x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

South Korean meme Gangnam Style gets 59 million hits on YouTube

Desi girl: the pop singer PSY's song has also inspired dozens of spin-offs, including a Bollywood one.

I can't resist a good internet meme – from wide-eyed kittens wielding machine guns to Lego men throwing up their hand and saying "Aye-o, I'm a Lego!"

And my favourite thing about these memes? That you no longer need to be impossibly beautiful to become ridiculously famous. Mass popularity is no longer the domain of chiselled Greek gods and svelte blondes. They have had to move over to make space for dorky-looking South Indians, Speedo-sporting goons and, most recently, nerdy, middle-age men with a hint of a paunch.

Nerdy, middle-aged Korean men with a hint of a paunch, to be precise. If you have no idea what I'm on about, then you might as well give up your internet privileges and go back to your cave.

Gangnam Style is where it's at this month; after all, 59 million people can't be wrong. Yes, that's right - 59 million people at last count - that's more than the entire population of South Korea. Or the entire population of Iraq and Saudi Arabia put together. Or the entire population of Greece five times over. That is how many times Gangnam Style has been viewed on YouTube since its release a little more than a month ago.

The dance pop single, written and performed by the Korean pop singer PSY (Park Jae Sung), came out on his YouTube channel on July 15 to accompany the official release of his sixth studio album PSY 6 (Six Rules). Within two weeks, it topped eight million views – and that's where things really snowballed. The millions kept multiplying and spawned dozens of copycat/homage clips. My favourite is that of a guy singing along to the song while driving a Maserati (because, apparently, that's what you do when you drive a car worth millions: sing along to a song with millions of hits on YouTube). You can find the video with the keywords "White Guy Got Gangnam Style" on YouTube.

I was extremely curious about what exactly Gangnam Style means – which, by the way, is probably one of the only two recognisable phrases in the entire song; the other one being "sexy lady". At one point, I swear he repeatedly says "happy birthday" in Arabic.

A spot of Googling revealed that Gangnam Style is Korean slang for the trendsetters in Seoul's upscale and affluent Gangnam district – the song cheekily pokes fun at them. The ironic lyrics and sardonic imagery are something the Korean audience has apparently seen and heard before, but that hasn't stopped the rest of the world from going crazy after this addictive mishmash of unintelligible lyrics and PSY's irresistible moves. With his strange riding-an-invisible-horse dance steps, this little Korean man has galloped his way into our lives and etched for himself a permanent spot on our hard drives.

As usual, there always are those who want a piece of the action. In addition to the Maserati man, YouTube is also where you'll also find a Nicki Minaj mash-up, as well as Nelly Furtado actually singing Gangnam Style at her recent concert in Manila.

This past weekend, a couple of friends and I spent a few hours watching and re-watching the video and its spin-offs. I wondered out loud if there was a Bollywood version on the internet yet. This morning, one of my friends emailed me a link – yes, it's been done. Look for "Gangnam Style Gola Gola" on YouTube. Maybe a Middle East Gangnam Style soon?