I have made no secret of the fact that I am rooting for Psy, against my better judgement. Of course, pop stars cannot live on record-breaking billion-plus YouTube hits alone, and the "Gangnam Style" backlash has come and gone with nary a note of new material from Oppa. The wait for a new single has been long and not entirely encouraging, but today, at last, Psy has descended from viral Valhalla and given us "Gentleman." Take a moment to listen to it, then let's chat.
On February 12, 2012, I happened to watched two events in the span of an hour that wound up epitomizing my year in pop music. I had met up with some friends to watch the Grammy Awards, but about an hour in we started to get a little bored, paused the DVR, and started down a YouTube black hole. My friends were fresh on a K-Pop high — specifically on Girls Generation, generally considered to be the biggest girl group in Korea. We watched a clip from their first Japanese tour — the camera glided over a darkened football-size arena filled with hundreds of thousands of points of light as what looked like a giant, angular circus tent billowed with smoke and changed colors a few times before slowly opening up to reveal nine leggy, immaculate pop divas all clad in white. "Look at that. I don't know if you can tell how big that is," Sam said, referring to the gargantuan set piece, but he may as well have been talking about the Girls Generation phenomenon in general. As I watched an impossibly huge arena erupt into a rapturous roar as the band started their first song, I had the strong sense that something huge and important was happening on the other side of the world, something so huge that it couldn't possibly stay on that side of the world for too much longer.
There is a song called "Gangnam Style" by a human named Psy and it's the worst song of 2012. It is very popular, with its official video tallying more than 970 million views on YouTube, but it is still the worst song of 2012. The dance associated with the song has really taken off, making appearances in every wedding reception, bar mitzvah, and after-funeral party attendable, but it is still the worst song of 2012. At one point it was the top rap song on the Billboard charts, an especially awkward achievement, partially because it is to rap what I am to body sculpting, and partially because it's easily the worst song of 2012. And finally, the song has become an easy target for spoofing and remixing, which, for once, makes complete sense, because it is the worst song of 2012.
One of these remixes hit the Internet this weekend, by Philadelphia rapper Cassidy. On paper, this is strange, because he has long prided himself on being pretty much the "realest" man that has ever walked this earth, never concerning himself with "publicity" or "selling out" or "making money." Doing a remix to the most popular/worst song of the year seems like the opposite of that lifestyle — that is, until he takes it in the most unconventional direction possible.
In the world of overplayed songs, a lot is gained via hindsight. It's easy to say you hate-hate-hate that Pink song when it's tearing up the charts, but by the end of the year its offensiveness may be but a faint, forgivable whisper next to the more lasting legacy of its pop superiors. With that in mind, we here at the Overplayed Song brain trust figure that now is as good a time as any to look back and see which of the monster tracks should truly hold the title of Overplayed Song of the Year. As always, the term "overplayed" isn't merely a measurable statistic of radio play or iTunes downloads, it's also a feeling, a arguable level of saturation into the fabric of popular culture.
In 2012, much like the baby Jesus, three gifts were brought to us from faraway lands: South Korea, Australia, and British Columbia. Which was enduringly brilliant gold, which was the sweet-smelling but cheap frankincense, and which would be better used to embalm dead bodies? We are about to find out!
Several months ago, I was in Los Angeles covering a Korean pop show for a major magazine. They ended up killing the story, considering K-pop “too niche” for their readers; somehow, this felt both totally accurate and maddeningly myopic. K-pop remains a largely underground movement in the States, mostly the ken of geeky music journalists, Asian Americans, and gays weary of Lady Gaga’s art-pop pretensions but thirsty for a similar spectacle. And yet, K-pop seems perpetually on the verge of breaking into the mainstream in a meaningful way: The Wonder Girls toured with the Jonas Brothers; Girls' Generation performed on Letterman a few months ago; and 2NE1 were signed by execrable hip-pop monster will.i.am’s management company after he promised to make them a global sensation. Most recently, Psy's video for "Gangnam Style" made him a viral phenomenon overnight; his appearance at the VMAs last Thursday night gave K-pop its broadest exposure yet, albeit still more as a novelty act than for its musical merits.