If you don’t know about “Gangnam Style” by now, please let us know what the view’s like from Mars. Thanks to one of the most hilarious music videos in recent history going absolutely viral, Korean rapper PSY has taken the world by storm. Whereas the single has seemingly climbed to the top of every chart worldwide, “Gangnam Style” has seemingly stalled at #2 in the US. Despite an intense period of North American promotion, including surprise appearances on Ellen and SNL, the song seems criminally blocked by Maroon 5’s “One More Night.” Now, any artist in the world would be happy to have their song dominate the second spot, especially if they’re a K-Pop star (a genre completely ignored by Top 40 until now,) but this situation is particularly heartbreaking.
Why, you ask? Well, first off, this is probably PSY, and K-Pop in general’s only chance to land a #1 in America. Despite the fact that PSY has been around for more than a decade, where he has seen incredible success in his native South Korea, he has been a relative no-namer in the Western world. What “Gangnam Style” has created is something completely cosmic. It’s created an iconic moment in pop culture, a la “Macarena.” Whether it’s a sporting event, a wedding, a school dance, or a Friday night party, “Gangnam Style” is going to come on, and everybody is going to be riding their imaginary horses. There’s very little chance that PSY will ever be able to recreate this kind of craze. Quite frankly, despite his endearing personality that people really take to, it’s not PSY that anyone cares about; it’s the song and that hilariously addictive dance. Which brings me to my second point… Something this culturally monumental honestly deserves to go “all the way.” History deserves to look back on “Gangnam Style” as the song that actually DID conquer every major music market in the world. Not that #2 is anything to be ashamed of, but it can’t help but feel a little blue-balled.
Thirdly, “Gangnam Style” is a fantastic, prideful moment for Koreans everywhere. Despite having one of the coolest, most intense music scenes in the entire world, it pretty much all stays domesticated. They’ve finally got the chance to be represented around the world. Sure, the song seems incredibly hokey to the ignorant outsider, but PSY has done a fantastic job of explaining the premise of the track. It really is quite hilarious, and he does nothing but completely own the persona. Is history going to consider “Gangnam Style” one of the greats? Absolutely not. But pop music is all about creating special fleeting moments. The song is an international phenomenon, and just doesn’t quite feel right to not see the song take itself all the way to the top. Now, sure, it’s hard to really blame anyone here. The video sparked a consistent wave of digital downloads, but it took some time for radio to catch on (which is fair.) The way the chart rules are laid out, the edge has always gone to “One More Night,” which saw a much better balance of both downloads and radio play, despite not actually being as popular (think electoral college vs. popular vote.)
So with any luck, “Gangnam Style” will rightfully claim its spot at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 this week, but with its popularly on the decline, it’s certainly going to be an uphill battle.