PSY Brings Gangnam to Fort Lauderdale; Dominates YouTube and Pop Culture Worldwide

Categories: Essay This
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"With this new album, I just wanted to make something that was purely comedic -- something that could make people laugh like crazy even in the midst of all this global economic slowdown," PSY, the "Gangnam Style" Korean YouTube phenomenon, told CNN earlier this year.

Learning how to "Gangnam Style" really is so much more fun than thinking about the looming threat of PSY's nutty North Korean neighbors defying the U.N. Security Council and testing rockets capable of incomprehensible destruction.

In the United States, where a good chunk of the country peacefully turns a blind eye to anything that isn't summarized in a Facebook status, human rights violations, poverty, and hunger play only small supporting roles in the YouTube generation's collective, augmented reality. 'Cause if it ain't on YouTube, it ain't important.


PSY's viral hit, "Gangnam Style," had been out for only about a month at the time of the CNN interview, but 30 million YouTube users had already watched the video. "I wanted to make them forget -- just for a moment even -- about their immediate troubles and to entertain them the way entertainment should be all about," he said.

In less time than it takes to gestate a human child, PSY has risen from relative international obscurity to global superstardom, jockeying an invisible horse down the backstretch of the longest 15 minutes ever.

Born Jae-Sang Park, PSY grew up in the affluent Gangnam district of Seoul, South Korea, thinking he'd become a businessman like his father, Won-Ho Park, chairman and CEO of semiconductor manufacturer DI Corp.

Shortly after leaving Korea to study business at Boston University, however, PSY realized his true passions: music and entertainment.

"I was at Berklee College of Music in Boston, but [I was] a freshman for four years," PSY joked during a radio interview with Ryan Seacrest. "Class was too early for me. Yeah, freshman for four years -- I was so fresh, ya know?"


PSY returned to his native South Korea and built a reputation as one of the country's hottest acts.

"My lifetime role model and hero is Freddie Mercury of Queen," PSY told the New York Times in October. "His songwriting skills I cannot even approach, but his showmanship, I learned it from videos."

The MC ran with showmanship, channeling his inner Queen to become a household name -- assuming said household has an internet connection or basic cable, where PSY has appeared on Today, Ellen, and the American Music Awards, to name a few.

"I've only done this [music] for 12 years, only for Korea, not for overseas at all," PSY added. "I didn't expect anything like this. So what can I say? Everything moves way too fast."

Way too fast is right.

"To the U.S. and the world, I'm just known as some funny song and some funny music, some funny video guy. But in Korea, I'm doing one of the biggest concerts; it's not a dance music concert. I'm playing with the band, so I change my every song to a rock song. I'm going to do some concerts later, so you're going to see that."

Until then, however, "oppa is Gangnam style."

"Gangnam Style" recently became the most-watched video on YouTube, surpassing Justin Bieber's "Baby" with more than 850 million views.

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