Sunday 16 September 2012

PSY Oppa Gangnam Style Meaning

By now this video (PSY - Gangnam Style) will need no further introduction (185 million youtube hits in 2months!!). If you do not know what this is about, take a look at my first post for a quick introduction, along with selected spoof videos by people living in Korea, America and even Singapore.

Disclaimer: From my perspective and in my opinion. Whether PSY had the intention behind the scenes, meanings and ironies, I do not know. Hence, read with a pinch of salt. Make it different people have different views/opinions. More importantly, this post is not meant to defame or ridicule anyone or culture

Food for thought about this video
One of the rare K-pop song that did not feature a boy/girl band and the main cast (in this case PSY) is not handsome/beautiful/sexy. Instead PSY is chubby and not good looking.

After looking at the English translation of this song, watching the video repeatedly, I can only say that there may be hidden meanings in the video. The silly and ridiculous song may not be as simple as we thought. A lot of effort and thought has been put into the video. At least this is what I think. This is mainly due to locations shown in the video, the actions and the song title/lyrics. 

Let's start with 'Oppa Gangnam Style'. 

What does Gangnam mean? 
Gangnam - an area in korea where the rich stays in.

What does Oppa mean?
Oppa is used by females to address older brothers or males who are older than them (the females). Essentially, Oppa means big brother (form of respect).

What does Oppa Gangnam Style mean?
The singer, in this case PSY is telling ladies that he (big brother) is cool and rich (classy), and has a gangnam lifestyle. 

Looking up the english translation of the lyrics, it describes who he (PSY) thinks he is, a guy who is smart (knows a thing or two), cool, thinks properly and is not a nerd. When it comes to having fun, he knows when is the right time to play and goes completely crazy when it is time to play. He also goes on to describe that the type of girl he likes. The girl have the same style as him; is sensible, classy, naive and innocent ('covers herself but is more sexy than a girl who bares it all'). When it comes to playing, she also knows when is the right time, play hard and is sexy. 

Keeping in mind the character (PSY) is supposed to be; rich, cool, classy and the type of girl he likes, look at the scenes in the video. It is ironic as it is clearly not Gangnam style and the locations are not where the rich and cool goes to. Let me try to site examples from the video:

1) Beach? (at the start of the video): Looks like he is relaxing on a beach, with a young beautiful lady fanning him(he must be rich), a drink and even a beach umbrella. But after he sings 'Oppa Gangnam Style', the camera zoom out to show that he is actually at a public playground instead of a beach.

2) Walking with 2 ladies in his arms as trash (newspaper and leaves) and snow flakes were thrown at them on the street: Resembling stars walking down the red carpet during award ceremony/movie premiere as confetti rain down on them (a recent example is the Avengers Premiere). 

3) Sauna: with two gangsters as protrayed by their tattoos

4) Two old man playing chess and then they were 'killed' by an explosion. Could have several meanings:
        a) a lost culture among the young generation as now they play games using the smartphones and
        b) watching the older generation play chest, accompanying them. Today's generation no longer
            does that in this fast-paced and globalised world. 

5) Bus: Disco on a bus instead of a pub or nightclub. And the passengers on the bus have grey hair (older generation). 

6) Sexy ladies doing yoga outdoor along what seems to be the Han River: PSY get to find and see sexy girls along the Han River. (this does not happen in real life right?) These girls should be in a yoga class(indoor) instead, in the Gangnam district or  shopping malls, not the Han River. Ironic. In addition, PSY's description of the girl he likes is sensible and classy. Will a girl of this description do yoga in the open (along the Han River) wearing that kind of shorts?

7) Speed boat: On a speedboat instead of a yacht. The rich with their own yachts (symbol of status) can have parties on board, chill out, ride along the Han River or even impress girls. PSY showed that he can have a fun filled 'yacht' experience using a speedboat too. 

8) Subway (MRT): PSY meets the girl (Hyuna) that he likes, with the same style as him (sensible, classy, naive yet sexy) on the train. Hyuna even does sexy dance moves on the train. At the subway station, observe how 'sexy' Hyuna is through her body movement and her hair. This is followed by them dancing in the subway station. Now who says you can't meet these type of girls in the subway. And ironically, the subway is not a mode of transport the rich and classy normally take. Furthermore, dancing at a subway station and not a pub or nightclub. Hmmm..

9) Emerging from the water with goggles. Looks like he is swimming (alone) either at a private swimming pool or beach. But yet again as he sings 'Oppa Gangnam Style', the camera zoom out to show that he is instead at a public bath house. Ironic! Moreover, as he plays at the 'pool' a member of the public is staring at him. But he is definitely oblivious to that - thick skin. 

10) At the finale of the video a group of dancers wearing different clothes: A closer look, these are all differnt working class people wearing uniforms that represent the; traffic police, chef, wrestler, office worker, maid, taekwondo instructor, waitress, nurse, cheerleader and more.

11) Underground Carpark: Where Jaesuk (a well-known celebrity aka National MC) appears in a sports car and challenge him (PSY) to a dance. The sports car obviously does not belong to PSY. 

12) Horse riding is a luxury. PSY has shown that you do not even need a real horse to experience horse riding as his dance mainly revolves around 'invisible horse riding'. Even when he is at the stable, PSY did not get to ride on a horse, instead he does his 'invisible horse riding'. The closest he got to a real horse riding is sitting on a carousel horse.

13) Wearing Sunglasses: Wearing sunglasses in most of the scenes even indoors, which is not the norm. (just to name a few: sauna, tennis court, stable, toilet, carpark, subway..) Ironically, PSY had to wear sunglasses all the time when he was in America (US) as no one recognised him if he did not wear sunglasses. His comment on America was that it was dark all the time as he never took it off...even at night he was wearing sunglasses. 

Ironically, this is the way PSY depicts Gangnam style. He seems to be making a mockery of  people who want to be associated with gangnam style. Moreover, portray how materialism and superficiality seems to be playing a part in today's world. Being rich and cool is not everything. There are many things/places out there that people are missing out on (subway, tennis court, watching the older generation play chess).

To me, this K-POP hit reminds me of the movie 'Inception'. Different people will have different interpretations of the song.
More spoof videos:
PSY - "MIKO STYLE" (Gangnam Style) Parody By Miss Korea 2012 Contestants

Oppa Gangnam Style (Gwang Soo's cover)

KL Style

Gangnam Style Mom (Umma Gangnam Style)


  1. Love this post!...Can convert blog theme liao haha =D

    1. Hi Alvin

      thanks. can see you are addicted to gangnam style too.

      Still mainly food theme for now. =)

  2. From the analysis you did, I agree on the hidden meaning. Others seems to enjoying the rave all the way

    1. either way its a great hit! yeah! so addictive

  3. woah! social commentary + music review! Are you including entertainment in your blog? :)

    1. Haha, this is the one of the only few song I know. Hopefully it is readable and understandable.

  4. Love the little kid at the beginning of the MTV, he's just awesome!

  5. ha the kid dancing next to him at the playground. He had that only 1 scene and did it well!

  6. Thank you for writing this!!

  7. Amazing!! I didn't even know that the video could have so much meaning! Makes me wanna go watch it again to see all the points you raised. In fact i will right now. Bye.


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