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Why Gangnam Style is So Culturally Important

A few months ago, I heard Husband laughing heartily in his office, followed by a yell of “Hun, you HAVE to come and see this”, so I went in and watched what can only be described as  the video for one of the most sublime pop songs I’d ever heard. It had a catchy tune, a killer beat, (and this was the clincher for me) a dance that I could do to accompany it. Could I sing along to it? No, not without a few thousand hours of Korean lessons, but it didn’t matter. Over the next few weeks, we listened to Gangnam Style at least once a day, usually while Husband was trying to work and Sausage and I were horsing around his office, but it made us all laugh.

Then, Husband mentioned that he had Psy’s (the singer of Gangnam Style) album, which I started listening to while I was jogging. It’s a mixture of classic pop and funky R&B sounding tunes and it’s obvious that Psy has real talent. Of course he does, the bloke has released 7 albums and 18 singles. People have obviously responded, it’s become an enormous phenomenon all over the world, reaching Number One in the singles charts in approx. 23 countries and charting highly in dozens of others. It’s had almost half a billion views on YouTube, and that’s just the official version. As far as I’m aware, this is the first time a Korean-language song has even charted in a country outside of Korea, so the achievement is incredible.

The reason that I think this is so significant is that it seems to have opened the whole world up to something a bit new. Aside from the fact that we’re having fun and taking the mickey out of ourselves, just a little bit, we’re listening to music IN A DIFFERENT LANGUAGE. It sounds ridiculous, but this is a huge  deal. England in particular seems to be full of people who don’t want to experience things outside of their scope of comprehension. If I had a pound for every time I’d heard someone say “Nah, I haven’t seen Amelie, it’s got subtitles, innit?” I’d have…well, a fair few quid. I want to scream and shout and strangle people because they, through wilful ignorance, don’t even know what they’re missing out on. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Because English is so widely spoken in the world, we seem to have this sense of linguistic entitlement and feel that people or other things are worthless if they don’t communicate in our language. I know someone who lives in a foreign country and has done for many years and when I asked if he was fluent in their native tongue he said “Well no, we only really talk to English people out there…” which really shocked me.

We’ve encouraged Sausage to be as broad minded as possible and I genuinely hope that something a simple as a slightly spoofy K-Pop song has got the ball rolling in opening more people up to other cultures and made some much needed reparations to peoples opinions of multiculturalism.

And to Psy – we thank you, for so many things. But most of all, for the dancing.

I’d love to know what you think of all of this. And more importantly….can you do that dance?!

8 thoughts on “Why Gangnam Style is So Culturally Important

  1. Lovely post, thanks. I never really got it until I picked my son up from his school disco and saw them all dancing to it – definitely a feelgood thing and something they were all doing – and agree any exposure to other cultures is good.

  2. My toddler would LOVE to move into your house, being a Gangnam Style fan of the hugest variety! But you make a very good point – and it’s one I hadn’t considered before. I heard a piece on the news about Psy and he’s an incredibly talented man. He has a music degree and has written and choreographed for all sorts of stars apparently. Interesting – I expect my 2 yo would love the album!

  3. I guess because I’m a bit of a video gamer, I’ve sort of been there, done that, with J-pop over a decade ago. What is interesting is the way Psy and his record label have actively encouraged rip offs/covers/parodies because rather than pissing everyone off with DMCA take down notices, they’ve aided the spread of the song/video to a much wider audience. More power to them, especially if it was intentional 😉

  4. I totally get what your saying, I think English people can be closed off and ‘lazy’ when it comes to other languages, we go to other countries and expect everyone to speak to us in English.
    There was another song out a few years ago in a different language ‘dragos dan din tae’ or something lol that was incredibly cheesy but fun.
    As for gangnam style…. My friend and I have been doing the dance whilst cooking and shopping gangnam style hahaha really has made and impact!

    1. Ooops, should probably also say that yep, it’s definitely a good thing to be embracing new things. The UK is a multicultural society, the more we accept it and learn from it the more rich and colourful we will be (and the more silly dances we will have!).

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