    Unlike the squeaky clean K-pop stars BTS, which conquered the world several years later, Psy was somewhat subversive and became a global sensation organically. Born Park Jae-sang, his stage name, Psy, stems from the first three letters of the word "psycho." Popular in his home country, he was known for the satirical slant of his songs and his humorous videos and stage performances.

    "Gangnam Style" was released on July 15, 2012 and entered the South Korean singles chart (Gaon) at #1, spending five weeks at the peak position. A few weeks later, the rest of the world discovered the song as it spread virally on YouTube, with various celebrities and influencers posting about it.

    The numbers were staggering: In September 2012, it became the most-liked video in YouTube history, with over 2 million likes (surpassing LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem," which had about 1.5 million). In November, it became the most-viewed video in YouTube history, with over 800 million views to overtake Justin Bieber's "Baby." On December 21, 2012, it became the first video to reach a billion views on the service.
  • 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 to a sexy lady who knows when to be refined and when to get wild.
  • The lyrics are all in Korean except for the line, "hey... sexy lady." It's about a guy flossing his fashionable "Gangnam style," and the sexy girl he's after. Here are a few of the lines translated to English:

    I'm a guy who has bulging ideas rather than muscles
    That kind of guy
    Beautiful, lovable

    A girl who covers herself but is more sexy than a girl who bares it all
    A sensible girl like that
  • Regarding the line, "Oppan Gangnam Style," the word "oppan" translated to "older brother," but in this context, it means "I'm Gangnam Style."
  • The song has its own goofy dance with comical, herky-jerky horse-riding moves. Psy says it took him about a month to come up with the "invisible horse" dance. In Korea, the dancing associated with a pop song is a very big deal, so he wanted something original. Psy performed the dance live in the US for the first time alongside comedian Kevin Hart on September 6, 2012 at the 2012 MTV VMAs.
  • 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.
  • Psy became the first K-pop artist to make it to the top of the UK singles chart when "Gangnam Style" climbed from #3 to #1 on October 6, 2012, 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.
  • In America, the song peaked at #2 on October 6, 2012, behind "One More Night" by Maroon 5. "Gangnam Style" would have certainly claimed the top spot if Billboard factored YouTube views into their formula for Hot 100 ranking, which they didn't do until a year later.
  • Psy attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, but dropped out. In interviews, he got laughs by saying he was a "freshman for four years," as class was too early for him. Considering his work ethic, he was likely exaggerating.
  • 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.
  • After the song caught on 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."
  • The music video shows Psy 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 followed this up with "Gentleman," which made #5 in America and easily cleared a billion YouTube views. He later charted with "Hangover" (featuring Snoop Dogg) and "Daddy" (featuring CL).
  • Psy recruited the 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 "Gangnam Style" climbed to #1 on August 21, 2012.
  • This won Best Video at the 2012 MTV Europe Music Awards.
  • "Gangnam Style" held the title for most views on YouTube until the summer of 2017, when 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.
  • Readers of the Digital Spy website voted this their favorite song of 2012. It came top of the poll with 14.6% of the vote, while Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know" was runner-up with 12.8%.
  • On October 9, 2012, Psy visited the White House to perform for President Obama and his family for the "Christmas in Washington" concert. After crooning part of the holiday standard "The Christmas Song," he gave the crowd what they wanted, breaking into "Gangnam Style" with the lyric changed to "Christmas Style."

    Psy said Obama knew the dance but was banned from performing it 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.
  • By November 2011, "Gangnam Style" was starting to fade. Psy gave it a fresh coat by teaming with MC Hammer, who joined him at the 2012 American Music Awards to perform the song in a medley with Hammer's "2 Legit 2 Quit." They did the routine again on ABC's New Year's Rockin' Eve, but you could tell Psy was ready to move on - he had been doing this dance for over five months.
  • 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.

Comments: 4

  • Sany from Tokyo JapanIsn't there lyrics for it but in English? Because I want one
  • Daniel from Winchester, OhRiding that invisible pony!!
  • Shay from Sedan, KsBest song ever!!
  • Guy from New York, NyDespite "Gangnam Style" being a worldwide phenomenon, it failed to top the Billboard Hot 100. The main reason that this song was blocked was that it remained far behind Maroon 5's "One More Night" in airplay points for its entire run. "One More Night" continued growing on airplay for almost two months after it first topped the radio chart and faster than "Gangnam Style" during that period. By the time "One More Night" left the #1 spot on the radio chart, "Gangnam Style" was nearly out of the top 100!
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