March 14/13

PSY: Gangnam Style!



On a weekend night last fall, we were visiting another family. My wife and I are friends with the parents; similarly, our children are friends with theirs. On such evenings, the children often keep to themselves.

The night I'm mentioning, though, was different: suddenly all five of them congregated in the living room around the computer. My older son was asking about a song called "Gang Style" and could we put it on?

I couldn't recall hearing of the song, but the other parents seemed to know about it. Soon, they had its listings on youtube. I was surprised that all three other parents - my wife included - knew what my son was asking about, while I had no idea. I was more surprised when, seconds later, they had pulled up the video just from the (I thought) vague description my son had given them. Clearly, youtube had no doubt what my son meant. The whole world knew - except me.

Those were early days for PSY; he didn't yet have a billion viewings, though you could tell he soon would. As the base started to pulse, the kids started to dance. From behind them, I watched PSY....

The purple tuxedo grabs your attention. The horses, peering from their stalls, set the scene for PSY's triumphant vision. He stands in front of a skyscraper, then he's on a boat. He gets in a dance showdown with the guy in the yellow suit, who leaves PSY in command. PSY's patrolling the world he owns, when he sees the girl on the subway.

Like I was by him, PSY is transfixed by the girl. His confidence gives way to wonder and self-doubt. Can he win her? She is in control, while he tries to bring her into his universe.

Back at the nightclub, PSY is once again in command, the beautiful girl now at his side.

The video is an emotional roller coaster, "Gangnam Style". It's current, western-style dance music, but there's not a western-made song of its kind that's better. There's not a better video I know of, either.

In my experience, the Asian cultures have an all-or-nothing dimension. They like quality - no matter what form it takes - and they like to be the best. More than that: I suspect the Asians believe they have always been the best, and always will be. It's a truth they are interested in showing us.

Nestled between the giants China and Japan, Korea has long lived in the shadows. Now, PSY invites, let the sun shine on Korea. I confess to not understanding the words he sings; I suspect they're in Korean. However, at one point he seems to say

Korea not ignore anymore....baby baby not ignore anymore....

While he may not actually say that, I still take the hint. The song and the video are very clever.

Amazingly, PSY came into the living room that night and started our kids dancing, singing in a language they'd never heard. Yet, I have become used to my kids communicating in a language I don't understand. What's important is that the world is getting bigger every day. That's a natural truth to kids, but less so to adults. However, it's a truth that, as PSY points out, we best "not ignore...anymore."

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