Very important anniversary this month, as PSY’s “Gangnam Style” turned five. I wrote about its legacy for Pitchfork.
Earlier this week, “Gangnam Style” was knocked off its perch as the most viewed video on YouTube. Korean pop star PSY had held the title since November 2012, when he became the first person to reach 1 billion views, then 2 billion, breaking YouTube’s view counter in the process. Alas, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s plodding Fast & Furious ballad “See You Again” finally leap-frogged over “Gangnam Style”—a changing of the guard that arrives just as PSY’s hit celebrates its fifth anniversary.
Released July 15, 2012, “Gangnam Style” immediately reached the top of South Korea’s music charts, as one would expect from PSY (real name Park Jae-sang), a rapper boasting nationwide success over the previous decade. But nobody expected anyone abroad to notice. K-pop, with its controlled star-grooming system and skilled performance groups, was starting to get attention internationally and inspire an avalanche of trendpieces. “Gangnam Style,” however, looked and sounded nothing like the K-pop norm, its big EDM chorus poking fun at the upper-class Seoul neighborhood of Gangnam.