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OP-ED, Special Features, Original Features

Not Just A Novelty: PSY Reconsidered

By Patrick_Magee   Saturday, June 17, 2017   35,580   1,959   39



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When most people hear the name PSY, they immediately think of "Gangnam Style" and his horse-dancing antics. What some don't realize, however, is that PSY actually has an extensive and accomplished artistic career in South Korea prior to "Gangnam Style." Since the 1990s, PSY has been putting out boundary pushing jams (with equally fresh performances). His latest release, '4x2=8,' is just another example of what's possible with a career of hard work and going against the grain.


In 2001, PSY released his debut album to a mixture of buzz and controversy. "Psy from the Psycho World!" received fines due to what government censors declared excessively profane content, and was eventually halted from sale due to concerns from civic activity groups. His brazen lyrics represented something previously unseen in Korean music, and it captured the attitude of hip-hop's Eminem-dominated early 2000s era. Songs and videos like "Bird" made a splash and caught attention for being simultaneously flamboyant and vulgar.

Subsequent albums experienced similar success and controversy, with "Ssa2" experiencing backlash immediately upon release due to - stop me if you've heard this one before - a marijuana arrest and jail time. Instead of cowering away, though, Psy made songs referencing the controversies he experienced. Naturally, this resulted in more controversy, and his "defiant" words were once again fined and barred from sale to minors.

Becoming a Champion

It was only with the release of 2002's "Champion" that Psy was able to truly win over the public, as the song came out right on time for that year's FIFA World Cup which was co-hosted by South Korea and Japan. Despite all of his prior issues, "Champion" became a runaway hit and soundtracked an exciting time for many Koreans, permanently establishing Psy as a force to be reckoned with in the Korean music scene. Psy had inexplicably turned into a pop star sized rap act, and it was this duality that would go on to highlight the rest of his career.

Starting from today, gather your strength
And join forces and unite as one
Gather your strength and shout out your youth
The free shouts will ring across the high skies
Scream – we are killers of the status quo - (Lyrics from "Champion")

Beyond his controversial lyrics and personal life, Psy was known for being an eccentric and often over-the-top performer even early on in his career. Many of his own songs acknowledge this, and this self-awareness is rather unique within the Korean popular music world. With a stage persona that's halfway between provocateur and caricature, Psy won the people over without ever coming on too strong.

Against All Odds

Prior to the start of his "modern era" and tenure with mega-label YG Entertainment, Psy experienced another controversy in the form of an army service dodging scandal. Interestingly enough, Psy was initially excused from military service due to a rule at the time allowing software developers to remain on the job instead. Essentially, even though he was "drafted" in 2003, he was able to live among citizens in the workforce since his job was ruled valuable to Korean society's interests. This decision was reversed in 2007 because Psy continued to promote as an artist during the time when he normally would have been serving, and Psy once again became a lightning rod for hot takes in the public eye. It's with this context in mind that his 2010 return - and, of course, subsequent world domination - are that much more impressive. To win the public back over so many times is a true testament to Psy's abilities.

Psy has a history that's at once both complicated and accomplished. He established an exponential success rate as his career developed, and bucked the trend of Korean male artists fizzling out after military service and/or controversies. Right as it seemed like he was reaching a point where he could coast on his "legend" status, he transcended with "Gangnam Style" and became an international icon that represented Korea on the world stage. '4x2=8' isn't just a victory lap, it's a fired-up and inspired reminder of why he's made it this far.

SEE ALSO: Psy says he initially did not want to upload 'Gangnam Style' on YouTube

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Hidden_KRD_Kiri Sunday, June 18, 2017

I first heard of Psy as far back as 2004, and he seemed to have quite musical following in S. Korea his style was actually pretty insane, but I guess not a lot of people in western world knew or cared for him much... but considering Hip Hop was pretty much considered at it's peak in the 2000s era I wish more people knew somewhat more about his past projects. I remember his 2002 album 3 Mai being a very popular commercial release when I learned more about him. I didn't really follow his career much at the time because I was still adjusting to K-hiphop starting with Dynamic Duo debut year prior (good times xD). Controversy seemed to following Psy a good portion of the earlier days of his career too so It's really sad it took a slightly goofy song like 2012 Gangnam Style going viral to suddenly increase interest in him as a K-hiphop artist overseas. A lot of people now seem to consider Psy jester of K-pop now, but I think they need to do more research and listen to his old stuff, because the Psy that he known as now is a lot more global in comparison to late 00s era Psy.

Tzuyu_4yu Sunday, June 18, 2017

I love hearing about artists like PSY who go viral over one catchy song even if they've been releasing tracks since the stone ages. It makes me feel a sort of accomplishment for them.

hiroonakamura Sunday, June 18, 2017

if you are into k-pop and you really thought that PSY is only about Gangnam Style , then you're an uninformed, ignorant idiot imho

Tzuyu_4yu hiroonakamura Sunday, June 18, 2017

Well, if you haven't noticed, some of the songs PSY's released were in the early 2000s - a time where some or not a lot of KPOP fans (including myself) were born. Not to mention, KPOP wasn't even that big back then. Also, some of us may not have been too old to remember listening to any KPOP song. So, I suggest you look at all the possibilities before jumping to one hurtful and untrue conclusion. People will see that you're the true "uninformed, ignorant idiot" if you continue to think like that.

hiroonakamura Tzuyu_4yu Sunday, June 18, 2017

i got into kpop in 2011. BUT - i also know about the acts that were big in kpop before that. It's not that difficult to find out really. PSY has been big in korea for a long time and it was even written in loads and loads of Western media at the time of gangnam style. Not knowing anything before your time means that one is actually a posterboy/girl for the word ignorant.

Tzuyu_4yu hiroonakamura Sunday, June 18, 2017

I know about the acts that came before me. I'm speaking for everyone else who may not. And, in regards to your last statement, not seeking the truth to its fullest consent thus further making your own means that you're the poster child for the word "bigotry".

hiroonakamura Tzuyu_4yu Monday, June 19, 2017

how am i a bigot for thinking that people who are uninformed are ignorant? being a bigot means you look down upon others who dont share your view. It's not the same as having an opinion that is negative towards others

borabora_97 Sunday, June 18, 2017

he really is an amazing performer. even though gangnam style is a bop its sad when people reduce him to just a trend considering the waves he's made

JeAnYoung Sunday, June 18, 2017

No matter how you much you like other groups (I'm a Blink) no other person in Korea can match with Psy's enthusiasm during his concerts. He is really well known for his amazing concerts and even had disputes with fellow musicians because he took so many creative concepts and put it into his idea. He is an amazing artist and shouldn't be deemed a one-hit wonder.

chiyasuho Sunday, June 18, 2017

PSY gangam style and daddy was the first korean song i hear, bfore i got into kpop even non kpop dance to it . plus PSY always make the audience dance along especially oversea fans and i love to see tht kinda of performance tht can make anyone fance

sehyunkimm Sunday, June 18, 2017

i loved psy since 2008.

HarryBJ Saturday, June 17, 2017

Love Psy

cabbagejuice Saturday, June 17, 2017

he has definitely pushed boundaries in kpop and i totally get why people love him but lately hes just been doing the same concepts over and over. hes not pushing boundaries with HIMSELF. all artists go through change but they still have their own style. psy is just a broken record to me. if he released more title songs that are like his side tracks i really think he could take things further than he is

sehyunkimm cabbagejuice Sunday, June 18, 2017

well i think what u don't realize is that crazy boundary pushing part of his music videos defines HIS "style." he obviously does ballads and songs that flow with time. i personally think psy is a brilliant artist. but if you are criticizing the fact that all of his music videos are his more poppy /dance songs with crazy choreographies, you really can't blame him. because that is what is going to get him the most views. i mean i see it happening with a lot of other artists too, like big bang. they release so many different kinds of music, but if they have to choose a title song, they go for the more upbeat ones.

JeAnYoung cabbagejuice Sunday, June 18, 2017

Most idol groups change into the trends of what the majority of the fandoms want, that is why they change their image so much. (There are so many idol groups that in 2 or 3 years they get replaced by other groups) 2PM used to be known as the "Beast" group cause of their image and their strong music but later changed with the trend. But artists like Psy continue with their style and repeat because he knows that there will be people continuing to support him because of his lasting influence. He doesn't actually have a fan club, but people love his music and continues to have sold out concerts. If it works out for him, he should just continue with his style. Personally, I really like the new song "New Face."

Tzuyu_4yu cabbagejuice Sunday, June 18, 2017

"Further than he is"? You do realize that PSY's one of the most popular public figures in the WORLD? How could he go even further than that? He may not be getting that much recognition anymore, but I say that where he is is just fine.

pink_oracle Saturday, June 17, 2017

Huh, he liked you use/sample other music a lot in his early days.

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