Gangnam style = dancing with horses?
Patrick St. Michel: Right now, I can look up the most popular songs in Japan or Korea and then find several English translations of said track floating around online. Entire internet sub-cultures exist around the shared idea of translating foreign song lyrics into their native tongue and sharing them online, a way for international fans to feel more connected with groups they can’t understand. The best music, though, should sound so good on its own that knowing what the lyrics are about should be a secondary concern. I had no clue what Psy sang about on “Gangnam Style” going into it, and the English translation I pulled up only befuddles me more. Yet I know exactly what Psy is going for here, because the music (and the video) spells it out perfectly. This guy wants to have ridiculous amounts of fun. The music is an alternate-reality version of 2NE1′s “I Am The Best,” except with that one’s WWE attitude swapped out for a booze-soaked banger, with the vocals delivered in this gruff voice that signals good times. And vocal earworms like the titular phrase and the “Ehhhh, sexy lady” bits sound great without any Rosetta Stone assistance. Dumb fun crosses all linguistic lines.
Jonathan Bogart: His ko.wikipedia page notes that he’s a day younger than I am, which is a cheerful thought. He’s also apparently had a music career since 1999, and was busted for pot in 2001. “Gangnam Style,” based purely on the video, is a laff riot-cum-bosh party à la “Sexy and I Know It” — or perhaps “I’m Too Sexy.” I’ll tread cautiously around the question of whether it’s actually funny — there’s a long history in Western entertainment of East Asian men being caricatured as buffoonishly unsexy, and I’m not interested in perpetuating that — but his energy and commitment are never in doubt, and that sideways-waddle dance is as athletic as it is goofy-looking. Oh, the music? You’ve heard LMFAO, right?
Iain Forrester: The video suggests that he’s something like a Korean LMFAO (chubby male body presented as inherently comedic is not exactly a big step up from all male bodies being presented as inherently comedic, though some of that perception that that’s what’s happening may be male gaze at my end I suppose). I love the song, though. It’s fun, but at the same time he displays a technical care and commitment in the verses that belies the visual lack of seriousness. Musically he combines some the best bits of sounds shared with YG Entertainment labelmates to great effect. The electro grind is prime 2NE1 and the stop-start spoken bits that turn the song into a series of different builds and releases is similar to Big Bang’s “Fantastic Baby”, only in “Gangnam Style” the beats come back in in a myriad of different and increasingly enjoyable ways each time.
Will Adams: See what happens when you let LMFAO get too popular? Clones start popping up all over the world. Let’s do better next time, America.
John Seroff: “Gangnam Style” wilds out somewhere in that super-sweet spot between video game soundtrack, house and peak spin class workout. The bass is bouncing; the gleefully declamatory vocals put Pitbull to shame. It’s all just somehow skirting a bad headache somehow. The gleefully batshit music video is icing on the icing.
Katherine St Asaph: Video’s a ; it’s got explosions within minute one, guys. We are rating the song, however, which is what you’d get if ”Starships” sounded even more like a Jock Jam. You can mute the video; you can’t augment the song.
Alfred Soto: By itself the song is LMFAO-influenced froth; the video, though, makes the Conrad novel title Under Western Eyes ever more fraught.
Brad Shoup: As this south-of-the-river boy understands it, Psy’s aiming a silo-sized seltzer bottle at the K-pop firmament. Problem is, he hit Benny Benassi, who’s already plenty soggy. Psy sounds a bit like David Bowie on the cinematic middle eight, but that’s not enough to make this intriguing as a sonic high concept. I’m receiving that part as sincere, though, which is about the only defense I got.