Seoul sensation: Meet the Korean cult rapper who's bigger than Bieber
He has been signed by Justin Bieber's manager, has the most "liked" video in YouTube history and yesterday shot up to No 3 in the UK singles chart. But who is Psy, the South Korean rapper conquering the world's dancefloors?
As of yesterday, the video to "Gangnam Style", in which Psy demonstrates the "giddy-up" dance that will no doubt soon be standard fare at Christmas parties, had picked up 251 million views on YouTube. It has also been "liked" 2,500,660 times – more than any other video in the website's history and one million more than Bieber's best effort. Psy, real name Park Jae Sang, is the latest export from South Korea's K-Pop (or Korean Pop) culture, whose usual exponents come in the form of auto-tuned, implausibly attractive girl and boy bands. Their videos regularly go viral among millions of teenagers at home and abroad, but Psy – a portly, thirtysomething rapper with a penchant for bow ties – has eclipsed them all, to the surprise and delight of K-pop's ex-pat fans.
"I am astounded that it's Psy that has done it," said Mimi Anim, 24, a journalist for the London Korean Times. "South Koreans in the UK are feeling quite proud that this short, chubby guy, who is not in the typical image of a Korean pop star, has cracked the UK and American charts. It is helping South Korean culture's presence abroad to grow."
With "Gangnam Style" topping the iTunes chart in nine countries and a string of high-profile television appearances behind him, Psy could quickly become the world's most famous South Korean. He has already been signed by Justin Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun.
"I don't know why Scooter wanted me," Psy told the American music channel, Fuse.
"For all us Koreans, it is a dream to break the American market with songs in our own language. It's going to be history for my country if I can."
Yesterday, he narrowly missed out on the UK No 1 slot but with sales showing no signs of slowing, "Gangnam Style" could yet reach the top. What most fans have not picked up on, however, is the subtext of what it means to be "Gangnam-style".
Gangnam – a wealthy district of the South Korean capital, Seoul – is home to the rich and privileged children of corporate millionaires.
So while fans love the kitsch video and Psy's "riding an invisible horse" dance, the song could, in fact, be a send-up of the rampant materialism of the Korean upper classes.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Al Pacino on suffering from depression: 'It can last and it's terrifying'
- 2 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 3 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Jessica Chastain demands Scarlett Johansson-fronted Marvel superhero movie
Downton Abbey series 5 start date revealed: ITV drama to return in late September
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
New Netflix releases: Films and TV shows coming in September 2014
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ashya King: 'Cruel NHS has not given us the treatment we need', says father of five-year-old with brain tumour who fled to Spain