Friday, October 12, 2012

opa gangnam style

Thanks to my neighbor's blessed generosity in leaving their wifi without a password, I have just been finally immersing myself in Gangnam Style, the Korean rap music video that's gone crazy viral in the last few months.

The video's popularity, even in Paraguay, is somehow instantly comprehensible upon watching. It's got an infectious drama and silliness which really makes you not care that you don't understand the language besides the words 'style' and 'sexy lady'. 

I just watched the video of the Today Show hosts and the artist (well, okay) PSY doing the whole song in Times Square. They are all just giddy. 

I think this is a moment for the United States. This video got hugely, irrationally popular, and suddenly swept everybody up. This is what pop culture is like for most other countries. 

Paraguay does produce quite a bit of its own music, more than you would think really, given the awfulness of most of it. But the vast majority of mass media, tv-shows, movies, music, telenovelas are imported from other Spanish speaking countries, Brazil, or the United States.

While the material developed in Hispanic America is obviously comprehensible it is still foreign and inherently a little bizarre. American consumption of British media would be the analogue.

Watching dubbed reruns of the A-Team, Fear Factor, Walker Texas Ranger, WWF Smackdown, and of course the Simpsons can't help but cause some questions about the logic and nature of reality.
More striking is the complete inappropriateness of music in Portuguese or English. Brazilian sertanejos, a style which borrows a lot from American country music, is extremely popular in Paraguay, despite few Paraguayans really being able to speak Portuguese. The hit "Nossa nossa" blew up here last summer. It's got that same unstoppable inevitable silly drama to it as Gangnam style. All we know about it is that it is about a girl, which is all you need to know really.
Before Nossa nossa hit it was that "Hello" song, with the lyrics in English, before that the Barbara Streisand song and that horrible Dirty Dancing remix (which I will not link to).

The point is, in Paraguay, as in most of the rest of the rest of the world, folks are used to basking in the bizarre glory of foreign pop-culture. (The United States of) America dominated 20th century pop-culture, not completely, but in a big way. Folks in Paraguay know about Creedence Clearwater Revival, okay? 
But in America people are not used to un-self-consciously digesting foreign hits. Americans are used to dominating pop culture, and to a really weird and harmful degree are blind to the rest of the world (except Britain). The real rest of the world, not just the charity/enlightened liberal/"world music"/International Film Festival rest of the world. The everyone-getting-irrationally-excited and dancing to music they don't understand rest of the world. The sincere, unironic, barely understood enthusiasm for something that comes from another culture. 
Gangnam style lets America be a part of the world again, for 4 minutes 13 seconds. 
It's a glimpse of the future. Hopefully it reminds us that the decline of America hegemony doesn't mean the end of all life and happiness. Everyone else gets long fine not being us, anyhow.

1 comment:

  1. Now check out the Paraguayan version: