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!
It is now being reported that Malcolm in the Middle star Frankie Muniz suffered a "mini-stroke" last Friday in Arizona — he was rushed to the hospital by friends after reportedly "acting really weird" and having difficulty speaking and understanding words. The cause of the stroke is still unknown, and Muniz is currently undergoing several tests. "Have to start taking care of my body! Getting old!" Muniz tweeted today. Meanwhile, at the Fountain of Youth, fellow 26-year-olds Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes be chillin'.
Scarlett Johansson Is Depressed: "She was totally out of control in Moscow recently" at a champagne brand's promo event. "She was drinking nonstop and barely slept. It was obvious that she was trying to numb her feelings." She's sad about her breakup with ad exec Nate Naylor. "She's not used to going home alone — it's a shock to her system. The fact that Ryan Reynolds is happily married while she's single again has done a number on her. And the drinking is taking its toll — she's been crying because she feels so fat." She got a lucky horseshoe tattooed on her ribcage "because she's feeling a bit unlucky." A rebound with ex-boyfriend Jared Leto quickly went south. "She thought a fling with Jared would make her feel better, but since it was only a hookup, it only made things worse." Time for Lost in Translation 2? I know I'd pay good money to watch Scarlett be sad in Russia.
10:00 Christina Aguilera is performing on the AMAs and it's terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. And my TV's on mute.
10:01Breaking Amish, how I've missed you. It's been a while, you lying fakers. Also, hello host of the reunion special, Michelle Beadle. I have a feeling this is going to get ugly. I hope you're ready, Beadle.
Ah, the American Music Awards. For 40 years now they've been going strong, unspooling a rich populist music history. (Did you know that in 1974 Donny Osmond co-hosted with a 16-year-old Michael Jackson? Amazing.) And yet, every year, I totally forget they exist. But they do! And last night, the 2012 edition took place at the Nokia Theater in lovely Los Angeles, California. What went down?
Justin Timberlake & Jessica Biel: "You could safely call him a groomzilla." Having gotten over his "inability to commit," Timberlake threw himself into planning the $6.5 million ceremony, renting an Italian resort for the wedding and flying guests in on chartered jets. "Justin planned a series of mini-celebrations leading up to the evening ceremony. Guests were treated to a seafood feast followed by a fireworks display on the beach the day they arrived." He chose Biel's "6-carat princess-cut engagement ring without consulting her" and "picked out Jess's gown from sketches. She trusts him." Well, that's her first mistake.
This week we enlisted Grantland's own K-pop expert David Cho to help us take a closer look at the latest K-pop chart.
1. Seo In Kook & Jeong Eun Ji, "All for You"
David Cho: So here's the way this one works. There's this drama (read: soap opera; for more info click here) that's about Korea in 1997 called "Responding: 1997" that has randomly become super-popular despite not being on a major network. This song is one that's sung by two of the actors, who — and bear with me, as I've never seen more than 90 seconds of this show — are involved in a love triangle.
Molly Lambert: Any idea why it's so popular?
Cho: Popular songs fall into one of two categories: songs that are actually popular as songs, and songs that are associated with Korean TV shows and become insanely popular because all of the country watches a handful of the same shows, which makes a popular show that much more popular.
Lambert: 1997 was a good year?
Cho: Well, actually, 1997 was NOT a good year for Korea. It was the year that the IMF had to bail out Korea because their economy crumbled. I'm pretty sure when you (the reader) started reading this blog post, you did not think there would be references to Asian economic crises.
Lambert: The song is pretty cute.
Cho: Sorry for not finding financial meltdowns to be "cute."
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.