Gangnam Style – Did PSY pave the way for BTS’ success? The Question May Be an Explosive Y3s

Gangnam Style

Korean pop singer Park Jae Sung, best known by his stage name PSY, wrote and performed the dance pop track Gangnam Style (강남 스타일) in 2012. The immensely entertaining music video has spawned millions of parodies and imitation dance videos on YouTube since its premiere in mid-July 2012.

During the same year, Rolling Stone produced a list of the ten K-pop bands most likely to succeed in the United States in 2012. Because of the massive exporting of South Korean culture outside in the 2000s — a trend known as Hallyu, or the Korean Wave — achieving considerable US recognition was a newly feasible, if still distant, milestone for South Korean pop groups.

Gangnam Style What Does It Mean and is it Just a Meme

Gangnam Style
© YG

“Gangnam Style” hit number one on the Gaon Chart in South Korea. In August 2012, the single and its music video became viral, influencing popular culture around the globe. The song continued its reach with hitting number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in the America. Soon after the song had reached the top of the albums chart in over 30 countries by the end of 2012, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

While PSY is nearly impossible to be dethroned anytime soon, groups such as BTS are helping to preserve Korea’s cultural tradition. Indeed, the band is now part of a younger generation of artists making waves in Japan, the Americas, and even Europe. PSY, in our perspective, is to thank for paving the door to superstardom for them.

BTS’s stratospheric rise to fame has been so rapid in recent years that the release of their latest single, “Butter” — their first since a trio of breakthrough, historic No. 1 single in the fall of 2020 — is a significant occasion. BTS made waves in 2020 with the hit track “Dynamite,” which created history as the first K-pop song to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard “Hot 100” list in the United States.

There were even studies done to see if Gangnam Style was a healthy form of exercise. Dance routines have a crucial role in social bonding and improving pain thresholds, according to Oxford University researchers who spent time with a group of dancers. The findings were reported in the Biology Letters publication. Before and after the dances, participants were given questionnaires regarding how socially attached they felt, as well as stress tests by scientists to determine their pain threshold. Both coordinated dancing and exertion “demonstrated significant independent positive effects […] indicating that dance involving both exertive and synchronized movement may be an effective group bonding activity,” according to the researchers.

Were there any attempts to break cultural borders before PSY?

AS you can see from the video above the answer to the heading is yes. Seo Taiji and Boys are looked to as the official start of K-pop. On April 11, 1992, a hip-hop duo called Seo Taiji and Boys performed on a nationwide South Korean network’s talent show. They were regarded as trailblazers who defied expectations in terms of musical styles, song topics, fashion, and censorship, which was unique in a culture where musical creation had been strictly regulated for decades.

Three major music studios began producing what would become known as idol groups in the 1990s. Idol groups are refined to flawlessness, designed to deliver the very highest standards of beauty, dance, and musicality, and are manufactured through auditions and years of grooming within an intense studio culture — the highly regimented framework of idol group development in Korean and Japanese music studios.

Idol groups have come to define the Korean recording industry, yet idol life is notorious to be toxic and abusive. The Korean government has taken attempts in the last decade to remove the systemic mistreatment that has long been a feature of Korean studio culture. However, when BTS was founded in the early 2010s, most studios took a very rigid and stringent approach to idol group development. They methodically ironed out most of Seo Taiji’s original personal expression and socially concerned music as part of the process. This allowed Gangnam Style to go viral.

PSY How he did it and the Desire to K-pop Dominance by the Industry

Gangnam Style
© YG

It’s unlikely that Psy had in mind when the K-pop business first set out to break into the lucrative Western market. When “Gangnam Style” was published, he was 34 years old and didn’t have the squeaky-clean image (he conflicted with the government for marijuana use) or the conventional looks of a classic K-pop star. So, how did he accomplish it, and what was it in the song — a highly localized critique of South Korean society – that made it such a worldwide sensation?

Psy wrote “Gangnam Style” to mock the bravado, narcissism, and showy riches that he felt had grown rampant in the newly wealthy country – symbolized by the youth who frequented the ultra-rich Gangnam district, dubbed “the Beverly Hills of Seoul” by locals.

The music video for “Gangnam Style” was shot in just 48 hours and featured a slew of well-known South Korean celebrities to secure local success. Hwang Min-woo, a seven-year-old whose dancing had caused a stir on TV talent shows, was invited in to add his unique routines, as was comedian and TV personality Soon Jae-suk (who dances alongside Psy in a yellow suit).

The classic elevator dance was performed by TV personality No Hong-chul, with K-pop sensation Hyuna playing the love interest. Then there was the “horse dance” itself, of course. Psy has already established a name for his wacky dance techniques. He and his choreographer spent a month perfecting “Gangnam Style’s” trademark horse trot and lasso spin to give his followers something special.

What is the formula then that BTS and others follow? There is nuance to this but let us focus on BTS and see what evidence there is for how they are successful and continue to do it.

  • They write a lot of their own music and lyrics.
  • Their songs are socially sensitive, and they are particularly adept at depicting the constraints of modern adolescent life in South Korea.
  • They oversee the majority of their social media presence.
  • They aren’t under “slave contracts,” and their contracts aren’t as onerous as those of other idol groups.
  • They like to promote albums as a whole rather than individual singles. (Despite their recent series of singles in the United States, this is essentially still true.)
  • Rather than always maintaining an exceedingly polished image, they openly discuss their career’s problems and fears.

Fans of BTS, dubbed ARMY for their well-organized and loyal following, reacted so positively to the band’s confessional tactic that tickets for the band’s sold-out restricted US tour were allegedly being scalped for more than $10,000 by 2015. Ever since, the group has sold out all four of its following world tours, along with a record-breaking 2019 tour which included a historic performance at the Rose Bowl, as well as a 2020 tour that was unfortunately canceled due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

So, while PSY may have open the door by causing more attention onto the K-pop scene, BTS, Blackpink, Twice and others are what is making the genre its own and here to stay for the near future.

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