Skip

Gangnam Style, Dissected
August 25, 2012 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Gangnam Style, Dissected: The Subversive Message Within South Korea's Music Video Sensation

This skewering of the Gangnam life can be easy to miss for non-Korean. Psy boasts that he's a real man who drinks a whole cup of coffee in one gulp, for example, insisting he wants a women who drinks coffee. "I think some of you may be wondering why he's making such a big deal out of coffee, but it's not your ordinary coffee"
posted by the young rope-rider (55 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
The attention this song has received is astounding. I thought it was catchy and amusing, but I lived in Gangnam for a few years. I never expected it to become an international hit.
posted by smorange at 10:23 AM on August 25, 2012


Previously.
posted by w0mbat at 10:29 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


holy crap that's some epic beanplating in that article
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:33 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


TL;DR Summary:

"BECAUSE UNICORNS AND ALCOHOL THATS WHY!!?"
posted by Fizz at 10:40 AM on August 25, 2012


When I saw the previously, there was one PIP video and the two were like, "I don't like him. He sucks." Then he did a little kickmove jig, and they were like, "I LOVE HIM!!"

That was one of the most redemptive and hopeful, and open minded moments I'd seen, ever.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:42 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gangnam Horse Riding Fitness Style, Dissected.
posted by homunculus at 10:43 AM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The young lady he quotes in his article doesn't 100% agree with what he says - mostly about the lack of irony in Korean humor.
posted by dominik at 10:55 AM on August 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


mandymanwasregistered: "holy crap that's some epic beanplating in that article"

Eh, "beanplating" implies overwrought analysis on a subject that doesn't really deserve it. I would suggest that if you can watch the gangnam style video and NOT get that it's an over the top satire of something, you're probably the sort who thinks Onion articles are real.
posted by danny the boy at 11:04 AM on August 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


You know when we all thought that the internet and cable tv and all the other entertainment and media options that we have these days would mean we'd all be locked up in our own media cocoons and have nothing in common with anybody else but the few people in our bubble?

Yeah...

Instead we get things like a satirical Korean pop single going viral through youtube to such an extent that you get baseball fans recreating the dance in it.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:05 AM on August 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


Pony Gangnam Style.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 11:15 AM on August 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


epic beanplating — AKA why I joined metafilter. But seriously.

This article has blown up on my twitter feed and in the circle of friends I like to think of as socially engaged and intelligent.

So whether or not it's true I think it's fair to say it's a message many people want to hear right now. I'm not sure if that's mostly to justify interest in it, or mostly because class is the issue of the era.
posted by tychotesla at 11:15 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


TL;DR Summary:

"BECAUSE UNICORNS AND ALCOHOL THATS WHY!!?"


Worst kind of comment. The article is more or less correct, if you actually know something about the country.
posted by smorange at 11:21 AM on August 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can I just say how wonderful it is that respected publications now use gifs in their articles?
posted by sonmi at 11:25 AM on August 25, 2012 [34 favorites]


I hate pop music and thought it was a great video. He's doing something right.
posted by polymodus at 11:29 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm eagerly awaiting the Oklahoma version - Gingham Style
posted by Devonian at 11:30 AM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


... And yet, when I try to repost that gif in Google+, it's not animated. Which if true and not just an iPad glitch, says something about the non-social-Internet-savvy nature of Google.
posted by zippy at 11:31 AM on August 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've been wondering what he's singing about every time I watch the video, so thanks for posting this.
posted by codacorolla at 11:36 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Leave Gangnam Style alone!
posted by schwa at 11:46 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


1. Pick up cat.

2. Hold cat so back legs are dangling and front legs are extended outward like a little furry Frankenstein's monster.

3. Approach spouse/partner/SO/total stranger. (Preferably from behind.)

4. Sing the "heeeeeeey sexy laaaay-deeeee" part of "Gangnam Style" while causing cat to "dance".

5. Bask in approval.


YOU'RE WELCOME
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:48 AM on August 25, 2012 [56 favorites]


I like that this article exists, because I enjoy that the world of pop culture has expanded enough for a sizable portion of the American public to be interested in talking about a Korean pop video. But something about the tone kind of bugs me, and I want to say that it's because I feel like the author assumes that the American and Korean cultures are so vastly different that we can't really understand the video's message without knowing the fine details about Korean credit card debt and their societal attitude toward coffee.

The extra information is interesting to have, but honestly I think the video is perfectly legible to non-Korean audiences and does more to show just how similar the societal issues are that we're facing around the world.

Also the song has been stuck in my head for at least 24 hours now. Heeyyyy sexy lady *horse dance*
posted by capricorn at 11:58 AM on August 25, 2012 [6 favorites]



5. Bask in approval.

More like basilisk inapproval, amirite?
posted by chavenet at 11:59 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


So it's like Gucci Gucci except a million times more awesome.
posted by KathrynT at 12:05 PM on August 25, 2012


But something about the tone kind of bugs me, and I want to say that it's because I feel like the author assumes that the American and Korean cultures are so vastly different that we can't really understand the video's message without knowing the fine details about Korean credit card debt and their societal attitude toward coffee.

The tone was kind of odd, but I could see it sort of being based on trying to encourage people not to assume things are the same in the two countries, along with the fact that people wouldn't consider at all that it might be a satire since Kpop can be really ludicrously over the top anyway.

I got most of the subtext without having to read the article, but it did add some nuance to my understanding.

That song is addictive. How did I miss it the last time we had an article on it?
posted by winna at 12:11 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


My reaction to articles that explain to American how vapid/consumerist/souless S. Korean pop culture doesn't really set well with me. I mean I live in a US city that is also described by outsiders in similar terms and it doesn't take long living here to realize that maybe that is true for a subset of people, but it's not true for everyone. And that you can be into fluffy soulless shit and not necessarily be sercretly sad and empty inside.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:13 PM on August 25, 2012


I'm sorry you're so secretly sad and empty inside. I know of a music video that might cheer you up.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 12:17 PM on August 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


Gangnam Horse Riding Fitness Style, Dissected.
posted by homunculus at 10:43 AM on August 25 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


Whoa, that video just blew my mind. That has to be a spoof ad, right? RIGHT?
posted by smartypantz at 12:21 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was a little kid, I was always frustrated by the fact that nobody ever seemed to take a shit on TV or in movies. What was up with that? Everybody does it. Everybody does it all the time. Even the Queen has to do it. And OK, maybe something stylized like various movie genres -- I could see how they might preclude showing people taking a crap. But our UK soap operas and kitchen sink dramas were supposed to paint a realistic picture of working class life. And yet nobody ever took a shit, or talked about taking a shit, or alluded to having taken a shit.

As I got older, I came to accept that that's just how it was. People didn't want to show it, or see it. I was alone in my childhood obsession.

Then a few years ago, I started watching Korean movies, and when I'd watched all of the really great stuff, I started watching Kdramas -- and guess what? Korean film and television is *obsessed* with people taking a shit. The state of one's bowels is a national preoccupation. And everybody -- even the hot girl in the lead role -- seems to spend some time on the crapper -- obsessed with the fact that they're shitting too much, or that they're not shitting enough.

So when the scene of Psy taking a dump comes up in this music video, I'm like, 'Oh yeah, par for the course. How could you have a Korean film or video without the obligatory shitting scene?'
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:59 PM on August 25, 2012 [25 favorites]


My reaction to articles that explain to American how vapid/consumerist/souless S. Korean pop culture doesn't really set well with me. I mean I live in a US city that is also described by outsiders in similar terms and it doesn't take long living here to realize that maybe that is true for a subset of people, but it's not true for everyone. And that you can be into fluffy soulless shit and not necessarily be sercretly sad and empty inside.

When I moved to Japan in '94 just after finishing university (where I had spent my time as a college radio nerd and indie rock fanboy), I found J-Pop to be pretty vacuous and derivative. The lack of ironic posturing and social commentary bothered me; the unironic pure enjoyment of bubble gum sounds was deeply off-putting.

However, as the years go on, I've stopped worrying about what is hip and what is cool, and what is ironic and what is manufactured. I like what I like, and if there is a joyful, playful sound, all the better.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:00 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


PeterMcDermott: "So when the scene of Psy taking a dump comes up in this music video, I'm like, 'Oh yeah, par for the course. How could you have a Korean film or video without the obligatory shitting scene?'"

You know how on your iPhone there is both emoji of a toilet and a smiling pile of doody? Yeah Asians are ok with pooping.
posted by danny the boy at 1:42 PM on August 25, 2012


"One of the side-effects of Gangnam Style going viral is that people in the West are using it to talk about themselves."

http://occupiedterritories.tumblr.com/post/30036415432/

I had to type that quote and link in by hand, since whatever google ad server farm brings me metafilter on my laptop is down at the moment. :p More to follow.
posted by subdee at 1:56 PM on August 25, 2012


dominick, the "On horse ride dance" comment from that blog post is totally mystifying. Europeans were nomads and hunter-gatherers until the Mongol invasions, and that's why European dances consist of high-low movements. What? I'm glad that the surreal lens that cultures use to examine other cultures is bi-directional.
posted by 1adam12 at 2:01 PM on August 25, 2012


I was in Seoul last week and spent some time in various expat hangouts. Gangnam Style was the only Korean song in heavy rotation everywhere I went. Once I saw the video, I came back expecting to introduce people to something awesome. Instead I find out everyone already knows about it and it is, per MartinWisse's link, replacing "Who let the dogs out" at sporting events.

I think this is what getting old feels like.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 2:03 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's an interview with PSY where he explains Gangnam Style ("I had one thing in my mind from the beginning of the shhoting: Do not look cool or fancy...The point of the video was just showing what's funny. Without fun, nothing else is left and the music video has no point. The weather is really hot and the economy is worsening every year in Korea. As an entertainer, I really wanted to entertain people.... I've never tried to be senselessly funny. In my head, I'm serious all the time."

Http://kstar10.com/view.htm?idxno=2012081310112383260
posted by subdee at 2:09 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyway even aside from the author thinking irony is the only worthy form of cultural commentary, that article is overly harsh on all other Kpop that's not PSY - it's not like he's the *only* person to ever attempt social commentary from within Kpop!

For instance: Brown Eyed Girls and Big Bang have both taken stabs against censorship laws and asserted their rights personal (sexual) artistic expression, portraying the agents of government as basically the enforcers of an authoritarian military state. GLAM have a song about how it's not wrong for a girl to love another girl. And BAP's title songs are abstract criticisms of "the oppression of the weak by the strong" and "the worship of high-status people and objects" without naming any names, or suggesting a solution beyond becoming a fan of BAP (and they're a bit obsessed with material signifiers, themselves). But that's pop music.

PSY is not the only idol who writes and choreographs his own music, either! That list is actually longer than the list of people who are (subtly or openly) critical of Korean government or society. It's actually kind of a trend at this point for idols to have a hand in the songwriting.

It's definitely true that there are WAY more Kpop songs that are explicitly about wanting to be famous and wealthy, and/or attempting to transform yourself into an object of capitalist desire in order to reach that goal, than there are pop songs that are critical of society, though. I don't think "cotton candy" is really the right word for it, LOL, but it's true that most Kpop songs are about love and heartache etc with no social context whatsoever. And they're removed from reality in the way they're filmed, too - the other thing PSY does in this video that's unusual is film in real places, outdoors, with real people, instead of just on a soundstage with paid actors. I think that's part of what people are responding to, as much as the skewering of the rich, pretentious, and materislistic.
posted by subdee at 2:22 PM on August 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Man it's really frustrating writing this stuff on my phone. Final note, here's Gangnam Style vs. Fantastic Baby vs. I am the Best:

Http://youtube.com/watch?v=SxIhdab4KnE

YG Entertainment, working with artists to adapt the same song into a gigantic smash hit every 6 months like clockwork. (Or: third time's the charm.)
posted by subdee at 2:29 PM on August 25, 2012


Gangnam-Gu in Google Street View.
posted by jiawen at 2:41 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


OH MY GOD I WENT TO COLLEGE WITH THIS GUY

Never met him though, just found out from the article we were at Berklee at the same time. :)
posted by braksandwich at 2:55 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gangnam actually refers to three districts, Gangnam-Gu, Seocho-gu, and Songpa-gu. Super-expensive Apgujeong and Cheongdam are both in Gangnam-Gu, though.
posted by needled at 3:41 PM on August 25, 2012


The Scandinavia and the World comic about the song
posted by bluesapphires at 4:04 PM on August 25, 2012


I used to live in Gangnam. Got used to the fact that you'd see multiple Bentleys parked in front of the ubiquitous plastic surgery clinics and handjob parlors and juicy bars. Like the song, generally hate K-pop with the fire of 10,000 suns.

As somebody pointed out elsewhere, what's funny is that the Korean government has indirectly been pushing "Hallyu," or the "Korean cultural wave," really hard. Korean movies and food have definitely taken a bit of a hold in America, but Kpop has always been a harder sell. Outside of the fanbois/gurls (many of whom are Korean American already) the robotic, soul-less stuff just can't compete with the Lady Gagas and Rihannas and Adeles.

So the fact that an older, draft-dodging, fat dude (well, by Korean pop standards) has scored what might be considered the first cross-over hit to a Western audience is freaking hilarious as far as I'm concerned.
posted by bardic at 5:17 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I loved this article and video. It was particularly odd to me to see such a close reading of the parody. It made me wonder; are there parallel Korean news articles dissecting all the satirical elements in LMFAO?
posted by Nelson at 5:27 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is what I said about this Atlantic article last time it was posted.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:49 PM on August 25, 2012


I was introduced to Psy's "Gagnam Style" a couple weeks back and really it just fell flat for me. As a half-Korean (who is not 한국어 fluent), the visual signifiers of the unpleasant aspects of Korean patriarchy (i.e. 오빠 강남스타일) rubbed me wrong.

My friends continued their uncritical adulation of the video.

But then I read Max Fisher's article, so thoughtfully called out by the young rope-rider above, and I started getting it in a scales-falling-from-my-eyes moment as when forty minutes into Branagh's Dead Again I got the film was a send-up of narrative structure itself.

So, yeah, thanks for Fisher's engaging analysis of "Oppah (lives) Gangnam Style". Sometimes explaining the joke does help.
posted by mistersquid at 8:22 PM on August 25, 2012


dominik: The young lady he quotes in his article doesn't 100% agree with what he says - mostly about the lack of irony in Korean humor.

If someone wants to get grumpy about "beanplating," My Dear Korea should be avoided. But if you really want to get the complete review from a Korean, instead of a guy who interviews a few Koreans and borrows the words from their blogs. Not knocking this post, just pointing out that Max Fisher could have avoided typing his article and gotten MDK published in the Atlantic.


Tangent: At the end of April, What Culture listed 5 K-Pop bands looking to smash UK/US charts, and then in May, Rolling Stone listed the top 10 K-Pop groups most likely to break in the US (summary; full article which breaks their top 10 into ten separate pages). The two lists don't completely overlap.


the christopher hundreds: Instead I find out everyone already knows about it and it is, per MartinWisse's link, replacing "Who let the dogs out" at sporting events.

I think this is what getting old feels like.


I haven't been to sporting events in a long time, but I think there have been some new songs between 2000 and now. Seven Nation Army came out in 2003, and Kernkraft 400 was adopted late by the US, though Wikipedia currently states "It is believed that the first use was in Air Canada Centre for the goal song of the Toronto Maple Leafs and in TD Garden for the Boston Bruins in 2001," and the song was originally released in 2000. Hearing that song as a stadium chant still makes me feel weird.

Anyway, with everyone trying to jump on the "viral video" bandwagons as they rise, I'm impressed but not too surprised that Gangnam Style has entered sports stadiums. If it replaces Party Rocking, I cannot be happier. Seriously, the ubiquity of that song, getting played DAILY as "fun in-between segment music" on morning talk shows and beyond, makes me feel really old and grumpy. "That's not techno! It's crappy dance music! Bring back Detroit! Bring back Chicago! Remember the 808!"
posted by filthy light thief at 8:23 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


And now Hyuna has hers.
posted by oddman at 9:07 PM on August 25, 2012


The Hyuna version of the video seems to strip out just about any satirical element and replace it wholesale with blatant sex appeal like just about every other Kpop song by a female artist. Considering that's it's pretty bog standard I wonder what the motivation of doing a version with her is other than just cash in on the phenomenon further.
posted by vuron at 9:27 PM on August 25, 2012


I must say this, speicus and I were in a Los Angeles Ktown grocery store tonight when Gangnam Style came on and the whole store perked up. So as much as I don't understand the universal charm of this song, I can't deny its powers.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 9:45 PM on August 25, 2012


Actually, this week Gangnam Style means losing a billion dollars.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:32 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Got used to the fact that you'd see multiple Bentleys

Bentley?
posted by homunculus at 11:45 PM on August 25, 2012


It's definitely true that there are WAY more Kpop songs that are explicitly about wanting to be famous and wealthy, and/or attempting to transform yourself into an object of capitalist desire in order to reach that goal, than there are pop songs that are critical of society, though

True for all forms of pop music, not just that exotic Kpop or Jpop. 1It's just easier see the shallowness, insincerity, vapidness and strangeness of pop products from a culture you're not immersed in yourself. But you knew that already.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:02 AM on August 26, 2012


On re-reading my comment, I apologize for how harsh I came across. The Atlantic link in the OP provides some additional context for the US fascination with this song and video, citing sources I haven't seen (T-Pain, Billboard, WSJ, etc), and the credit card usage in South Korea. Thanks for this post.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:03 AM on August 26, 2012


Can I just say how wonderful it is that respected publications now use gifs in their articles?

I guess you didn't notice the Atlantic - Geocities merger.
posted by srboisvert at 9:12 AM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


the credit card usage in South Korea.

As I mentioned before, the Reuters article referenced in the Atlantic piece is misleading. Korean household debt is indeed high, and many households have a large number of credit cards, but they make no explicit correlation (nor is there a strong one, as far as I am aware) between those two facts.

My wife and I have something like 8 credit cards from a variety of different Korean institutions. We pay fees for none of them, get benefit points and substantial discounts from online retailers (where we buy almost all of our nonperishable goods, thanks to free delivery here across the board) for using them, and never, ever carry a balance. They are a net positive for us, easily, or we wouldn't use them (for every single purchase we make that is not at the weekly markets or other places that don't take plastic), and the vast majority of Korean households behave similarly. There are strong incentives to use credit cards here, if they are used wisely. Not everyone does, of course, but I think the stats (if they are available) would show that it is much more uncommon to be foolish enough to carry a balance on credits cards here.

Again, household debt is currently at all-time high, but it stems as much from a variety of other factors as it does unwise credit card usage, I believe.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:48 PM on August 26, 2012


Ah; so August is "K-pop month" on Metafilter, yes?
posted by Wordshore at 1:59 PM on August 27, 2012


Much of the video wasn't shot in Gangnam, after all.
posted by needled at 9:03 AM on August 31, 2012


« Older I Am Science…and a Nerd   |   "AHA...this is a ploy...no... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post