Tiantian Liu,

Editor (Asia – Far East)


SEOUL – The topic of “K-Pop invasion” has been brought up many times, but only until a month ago can it be truly considered as a global phenomenon. PSY, unlike most of the pop idols manufactured by the South Korean entertainment production line, is miles away from being attractive, fashionable or sexy. However, he and his massive hit Gangnam Style managed to be the first ever K-Pop artiste/single to top the Billboard chart, UK Top 40 chart and iTunes in more than 35 countries across all continents. Its catchy addictive tune also conquered pubs and clubs all over the world.

According to the singer/ songwriter PSY, “Gangnam” is a posh district in Seoul, capital city of South Korea, and is full of skyscrapers, luxury brands, millionaires and fashionistas. He also compared Gangnam to Beverly Hill in Los Angles. He says, “I just want to some cheerful tunes to make people happy in this depressing time and the bad economy”. Indeed, PSY certainly did cheer the whole planet up.

The music per se is only one of the many reasons why Gangnam Style achieved such fame. The satiric music video and its easily imitable choreography are the key factors involved in making it viral.  One instance proving the popularity of the horse-riding dance moves is that Britney Spears’s performed it on the popular American talk show, Ellen Show. Also, there were hundreds of retweets of the video by celebrities across the world. The number of remakes, flash mobs and parodies on YouTube also reached a astonishing level, let alone the jaw-dropping number of almost 400 million hits the original music video has generated.

There had been numerous attempts of K-Pop to break into the global market. South Korean girl groups such as Girls’ Generation and Wonder Girls both had released English singles aimed at a global audience before. The best record they have had is the position of No.69 on the Billboard chart in U.S. Therefore, the global responsiveness of PSY’s Gangnam Style, that had been created so effortlessly, seems somehow ironic, since most of the lyrics are in Korean and the marketing was primarily focused on the domestic market.

Before this Gangnam fever, Asian music indeed had earned some global recognition already. However, most of them are either in the field of classical music (Tan Dun) or been marketed as some exotic alternative to the normal pop music (Sa Dingding). Gangnam Style can be considered as the first ever success in the mainstream music market of K-Pop and to some extent, Asian pop music.

Undeniably, the centre of the global pop culture industry is very much still based in the West, especially the U.S. and the U.K. Gangnam Style was also criticized because of it similarity to Party Rock Anthem, a dance track by the famous American group, LMFAO. Nevertheless, this phenomenon in some way still helps people in other parts of the world to expand their perception to Asia and Asian music, thanks to the internet and the process of globalization.

The “British Invasion” was one of the biggest phenomena in the pop music history. During the period of 1960s, a great number of British rock and pop acts such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stone had earned massive popularity and recognition in the United States. Now the question on everyone’s mind is whether there be another invasion of the global music market by the South Korean artistes.


PSY – GANGNAM STYLE (Official Music Video)


Image Courtesy: Eva Rinaldi (Wiki Commons) Released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license