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Gangnam Style: Decoding a worldwide success
By RAJA EL FANI
What’s hiding behind the hit that emerged from Asia under the guise of International Pop?
Since last summer, the weird South Korean choreography has sparked a wave of viral flashmobs; thousands of fans have gathered in the streets of cities across the globe to imitate the dance created by Park Jae-sang, commonly known as Psy.
Politicians and artists, from Madonna to Ban Ki-Moon, have sought the opportunity of a public appearance with the almost forty-year-old singer; while ordinary people have harnessed the dance as an activist’s tool. Led by artist Anish Kapoor, hundreds danced Gangnam Style in support of Chinese dissident and artist Ai Weiwei.
It’s impossible to resist the humour of such deliberately grotesque and clumsy steps, but the reason for Psy’s success is not only a discographic discovery. The song parodies the changing social culture of Seoul, South Korea. Originally shot in the district of Gangnam, the clip is an emblem of one of the last regions in the world to be reformed by materialism.
Gangnam Style’s penetrative power transcends the cheekiness of Hip Hop; not even the young M.I.A, with her upstream Indie-Arabic vein, could achieve such a goal. Satire universalises the insurgent message – Psy has no need for English lyrics.
Beyond the unusual modulations of Korean language on Tectonik rhythm, the real revelation of Gangnam Style is within the cultural decriminalization of the Ridicule, a deep-rooted theatrical tradition. With its direct premise and self-consciousness as a lowbrow creation, this hit single has infringed the authority of tongue. Music apart, this infers that international communication is no longer ruled by occidental means only.
The home video style of the clip imitates a typically careless Youtube product: everything in the video snubs the parcel of edited visual effects and physical performance delivered by the Entertainment industry. In this super-kitsch craze for Cheap that grabs our attention like an outburst of Pop, there is something that defies Andy Warhol’s intentions with his screen-prints, to consecrate the ordinary and make it iconic.
So it seems, against all expectations, the popular spirit is ready to deride modern ideals, consumerism first of all. Gangnam style spreading in spite of economic, political and social crises, expresses an already rooted consensus of Art’s non-monetary, communicative value; where it exists in popular signals.
Here we have a preview of what will surely be, at some level, the Art of the third millennium.
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