Music Business Journal: Psy and Gangnam Style

Berklee alumnus Park Jae-Sang (PSY) topped charts with his hit "Gangnam Style." Will this be K-pop's big break in the U.S.?

November 1, 2012

Recently boasting over 160 million YouTube views, Korean rapper Psy’s “Gangnam Style” music video became a viral sensation after it was released in July. The comedic song and video refer to the ritzy neighborhood of Gangnam in Seoul, South Korea.  Despite the fact that few people other than Koreans know what any of the lyrics mean, the video has received a flurry of international attention for Psy’s now-signature horseback riding dance. The 34-year-old rapper, born Park Jae-Sang, may seem an unlikely candidate for pop stardom, but at the end of August he entered his fifth week atop the Billboard K-Pop Hot 100, tying the record for most consecutive weeks at number one.1 He also spent several weeks leading the Billboard Social 50, and according to Neilsen SoundScan2, had sold 61,000 U.S. downloads as of September 14th.

The success of “Gangnam Style” testifies to the immense power of the social media hive-mind. While Psy was already a known figure in Korea, social media catapulted him into the international spotlight, circulating the video in a fervent feedback loop across Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and the blogosphere. Numerous celebrities including LMFAO, T-Pain, Robbie Williams, Vanessa Hudgens, and Britney Spears, took to Facebook, Twitter, or their own website to lend their curatorial voices to “Gangnam Style.” After Spears tweeted about her desire to learn the horseback-riding dance, TV personality Ellen Degeneres brought Psy out during her show to teach Spears the dance. Further appearances at the MTV Video Music Awards and on the Today Show, plus attention from music industry heavyweights have solidified the song’s massive impact.3