Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Gangnam Style" - A Shot-by-Shot Analysis

The Psy "Gangnam Style" music video phenomenon that's taking over the universe is truly, utterly head-scratching to me for so many reasons. But mostly because it's just NOT GOOD. I mean, I'm glad there's a Korean singer that's reaching this ridiculous level of success, so I initially avoided posting anything. But what's disappointing is that there are a few really great pop acts out here like 2ne1 and Big Bang who have amazing songs that should be getting the international recognition "Gangnam Style" is getting. Also, I just can't escape this song. It's been playing at the convenience store, the cafe, the shopping mall, my students are singing it and blasting it on their cell phones. And friends from the States have been posting the video on Facebook. It seems like one friend every other day.

Today was the last straw, as my sister posted the damn video on my Facebook page. My sister is the quitesential New York hipster. Which means she doesn't like anything in popular culture that has a fanbase of more than 37 people! But for some reason she posts "Gangnam Style" on my wall. She also writes the comment "That horsie dance!" While reading that comment, instead of hearing my sister's voice I hear a white grandmother from the Midwest! And since this video is blowing up so ridiculously, I'm willing to bet this is being said by an actual Midwest Granny as you read this!

So I've had enough and I've decided to analyze this music video shot-by-shot and tell y'all why this just isn't that good.

Here's the video for timecode purposes:

PARK (0:22) - After Psy is sunbathing in the park, a little boy appears and dances just like Michael Jackson, with the 'horsie' dance at the end of his bit. This would be fantastically entertaining...if it were 1983!!! It's been 30 years since the motherfucking 'Thriller' album. Not 10, not 20, 30 motherfucking years. We've seen Michael Jackson impressionists in every shape size and form over those 30 years, including hundreds if not thousands of children as well. Cheesy variety shows, reality show competitions, your fucking junior high school talent show night. So why in the year 2012 do we need to see this again? And how does a music video that consists of this mediocre an idea become an international phenomenon? Do we all really have such low standards for what we consider entertainment? A little kid doing a Michael Jackson impression? This is the "best music video of the year"? BTW, we're fucking only 22 seconds in!

HORSE STABLE (0:26) - Here's the first time Psy himself does the 'horsie' dance. Initially, I thought that the success of this song was completely unprecedented. Everyone in the States is a snob for homegrown pop culture and rarely do foreign artists achieve any popularity. So why has this song from Korea become so huge? Moments after watching Psy do the dance here, I realized there WAS something similar to this in the past: the fucking Macarena!!!

Let's refresh our memories: It was 1994 and a pop duo from Spain called Los Del Rio had a smash international hit. It was their first and last hit in the States (i.e. one hit wonder). It also had a ridiculously easy-to-do, funny, cheesy dance routine! So listen up native tribesman from Ghana that has dreams of being a pop singer: Stop trying to be the next Usher. Spend your time thinking of the most inane, asinine dance routine you can possibly think of and the pop music world is yours for the taking!

CONFETTI SHOT (0:33) - Sorry to nitpick but where is all this confetti coming from? I just don't get this joke. Why is this funny??

SAUNA (0:47) - This part had comedic potential. But they do nothing with it. Tattoo man comes in and you think he may be a gangster or something. But he just starts breakdancing. This is a problem because A. We just had a dancing joke with the kid doing the MJ impression. B. It just ain't that funny to begin with. There were so many other funny things they could have done here. A comedic opportunity is totally wasted.

OLD MEN (1:09) - Why do these two old men playing a board game explode? I just don't get it. Why is this funny??? BTW, I found on "Gangnam Style"'s Wikipedia page that the two old men are Daesung and Seungri from Big Bang. Awesome! Except the make-up is so good, we can't even tell its them! Hilarious!

MERRY-GO-ROUND (1:23) - I live in Gangnam. It's bars and clubs and restaurants and shopping and apartments and girls in really really short shorts. There are NO MERRY GO ROUNDS IN GANGNAM! Why is this in the video? What does this have to do with the notion of 'Gangnam Style'?

YOGA SHOT (1:36) - I think I speak for all of us when I say "HOMEGIRL AIN'T GOT NO ASS!!!!!" Why is Psy going crazy for this butt? There IS NO BUTT!!!

DANCE DUEL (1:45) - My friend told me this is a famous comedian Yoo Jae-Seok. I guess this is an attempt at a funny cameo. Only they give him NOTHING FUNNY TO DO. He just does the 'horsie' dance, but slower. Hilarity ensues! Again, an opportunity for a creative moment is just wasted.

ELEVATOR SHOT (1:57) - This is the only remotely interesting moment in the entire music video. This is another famous comedian making a cameo, Noh Hong-Cheol, and it works. The shot is funny because it accomplishes it's goal, to be completely random and bizarre and weird and that's it. The whole music video should have been filled with moments like this.

HYUNA (2:10) - Okay, the dance routine is fine here, mainly because Hyuna looks so friggin' adorable. She's not her skanked-out hot-pants-wearing gyrating self as we know from "Bubble Pop!", etc. She actually looks somewhat innocent and cute, hopping up and down like a bunny rabbit. I don't know what this says about my taste in women. Or maybe I'm just sexually attracted to bunny rabbits!

JIMJILBANG (AKA PUBLIC BATH) (2:40) - Again another wasted opportunity. Psy is drowning in the hot tub, which is sort of a good idea. But it could have been so much weirder and funnier.

TOILET SHOT (3:13) - This would have been another good moment in the video, but unfortunately the gag of a famous K-Pop star sitting in a public restroom toilet has been done before. And unfortunately it was another huge international K-Pop hit years before "Gangnam Style", Wonder Girls' "Nobody" (at 1:17):

The lesson here is: not only do you need a silly dance number to have a massive international-crossover-smash single, you need to have a MOTHERFUCKER SITTING ON A TOILET!!!

FINALE (3:03) - This is is not Gangnam!!! I'm 99% sure this is the brand new Busan Film Center in, you guessed it, Busan, a mere 6 hour drive away! (would appreciate it if someone could confirm as my Korean friend and I searched and found jack squat) Again, what the hell does this have to do with 'Gangnam Style'???

MORE DANCE DUEL (3:43) - Still not funny!!!

OLD MEN EXPLOSION REDUX (4:05) - What for???

CARTOON (4:07) - Cartoon version of Psy doing the 'horsie' dance. Midwest Granny just fell off her rocker! "That 'horsie' dance!"

To sum up, this video is melange of missed comedic opportunities, sloppy editing, and pointless cameos (except for the sexy bunny rab- uh, Hyuna). And I would've predicted it will be remembered as the "Macarena" of the 2010s, but I know the K-Pop marketing machine will churn out a few more hits for Psy. And that's good! Because I'm really rooting for him. I just hope the music videos are BETTER. Because I know 106 Facebook friends will post it on my page! And I might have to watch yet another ridiculous dance routine!

And Psy will be responsible for Midwest Granny's hip replacement surgery as she falls down the stairs attempting his latest dance routine, the 'soju bottle tornado twirl'.

It's a Korean thing...


  1. Wow, how long have you been in Korea for? I've been here 5 months and i've already figured out most things you are missing. First of all this video is a complete farce on the Gangnam area. It's full of ridiculously rich people who spend their money on lavish things. It's not really a Korean ideal and Psy is making fun of it throughout the video along with the people in the cameos. Farcical music has been done before and Weird Al Yankovich made a complete career off of it and was wildly popular at times, at other just a cult hit. I laugh when you say Big Bang makes great music. That "Fantastic Baby" song is horrible and when you actually look at the lyrics it's no more silly than Gangnam Style.

    So with a great beat... plenty of cameos, a silly dance (you can only think of one song like that I can think of 20..Cotton Eyed Joe, The Electric Slide, Achy Breaky Heart the list goes on. You may be too young for this). So, anyway I do appreciate your perspective, but I think you need to have experienced life a little bit more to realize the popularity of this song. It's been a formula proven since the beginning of music and Psy is a veteran to the biz.

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