Living Gangnam Style [Seoul Survival Series]


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There was a time when my friends and I would argue over who discovered a band or artist first. This time I had you all beat hands down. NEVER would I imagined being a teacher in South Korea would give me such a huge advantage.

First there was Girls Generation. When they appeared on Letterman I took a small sense of pride. I even used them as an example of what my students could accomplish if they studied English well. You and I both know (if you’re familiar with the group) that most of my students more than likely have better English than many of the girls in the group; but hey, teachers motivate with what we get.

The group made a run for it. They released an English single and did a short tour but I don’t think they quite blew up the way they hoped. They were beautiful, perhaps a little overwhelming amount of gorgeous actually. They were further challenged by the (arguably superior group) Wonder Girls who also hoped to take America by storm. Never saw the record sales, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say neither group quite met their goals.

The first day I saw the Gangnam Style video on YouTube after hearing the song blasting from a store on my walk home, I was so excited. The song was not only a catchy mind eraser but the video was ridiculously entertaining.

I apologize to all my friends who live in Korea that came to my villa or ran into me with an Internet connected device available around this time. I played the sh*t out of that song! For everyone I saw. When I ran out of people, and others started avoiding me worried I would neglect to remember that I already showed it to them 20 times, I sent an email back home. “Check out this video! The name in the title ‘Gangnam’ is my new neighborhood!” At the time, I attached a 1 minute CNN clip that mentioned the song as getting over 1 million hits on YouTube. As of this writing, the number is over 170 million.

If you do a search for the video, results include PSY making the rounds with American celebs like Britney Spears, Ryan Seacrest and the like. Then, this morning I stumbled across his performance on the Today show. Holy MF balls! That’s when I realized the poor girls groups who preceded him did it all wrong. You don’t get popular in America by translating your songs to English because there’s already enough pop out there. Your beauty is exotic, but it’s not gonna win you the favor of the female demographic it might only intimidate them. No, you have to ‘dress classy, and dance cheesy.’ Scrap all the Korean modesty protocol and really put yourself out there. The American public will gobble you up if you have a catchy tune whose hook can be mistaken as ‘Open Condom Style’, put on a cool pair of glasses for the hipster kids to get on board and get them all dancing like they are horseback riding.

I was inspired to blog my reaction to the Today show video when I saw the crowd. There were 태국 decorated signs and paddle fans, Koreans of course but lots of the other ingredients of the American melting pot, there was even a woman wearing 한복! They were really into it- PSY had them in the palm of his hand. Not only were they dancing and jumping but they were singing along to a song in a language that has taken me two years to be comfortable with. Although my score of 95 of the song at the 노래방 probably couldn’t be touched by most of them. ^_^ He really worked it and I can’t imagine he wasn’t loving every moment of it. The crowd in attendance and I sure did.

Why am I not sick of this song yet? The same reason I will always be willing to endure an 8 minute instrumental song from the Alman Brothers named ‘Jessica’- it has that personal connection for me. No matter the tumor in my brain, the cysts on my ovaries, how many hours I put in at the hagwon, or the number of elbows I got from the ajummas on the train I am still living it up Gangnam Style and now I have a soundtrack.

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