If you are a person who was sentient in the year 2012, you are going to remember Psy. His megabucks novelty hit ‘Gangnam Style’ set the bar for viral videos, becoming the first to hit one billion views on YouTube. Since then, he’s performed with Madonna, collabed with Snoop and danced with Britney on the Ellen show. Not bad for a bloke whose claim to fame was inventing a dance inspired by riding a horse.
Fast forward to 2017 and Psy is still very much alive. While the fickle world of Western pop may have stopped paying attention, Psy is still churning out tracks, having dropped two new singles this week, each accompanied by highly stylised, choreographed videos.
Like on ‘Gangnam Style’, each of Psy’s new tracks are sung in his native Korean except for the occasional English soundbite. ‘I LUV IT’ and ‘New Face’ are also both similar to Psy’s signature hit in sound, each relentless, electronic dance singles that are the musical equivalent of being repeatedly prodded in the ribs for three and a half minutes.
Despite the language barrier, we are provided with handy subtitles so we don’t miss out on lyrics such as “We like 2 party babe / Throwin’ up in the pottie babe.” Indeed, ‘I LUV IT’ is not Psy’s finest hour, a bleak EDM racket that is somehow more annoying than ‘Gangnam Style’ while possessing none of its comic value. The title sounds like a Madonna album track and the lyrics often read like an Iggy Azalea freestyle: “No hate discrimination all the snakes / and shadin’ BS PS-Y is back what’s up.” It’s nonsense in its most insipid form, too grating to be a club hit, too dull to be a novelty.
‘New Face’ is a little better than ‘I LUV IT’, though its intrusive horn riff is headache-inducingly annoying. But then so much of Psy’s appeal seems to rest on being annoying, albeit in a fairly harmless way. And he certainly achieves that here. The video sees Psy in a series of snappy outfits, dancing his way through various settings, masquerading as a host of characters including a hotel receptionist, a cleaner and a gambler. It’s bright and colourful, like a Wes Anderson fever dream, brash and expensive.
But critiquing Psy seems beside the point, reductive even. He’s not trying to be taken seriously – presumably, anyway – and nor is he trying to be the next David Bowie. For fans of K-pop, tinnitus and innocuous dance drivel, it doesn’t get much better than Psy. Thankfully for the rest of us however, the mainstream has long since stopped taking notice.