When South Korean rapper Psy released “Gangnam Style” a decade ago, few anticipated the scale and speed of its success, and how it would help usher in the streaming revolution.
Its madcap music video with the now-trademark horse-riding dance was released on July 15, 2012. It focused on the local, poking fun at Seoul’s wealthy Gangnam district — but within weeks it went global
And “Gangnam Style” showed the music industry what could be achieved through internet platforms and social media, especially by artists outside the West who did not perform in English.
Psy “broke the rules of the game. The traditional marketing and promotional playbooks were essentially thrown out the window,” said Bernie Cho, president of the Seoul-based DFSB Kollective artist and label services agency and an expert on the South Korean music industry.
Within months of its release, “Gangnam Style” was the most-viewed video on YouTube. It held that spot for more than three years. As of July 12 this year, it had close to 4.5 billion views.
“My one good job, helping K-pop, was changing the rules of Billboard,” Psy said during an interview in May, pointing to the popularity of Korean acts on YouTube. “Gangnam Style” shook South Korea too, becoming the country’s biggest cultural export and a source of national pride overnight.
The horse-riding dance was everywhere — performed on prime-time TV in the United States, in an English football stadium, and by Bollywood stars in India.
Then-US President Barack Obama said his daughters had taught him “a pretty good Gangnam Style”.
South Korea is a global entertainment powerhouse today, but in 2012, “Gangnam Style” was the first encounter with Korean pop culture for many audiences.