It’s not even December 2012 yet, and already the world is ending. A man with a slight paunch and a trademark gallop has sparked not one, not two, not three, but too many exhaustive analyses on reputable web sites the world over to count. Who is this Psy? What is Gangnam Style? Is the invisible horse really just a dance prop, or is it a metaphor for the coming harnessing of the world by a collective Asian power? Will Psy go topless?! Questions!
But first, some facts.
Given name: Park Jae-Sang
Number of brushes with the law: 2
You Tube Likes: More than any video ever
Blood type: O
As much as we might have wished he’d gone with that last unnecessary (but collected!) stat and called himself Typo, our man went with Psy, an uncloaked reference to the word “psycho." Psy went on to produce four full-length albums, two of which have been banned in South Korea for sale to minors under the age of 18. Legal history includes one arrest for smoking marijuana and one court case for not serving South Korea's mandatory 21 month military term in full (as punishment, he served two). The father of twin daughters, Psy has talked sincerely about his fears of growing up and what "maturity" means for his career. In short, he’s not your average K-Pop star.
WATCH an in-depth interview with Psy (click CC for English subtitles):
(Nope, no clue why there are lasers shooting out of his eyes.)
Over at New York Magazine, Hua Hsu digs into how Psy won the West. “Acerbic, self-aware,” he calls "Gangnam Style," saying “one doesn’t need to understand a word of Psy’s raps to recognize that he’s sneering for a reason.” That reason, Hsu explains, is Gangnam, a district in South Korea with a bizarre concentration of the country’s wealth. It's generally agreed that Psy's most famous song -- with its lyrics about "soybean-paste girls" (who essentially scrimp on food so they can splurge on macchiatos) , and the music video's blurring from lavish to silly -- is a not-so-subtle jab at Gangnam's excesses.
WATCH "Gangnam Style":
In a now oft-cited post on Open City, Sukjong Hong writes that there is no equivalent to Gangnam in the United States. “The closest approximation would be Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Beverly Hills, Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and Miami Beach all rolled into one.” Real estate in Gangnam is more expensive than anywhere else in the country, Hong explains, worth more than all the real estate in Korea’s second largest city, Busan, combined. To put that in perspective, Busan is about as large as New York City -- at nearly 300 square miles -- and Gangnam, only 15 square miles and richer, is the size of Waynesboro, Va.
But Gangnam itself is just the tip of the iceberg with Psy, who's only getting simultaneously more likeable and more likely to make weird bargains like "I will go topless if..." as his star gets brighter -- a convergence that's setting him apart. We're not talking about the Macarena anymore. Psy's ability to spark scholarly thought pieces and North Korean tributes alike locates him in the galaxy of commercial performance artists, somewhere between Planet Gaga and Dark Star Joaquim Phoenix.
Because today is Friday, namesake of that other virus, we thought we'd spend it learning as much as possible about this new world hero from Korea. If you are easily scared off by amazing things, please, for your own sake, do not read further. Otherwise, a slideshow about Psy's penchant for cross-dressing, secret acupuncture, and way more, is right down there.