Cultural Diffusion and Gangnam Style

While driving to class today, which coincidentally was a lecture on globalization and cultural diffusion, I was listening to 104.3 MyFM and there was an interview with PSY, the South Korean rapper responsible for the K-Pop single “Gangnam Style” which has surprisingly exploded in popularity here in the United States. Much of the spread happened because of the popularity of its music video on YouTube and its dissemination by celebrities like Katy Perry and Vanessa Hudgens. PSY talked about how honored he was to be in the United States and how he hopes to introduce Americans to more K-Pop artists in the future.

It’s a great case of globalization because I think it is the first time a K-Pop single has crossed into mainstream American music in this fashion and various radio stations are playing a song that is almost entirely sung in Korean. Hearing songs in another language on mainstream radio is not completely new as some singles have become popular here in Spanish and Dragostea Din Tei, sung in Romanian by O-Zone, gained some popularity in the past, but for a Korean artist who was unknown to many in the United States at the time, this is a real breakthrough. People were attracted to the interesting style of the song and music video as well as its accompanying dance moves, but there is also probably a factor of exoticism in there. It’s worth noting that it’s hard to think of an Asian-American artist who is featured on mainstream radio, and yet Psy has managed to get notice and popularity through various media.

There are a few great articles examining the growth of Gangnam Style and K-Pop in general. Here are some to check out:

Gangnam Style’s popularity is still continuing to grow and is increasingly entering the consciousness of people who were not even familiar with the genre of K-Pop before being exposed to the single. Some people think that K-Pop will become an even larger sensation in the United States, as many K-Pop groups have began to cross into American popular culture and tour through the United States’ big cities. Will we hear more Korean songs in the future, paving the way for a more global music industry? Or is this just a passing phase that will disappear like the fads of old?

We’ll see, but for now, let’s all do the invisible horse dance and enjoy the craze.


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