Psy’s song “Gangnam Style” quickly has joined the ranks of party playlists throughout the world. But what many students might not realize while bumping to the beat is the song’s suggestive undercurrents.
Doctoral student and teaching assistant Veronica Son, who is from South Korea, said she knows her students like the song, but doesn’t think they fully grasp its satirical context.
“I talked to a lot of my students, but they don’t really get the meaning of the Gangnam — they just like the beat (of the song),” she said.
According to Son, Gangnam is a district in Seoul, South Korea, in which the culture revolves around materialism and image. She said the song, “Gangnam Style,” is a satire of the perceived perfection of Gangnam women.
“(Psy) was describing the girls in Gangnam,” Son said. “The girls are spoiled — they have to have $20 lunches and Starbucks, certain brands. Their parents are super rich; (the girls) don’t really work. Plastic surgery in Korea is really hot.”
Finance senior and Korean Student Association President Brian Kim said Gangnam is reflective of the culture in larger American cities.
“(The song) refers to living like the big shots,” he said. “Gangnam is pretty much the Beverly Hills in Korea.”
Though Gangnam might be comparable to certain aspects of American life, Son said it might still be difficult for students to see past the cultural differences, including the style distinction.
“If you go to Korea and look at the girls walking around, they have perfect makeup and high heels, even if they are going to work or the gym,” Son said.
Kim said it was the sarcastic nature of the song that led to its international popularity.
After returning from his trip to Seoul, where he first heard “Gangnam Style,” he said he was surprised to see MSU students listening to the song and even trying out the unique dance moves featured in the music video.
“I believe the satire is part of the reason why this song went viral,” he said.
Communication junior Nathan Belyk said he likes the song, but not because of its content. He admitted he isn’t totally sure what the song is about, but said he doesn’t need to in order to enjoy “Gangnam Style.”
“I do like the song and the vibes it has,” Belyk said. “I think that’s the reason it has become so popular. It’s not about whether or not the audience really knows what (Psy) is saying; it has a catchy and unique tune. Music is all about connecting with your listeners.”
Whatever the reason for its popularity, Son said South Korea is happy to be receiving international attention. As a small country, she said South Korea doesn’t often get the sort of recognition that “Gangnam Style” is providing.
“No one expected (Gangnam Style) would be that popular,” Son said. “I think the Koreans are more excited that (Psy is) getting more popular. Korea is such a small country, but the singer can bring Korea into the world.”