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Smash hit 'Gangnam Style' turns 10 today


There have been a lot of styles over the years, but for a brief moment in time, one style ruled them all.


PSY: (Singing) Oppa Gangnam style.


That is "Gangnam Style," the pop song by the South Korean artist known as Psy.


PSY: (Singing) Eh, sexy lady.

INSKEEP: The song created a sensation when it came out on this day 10 years ago and eventually topped the charts in more than 30 countries.

MARTIN: The video featured that crazy galloping horse dance and was viewed 1 billion times in its first five months. Everyone was talking about it, like Ellen.


ELLEN DEGENERES: So I danced to this new song that - I don't know if y'all know about this - "Gangnam Style."

INSKEEP: Even Mitt Romney was spotted doing the dance. But NPR Music's Stephen Thompson says this song was more than a novelty.

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: "Gangnam Style" came on as part of this confluence of pop radio and the internet that felt really unusual for its time.

INSKEEP: The song made it normal for viral internet hits to make their way onto the pop charts.

THOMPSON: But it also opened doors for music from all over the world and really represented the way the internet can shrink the world.

MARTIN: Since "Gangnam Style," South Korea has become a pop cultural force here in the U.S. Think about the K-pop group BTS, Netflix's "Squid Game" or the film "Parasite," which became the first non-English language film to win the best picture Oscar.

INSKEEP: Oh, good movie. Michelle Cho studies Korean media at the University of Toronto and finds a connection between "Gangnam Style" and Korean crossover hits that came later.

MICHELLE CHO: I think that it's a thread. Having that recognition, I think, really paved the way for other subsequent works of art and media.

MARTIN: Now, Cho says Western audiences may miss the fact that the "Gangnam Style" video was satirizing a heavily gentrified district in Seoul. But...

CHO: You can enjoy it whether or not you know that 'cause it is an earworm, and it's kind of engineered to be really catchy.

INSKEEP: And you kind of get that they're making fun of something. Stephen Thompson agrees.

THOMPSON: I just listened to it today and bopped around like crazy.

MARTIN: How could you not?


PSY: (Singing) Oppa Gangnam style. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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