Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
South Korean rapper Psy performs his massive K-pop hit Gangnam Style live on NBC's Today show on Friday, September 14, in New York. Jason DeCrow / Invision / AP
South Korean rapper Psy performs his massive K-pop hit Gangnam Style live on NBC's Today show on Friday, September 14, in New York. Jason DeCrow / Invision / AP

Saddle up and ride for the latest internet sensation Gangnam Style

Gangnam Style by the South Korean rapper Psy is the latest viral video hit, with almost 200 million hits on YouTube since July.

Every six months or so, an online video grabs the world's attention, breaking out of its small inner clique and becoming the talk of chat shows, water-cooler debates and about 80 per cent of all social media conversations.

Earlier this year we had Kony 2012, which started with such hope until it ended up losing much of its appeal on a San Diego street corner. In 2011 there was Rebecca Black's spiteful message of hate to the world, Friday. The current meme-du-jour is undoubtedly the K-Pop sensation Gangnam Style by the South Korean rapper Psy, which has notched up almost 200 million views since July and seen everyone from Robbie Williams to Tom Cruise offer their appreciation. And, unlike Kony or Friday, it's brilliant.

So what is Gangnam Style?

The song itself is a catchy slice of electro pop; nothing particularly inspirational and much like a lot of chart Euro dance currently doing the rounds. But what makes Gangnam Style so absorbing is the video, in which a tuxedo-clad (and slightly tubby) Psy (otherwise known as Park Jae-sang) performs an utterly ludicrous routine of silly dance moves across the Gangnam district of Seoul, including an outdoor yoga session, stables and a toilet. The most ridiculous piece of choreography is undoubtedly his wide-kneed "horse-riding" prance, which has become something of a global phenomenon.

Is it supposed to be funny?

Thankfully, it is. The song is actually intended as a comical dig at the luxurious associations of Gangnam, one of the most affluent neighbourhoods of Seoul that, in an interview, Psy compared to Beverly Hills. And the absurd dancing is all part of Psy's ridiculing of the Gangnam image. "My goal in this music video was to look uncool until the end," he has claimed. "I achieved that."

Going viral

Starting slowly in July, the video began creeping up the YouTube charts, thanks to support from Twitter-friendly celebs such as Katy Perry ("Help, I'm in a Gangnam Style K-hole"), and towards the end of August had overtaken Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe to snatch the No. 1 weekly position. By September 13, it had become YouTube's most-liked video, boasting more than 1.6 million likes and pushing the ear-bleeding Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO into second place. Gangnam Style also charted in the No. 1 spot on the iTunes Music Video Charts, beating As Long as You Love Me by Justin Bieber (who should probably think about incorporating some horsey prancing into his next vid).

Parody time

With much of life these days, within seconds of something going online, somebody somewhere has already made a "funny" version (even though Gangnam already was). Among the numerous parodies is Pyongyang Style, which has a cheeky dig at North Korea, and Minecraft Gangnam Style, which sees the prancing take place within the blocky video game.

On The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, the chinny host showed video footage of the soon-to-be US presidential candidate Mitt Romney making his entrance at the Republican National Convention to the song (if there was ever a way to appeal to voters, this is it).

Britney Spears

In August, Britney Spears tweeted that she was loving Gangnam: "Thinking that I should possibly learn the choreography. Anybody wanna teach me?" Well, just a couple of weeks later she got her wish, and Psy taught her the moves on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, describing them as "pretending to bounce like riding on an invisible horse". Given that her last comeback was heavy in dubstep, expect Gangnam Horses to feature in her next video.

Local version

At the time of going to press, nobody had yet made Dubai Marina Style or Beirut Central District Style parodies. But we expect them to arrive shortly.

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Hajer Almosleh, the winner of the last year's short story competition, at her home in Dubai. Duncan Chard for the National

Get involved with The National’s short-story competition

Writers have two weeks to craft a winning submission, under the title and theme "The Turning Point".

 It is believed that the desert-like planet of Tatooine is being recreated for Star Wars: Episode VII. Could that be where filming in the UAE comes in? Courtesy Lucasfilms

Could the force be with us? The search for Star Wars truth

On the hunt for the Star Wars: Episode VII set, which a growing number of people are sure is in Abu Dhabi, but no one can seem to find.

 With an estimated 18,000 comic and film fans having already paid a visit to this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con, organisers are hopeful they will have surpassed last year total, of 21,000, by its close. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

In pictures: Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai

Dubai's World Trade Center was awash with people visiting this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con. Here's some of our best pictures.

 Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, presents Quincy Jones with the Abu Dhabi Festival Award as the Admaf founder Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo applauds. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival.

A candid talk with Quincy Jones about the UAE, Lil Wayne and the Abu Dhabi Festival award

The Abu Dhabi Festival honoree Quincy Jones discusses his legendary career as a music producer, the return of Dubai Music Week and why he can’t handle the rapper Lil Wayne.

 Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge arrive at Wellington Military Terminal on an RNZAF 757 from Sydney on April 7, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. Chris Jackson / Getty Images

In pictures: Will and Kate visit Australia and New Zealand

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge are on a tour Down Under for three weeks.

 A protester gives a victory sign during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo in November 2011. Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Street life: humanity’s future depends on ability to negotiate and sustain public space

Negotiating our ever more crowded cities and maintaining vibrant public spaces are among the major challenges facing humanity in the coming decades.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National