The University of Iowa

Gangnam Style and substance

November 14th, 2012

Gangnam StyleThe cross-cultural appeal of Psy's global hit

This story appeared in Iowa Now

Sure, it’s got a good beat and you dance to it, but Gangnam Style is more than your usual pop trifle about never getting back together or calling me, maybe.

“There’s something else going on here that explains its popularity,” says Mark Archibald, assistant director for global community engagement in the Tippie College of Business, who discussed the song’s world conquest over lunch with about 50 Tippie students Tuesday. “It’s a reminder of how many times we come across a cross-cultural context in our daily lives that we don’t understand.”

The song, by 34-year old veteran South Korean pop star Psy*, has become a global sensation since it was released in July, an especially remarkable feat in the United States because all but a few of the lyrics are in Korean. It’s a typical example of the kind of Korean pop song known as K-Pop, a mash-up of a thousand different styles from around the world—rap, hip hop, R&B and Latin, traces of traditional Korean, and big chunks of ‘90s techno. Psy blends his influences so seamlessly that in Korea, the country’s official unofficial anthem for this year’s London Olympics, it makes perfect sense that the song starts with an ‘80s hair band guitar lick and ends with bagpipes.

Read the full story in Iowa Now