Music
4:47 pm
Sat September 15, 2012

In South Korea, K-Pop Gets New King

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 11:24 am

For 12 years, Park Jae-Sang — better known to his fans as the rapper PSY — has had a successful career in his native South Korea.

But now, thanks to the viral video for Gangnam Style, his new single, he's on top of the world.

With 180 million views and counting, it's the most-viewed Korean pop music video in YouTube's history. He's appeared on Ellen, NBC's Today Show, the MTV Video Music Awards; he's signed a deal with Justin Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun — and just today, Gangnam Style hit number one on the U.S. iTunes singles chart.

PSY spoke to weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz about his new success, and whether he's going to take Justin Beiber to Gangnam and celebrate in style.

"We just promise that we're gonna drink all night long," he says.


Interview Highlights

On overnight success

"I am still [surprised] everyday. I just made my album. I did my best. And I uploaded the video just to YouTube. That was all. And within 60 days I am here [doing an] interview with you. [...] I have a lot of interviews, and you are asking some things I've got to answer quickly. So I have to translate all of my answers in my brain. Right now, I am so tired because I've had to wake up early from doing the Today Show. But you know, after all of this I am not going to go to sleep tonight. I'm gonna go get some drinks."

On what 'Gangnam Style' is

"Gangnam is a territory in Seoul, Korea. I describe it as noble at the daytime and going crazy at the night time. I compare ladies to the territory. So — noble at the daytime, going crazy at the night time — and the lyric says I am the right guy for the lady who is like that."

On the story behind the dancing kid in his music video

"You have that program called America's got talent, right? In Korea we have Korea's got talent, and the boy came from Korea's got talent. He is 5 years old, but you know what, he started [doing] all of the Michael Jackson moves when he was 3. I am going to bring the kid [to the U.S.] sometime. Next visit."

On the perils of fame via viral video

"A week ago I was saying, 'Hey. I'm going to promote myself.' Because [my] music video is much more popular than I am — I don't like the situation. But in [the last] week, especially since Ellen and [the] Today Show, when I am walking down the street some [people] recognize me, finally. So me and Scooter are thinking — should we prepare for the next single, or something? We are beginning to make that kind of conversation about my next step."

On recording in English and K-Pop in the US

"I gotta think about it. Because I can speak English, but still — if I have a chance I want my music lyric[s] to be Korean. Because Gangnam Style is working right now. The world's most famous and popular language is music. So if we have some sort of solution with these kinds of dance moves and this kind of music video so that I can use Korean if possible? It's really huge history for my country. So I'm thinking about that, too."

On a possible collaboration with Justin Bieber, who shares the same manager

If [the] song fits us? And it's suitable for both of us? Why not?

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

GUY RAZ, HOST:

And if you're just tuning in, you're listening to WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. And it's time now for music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GANGNAM STYLE")

PSY: (Singing) Oppa is Gangnam style.

RAZ: And the music video for this Korean pop song...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GANGNAM STYLE")

PSY: (Singing) Gangnam style...

RAZ: ...has rocketed one musician to international stardom.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GANGNAM STYLE")

PSY: (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: It's the work of rapper Jae-Sang Park. He goes by the name PSY. And for 12 years, he's had a pretty successful career in South Korea. But now, thanks to the video for "Gangnam Style," PSY is on top of the world. The video has also launched a dance craze in which PSY gallops like a horseback rider and with a lasso. It's the most viewed Korean pop music video ever on YouTube, 170 million views.

He's done "The Ellen Show," the "Today Show," the MTV Music Awards, and he's now just signed a deal with Justin Bieber's manager. In fact, just today, the song "Gangnam Style" reached number one on the U.S. iTunes chart. And remember, this is a song in Korean. And now, the phenomenon, otherwise known as PSY joins me from New York. PSY, welcome to the program.

PSY: What's up?

RAZ: First of all, congratulations on your success.

PSY: Thank you so much.

RAZ: A hundred and seventy million views on YouTube. Were you surprised?

PSY: Yeah. Still surprising every day.

RAZ: You didn't imagine it would happen.

PSY: Never. I just made my album. I did my best, and I uploaded the video just at YouTube. That was all. And within 60 days, I'm here and making interview with you.

RAZ: I mean, I'm here talking to you. So, I mean, I got to tell you, I've seen your video...

PSY: Uh-huh.

RAZ: ...maybe 20 times. Maybe 30 times.

PSY: Aw, come on.

RAZ: It is addictive.

PSY: Make it more, please, from now on.

RAZ: All right. I'm going to boost up the YouTube views. All right. First of all, tell us what is Gangnam style?

PSY: Gangnam style, let me describe it. Gangnam's like a territory in Seoul, Korea. I describe it as normal at the daytime and going crazy at the nighttime.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GANGNAM STYLE")

PSY: I compare ladies to the territories. So normal at the daytime, going crazy at the nighttime. The lyrics said I am the right guy for the lady...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GANGNAM STYLE")

PSY: (Singing in foreign language)

...who's like that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GANGNAM STYLE")

PSY: (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: I watched you appear - you appeared on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show"...

PSY: Mm-hmm.

RAZ: ...with Britney Spears.

PSY: Yes.

RAZ: You taught here the dance.

PSY: Yeah.

RAZ: I'm doing it right now. I'm lassoing that - doing that lasso part. What is the story behind that kid who dances with you in the video wearing the sleeveless T-Shirt...

PSY: Oh, yeah, yeah.

RAZ: ...in the park in Seoul? What's the story behind that?

PSY: You know, you have that program called "America's Got Talent," right?

RAZ: Yeah.

PSY: In Korea, we have "Korea's Got Talent." And the boy came out from "Korea's Got Talent." You know, he's 5 years old, but you know what, he started do all the Michael Jackson moves when he was 3. I'm going to bring the kid some time next visit.

RAZ: Oh, that's going to be huge. You've got to bring him on stage with you.

PSY: (LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GANGNAM STYLE")

RAZ: You actually studied at the Berkeley College of Music. Is that right?

PSY: Yes, I was.

RAZ: What did you study there?

PSY: Well, my major was music business. But honestly, class was too early for me.

RAZ: (LAUGHTER)

So you actually never showed up for class.

PSY: Not at all. And I was young at that time. So the young thought was it's all about creation. And I cannot learn any creation from others. That was my thought at that time. So I didn't go there.

RAZ: How do you speak English so well?

PSY: Well, I didn't attend the school, but I was there still. So I got to speak some English in the market or gas station. And, you know, it's only four-year-old English. So I have lot so interviews, and you're asking some things, and I got to answer quickly. So I got to translate all my answers in my brain. So right now, I'm really tired because I woke up so early because of the "Today Show." But, you know, after all this, I'm not going to sleep tonight. I'm going to go get some drink, which is soju bomb.

RAZ: Oh, you're going to get a soju bomb?

PSY: Oh, yeah.

RAZ: All right. You are actually quite possibly the biggest export from Korea to the U.S. since the Hyundai.

PSY: (LAUGHTER)

PSY: Thank you. Thank you for the mention.

RAZ: Do you think that K-pop is now, like, has found its moment in America, that Americans might hear a lot more of it?

PSY: Yeah. So as you see, like, I cannot say Korean is the best, but I can see Korean has lot of potential. They are so dynamic. So if I can do something little to make some chances to other Koreans, then we're pleased to do that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GANGNAM STYLE")

PSY: (Singing) Oppa is Gangnam style.

RAZ: Now, you have just been signed by...

PSY: Scooter Brown.

RAZ: ...by Scooter Brown, Justin Bieber's manager.

PSY: Oh, yeah.

RAZ: He said he's going to make you an even bigger star in the U.S. What are you guys planning to do?

PSY: Well, actually, like, a week ago, we were saying, like, hey, I'm going to promote myself because, you know, music video is much more popular than I am. So I don't like the situation. But in a week, especially after "Ellen Show" and "Today Show," when I'm walking down the street, like, some of them recognize me finally today. So me and Scooter is thinking, like, should we prepare for the next single or something? So we are beginning to make that kind of conversation about my next step.

RAZ: Have you managed to meet Justin Bieber yet?

PSY: I think it's going to be sometime early next week.

RAZ: Oh, really?

PSY: He just made a phone call today.

RAZ: Wow. Are you going to record with Justin Bieber, by the way?

PSY: Well, if song fits to us, and if it is suitable for both of us, then why not?

RAZ: You're going to take him to Gangnam and live the high life?

PSY: (LAUGHTER)

We just promise we're going to drink all night long.

RAZ: All right. OK. You heard it here first. Are you going to - by the way, are you going to - are you planning to record any music in English?

PSY: Oh, yeah. That's one of my next step. But I got to think about it, because I can speak English, but still, if I have a chance, I want my music lyrics to be Korean because "Gangnam Style's" working right now, right?

RAZ: Yeah.

PSY: The world's most famous and popular language is music. So if we have some sort of, like, solution with this kind of dancing and this kind of music video so that I can use Korean, if possible, then it's really a huge history for my country. So I'm thinking about that too.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GANGNAM STYLE")

PSY: (Singing in foreign language)

RAZ: That's Jae-Song Park. He's better known as PSY. His music video for his song "Gangnam Style" is the most viewed K-pop video in YouTube history, 170 million views. It's rocketing up the Billboard charts as well. PSY, thank you so much.

PSY: Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GANGNAM STYLE")

PSY: (Singing in foreign language) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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