PSY dancing Gangnam Style

The rise and fall of 'Gangnam Style' and his creator, Psy

After 4 billion views on YouTube, smashing records around the world and earning millions, Psy, the K-Pop singer behind the hit 'Gangnam Style' entered a spiral of alcohol, drugs and depression for not being able to create another hit. His fascinating story, below.

  • PSY is the first K-Pop idol to achieve international success.
  • As of 2021, he has a net worth is $60 million.
  • 'Gangnam Style' was released on July 15, 2012, by YG Entertainment and has 4.1 views on YouTube.



Gangnam Style: the eternal choreography

A few weeks ago, witnessed the most surprising scene: In Florida, Miami, I saw teenagers maintaining social distancing, and dancing in the streets. Suddenly, the music changes and they started to perfectly coordinate their dance moves: 'Gangnam Style' was playing. After 9 years from the release of this song, people around the world are still making the famous horse riding moves. 

What does Gangnam mean?

Louis Vuitton store in Seoul.

'Gangnam' comes from the Gangnam District of Seoul, and is known as the 'Beverly Hills of South Korea'. The neighborhood is known for having luxury stores like Louis Vuitton and Gucci, plastic-surgery clinics and the fanciest cars on the streets.

How it all started

Psy dancing Gangnam style

He isn't fit. He isn't beautiful. He isn't young (at the time of the release, PSY was 35 years old). So, why did this song become a worldwide hit? With an electronic base, a Korean rap and a catchy verse, the formula worked. People started finding the choreography super easy and funny, and it spread like wildfire.

Jimmy Fallon dancing Gangnam Style

Remember, we are talking about the year 2012, at the time when viral videos weren't a trend. It was the first YouTube video to reach 1 billion views! Afterwards, other hits like 'Baby' from Justin Bieber, 'See You Again' by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth and 'Despacito', by Daddy Yankee entered the podium. Oh, and 'Baby Shark' of course! 

Fame and riches

Psy at the MTV Music Awards

PSY, whose real name is Park Jae-Sang, started traveling the world in private jets, going to every major TV show and performing with major artists like MC Hammer, Justin Bieber, and many more.  the former UN Secretary, Ban-Ki Moon, designated him as an UNICEF ambassador. Even the former United States President, Barack Obama, cited 'Gangnam Style as an example of Korea's culture spreading with K-Pop.

The fall

PSY during his promotion tour for his other hit, 'Gentleman'

Not many people can surf fame, money and women, calmly. Take for example, Justin Bieber, who had trouble with alcohol, Myke Tyson, the famous boxer who bought a white tiger and lost all his money or many K-Pop stars who committed suicide for the pressure. His life was hell. At one point PSY confessed:

"If I am happy, I drink. If I am sad, I also drink. No matter whether it is raining or sunny, I drink. I am only sober when I am hangover"

He started distancing himself from his wife, Yoo Hye-Yeon, whom he married in 2006. With the immense pressure to launch another hit, he composed 'Gentleman' with the same theme that 'Gangnam Style'.

It got 1.4 billion views (many singers would envy his statistics), but it wasn't the same: his 'magic touch' was gone (despite making a Guinness Record for the most viewed video in 24 hours). Outside Korea, few people know him without his sunglasses:

"I just need to take my sunglasses off, and nobody recognizes me". 

Nowadays, he is trying still to refloat his career, but it seems impossible. It's a mystery not even PSY can solve: 

"Fans make the songs go viral without any specific reason. I tried several times and it was never the same"

We must give him credit to keep trying, and to put K-Pop in the international music scene. Despite he will never make it again. 

Bruno Wahrmann Lockhart

Digital Media Expert. Journalist. Former TV host. University of San Diego Alumni. 6′ 4″ but my mom still calls me 'tiny'+ info

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