What’s the Idea Behind Psy’s New Video?

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Slate's Culture Blog
April 15 2013 4:25 PM

What’s the Idea Behind Psy’s New Video?

psy gentleman
Psy in the video for his single "Gentleman"

YouTube

It is probably impossible for Korean pop superstar Psy to top the unprecedented success of last year’s satirical smash “Gangnam Style.” But by any other standards, his new single, “Gentleman,” is a massive hit. The video for the song garnered 22 million views in 24 hours on YouTube, beating a Justin Bieber record, and as of now has about 67 million views and counting. Like “Gangnam Style,” the song is mostly in Korean, and the video features several cameos by popular Korean entertainers. Psy himself once again clowns around and dances with a bevy of chorus girls and guys. He also yanks chairs out from underneath young women on dates and at one points seems to shout “West Side”? What exactly is going on in “Gentleman”?

Just as “Gangnam Style” was a send-up of an especially wealthy part of Seoul, “Gentleman” is a takedown of privileged, boorish behavior—and Psy once again makes himself the butt of the joke. In his signature colorful tuxedos, he spends most of the video being anything but a gentleman to everyone he encounters: speeding up a treadmill until a woman falls off of it, pushing every button on an elevator occupied by a man who needs to use the bathroom, and so on. Once again, Psy places this attitude in the context of class: In the video’s opening scene, he’s flanked by straight-faced servants carrying shopping bags for him as he parades around an upscale store.

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The accompanying dance moves also hint at snobbish airs: He and his dancers repeatedly rub their fingers together as if rubbing money. (The echo of Tevye singing “If I Were a Rich Man” may be unintentional.) Psy has dubbed another one of his moves the “arrogant dance”; it involves a casual swinging of the hips, with one hand resting under his chin. Fans of the girl group Brown Eyed Girls will recognize it as a variation of the step from their 2009 video “Abracadabra.” One member of the group, Ga-In, appears in “Gentleman,” turning the tables by pulling a chair out from under Psy and flirting with him over dinner.

PolicyMic has attempted a translation of the entire song, and the lyrics are largely about partying and getting a girl. “Hey there I’m gonna introduce myself/ I’m a cool guy with courage, spirit, and craziness,” Psy sings. “What you wanna hear, what you wanna do is me/ Damn girl! You so freaking sexy!” What sounds like “west side” seems, upon further listening, to be “wet Psy,” a lyrical joke which, in the video, is timed with the singer’s literal dousing.

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

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