15 September 2012

The Subversive Message Of "Gangnam Style"


Max Fisher in The Atlantic:
Park Jaesang is an unlikely poster boy for South Korea's youth-obsessed, highly lucrative and famously vacuous pop music. Park, who performs as Psy (short for psycho), is a relatively ancient 34, has been busted for marijuana and for avoiding the country's mandatory military service, and is not particularly good-looking. His first album got him fined for "inappropriate content" and the second was banned. He's mainstream in the way that South Korea's monolithically corporate media demands of its stars, who typically appear regularly on TV variety and even game shows, but as a harlequin, a performer known for his parodies, outrageous costumes, and jokey concerts. Still, there's a long history of fools and court jesters as society's most cutting social critics, and he might be one of them.
Now, Park has succeeded where the K-Pop entertainment-industrial-complex and its superstars have failed so many times before: he's made it in America ... "Gangnam Style" [above], has earned 49 million hits on YouTube since its mid-July release, but the viral spread was just the start. Of course, no one here in the U.S. has any idea what Psy is rapping about.
I certainly didn't, beyond the basics: Gangnam is a tony Seoul neighborhood, and Park's ... video lampoons its self-importance and ostentatious wealth, with Psy playing a clownish caricature of a Gangnam man ... it turns out that the video is rich with subtle references that, along with the song itself, suggest a subtext with a surprisingly subversive message about class and wealth in contemporary South Korean society.
Read the rest of Fisher's article here.

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