It pains me to write this because I know I am one of the lone conservatives in the expat community in Korea. I watch the O’Reilly Factor nearly every morning for a conservative spin on the news. I am not solely informed by O’Reilly; I am a big reader of the New York Times (quoted quite often in some of my posts) and I enjoy watching liberal commentators like Rachel Maddows and Bill Maher. However, when I want a conservative take on issues, I enjoy listening to Bill O’Reilly. I think many people, whether liberal or conservative, enjoy his show. Nevertheless, the one area where O’Reilly remains completely misinformed is music and pop culture. He has a track record of embarrassing himself when he addresses popular music (see O’Reilly and Jon Stewart discuss Common) and his accusations often lack any credibility or logic. Unfortunately, O’Reilly’s greatest gaffe thus far is his recent heartless and uninformed commentary about Psy.
In a five-minute clip, O’Reilly showed a short portion of “Gangnam Style” and explained to his senior audience (the people who will never watch the video) that the music video is the most watched video of all time (over 800 million views). Next, he welcomed an obviously brilliant (the completely clueless Keith Ablow) psychologist from Boston to help explain why the video is so popular.
There were a number of obvious and logical explanations available for this brain trust of pop culture; yet, they chose the only uninformed and illogical explanation that takes a beautiful, transcendent, international success and transforms it into opium for the masses. In their view, “Gangnam Style” is a success because it’s meaningless and people watch it so they can feel numb. According to O’Reilly, the world wants to become zombies, and the zombie apocalypse begins by watching “Gangnam Style.” Do you think I’m kidding? Watch the segment for yourself.
For O’Reilly to erroneously proclaim that “Gangnam Style” has no meaning is irresponsible. If he is going to make such a bold and fresh statement, he and his writers should at least google the song and search for its meaning. If O’Reilly did this, he would discover an irony-laced song criticizing the materially excessive culture of South Korea. Psy did not only create a hit song, he bravely criticized his country in a country that does not receive criticism as well as the United States. O’Reilly practices bad journalism when he dismisses Psy’s song as meaningless to listeners because it is in a foreign language. Furthermore, he insulted the entire world in the process. When was it a requirement for entertainment to be in English or to fulfill a quota for “meaning?” O’Reilly should not dismiss trends just because he doesn’t personally understand them or because he doesn’t think they live up to his idols – The Beach Boys.
If O’Reilly had completed any research on Psy, he would have learned Psy just finished his sixth album. No one completes six different albums without any talent or substance. Psy has worked diligently to bring respect and positive awareness to South Korea. He has paid his dues to be successful. Furthermore, he finally accomplished what so many K-Pop stars have failed and longed to do – conquer the west. Psy deserved more than to be referred to as the “little fat guy from Pyongyang” (the capital of North Korea-so insulting). Unfortunately, O’Reilly decided to ignore facts and reinforce the belligerent and ignorant stereotype of Americans that expats like myself fight every day to dispel.
Nonetheless, I believe O’Reilly is a good guy and simply erred in this situation. Since O’Reilly is a common sense, no-nonsense, no-spin guy, I decided to lend him and his writing team five common sense reasons for “Gangnam Style’s” meteoric rise. These hard to ascertain reasons are more accurate and plausible than his explanation of a world gone numb.
Gangnam Style is Funny
People like to laugh and have a good time. Psy’s video makes people laugh and have a good time. This is one of the primary reasons entertainment exists. Things that are really funny tend to be really popular.
“Gangnam Style” blew up on the Internet, but early tweets from celebrities like T-Pain, Josh Groban, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry accelerated the awareness and popularity of the video. Even Nelly Furtado performed a version of “Gangnam Style” when touring in the Philippines.
People like good music. “Gangnam Style” is an extremely catchy song, and good songs tend to be popular.
People like dancing
People like to dance and good dance songs tend to be popular. Did O’Reilly not see the crowd’s reaction to the “Gangnam Style” at Dodger Stadium? The crowd didn’t want to feel numb; they wanted to dance.
One of my friends watched Psy’s performance at City Hall in Seoul and several Korean journalist asked him why the “fat” Psy was so much more popular than attractive K-pop groups and singers. My friend mentioned the answers above, but he also mentioned something profound – Psy is relatable. Psy is not a model; he is a slightly overweight guy who likes to dance, stare at beautiful women, have a good time, and makes people smile. I’m no psychologist from Massachusetts, but who can’t relate to that? Everyone in the world loves to see the average guy succeed.
This was the most shocking of O’Reilly’s criticism. He claimed the song didn’t mean anything. This upsets me because Psy’s other music is either very patriotic or very meaningful. Additionally, the “Gangnam Style” video is very critical of the obsession of wealth in South Korea. Do people in the world dislike excessive wealth? If anyone understands the popular appeal of this concept, it should be O’Reilly who fights class warfare on a daily basis.
I believe these five simple reasons are far more factual and plausible than O’Reilly’s explanation. Plus, I don’t think the world is going numb. The world likes to dance and smile like it always has. That’s just my opinion – no spin.
(side note – This article has made some rounds on reddit and a lot of people have commented that PSY claimed his song has no meaning. I’ve yet to see an actual report of this while papers like the New York Times agree with my opinion that the video is at least a subtle, cultural critique. I admit, nothing in the lyrics of “Gangnam Style” critique Korea. However, the video and the work as a whole are obviously mocking the perceived “Gangnam lifestyle.”)
What does Gangnam Style Mean? – By Erica Han Jin
Gangnam Style Dissected by The Atlantic