Asia
9:13 am
Sun April 14, 2013

Will Lightning Strike Twice For K-Pop's PSY?

Originally published on Sun April 14, 2013 6:03 pm

There was another big story on the Korean peninsula over the weekend, but it wasn't about the guy in the north with the missiles and the threats. No, this story was about the guy in the south with the shades and the goofy dance moves, South Korean K-Pop star PSY.

The singer released a new video at a concert Saturday in Seoul for his song "Gentleman," the follow-up to his monster hit "Gangnam Style," which at last count had been viewed more than 1.5 billion times on YouTube.

Tens of thousands of people converged on the city's World Cup stadium for the show, excited to hear his new song and see the new video. PSY has been under pressure in South Korea to see if he can follow up the phenomenal success of "Gangnam Style."

"I have really high expectations for how this one is going to turn out," Lee Han Sun, a 33-year-old power plant engineer, said as he headed inside with 50,000 other PSY fans for the sold-out concert. " 'Gangnam Style' had such a huge impact, and I expect this one to have an even larger one."

The audio for the single, "Gentleman," came out Saturday morning, and Lee likes what he's heard so far. But he was waiting on the key element: the video.

Some here wonder if PSY — or anyone — can match the success of "Gangnam," which took Korean pop, also known as K-Pop, global. Even Lee worries that PSY could become a global one-hit wonder.

"I heard the new single and, honestly, I don't know," Lee said, thinking more like a critic than a fan. "I think maybe there's a 30 percent chance it will flop."

By Sunday morning, millions had seen the video. Reaction in Gangnam — the wealthy, fashionable district in Seoul that PSY parodied with his absurd, lassoing, horse-riding dance — was mixed.

At a Gangnam mall, Kim Kyung Ah, a 21-year-old film student at Seoul's Dong Kuk University, sat with her boyfriend around the corner from a Baskin-Robbins. She said the new video — full of hip-thrusting, slapstick and big dance numbers — was similar to "Gangnam" and a bit of a letdown.

"Because PSY was a big hit internationally, I had this expectation that he was going to produce something of quality that befits his reputation," Kim said. "But he copied this one dance move from a famous girl group, so I thought it wasn't as fresh as I expected."

Kim's boyfriend, Lee Ju Yong, a freelance photographer who is from Gangnam, agreed. He also thought the new video had too much product placement.

Some overseas viewers found some of the video's crude humor, such as PSY unsnapping a woman's bikini top, offensive.

Although the new video did not live up to their expectations, the couple are still PSY fans, and Kim is proud of what PSY has done to boost their country's image.

"He's promoting Korea to the rest of the world," she said, "and spreading K-Pop."

That is a lot more than can be said for that guy with the missiles up north.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We turn now to the big story on the Korean Peninsula. Not, not the one about the guy in the North with the missiles and the threats. But the guy in the South with the shades and the goofy dance moves.

PSY: (Singing) Oppan Gangnam Style...

MARTIN: After that monster YouTube hit, PSY released his new video at a concert this weekend.

NPR's Frank Langfitt has reaction from South Korea.

(SOUNDBITE OF A CROWD)

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: I'm at World Cup Stadium in Seoul and tens of thousands of people are pouring in here for this weekend's PSY concert. They're very excited to hear this new song, see the new video, and also see how he follows up the huge success of "Gangnam Style."

Lee Han Sun is a 33-year-old power plant engineer. He's heading inside with 50,000 other PSY fans for the sold-out concert. Lee hopes the new song will be a bit hit.

LEE HAN SUN: (Through Translator) I have really high expectations for how this one is going to turn out. Gangnam Style has such a huge impact and I expect this one to have an even larger one.

LANGFITT: The audio for the single, "Gentleman," came out Saturday morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, GENTLEMAN)

PSY: (Singing in foreign language)

LANGFITT: That was mother father gentleman.

Lee likes what he's heard so far, but is waiting on the key element: the video. Some here wonder if PSY or anyone can match the success of Gangnam, which took Korean pop - or K-Pop - global. Even Lee worries PSY could become a global one-hit wonder.

SUN: (Through Translator) I heard the new single and, honestly, I don't know. I think maybe there's a 30 percent chance it will flop.

(SOUNDBITE OF A CROWD)

LANGFITT: So, it's Sunday morning after that concert Saturday night. And the video is out and so I've come to a mall in - where else - Gangnam, to hear the public's verdict.

Kim Kyung Ah is a 21-year-old film student at Seoul's Dongguk University. She's sitting with her boyfriend around the corner from a Baskin-Robbins. Kim says the new video, which is full of hip-thrusting, slap-stick and big dance numbers, is similar to Gangnam and a bit of a let down.

KIM KYUNG AH: (Through Translator) Because PSY was a big hit internationally, I had this expectation that he was going to produce something of quality that befits his reputation. But he copied this one dance move from a famous girl group, so I thought it wasn't as fresh as I expected.

LANGFITT: Kim's boyfriend, Lee Ju Yong, is a freelance photographer with a mop of auburn-tinted hair. He agrees. And he also thought the new video had too much product placement. Lee is actually from Gangnam, a wealthy, fashionable district in Seoul which PSY parodied with his absurd, lassoing, horse-riding dance.

So you live in Gangnam. Are your rich and do you own a horse?

(LAUGHTER)

LEE JU YONG: (Foreign language spoken)

LANGFITT: I'm not actually rich, he says, but my grandfather was.

Although the new video did not live up to expectations, the couple are still PSY fans. And Kim is proud of what PSY has done to boost their country's image.

AH: (Foreign language spoken)

LANGFITT: Because he's promoting Korea to the rest of the world, she says, and spreading K-pop.

Which is a lot more than can be said for that guy with the missiles up North.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Seoul.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GENTLEMAN")

MARTIN: This is week, NPR is launching a new project focused on race, ethnicity and culture in America, and how we communicate across those lines. It's called Code Switch. We'll talk about what code switching is, along with the rest of the day's top news, tomorrow on MORNING EDITION.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GENTLEMAN")

MARTIN: You're listening to NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.