“Gangnam Style” Platform Style

   Though it may be a cop-out to write a ‘creative response’ to a music video, the cultural relevance and omnipresence of Psy’s (short for psycho) “Gangnam Style” pushes the video into the limelight, calling for any and all criticisms to be had.  Accordingly, herein lies the response of both a pop-culture blah-ist and a student of new media seeking to explore music videos in the context of ‘platform studies’.  Bypassing the physical platform by which the music video is presented (i.e. television, the Internet and everything in-between), the notion of ‘technological determinism’ as it pertains to the cultural relevancy of what is physically depicted in the video is of particular interest and great concern to me. 

   To start, one might ask oneself, “What sorts of images would be in a contemporary, culturally relevant music video?”  Before answering, consider the phrase ‘contemporary, culturally relevant music video’.  Though most of us might not consider music videos to be ‘culturally relevant’ whatsoever, the fact remains that to some, they are.  People often define part of their identity by what music they listen to, or there are those who partly identify themselves by electing not to listen to music.  Either way, by identifying with or not identifying with music (particularly music videos) people are quietly commenting on what they find to be socially or culturally relevant, or both.  This brings us back to, “What sorts of images would be in a contemporary, culturally relevant music video?”  Here is a small sample-list that I have come up with;

  • Little kids busting dance moves
  • Girls getting garbage facials
  • Quasi-homoerotic sauna scene
  • A guy taking a shit
  • Explosions
  • Stable (as in horses) party
  • Disco party
  • Boat party
  • Bus party
  • Parking deck party
  • Subway (as in trains, not Jared) party
  • Mall party
  • Slow motion nothingness
  • Girls doing yoga
  • Inventive, but easily replicated dance moves
  • A break-dancing agender in a banana-yellow suit
  • Hip thrusting
  • Hot tubs.

   It may not be a list that speaks to elitist intellect, but it is one quite deserving of academic reproach.  Why this list?  Well, one might argue that if a video had two or three of these component images it would be enough to make the video culturally relevant, so to speak.  Psy’s four minute, thirteen second video “Gangnam Style”, however, has every last one of these images and more.  But why these images?  Is it because we as a culture (and South Korea) value ‘garbage facials’ and intermittent ‘shit shots’?  To a degree I would say, ‘yes’.  People are obsessed with voyeurism and smut, perhaps more so today than ever.  But why are we addicted to these things?  Why do people flip to the ‘comics’ or the ‘obituaries’ or the ‘style’ section before they read the ‘world news’ or ‘national news’ sections?  Is it because platforms like music videos barrage the public with three to five minutes of senseless imagery and completely distort what we prioritize as socially and culturally relevant?  Or is it because, over time, we as a people have silently advocated for more and more of this senseless voyeuristic smut through our media/median choices?  I don’t have a definitive answer to these questions, partly because I buy into some of what is presented in platforms like ‘music videos’ (namely explosions, girls doing yoga, and the occasional agender in a banana-yellow suit) and partly because I’m not quite sure what the alternative would be.  I’ve watched this video at least 10 times since I first saw it two nights ago, and frankly I love it.  I’m just not sure why. 

   In an interview discussed on www.theatlantic.com Psy claims that the video montage was meant to parody the social and cultural values of today’s youth (particularly in the Gangnam-gu District of Seoul, South Korea).  I commend him in attempting to do so, but believe he has actually reinforced these obsessions (for they aren’t really values; I’ve never heard someone say “I value slow-motion nothingness”).  The video has receive over 140,000,000 views on YouTube since its July 15, 2012 debut, which in itself suggests that peoples’ preoccupation with everything the video encapsulates is not going anywhere soon.  Music videos have certainly changed since The Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star”, but whether this change is for better or worst (most would say the latter) remains to be seen.  After all, who doesn’t love to party?


One thought on ““Gangnam Style” Platform Style

  1. I hear your argument, but I’m not willing to discount the importance of the medium the video is primarily being distributed by (i.e. YouTube). There are have studies about how the smaller screen format of music videos—how many tens of millions of those 140 million views were on smartphones?—have influenced the form of the music video. Grand panoramic set pieces (the zombie walk of “Thriller”) have been replaced by close-ups, for example. So, both because it’s relevant to our class, and because I think there’s something really there, the form of YouTube itself should be taken into consideration.

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