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Okay, I've been doing my best to avoid looking at the new viral video called Gangnam Style by a Korean musician named PSY. I could tell from the headlines the video would involve some Korean guy dancing in a dorky style to bad music. How good could that be, right?

But curiosity got the best of me. I had to know what makes this particular video a global phenomenon. So I clicked, and I watched, expecting to be underwhelmed. I was wrong. It's totally awesome and thoroughly recommendable.

For me, the fascination involves figuring out what makes this video ridiculously entertaining. The music is so generic I feel as if I've heard it before. The dancing is literally laugh-out-loud funny. The star, PSY, is the very definition of extraordinarily uncool. The videography looks random and amateurish. When you put all of those bad elements together you get...awesome? WTF?

On some level I thought I was laughing at the star. But I couldn't quite commit to that point of view because something about the entire video absolutely works. Is this one of those million-monkeys-with-typewriter situations applied to Internet video? Is it pure luck that the seemingly bad elements all come together to create an awesome whole? Or is there some sort of clever genius at work? I absolutely can't tell, and that's what makes this thing so fascinating.

Remember that genius comes in many forms. I think we'd agree there's no musical genius happening with this video. But someone involved with this video imagined all of the pieces together, produced it, and hit it out of the park. Is the music video director the genius, or maybe a choreographer, or is PSY the brilliant one?

Or is it just dumb luck that the elements came together?

My best guess is that serendipity plus some sort of visual arts genius is involved.

What do you think? Is it luck or genius?

(If you haven't seen the video yet, turn up the sound and get ready to have a good time. It's a good way to start a weekend.)


 
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+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 12, 2012
Hi, Scott. I agree - this video is awesome. A few people have touched on 'why' already: the self-depreciation, the authenticity, the dedication to being silly, etc., and I agree these are part of the attraction.

My first thought was, this video is a parody. Then I slowly realized that they were serious, and it was funny that they didn't know how ridiculous it was. Next, I realized, of COURSE they know ... the dancers and choreographers and director are all in on the joke - which is awesome. That's the self-depreciation part. But then I went back to "it's not a joke at all." They are being self-depreciating ... they just, well, they don't take themselves seriously. But they do it in a totally dedicated way - this video took a LOT of work.

So it has all of that, mixed together. And add to that the fact that this video is a snapshot of a culture that is generally pretty alien to us, but covers a significant chunk of the world. There is definitely a sense of standard motifs and an underlying tradition that is being referenced. And the silliness ... which, as someone else pointed out, it is a lot of fun being outrageously silly. To let yourself go and get a whole bunch of other people to join in, without judgement. That's why that guy who does the silly dance all over the world is fun to watch.

In the end, you like this video because the main guy is cool, not because he *thinks* he's cool, but because he *knows* he's cool. He could be wrong - which has probably occurred to him - but he totally doesn't care. And you gotta admire that in a person. And it is certainly not the kind of cool that says, "I'm better than you" ... he doesn't lord it over anyone, put anyone else down. He just says, "This is my kind of cool. Join in if you want, or don't, totally up to you, but I'm having a blast."
 
 
Oct 10, 2012
i have my own personal aesthetic. its mostly constant. i find professions like fashion designer/critic to be the most debased use of humanity. each year they have ppl saying what drapes are in style for interior decorating. again, i think its terrible. ever changing with no values. Whats in? Whats cool? its based on say-so and peer pressure.

i like timeless.

so much of pop culture i take with a grain of salt. a friend of mine was talking to me about a mullet he had in elementary school, and he was telling me how much of a poser he was. yet at the time i know he thought he was so cool.

so on one hand i dont really judge style harshly, its arbitrary. i dont fault a little kid for loving his mullet. and on the other hand, i dont appreciate style.

gangnam didnt seem really cool to me. i do like commitment in performance, but other than that i didnt sense anything special. certainly not mocking. saw no sneers or other negativity either.

i do believe in genius in collage tho. you can take a collection and combine it in a way that is masterful.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2012
Psy IS the produce and choreographer. So give him the credit. That said, I don't find the video remotely entertaining myself.
 
 
Oct 1, 2012
Is this guy mocking !$%*!$ Bieber? I'm a bit surprised that Bieber's management team has not pursued legal action against this guy for stealing his act.
This must be a sign of my advancing age. I used to find acts of total buffoonery amusing and entertaining. Now I'm just left wondering how much longer must I endure life in an insane asylum. I think !$%*!$ Bieber's act may have been the one that finally pushed me over the edge. While not being a violent person by nature, every time I see this kid I feel overcome by an overwhelming urge to just beat that kid back into the dust from which he came. I probably just need to find a good therapist to provide me with that little blue pill from the Matrix movie, then everything will be back to normal.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 1, 2012
haha... good job Scott... you didn't even link to the video that actually went viral. Your link is to a "Live" remix video.

Here's the original: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0&feature=related

WATYF
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 1, 2012
I had not heard about this global phenomenon uptill now, I suppose that says something about me.

(Scott, you are now quoted in the wikpedia-article on the video.)

The wikipedia-article on the video is about as long as the article on Korea. I suppose that says something about all of us.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 1, 2012
I think a big part of it is how superbly self-deprecating he is. The way I see it, this is effectively very good physical & dance comedy, combined with a catchy sound track and good production values.

One other thing, check out the original video - will give you a better idea of the production:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0&feature=related
 
 
Oct 1, 2012
Phantom, Gangam Style is both trendy and frankly a light-hearted topic is good for the blog. If Scott wants to talk about it, that's fine. Relax. He's done this before talking about lady gaga.



PS. Sarcasm doesn't convey well over das internetz if that was your intent.
 
 
Oct 1, 2012
[My best guess is that serendipity plus some sort of visual arts genius is involved.

What do you think? Is it luck or genius?]

A little of both. Luck usually needs a little genius and genius usually needs a little luck. You know the dance scene at the end of napolean dynamite? I'm figuring that's happening here. With the right music and a good enough dance, you can get away with a little dorkyness.


About the cinematography, J-Pop videos that I've seen (and Japanese cinematography, too often, in general) seems to be just as bad as this K-pop one, so it might be regional. They don't really have their own hollywood.
 
 
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 1, 2012
I think its the being-over-the-top silly-but-not-appearing-as-trying-too-hard that gets everybody on board. And then he grants everybody permission to go just as silly without feeling guily about it, with the horse dance. Its awesome because most people love to be silly and not be judged for it. So we all hold back and have this pent up need to go crazy. I doubt Psy knew it would spread this much.

The video probably doesn't appeal to people who don't have a need to go crazy, or are too uptight to admit it.

Also, Psy needs to be careful how much he tries to milk this, because eventually it _will_ come off as trying too hard, which would kill the whole thing prematurely.
 
 
Oct 1, 2012
I think the fact that Gangnam Style comes from Asia is key. The pop culture from that part of the world is largely an unknown quantity to a lot of westerners, so while it looks like a fun sort-of-parody, there's also a possibility that it could be an genuine example of the height of Korean cool. I think that lack of certainty in people's minds adds greatly to its appeal.
 
 
Oct 1, 2012
You're kidding, right? THIS is what you devote your limited column-inches to? Is THIS the most important topic you can come up with?

ALERT: There's a lot going on in the world now. For example, did you know that our ambassador to Libya was slaughtered by Al Qaeda, while the current administration said it was just a spontaneous reaction to some kind of video on YouTube?

Have you noticed that the Antarctic snow pack is at all-time highs, showing the lie that is "global warming?" Is there anything that is more important to you than gangnam whatever?

Come on, Scott. We're in a heap of trouble here. I know you're a comedian, and everything to you is just a fun academic exercise in absurdity, but WHY DON'T YOU WAKE TF UP?

I love you, but you are off the rails if you think this is the most important thing you can blog about. Be a meat robot on somebody else's time. Spend your time here, with those of us who acknowledge that we have a soul, on something about which anyone with an IQ over 12, and with any knowledge of what's going on in the world, would care about.

Get a grip. This is so far beneath you, there is no bottom to the pit you're in.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 30, 2012
At first I thought it was the visuals, but the tune is pretty catchy as it is. He has a couple other catchy beats, too - a song for the Olympics ("Korea?") and another peppy one called "Right Now" that just has shots of everyone dancing in random places (traffic jam, an office).

The guy made a catchy song and had some fun with it. Good for him! And since presumably most of us don't speak Korean, the lyrics might as well be anything to us, but the energy is catchy, fun, and a little addicting. I almost think foreign (to USA) songs can be more fun if you don't know what they're about, and just listen to the music.

I was able to find a few fun songs on YouTube a while back, such as Slot's "2 Wars" (Russian heavy metal), The Flowers' "To Be Exactly Bad" (Chinese pop), and Nessbeal's "Princesse Au Regard Triste," (French rap) and a Belgian band covering "Mala Vida." There's all sorts of stuff out there that most of us have probably never heard of - why not go exploring?

Actually, that would be an interesting topic: has humanity seemed less interested in exploring lately, and if so, has that had cultural implications? I mention this because I work aaround a lot of young people (early 20's) and they just don't seem to have much curiosity or initiative, and I believe that's a damn shame.
 
 
Sep 30, 2012
Scott, you must be drinking different water than I. I watched all 5 miunutes of the video with all the hope I had, waiting to be entertained. NOT ... I suppose you could say I am out of touch and weird for not liking this but in all honesty I found absolutely nothing about it entertaining. If this is entertainment and I am ignorant ... then I thank God for ignorance
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 29, 2012
The song is apparently full on nucance on South Korean culture in the original language:
http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/1028ic/is_psy_gangnam_style_guy_serious_southkorean_pop/c69u8j7. (Also check out his reply to a comment, its the secound one after the first post)
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 29, 2012
It's the Korean Macarena. Catchy and well done, but a one hit wonder.
 
 
Sep 29, 2012
I think 1. that beat is hard to resist. and 2. he, and everyone else in the video, is really committed. There's something about authenticity that always works. It's almost like watching a badly written movie acted really well. But, I would listen to the song without the video, too, so there's definitely something in the music itself.
 
 
Sep 29, 2012
I woke up realizing my mistake. Technotronic did "pump up the Jam"

The last music video that had me laughing was "I'm on a boat" (Lonely Island). If you can handle the excessive vulgar language, its very entertaining.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 29, 2012
Normally I don't watch music videos so I don't know how they are normally made.
What I noticed here is that, like at 0:22 and onward they seem to have cut out frames. My brain is constantly trying to catch up with the movements and maybe that's what kept me interested.
 
 
Sep 29, 2012
He certainly is talented. If he can pull the same trick off a second time, then I will admit he is a genius. So far he is just lucky.
 
 
 
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