June 02, 2014
Even in a world of “Wrecking Ball”-s, “Let it Go”-s, and “Charlie Bit My Finger”-s, there are viral videos—and then there’s “Gangnam Style.” It’s had a blistering, record-smashing run since it was uploaded in July 2012: zipping past Justin Bieber’s “Baby” just three months later to become the most-watched video of all time (then “just” 800M views), then crossing a billion views a month after that. In the meantime, it spawned hundreds of thousands of parodies and fan tributes from around the world. Even as we near its two-year anniversary, the viewcount has continued to climb: “Gangnam” has racked up almost 100 million views so far in 2014.
And while Psy may be a K-Pop artist singing about a neighborhood most people outside of Korea had never heard of, the “Gangnam” phenomenon is decidedly global: 97 percent of its lifetime views are from outside Korea, with rabid fanships sprouting up in surprising places.
Perhaps most interestingly, the success of “Gangnam Style” signaled a surge in K-Pop popularity on YouTube. Viewership of K-Pop videos has exploded over the last few years: going from around 700 million total views on YouTube in 2010 to more than 5.5 billion in 2013.
Psy’s follow-up to “Gangnam,” another K-Pop banger called “Gentleman,” set the record for the most views ever in a single day (38 million on April 14, 2013). 대~박! (That’s Korean for “holy cow!”)
So what will be the next entry into the billion views club? So far, it’s lonely at the top—Psy is joined only by Bieber, whose “Baby” was inducted in February. Only time will tell which bit of viral brilliance will take the world by storm next. ’Til then, we have just one thing to say… Oppa Gangnam Style!
-- Claire Stapleton