Sunday September 2, 2012
Gangnam Style - Silly but infectious
Stories by HARIATI AZIZAN, CHRISTINA CHIN, REGINA LEE, SETO KIT YAN and CHLOE L. YEOH
PETALING JAYA: It's a South Korean number that is song, dance and social commentary all rolled into one that has become a worldwide phenomenon.
Such is the craze in this country that it even prompted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to tweet on Tuesday: “Been hearing about Gangnam Style all of last week, even in the news. What's your view that makes it so popular?”
According to Nini Yusof, country manager of NBC Universal Malaysia which runs entertainment show E! News Asia, the hook is in the song which is not only catchy but also layered.
“You cannot help but listen to it many times. And, then there is the ridiculous but uniquely fun dance steps,” said Nini.
While E! News Asia has covered various viral dance hits, Gangnam Style seems to be the biggest yet. Since its release at the end of July, it has chalked over 84 million hits and millions more parodies and copycats worldwide.
The song has been described as “unstoppable” and “one of the greatest videos ever to be uploaded to YouTube” by the Los Angeles Times. It also has earned admiration from major stars like Robbie Williams, Katy Perry and Britney Spears.
Nini thinks the popularity has a lot to do with Psy, who is “more real” than other K-pop stars.
The 34-year-old rapper has been described as “chubby” and “uncool” unlike many of the nubile pretty boys who have emerged from the pop powerhouse nation so far.
Comedian Douglas Lim agrees that the “real” factor is what has endeared Psy to many.
“Psy is not your typical rapper and his self-deprecating humour makes the song hilarious. Even if you don't understand Korean, you can see that the video is a parody and he is making fun of himself,” said Lim, who has done his share of satirical performances and YouTube videos.
Gangnam is the upscale district in Seoul, its equivalent to Beverly Hills, and Psy's song is said to be a critique of Koreans aspiring to the pretentious lifestyle of the rich.
In an interview with CNN, Psy said that although “people who are actually from Gangnam never proclaim that they are it's only the posers and wannabes that put on these airs and say that they are Gangnam style - so this song is actually poking fun at those kind of people who are trying so hard to be something that they're not.”
Although Psy directed his song at Koreans, it gained world attention, thanks to the Internet, noted a writer known as Orchid from local Korean entertainment website kpopped.com.
“Before you had the Macarena dance trend but it was not as big because the social media network was not as big then.”
To Umapagan Ampikaipakan, co-host of Internet political satire The Effing Show, no one can really explain the virality of this sort of videos.
“It could be that people enjoy watching chubby foreigners dance in a ridiculous fashion (see Star Wars kid, see Numa Numa video).”
For many music lovers, Gangnam Style is a hit simply because it is fun and easy to do.
The most appealing dance moves in the video imitate riding and lassoing an imaginary horse which is why Gangnam Style is also known as the Horse Dance.
Minister's aide Rohiman Haroon, who starred in a parody video titled Suasana Gangnam Raya, said it was so much fun that even his older relatives loved it and were enthusiastic about doing the dance when his creative niece and her professional videographer husband brought cameras to their Hari Raya gathering of 80-odd family members.
The 51-year-old former journalist said their version has had over 1.2 million hits.
Other Malaysians have also jumped on the bandwagon with their own video renditions, with titles such as Orang Sabah Style and Gangnam Super Kampung Style while the original hit is fast becoming a mainstay at weddings in Malaysia.
“The dance is silly but the song has an infectious beat. People just feel good listening to it,” says a bank officer who only wants to be known as Vimala.
Internet culture observer and former host of Internet interview show PopTeeVee Fahmi Fadzil agrees that the fun factor is the winning formula.
“We should not put too much thought into it as it will only take away the magic wow' moment of watching something fun,” he said.
Malaysians are proving to be a very up-to-date lot
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Meet the Psycho
Get into the rhythm