Monday, September 10, 2012

A K-Pop Mega-Hit About Seoul’s 1%

In case you either a) have been living under a rock, b) were shipped off to Mars aboard the Curiosity, or c) as a matter of principle or necessity, associate yourself with nothing cooler than a tepid glass of English beer, you may have missed the recent phenomenon of “Gangnam Style”. If so, this blog posting will enliven your existence. “Gangnam Style” does not refer to a fashion magazine for triad members. Rather, it is the name of a K-Pop music video and hip-hop tune that has become the summer’s most talked-about pop music event – not just in Korea, but globally. It is the first music video from Asia that has received over 100 million hits. It has been profiled in a CNN news segment. It has been played to a raucous crowd at Dodger Stadium. Jay Leno of The Tonight Show in the US used it to spoof Mitt Romney’s ongoing inability to connect with a cool, young voting populace.

“Gangnam” which prosaically means “South of the River”, refers to Seoul’s nouveau riche neighborhood. It’s a district overrun by a combination of cosmetic surgery clinics (there’s practically one in every building), underground hostess bars (ditto), luxury boutique shops, overpriced espresso joints, and hip-looking restaurants with blasé food. It’s a neighborhood where a 300-class BMW is considered to be a Hyundai, and a Hyundai is considered to be... er... what the rest of Korea can afford to drive. There’s plenty of eye-candy for both genders. But there’s also the sense that intellectual thought and culture run as deep as a melted popsicle on a hot sidewalk.

“Gangnam Style” harpoons the district’s vacuity with the precision of a Japanese whaler, while providing loads of melodic hooks and laughs that make this tune an instant classic. But enough jabbering from me. If you haven’t already, catch the video below, then find out more about it in the well-written article that appeared in The Atlantic (!) magazine last month.

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