October 16, 2012

Oppa Gangnam Style: The Craze

Recently, my friend posted the Korean hit, “Oppa Gangnam Style”, on my Facebook page and asked me if I had heard of the song.  I could only chuckle and smoothly reply “yes”.  I love the song and music video, it is just so funny and random, and just exudes what I would call the Korean style.

I knew it was a smash hit in Korea, but I did not realize how big it had become worldwide.  I started doing research and it has been a number one hit in several other countries, including Australia, the UK, Canada, and even Israel, of all the random places in the world.  In the United States it has even claimed and held the number 2 spot on the top 40, which is very impressive.

I recently went home for a week, because my brother decided he needed a wife.  I was allowed to take a few vacation days from work along with my Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) days off.

After my debacle with the airlines and finally arriving at home, one of the first songs I heard on the radio after arriving in the United States was none other than “Oppa Gangnam Style”.  Before I went home, I thought it was a song that only a few people would have heard; I was shocked to be hearing the song on American radio.  One of my cousins, to my surprise, even admitted to liking the song.

It is the most successful Korean song to ever hit the United States.  From what I have been able to gather, it is the most successful song to leave Asia and make its way into the United States.  Not even a Japanese pop song has made it that far up the charts.

The interesting thing is this song has several phrases that should be explained, because they mean very little to the average American or westerner without more context.  The song name alone has cultural meaning that only applies to people who understand or know Korea.  Something that most people don’t understand is that the song is actually making fun of posh or snobby Koreans.

Oppa, for example, means “older brother”, but not just in the literal sense of being related by blood.  It is only used by girls to refer to an older brother, or a man she likes as a close friend.  It is also used to refer to a man the woman is interested in romantically.  It is never said boy to a boy; I know we made that mistake once and the Koreans we were with got a great laugh out of my friend and me.

Gangnam is another thing that warrants a cultural explanation.  Gangnam is a neighborhood of Seoul, Korea.  It is known for its “posh” lifestyles and rich people.  A significantly large portion of South Korean wealthy people live in and around the Gangnam neighborhood.

Style doesn’t need much explanation.  If you don’t understand that word, I highly recommend an Oxford dictionary.

The name is not the only important thing about this musical satire, where the hero is searching for a woman he can connect with.  Within the song itself he talks about finding “A dignified woman who knows the leisure of a cup of coffee”.  He also says he is the kind of man who can drink his hot coffee in one gulp.  The meaning behind this is that he can afford expensive coffee and then just drink it down.

The coffee culture is very big in Korea, and there are coffee houses all over Korea compared to a couple of years ago.  At the coffee shop I frequent, I spend five or six dollars on just one cup of coffee, and it is delicious.  I have not been to a coffee shop in Gangnam, but I have been told that the prices there are more expensive to accommodate people with thicker wallets.
I could continue to explain the lyrics of the song.  However, the best way to summarize it would be to say he is looking for a woman who is a lady in streets but a freak in sheets.

As a satire, this song makes fun of the rich and the way they live ridiculously.  To help put this song in perspective, I believe if the title was written in the America it could easily be called “Sugar Daddy Hollywood Style”.

Image Credit: iconspro / Shutterstock

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