Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

19 April 2013

Like him or loathe him, this week he is back. And for those who thought he was just a one-hit wonder, you may need to think again.

I’m talking, of course, about the cultural and economic powerhouse that is South Korean performer Psy. It’s safe to say that 2012 was a good year for the 35-year-old. “Gangnam Style” is still YouTube’s biggest ever hit, with over 1.5 billion views (to put it in perspective – that’s the equivalent of one computer playing it on repeat for 12,000 years). Not to mention the global tour of TV appearances, live concerts, brand tie-ups, revenue-sharing deals and coffees with UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. Hell, he’s even got wrapped up in a few political rows, too.

Psy isn’t just a man who releases CDs. In fact, he doesn’t really do that. He represents a carefully crafted business model for the digital age. Psy makes far more money from people watching his videos on YouTube or streaming his songs on platforms like Pandora or Spotify than he does from selling physical records. He understands the importance of visibility, branding and being commercially savvy. On one level it’s admirable, on another – somewhat depressing.

But it’s hard to ignore the statistics. Psy’s new offering “Gentleman” was revealed last weekend and whether fuelled by intrigue or genuine fanaticism – was viewed around 20 million times in the first 24 hours. In less than a week that figure has risen to 150 million.

The new video is ticking all the right boxes on the Psy checklist: repetitive group dance routine, brightly coloured sets and styling, flirtatious interaction with K-Pop princess (this time it’s Ga In from the group Brown Eyed Girls) and outrageous behaviour. It’s not only feminists who are up in arms about his juvenile attitude towards women – at one point he puts his hand down the back of his pants and smears the contents in a young woman’s face before laughing hysterically. Compared to this, the kicking of a “no parking” sign at the start seems a bit tame but it’s rumoured to be the reason South Korean public broadcaster KBS has decided to ban the video. Nevertheless, “Gentleman” looks set to become a huge hit, both in South Korea and across the globe.

Record Store Day is marked around the world on Saturday and it’s safe to say that going to your local music shop and thumbing through some limited-edition vinyl is still something we believe in fervently here at Monocle. But the fact that a relative unknown from South Korea can use new platforms to dominate the global pop music industry in just a few short months is remarkable; whether you’ll be mimicking the new dance routine on Saturday night or not.

Katie Bilboa is a producer for Monocle 24.

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