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America’s Disappointing Response to Psy

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Korean pop-star, Psy, came out of nowhere and took over the internet and radio waves with ‘Gangam Style‘ and now his latest hit, ‘Gentleman‘. Since becoming a hit in the US, Psy has been called upon to do his dance and be that quintessential quirky international star. And now, with Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s opinion of Psy being discussed, its disappointing to see how much of Psy’s talent and personality that America has missed out on.

Early in May, Billie Joe Armstrong took to his Instagram account to post a picture of the artist and call him “the herpes of music”. While it’s blatantly obvious that not many people in the States truly value Psy as an artist, his classy response to Green Day’s singer showed that there is definitely more to Psy than meets the eye. In an interview with FUSE after first asking his interviewer to explain what herpes was, he said “I kinda like it, it’s cool. He said I’m like the herpes that keeps coming back. I think it’s really cool. Thank you.” While this response said a lot on Psy’s behalf, it also said a lot about America and our media. Rather than commenting on his classy, champ-like answer, most entertainment news sources chose to mock the fact that Psy didn’t know what herpes was. Forgetting that English is not his native language, even though he is well-spoken in it, this reflects where America is messing up what Psy really is.

For most of America, Psy is a funny name, a funny face, and a funny personality. He doesn’t sing in English and most people just don’t get it leaving most of them to not take him seriously. It’s easy to strip the significance behind “Gangam Style” down if you don’t know what it means and solely find entertainment in the Asian guy shaking his hips. But what most people don’t realize is that Psy doesn’t take himself seriously. He’s a satirist and political dissident. ‘Gangam Style’ was a commentary, not just a fun pop tune to do a silly dance with.

Gangam is Seoul’s wealthiest and flashiest neighborhood. For South Koreans, Gangam represents the ideal life of excess and consumerism. Psy’s character in the video is a wannabe Gangamite. He dreams he’s living the flashy, excessive lifestyle while he’s really just like everyone else, swimming in a public pool and riding the subway. But never in the video does it seem that Psy’s character is unhappy. He’s content to play in a children’s playground and meet the girl of his dreams in the subway. ‘Gangam Style’ is much more that we have made it, but that’s not surprising considering Psy’s background and how little we know about it.

In America, it seems like ‘Gangam Style’ was Psy’s big break when in fact the song had been released on his sixth studio album and his music career hadn’t been about making flashy and catchy songs. He believes music is the key to overcoming the intolerance embedded in his country’s political systems. Throughout his career, his songs have been banned for inappropriate content and have been surrounded by controversy, not to mention the fact that he fought his mandatory military draft.

Psy is a voice for his people. He’s fighting the oppression and intolerance he sees in his culture through his music. And by ignoring his worth and his value, we’re reducing the culture of South Korea into a short man with funny pants doing a ridiculous dance.

Mackenzie is an Alabama native attending NYU and studying Journalism and Dramatic Literature. She hopes to one day live in London and write for the BBC.