Get ready to get down Gangnam Style all over again.
Even those with only a passing interest in pop music have heard of Gangnam Style by now. The infectious dance song by the South Korean singer known as Psy was released mid-July and the accompanying music video has since reached more than 130 million views on YouTube, making it the fifth-biggest viral video in the history of the Internet.
And it’s getting bigger. While most modern hit songs normally peak and fade after several weeks, the Gangnam Style phenomenon is still peaking in North American culture.
Currently, Gangnam Style holds the No. 1 spot on the iTunes music-video chart, marking the first time a South Korean artist has ranked that high.
So how does a stocky, 34-year-old Korean singer become an international music superstar overnight with a dance song recorded entirely in his native language? In this rare instance, it’s all about the dance.
The global appeal of Gangnam Style has been credited to the song’s signature dance move known as “the horse-riding dance,” which merges elements of shuffle dancing and rapid hand moves mimicking the movement of a horseback rider. It’s only a matter of time before the Gangnam Style dance replaces the Chicken Dance at wedding receptions.
The second wave of Gangnam Style unofficially began last week with an appearance by Psy (real name: Park Jae-Sang) at the MTV Video Music Awards. Psy’s brief performance of the horse-riding dance with show host Kevin Hart drew the loudest response of the night from the crowd at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“I cannot believe what’s going on,” said Park in an offstage interview at the VMAs. “I did not expect things like this. I just made a video in Korea and uploaded it and within 50 days I’m here now.”
In the same week, Psy signed a contract with the American label Schoolboy Records, which operates under the umbrella of Universal Republic, after he was scouted by music producer Scooter Braun, best known for discovering Canadian pop sensation Justin Bieber.
The announcement came with the release of a YouTube video in which the pair sealed the deal over a bottle of the potent Korean alcohol drink known as soju, with Braun toasting, “To Psy, to Korea, to breaking down barriers, to the future.”
And the future keeps getting brighter for Psy. Earlier this week, he appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to teach the dance step to pop diva Britney Spears. Looking natty in a shiny tux and wingtip shoes, Psy told Spears and DeGeneres that “the mindset of this dance is ‘Dress classy and dance cheesy.’”
That same day, Spears posted a photo of Psy, Simon Cowell and herself to her Twitter account (she has more than 20 million followers) with the comment: “I learned how to go Gangnam Style from the master today!” Psy is booked for a guest spot on NBC’s The Today Show on Friday.
Gangnam Style has almost made its presence felt in the sports world. Last month, a video of Los Angeles Dodgers fans dancing to the song went viral. In an NFL preseason game, Baltimore Ravens kick-returner Asa Jackson performed his own version of the horse dance after returning a punt to the end zone in a preseason game against the Detroit Lions. Watch and see if basketball players don’t start riding the invisible horse following slam-dunks when the NBA resumes play next month.
But for all of Psy’s personal promotional appearances, Gangnam Style remains an Internet-driven sensation. In recent weeks, hundreds of parody and tribute versions of the song have popped up on YouTube, including a live version by Canadian singer Nelly Furtado in a Manila concert that has garnered in excess of a half-million views. Most of the performers have no idea what the lyrics mean, but they love to do that horse-riding dance.
Just be careful where you do it. Last week, 14 employees of a city-operated aquatic centre in El Monte, Calif., were fired after posting their version of the song, titled Lifeguard Style, on the Internet. El Monte city officials said the staff made an “unauthorized video” while using city resources without permission.
“We were trying out some dance moves,” said fired employee Michael Roa, who has worked at the El Monte Aquatic Center for the past seven years. “ We didn’t think we did anything offensive.”