Dear PSY, it’s kind of good to see you back in the limelight after the megahit that was Gangnam Style. I know the pressure to write the next big super hit was mounting as slowly your notoriety began to fade on the international stage. Unfortunately it really didn’t work out how you wanted, did it?
For those of you unaware, PSY is back with a new song, Gentleman, which hit the Internet in April to some very lackluster fanfare. The song has not, up to this point, taken off as big as his first chart-topping wonderhit did – but why? Was the video not funny enough? Was the song boring? Were people just sick and tired of PSY? Well, let’s dive into the catastrophe that is Gentleman.
Here is the video with English and Spanish subs (for any Spanish-speaking readers):
The biggest issue with this song on a lyrical level is that is says nothing. Gangnam Style was about the Gangnam district in Seoul and how superficial and over the top it was, but how people wanted to emulate it. Sure, to international audiences this meant nothing – it’s not as though we could understand it unless we spoke Korean, but at its core it was more than just a club song. What does this song say? Being a jerk to people, mostly women, is fun? Fame makes an ass out of a person? Girls like jerks? Being an ass is funny? How gentlemen no longer exist, or how their definition has changed? It makes little sense, and even having waited for people to translate and analyze it, and no one seems to think it means much of anything – it’s just a soul song about being kind of a jerk. There aren’t even many words in it. It comes off more as a victory march, as if to say PSY has already won the battle of pop culture. Is this supposed to be ironic? I have a feeling it is, which makes up for other lacking areas with this song.
The video itself tries to recapture the grandeur and bombastic nature of the original Gangnam Style with colorful sets, sparkly costuming, big cameos from stars, and even attempting to make funny sight puns. And yes, it looks great from the technical standpoint – in fact, it may have better production value now. Sadly, the effort only half works as the entire video is more confusing than comical. The majority of the video concerns PSY generally being a jerk – pulling chairs from out under women, making someone fall off a treadmill, delaying an elevator to torment someone who needs to use the bathroom, etc. That’s not to say that these pranks aren’t funny, but they seem more mean-spirited than PSY’s usual on-stage persona, so at first it was a little jarring. Finally, he meets a girl, played by Brown Eyed Girls member Ga-In, who not only appreciates his asshole-ness, but also can match it. The rest of the video is more random dancing and imagery, but I assume that they fall in love and have insufferably nasty babies.
The dance is mostly PSY’s version of part of Brown Eyed Girls’ Abracadabra referred to as the arrogant dance, which he did reportedly pay the choreographers for. The simple swaying to the left and right is no where near as fun to do as the “horsey” dance, but it can be easily emulated. It’s sort of lifeless, however, as there’s very little moving around to be seen. Heck, even in the song this is from they spin around in a circle and do other moves while swaying. Supposedly this was the “traditional” dance everyone was talking about before the video hit, though whether this was a mistranslation (after all, PSY said it was a dance everyone in Korea would know) or just a ruse is unknown, which is to say I couldn’t find any link to the original interview or source so I couldn’t tell you.
And while we’re on the subject, the beat was also borrowed from Abracadabra and man does it get a little annoying as it drones on. It is very danceable, and by itself, the song is pretty catchy. In fact, I would have probably like to have heard the song prior to the video, since it’s actually better without the visuals, unlike its predecessor. PSY’s singing still hasn’t changed much, still sounding like a cross between speaking, rapping, and singing, but it works for this type of song. The issue is we’ve seen this type of song done better by PSY and so it diminishes its triumphs comparatively. Still, I have heard a lot worse dreck than this, so points for that.
What Gentleman ultimately became was a failed attempt to create another Gangnam Style and missed what the whole point of that first song was. PSY didn’t write it to become a hit, he made it because he thought it was a fun, entertaining song and it just happened to supernova into this phenomenon. As a result, Gentleman lacks the sincerity, hilarity, and wit of its predecessor. We’ve seen megahits try to duplicate success by carbon copying their first hit, which usually yields awful results. Hopefully, this song will have earned PSY enough money to lay back for a couple of months and do what he always did best – writing funny, genuine songs without worrying about the ensuing paycheck. After all, he was already pretty successful in his native Korea before last year, who’s to say lightning can’t strike twice?
– Catchy melody.
– Clean cut music video with some funny visuals.
– Boring dance.
– Lyrics are vague and don’t seem to tie into any central theme.
– Beat of the song gets a little grating over time.