The most watched clip in the history of YouTube is not the anti-Muslim film that set off rioting around the world last month. Rather, it's a music video that has now been viewed nearly 500 million times.
I was peacefully unaware of this worldwide phenomena until I was recently dragged out of a parental fog of school drop-off/work/school pick-up/children until bedtime/then more work. It was on a weekend getaway in Las Vegas with my husband that I finally joined the viewing party that wasn't to see Jerry Garcia or Jimmy Paige rise from the dead and play with one of the longest running rock bands of all time. Nor even Jay-Z and Beyonce singing about having baby No. 2 or getting a divorce. It was just one guy who has sang and danced his way to more views than every Lady Gaga video combined.
Brad Pitt. Rather he is a little bit round in the middle, and at least 15 years older than your average singing sensation. And in his uberviral video, he is doing perhaps the stupidest dance move imaginable, basically pretending to trot like a horse, in a circle, around himself.
He calls himself Psy, pronounced like "sigh," and the video is "Gangnam Style" (http://youtu.be/9bZkp7q19f0).
Born Park Jae-Sang, Psy is also college educated and married. Basically, he has none of the trappings of a hip-hop artist -- including that he lives in South Korea and his official website doesn't have one word of English on it.
However, he dresses fantastically and moves like a baller. Which, by American standards, I believe makes him the new Elvis -- in the later years, when Elvis was older and a little fat -- because,e like Elvis, Psy just draws you in.
It's his energy, seeming good will, design sensibility and humor that literally pop out at you frame by frame in his 4-minute, 13-second video. Certainly it represents the very best that "K-pop" can bring to the table.
Asian countries are renowned in the marketplace for fully committing to a trend. If the youth of Japan get behind a particular sticker, for instance, it can sell more product than every other sticker in Costco, Walmart and Target combined. But this singer has broken so far beyond Asia and K-Pop. He has been at or near No. 1 in almost every country on Earth that charts music sales -- and has beaten out Katy Perry and Justin Bieber on iTunes in America.
Last weekend in Las Vegas, where I mostly hoped to do some sleeping while away from my kids, I discovered the video on my first moment on the strip. I was walking into my hotel and just followed a herd of people to a TV screen that children, exotic dancers and grandparents were all smiling in front of.
This is gonna be good, I thought.
Psy's video was playing and -- in case you, too, live under a rock -- all the lyrics are in Korean except for three words that the entire lobby seemed to say at once:
"Hey sexy lady."
Despite my husband laughing at my absorption, I was soon over in the crowd and mesmerized by the video. So in the privacy of my hotel bathroom, I watched it 10 more times on my phone because I just couldn't help myself.
Music is meant to transcend age and race and language. But when I think of hip-hop that is almost never the case anymore. The rap rattled off by so many today is so insulting toward women that I can't listen, no matter how enticing the beat
But not Psy's "Gangnam Style." There is a sexual tone to the video and a small love story in the visual, but neither is degrading. And even in the video's most serious moment, when our narrator is yelling directly into camera, the shot widens to show Psy sitting on a toilet. This leads me to believe that even Psy doesn't take himself or his message of "what it's like to live in a fancy neighborhood" too seriously. He's just making his art.
So as I strolled through Las Vegas, noting men and women who were dressed like they just fell out of the other kinds of rap videos that seem to want to threaten, compete and outdo the viewer, I kept wanting to whisper to them all: "Hey Sexy Lady!" to see if I could charm these players to have a laugh, too, "Gangnam Style."
(Diane Farr is known for her roles in "Californication," "Numb3rs" and "Rescue Me," and as the author of "Kissing Outside the Lines." You can read her blog at getdianefarr.com, follow her on twitter.com/getdianefarr or contact her on facebook.com/getdianefarr.)
Diane Farr: The new Elvis
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