For many overseas K-pop fans, Psy emerged out of nowhere with his stunningly popular ‘Gangnam Style’ dance track and hilarious music video. But in fact, he’s been around more than a decade and has a successful career as singer-songwriter in South Korea, where he’s well known for his humorous, catchy music. The release on July 15 of ‘Gangnam Style’ has seen his profile explode internationally. The Journal spoke to him about his music career and the success of THAT insanely addictive song.
Here are some excerpts from the interview.
Did you expect ‘Gangnam Style’ to become this popular?
No, I didn’t expect it at all. Of course every time I write a song, I hope people like my music. But since I’ve been always a singer for the local market, it never occurred to me that people outside the country would listen to my music. I didn’t even have overseas fans. When I wrote the song, I had only one thing in mind — to create a fun song.
What do you think made this song so popular with overseas fans?
To be honest, it’s pure chance. Again, I didn’t aim the song for the overseas market, which has never existed in my music world. I keep hearing international media reporting about the song but it doesn’t feel real to me. Come to think of it, is it my look? Because I look different from other K-pop boy bands?
We spoke to a couple of girls who made a reaction video to yours and they said you are a very likable person because you don’t have a perfect pretty boy image. Do you agree?
I would say I am unconventionally handsome. Or rather only handsome to a specific person.
Do you agree K-pop needs more humor in it?
You can leave that solely to me. Don’t encourage other K-pop stars to jump in… I am just kidding.
What was your thinking behind ‘Gangnam Style’?
As you can see from the music video, I don’t exactly fit in with Gangnam style, not for one second. (Gangnam refers to a posh neighborhood in southern Seoul dotted with luxury shops) The fact that I’m shouting that I have Gangnam style makes people crack up. Imagine if Brad Pitt was singing the song — would it be funny? A twist is important when it comes to writing lyrics. As the song has become popular, I am often asked if there is a hidden message. Since the weather is so hot and the economy is in bad shape, I simply wanted to write a fun and exciting song with a good hook in it.
Your first album came out in 2001 and you’re well known here for fun, catchy songs. What do you make of this sudden global recognition?
I think I’ve been lucky. Thanks to many great K-pop singers, the groundwork has been laid for more Korean songs to be readily accessible to an overseas audience via channels like YouTube. There are now many loyal K-pop fans and Korean music has been increasingly recognized as a unique brand. As more and more songs become known outside the country, people are paying attention to songs that otherwise might have been less well-known.
How did the horse-riding dance come about?
I’ve always tried to come up with funny dancing since I was young, to attract girls’ attention for one thing. It’s got to be funny. I can’t pull it off with serious dances. That’s not me. So I’d say the choreography in the video has my whole life melted into it. Also my choreography team and I often have dance battles just for fun. That’s normally when my staff comes up with hilarious and yet great dance moves. These things don’t come out during serious meetings. We create them while having fun.
We heard that you plan to visit the U.S. next week. Some Korean media have reported that you and Justin Bieber are going to do joint projects. Is that true?
No, that’s not true. But it is true that I am going to meet with Scooter Braun, who produced Justin Bieber. Mr. Braun actually wrote about me on Twitter. It will just be a casual meeting. I don’t know where some of the reporters got their information. It sounds like Justin Bieber and I have already become best buddies! I am a bit embarrassed. To be honest, I don’t expect people in the U.S. to recognize me or anything. I don’t take in the media hype but I plan to do some media interviews while I’m there.
We heard that you studied in the U.S. How did your time there affect your music?
I lived in the States from 1996 till 2000. I attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1997. But I wasn’t the most hard-working student. I rarely went to school. At that time, I seriously doubted that you could learn creativity in school. Music isn’t something you can just learn from other people. Sometimes I regret missing classes. In hindsight, though, I became more creative because of the years of rebellion. I started out as a hip-hop musician and listened to Eminem and Tupac a lot. I love their music, especially their lyrics.
Where did your name ‘Psy’ come from?
It’s from my first album title ‘Psy from the Psycho World.’ It came from the word ‘psycho’ but of course not in the true sense of the word. It means I am crazy about one thing. If you are crazy about one thing, you are a specialist. You are passionate about it.
Source: The Wall Street Journal