Good lord, I love that picture…
Surely you’re wondering why I’m defending a months-old YouTube tunester, largely past his prime and destined to confuse our children. All in good time, my friend, all in good time. But first, I need to address the giant, invisible horse in the room.
For those who never liked his poignant performance lambasting the Korean wealthy, I’m convinced you hate “Gangham Style” because it’s popular. I consider myself quite the curmudgeon on this type of thing, but the man screams at butts. I want to pretend that doesn’t make me laugh, but it does. You laughed too, admit it. Let your inner, immature fifth grader run free, contrary to what real fifth graders deserve.
Something about “Gangham Style” is so laughably stupid that it somehow transcends everything it is. It’s a type of campiness that everyone can enjoy and laugh at, regardless of comedic sensibility. The video is also easily (and too frequently) parodied, which extends its shelf life from “week” to “months.” No matter how much you “dislike” it, you cannot say it’s anything less than a phenomenon.
But I’m not here to defend the song. Not interested. Defending “Gangham Style” is, to summon my inner snob, quite droll. Boring. A languid waste of what little talent I possess.
PSY, on the other hand, deserves a defense this week. You saw the headlines, I assume?
Heat is on South Korean rapper Psy for anti-American rap – Washington Post
Viral rapper PSY apologizes for anti-US protests – Chicago Tribune
PSY Apologizes for “Kill Those F–king Yankees” Rap, “Gangnam” Star “Will Forever Be Sorry” – EOnline.com
So yeah, he be in trobbau.
Here’s the backstory. A decade ago, a U.S. military convoy killed two 14-year-old South Korean schoolgirls in a tragic highway accident. The United States, in a move showcasing our profound foreign affairs wisdom, completely acquitted the drivers. Some South Koreans started torching flags and smashing Americana.
Two years later, a South Korean translator was kidnapped and beheaded in Iraq. Since the Iraq war is considered an American hobby of sorts, the anti-American South Koreans decided to reinvigorate their cause with less smashing and more swearing.
So PSY rapped a song titled “Dear American,” which contained some rather inflammatory language… if “inflammatory” meant “styled after teenage psychopaths.” Ah, therefore his name, I get it now.
“Kill those ——- Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives
Kill those ——- Yankees who ordered them to torture
Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law and fathers
Kill them all slowly and painfully”
Yeesh. Maybe it’s poetic in Korean?
So PSY had to release an apology this week. It’s long, so I’ll add some ellipses and delete the entire second paragraph. If you’re really interested, click the link. If not… skip to the picture like you usually do.
“As a proud South Korean who was educated in the United States… I understand the sacrifices American servicemen and women have made to protect freedom and democracy… The song I featured on in question from eight years ago — was part of a deeply emotional reaction to the war in Iraq and the killing of two Korean schoolgirls that was part of the overall antiwar sentiment shared by others around the world at that time. While I’m grateful for the freedom to express one’s self, I’ve learned there are limits to what language is appropriate and I’m deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted. I will forever be sorry for any pain I have caused by those words.”
Hmm. That doesn’t sound like an angry rhetorician, nor does it sound vaguely hypocritical as if his pants were caught round his ankles. It’s actually kinda heartfelt. In my opinion, his defense comes easily.
Firstly, the song was not written by PSY. “Dear American” is a South Korean metal song from a band called N.E.X.T., a group known for political activism. As Max Fisher of the Washington Post writes, “N.E.X.T. is overtly political in a way that PSY is not.”
Really, this comes down to an issue of language. The lyrics of that song are seriously indefensible. PSY has apologized for the lyrics, and he didn’t even write them. He shouldn’t have sang (correction, rapped) them, but it happened during a complex political time period. Now, he just sings (correction, raps) and dances around like a goofball. His goal is to make us smile, and he has done that.
What kind of political activist screams at butts? By the way, I’ve never been prouder of a rhetoric question.
I find the guy easy to forgive. We’ve all done things that make PR difficult, and he had some reasons to rap something really offensive. It didn’t even make news in South Korea when it happened, so it only matters now that he’s international. And it’s not like people are blindly following PSY for his opinions (else we’d see more neon suits). He’s a good, weird guy with good intentions. He’ll survive this… even if he never has another hit like “Gangham Style.” Which is a certainty.
So I say we let him reign as “King of YouTube” for now, until we find an Ethiopian opera star with funny hats. ‘Cause that’s how internet hierarchy works. By stupidity and whim.