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Interview: PSY on 'Gangnam Style,' posers and that hysterical little boy
He's 34, slightly rotund, and happy to laugh at himself and others -- this is the K-Pop star seemingly taking over the world
It’s been a hell of a week for PSY, the K-Pop sensation of the moment.
From a hit music video, a spectacular concert stage fire in front of 33,000 people last weekend, a spontaneous 'guerrilla' gig at Gangnam Station on Tuesday, to flying to LA following a call from Justin Bieber’s label, the comic hip-hop/rap star is riding one high-flying rocket to international stardom.
The 34-year-old rapper's "Gangnam Style" music video has gone mega-viral since its release a month ago -- clocking in at around 34 million YouTube hits as of the time of writing.
Thanks to PSY (real name Park Jae-Sang), the whole world is talking about Gangnam, Seoul's ritziest district, and wondering where -- or what -- it could possibly be.
And over on Facebook, feeds continue to be peppered with posts about the comic K-Pop singer-songwriter’s frenzied “horse dance,” which foreign media is calling “the second Macarena" because of its catchiness.
Amidst all this, we caught up with PSY (short, apparently, for psycho) to ask him to find out more about Gangnam, his video, that crazy dance and his take on his rising popularity.
Look out for announcements of future concert dates, tentatively planned for Christmas and the end of the year.
CNNGo: What on earth were you thinking when you dreamed up that video?
PSY: With this new album, I just wanted to make something that was purely comedic – something that could make people laugh like crazy even in the midst of all this global economic slowdown.
I wanted to make them forget -- just for a moment even -- about their immediate troubles, and to entertain them the way entertainment should be all about.
CNNGo: It’s been very entertaining to read foreign media’s explanations of what Gangnam is and why you are singing about it. So what IS your reading of Gangnam, and why are you singing about it?
PSY: I’ve heard it said that Gangnam is the Beverly Hills of Korea. But I would say that Gangnam is the capital of Seoul, which, of course, is the capital of Korea.
People who are actually from Gangnam never proclaim that they are -- it’s only the posers and wannabes that put on these airs and say that they are "Gangnam Style" -- so this song is actually poking fun at those kinds of people who are trying so hard to be something that they’re not.
CNNGo: So where would you recommend people go when they come to Korea?
PSY: First of all, I would recommend a PSY concert! I’m having a few more at the end of the year so that's a great reason to come to Korea. But also Gangnam of course. It’s just a great place to party and have fun.
CNNGo: How did you feel when you saw yourself on CNN?
PSY: I didn’t believe it. When I saw articles on the other foreign sites like Huffington Post and Gawker I thought it was really cool. But when I saw the CNN video, I actually thought the video wasn’t real! I thought someone had edited it as a joke.
CNNGo: Where did you find that little boy in the video? He’s hysterical.
PSY: Isn’t he great? His name is Hwang Min-woo and he’s five. The night before the music video shoot, I was watching Korea’s Got Talent and saw him dance to Michael Jackson. His moves were ridiculous. So we called him up and asked him to be in the music video, which was shooting the very next day, and he came and it all worked out.
CNNGo: What is your favorite song off this album? ‘What If,’ with Lena Park is great.
PSY: I’ve noticed that a lot of women in their 20s and 30s really like that song! Something about the lyrics about wondering about past loves really hits home for them.
My personal favorite is actually ‘Hot Goodbye’ which I collaborated on with Sung Si-kyung.
CNNGo: A lot of foreign artists have tweeted about how they love "Gangnam Style." Are there any foreign artists who you would like to collaborate with?
PSY: Anyone who has tweeted about me, I would love to work with haha. Robbie Williams, T-Pain … But actually the biggest influence in my music, especially when I was starting out, was Queen. I know that’s probably surprising, but you’ll know if you’ve ever been to one of my concerts that I love to emulate their style when I’m performing live. So yeah, that would be amazing!
PSY's concert, by the numbers
Fires on stage: 1
People in the audience: 33,000
Days it took to build the stage: 5
Number of staff behind the scenes: 400
Number of dancers: 20
Bottles of soju drunk on stage by one extremely excited artist: 2
Number of hours said artist went overtime: 2
More on CNN: The trials and tribulations of bringing UMF to Korea
We've had many enquiries asking where parts of his popular video was shot. Here are some of those and other locations where you can find some "Gangnam Style."
Cheongdam Station (music video opening sequence): 75-1 Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (서울 강남구 청담동 75-1)
Gangnam Station (guerrilla concert site), 821-1 Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (서울 강남구 역삼동 821-1)
Royal Saddle Equestrian Society (the stables from music video), 402 Gyeondalsan-ro Ilsandong-gu, Goyang (고양시 일산동구 견달산로 402); +82 31 977 2662; royalsaddle.com
Han River yoga, Jamsil Easy Yoga, 12/F, 13/F, Roy Tower, 175-11 Jamsil-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 송파구 잠실동 175-11 로이타워 12층, 13층); +82 2 416 3733; 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
More on CNN: How to be a Seoul local: 10 tips on faking it