As of right now, the music video for Korean rapper Psy’s “Gangnam Style” has 357,448,882 YouTube views. It’s been parodied countless times, up to and including “Hitler Style”. In spite of the fact that it’s almost entirely performed in Korean, it’s become a bona fide pop culture phenomenon. Ever wondered what the hell the lyrics were actually about, though? Allow me to explain.
The Dude Who Wrote It
Psy, short for “Psycho,” has has been a successful artist for 12 years in his native South Korea. He was raised near Gangham, an upper-class neighborhood in Seoul. Even though he's from there, he isn't REALLY Gangnam style – he's chubby, quirky and (by his own testimony) a little "weird." He was once arrested for smoking pot (ooh, scandalous!).
The Neighborhood It's About
“Gangnam Style” is a social commentary on South Korea’s newly rich population and Gangnam, the place many of ‘em call home. Only one percent of the population of Seoul lives there. Gangnam, full of trendy boutiques and meeting places, is their playground – the rest of the country, however, looks at Gangham’s residents derisively.
A Normal Seoul Neighborhood
The average apartment in Gangham costs $716,000, an amount that the average South Korean household would have to work 18 years to save up. Gangham looks like your typical upper-class urban neighborhood – the other 99 percent of Seoul residents, however, live in way less fancypants surroundings.
Stores in Gangnam
All of the major players in luxury goods are located on Gangham’s Rodeo Street, the district’s equivalent of Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive. If you need a Louis Vuitton bag or a Cartier bracelet, this is your zone. There’s also a ton of expensive clubs and restaurants to see and be seen in.
Stores in the Rest of Seoul
If you need some room temperature meat or bootleg electronics, go ANYWHERE BUT GANGNAM. The rest of the city has got your back.
Gangnam Coffee Shops
In Gangham, coffee shops are the go-to spots to sit in and look cool. in In the song, Psy claims to be on the hunt for “A girl who is warm and humanly during the day / A classy girl who knows how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee.” He emphasizes that he’s “A guy who is as warm as you during the day / A guy who one-shots his coffee before it even cools down.” His lyrics mock the coffee culture and the people who use it to display their status.
Psy isn’t your typical, looks-driven Gangnam guy. To him, a sexy lady is one who “who looks quiet but plays when she plays / A girl who puts her hair down when the right time comes / A girl who covers herself but is more sexy than a girl who bares it all / A sensible girl like that.” His progressive, non-tacky and non-consumerist attitude is the complete opposite of most Gangnam residents. After all, he’s “A guy who has bulging ideas rather than muscles.”
Are you shocked that “Gangnam Style” isn’t completely stupid? Let me know in the comments!