Tan Kee Yun
The New Paper
December 23, 2015
It's easy to be persuaded that Psy is on cloud nine.
After all, his over-the-top music video Daddy recently notched more than 60 million YouTube views in three weeks.
Surely the 37-year-old Korean rapper is feeling like a king, one who manages to mesh electro beats, auto-tuned vocals, crazy dance moves and insane visuals into viral magic.
But Psy, whose real name is Park Jae Sang, faces the unenviable reality of living perpetually in Gangnam Style's shadow.
His 2012 monster smash, with the silly galloping dance, was too catchy, too addictive and, unfortunately, for the superstar, just too iconic.
How do you eclipse a song that became the first YouTube clip to reach one billion views?
Let's not forget that Gangnam Style - now boasting more than two billion views and counting - ultimately forced YouTube to upgrade its counter.
Psy himself acknowledged the "huge stress and pressure" he faced in the wake of Gangnam Style's massive success.
"I don't think something like Gangnam Style will ever happen again," he told reporters at a press conference in Seoul last month, ahead of the release of his new studio effort, Psy 7th Album.
It includes Daddy and second single Bell-Bottoms (Napal Baji in Korean) and is out on iTunes.
"The sheer weight of Gangnam was so heavy, I don't even go to Gangnam any more," joked the father of twin daughters.
He admitted that at one point, he found himself trying too hard to please a global audience.
"While I was writing (new) songs, I often found myself wondering, 'Will this be as good as Gangnam Style? Or what if foreign fans don't understand this lyric'?" he said.
"It took me a while to force such thoughts out of my mind."
In a separate interview with Entertainment Weekly, Psy opened up about experiencing occasional emotional lows, knowing that Gangnam Style "is my lifetime biggest song and I'm not going to top that song forever".
He eventually lowered his own expectations for Daddy.
"I'm just going to do what I gotta do, which is make a great dance song, along with a funny video and some stupid dance moves or something... If people like it, that's good," he said.
Daddy, inspired by Psy's favourite film series Austin Powers and its characters Dr Evil and Mini-Me, might appear inane and ridiculous, but the entire production process was a lot of work, he said in a video interview with celebrity gossip site TMZ.
"I changed the track of Daddy four times, which meant my dance choreography was changed four times, the music video was changed four times and our CGI (special effects) had to be fixed four times," said Psy.
If we were to analyse statistics provided by freelance journalist Tamar Herman, the co-founder of K-entertainment news site Kultscene, the onset of "Psy fatigue" was around the time mass interest in the star's 2013 dance hit Gentleman started waning.
When Gentleman first dropped in April 2013, it scored a whopping 100 million YouTube views during its debut week of release.
Clearly, everyone was feeling the after effects of Gangnam Style.
However, as the months flew by, Gentleman failed to pick up momentum. To date, it has more than 900 million YouTube views and has yet to crack the coveted one billion mark.
Psy then released Hangover, an English hip-hop number with US rapper Snoop Dogg in June 2014, and Father, a Korean-Mandarin collaboration with Chinese pianist Lang Lang in March this year.
Both songs deviated from his Gangnam Style-brand of quirk and kookiness.
Hangover was grittier and edgier and boasted an overall gangsta cockiness while Father was an emotive mid-tempo track with an animated music video.
By Psy standards, both bombed.
Hangover had more than 200 million YouTube views and Father fared the worst, scoring a paltry 7.4 million views.
All this leaves us with the question: Where does Psy go from here?
Should he, at his own suggestion during his Seoul press conference, be perfectly content with "being just another K-pop artist"?
Perhaps, a return to his roots is not too bad an idea. Before he gained worldwide fame with Gangnam Style, Psy had solid hits with Champion, Right Now and Entertainer.
His early material, while not as visually enticing, was simple and straightforward, boosted by his rambunctious, energetic live performances.
And that is way more important than pointlessly racking up millions and billions of YouTube views.
This article was first published on Dec 23, 2015.
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