Ten years ago, Korean performer Psy released “Gangnam Style,” a satirical sensation that is largely considered a major international breakthrough for K-pop.
Now, the pop legend is reflecting on the effects of that overwhelming success. While promoting his latest single “That That,” a rowdy collab with BTS’ Suga, Psy alluded to “Gangnam Style” as a kind of “one-hit wonder” for him in the global market. During a press conference for his new album Psy 9th, as translated to English by @Modooborahae, he said, “It was so exhausting at the time of its success [because] the song got popular so it wasn’t a ‘healthy hit.'”
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In Korea, where Psy was already a star, “Gangnam Style” made him an icon. On the global stage, he became a meme. “There were even people who thought my name was ‘Gangnam Style.’” he explained, “Some people overseas who would say ‘Hi, Gangnam Style.'”
Meanwhile, Psy — who now runs his own label, P Nation, managing a diverse, dynamic slate of Korean talent like Hyuna and Dawn, Heize, and Jessi — described the modern popularity of Asian acts like BTS and Blackpink in the West as the “opposite” of his viral moment because they have achieved a “permanence and persistence” he could not.
“There are cases where the song increases in popularity and cases when the [artist] increases in popularity, and longevity is that much longer in the latter,” he said.
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“Gangnam Style” may not have provided Psy with the global longevity he desired, but it revolutionized the industry and propelled the success of BTS and Blackpink. The outsized popularity of the music video, which recently passed 4.4 billion views, likely prompted Billboard to adjust their charting criteria to decrease the importance of radio play and include YouTube streams. “Even for the famous BTS and Blackpink, the wall of American radio is very high because the songs are in a foreign language,” Psy said. “Our biggest weapon is YouTube.”
BTS in particular, “achieved unfulfilled dreams,” he added, like reaching no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with 2020’s “Dynamite.” Surprisingly, “Gangnam Style” only peaked at no. 2 on the chart, losing the top spot to Maroon 5’s “One More Night.”
“If they continue like this, though they’re not doing music for the sake of raising national prestige, I think they’re giving [Korea] a lot of proud moments,” Psy concluded. “I feel very proud that I had a role in being that trigger. BTS have thanked me for that part several times, so I’m proud of it.”