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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+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 29, 2012
BTW; I find it hilarious that Bieber's first name gets censored here -- what is up with that? Seriously. :D
Sep 29, 2012
I have to stress the fact that you're very, very, very wrong in automatically assuming everyone or even most people find this "ridiculously appealing", Scott.

It's a huge hype/fad/thingy, sure -- but like most of those, however gigantic they seem at the height of their popularity, is not universal in appeal. I find the "music" just as talentless and annoying as any other kind in that general genre, and the imagery only slightly amusing (and for less than a minute).

It's worth pointing out that while this video (not the one you linked to, but the "main" one) has about 300 million hits, "Baby" by !$%*!$ Bieber has almost 800 million at the time of writing. An overwhelming majority of the people I socialize with can't stand Bieber or anything he does, and quite frankly I've heard exactly one person mention this Gangnam crap before -- and that one in very unflattering way.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 29, 2012
My favorite parody (of a video that is admittedly a satire of a stereotype) is the "Klingon Style."

Sep 29, 2012
You have heard the song before. It's "Pump up the Jam" by Salt and Peppa.

The videography is a bit higher level than amatuer. The person who worked on the video did a really good job. As for trailblazing dance music, it isn't. Though his use of avoiding auto-tune is commendable in this day and age for the dance genre, it isn't anything phenomenal.

I had avoided this video until you mentioned it. I've had a higher than normal respect for your opinion. I'll need to revise that metric, going forward, slightly lower.

After watching it, I am amazed at how better the explanations were to the actual video. I'm glad that people found it enjoyable, but I don't see anything funny about the video. But being a child of the MTV 80's (when all they did was videos), it takes alot more than that to impress me.

I wish them well, but I'll probably pass on their best of collection.

The genuis was the team who coordinated all the people and locales. Its hard to shoot a video in that many locations, and then edit them to a song that has a fast tempo.

The entertainment world revolves heavily on luck. Without luck, Harrison Ford would have been a carpenter. Though with the advent of online videos, It requires more luck to keep ones stupidity off the screen.
Sep 29, 2012
I passed this on to a friend and he commented:

PSY did all the work on this video himself. He went out and seriously made they most ridiculous video he could think of...all in the span of 48 hours. He was mostly inspired by all the uptight, over the top, way too serious Korean pop videos currently out there. What the western author missed entirely, is that this guy is a real GENIUS, just view some of his 30,000 plus audience attended concert footage and see what I mean. His video for "It's Art" is a good sample of what an amazing live performance he can give. Hey, who can't love a three story blow up baby/Budda smoking a cigarette as a stage prop? He actually has the best stage presence of any Korean pop artist around.
Sep 28, 2012
This isn't exactly accidental, but it's not entirely genius either.

This is k-pop, which is it's own peculiar genre which is very much calculated to be marketed for mass consumption by large groups of young koreans. It appears shoddy only because it is a mass produced item.

But as with any mass-produced item, it can have appeal outside the target demographic. It is like a really stupid toy becoming an instant hit with 4 year olds one year. No one knows why this particular thing hit a cultural nerve this time, but when you are spraying the target with bullets you will once in a while hit the bullseye.

So it's a lucky shot, but it's not exactly monkeys on typewriters. It has more in common with other one-hit-wonders like the macarena.
Sep 28, 2012
Genius ....
Sep 28, 2012
Scott, as the other commenter burgels said - you didn't link to the original. I don't think there's a whole lot different except the video playcount. Go check out his link to see how you can tell it's the original..
Sep 28, 2012
Genius or Luck? I think both.
They made a funny tongue in cheek video for their location. The lyrics and imagery make satirical jokes at the Gangnam district. They are also professional enough to do their performance without interruption from their own jokes. Then they posted it on the Web and the locals thought it was hilarious.
It luckily had many elements that are appealing and breaks the language barrier, such as the beat, color pallet, humor, etc... so then it gets viewed by enough of the right people who found it entertaining and pass it on. Thus it goes viral worldwide.
Sep 28, 2012
Looks like you've hit another blog topic that isn't very commentable, Scott, only this time, unlike your 'Quote Approval' post there isn't a 'Romney' subtopic that can stir things up.
Sep 28, 2012
I think it's the confidence. Everything in the video - how he acts, how his dancers act, how the audience respond - presumes that he's awesome, so you feel like maybe he is.
Sep 28, 2012
It's intentional.

If you've seen the Ellen clip where PSY was there, he said the point was "Dress classy, dance cheesy." He knows it's a cheesy dance.

The genius is doubling-down on the cheese. He knows it's cheesy, embraces the cheesiness, and serves up thick slices of that cheese. Otherwise it would suck. And he knows it.
Sep 28, 2012
I think a good analogy to an American video would be "Pretty Fly for a White Guy" that came out in 1998. It has the same kind of "making fun of a genre while also being in that genre" vibe that I get from Gangnam Style, but isn't quite as well-done.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzY2Qcu5i2A
Sep 28, 2012
I've always felt that film editors are the unsung heroes.

+16 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 28, 2012
If you watch the video and imagine it's a song called "beverly hills style" or "wall street style" or "hollywood style", you realize that the video is designed to make light of how people try so hard to appear rich and awesome, even though their reality is one of growing debt and mediocrity.

It's a good video, actually. And PSY literally did his homework... he's a graduate of some decent American schools (wiki him).
+28 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 28, 2012
I've been following the story fairly closely, and I think the video is genius and absolutely intentional. Psy has a long history of ridiculous costumes (including dressing in drag as female American pop stars) and comic dances (he created a "bird dance" before this). He invented the dance with his choreographer, and he planned the entire video, as brutlhonesty said. Psy has said that he made the video because the economy in Korea is really bad right now, and he wanted to make something entertaining that would make people smile and laugh. This isn't a case of "Look at those crazy Koreans who don't know they look ridiculous" -- he was absolutely in on the joke.

Psy looks very different from most Korean Pop stars -- young and skinny is the norm here too, but it's even more extreme in Korea. He intentionally played up the fact that he doesn't look like a typical pop star, and he doesn't look like the Gangnam ideal -- all for comic effect. So, we're laughing with him, not at him. I'm sure some Americans watched this and thought it was an earnest effort to look cool, and they think they're laughing at the silly Asians. But if they knew the context, they would realize it's brilliant.
Sep 28, 2012
My theory is that it appeals to all of us because he's a kind of everyman. Most people (Americans, at least) have a desire to create, a desire to make something meaningful, combined with an insecurity about acceptance or being liked. This video celebrates that.
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 28, 2012
The original video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0&feature=g-hist
Sep 28, 2012
I did the same thing and finally caved last week, when I saw a parody of it and wondered what the original was really like. Totally hooked on it.
Sep 28, 2012
I avoided the video for a long time too, and was ultimately left impressed. I'm still curious that I actually enjoy it so much.

I've seen some of his live performances (watch the youtube video showing him appearing on Ellen --where she failed to introduce him--) PSY definitely has some charisma.

Another fascinating aspect to consider is the song is actually satire on the South Korean culture.
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