Gangnam Style-inspired flash mob in Sydney. Photo by Johnny Au.
Korean sensation PSY, whose catchy song Gangnam Style has taken the world by storm, starts his Australian tour this week. The “Korean wave” has also gained PSY a spot alongside Dizzee Rascal, Steve Aoki and Azealia Banks at the Future Music Festival next year.
Gangnam Style overtook Justin Bieber and Katy Perry to claim first place on the iTunes Music Video Charts and has recorded 479 million YouTube views in less than two months. PSY’s song has topped the ARIA charts for three weeks in a row, beating One Direction and making it the only non-English song on the charts since The Ketchup Song (released in 2002 by Spanish pop group Las Ketchup). It is also the only Korean song to ever make the Australian charts.
PSY has even won recognition from the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, who praised the artist for overcoming language barriers through his use of music: “In this era of instability and intolerance we need to promote better understanding through the power of music.”
K-Pop has officially been added to the Oxford English Dictionary and defined as “Korean pop music”.
Last year, K-Pop fever was at an all time high here when Sydney became host to Australia’s first K-Pop music festival. Though hardly any of the artists spoke English and entry was expensive at $89 to $289, tickets sold well. The fever struck again when Korean boy band NU’EST visited Sydney to judge a K-Pop contest. VIP tickets to K-Pop star Jay Park’s Australian concert sold out in two minutes on September 29. Sydney was also one of many cities around the globe to have participated in a Gangnam Style-inspired flash mob.
Celebrities have been swept up by the Korean wave as well, with LMFAO, Katy Perry, Robbie Williams and Tom Cruise all tweeting their praise for Gangnam Style. During its Overexposed tour, Maroon 5 covered it.
The director of France 2 TV has said the reason why Korean musicians “have no problems succeeding in other European countries, not to mention any other country in the world” is because “they have all the basic necessities down”.
Bernie Cho, the president of DFSB Kollective says the internet has played a key role in their success. “Social-media-savvy K-pop stars are now tweeting, YouTubing and Facebooking their way up music charts across and beyond Asia”
K-Pop’s growing popularity in Australia is demonstrated by the numerous auditions held in Sydney and Melbourne by popular Korean record labels such as JYP Entertainment. Contestants who make it through are vigorously trained in singing and dancing before they are debuted.
Last September, SBS television aired a music video show called PopAsia. The show received more than six times the average SBS audience in its timeslot. Claudine Ellis, communication specialist for SBS, told Meld Magazine she believed the fans’ sense of community was the reason the channel, and Korean music, were so popular. “They call themselves PopAsians. They feel like they have a place to belong to, and they are so welcoming, inviting all their friends to join in and introducing themselves to anyone who is new to the program.” – Daisy Chein