Hidden Meanings of ‘Gentleman’ and ‘Gangnam Style’ are…

:
The Hidden Meanings of ‘Gentleman’ and ‘Gangnam Style’ are Completely Lost on Korea and the World (and Maybe Even on PSY)
 

This post follows on from an article I wrote for asiapundits last week, where I called into question the image that Psy is creating for himself, and that because the country is so muc

The Hidden Meanings of ‘Gentleman’ and ‘Gangnam Style’ are Completely Lost on Korea and the World (and Maybe Even on PSY)
 

This post follows on from an article I wrote for asiapundits last week, where I called into question the image that Psy is creating for himself, and that because the country is so much in his corner, the image of Korea in many people’s eyes also. 

If you hadn’t figured it out, yes there are hidden messages in Psy’s new song ‘Gentleman’ so perhaps it isn’t all that bad after all.  This maybe no surprise, but they are fiendishly difficult to detect for most and especially those who live outside Korea.  Let’s analyse the song in a bit more detail.

The translated lyrics first:
 

-I-I I’m a, I-I-I I’m a
I-I-I I’m a, mother-father-gentleman
I-I-I I’m a, I-I-I I’m a
I-I-I I’m a, mother-father-gentleman
I-I-I I’m a, I-I-I I’m a
I-I-I I’m a, mother-father-gentleman
Gonna make you sweat
Gonna make you wet
You know who I am, west side
Gonna make you sweat
Gonna make you wet
You know who I am, west side
I-I-I I’m a, I-I-I I’m a
I-I-I I’m a, mother-father-gentleman
I-I-I I’m a, I-I-I I’m a
I-I-I I’m a, mother-father-gentleman
I-I-I I’m a, I-I-I I’m a
I-I-I I’m a, mother-father-gentleman
 
I don’t know if you know why it needs to be hot 
I don’t know if you know why it needs to be clean 
I don’t know if you know, it’ll be a problem if you’re confused 
I don’t know if you know but we like, we we we like to party
Hey there
If I’m going to introduce myself 
I’m a cool guy with courage, spirit and craziness 
What you wanna hear, what you wanna do is me 
Damn! Girl! You so freakin sexy!
Ah Ah Ah Ah I’m a…
Ah Ah Ah Ah I’m a… 
Ah Ah Ah Ah I’m a mother father gentleman
Ah Ah Ah Ah I’m a…
Ah Ah Ah Ah I’m a… 
Ah Ah Ah Ah I’m a mother father gentleman
I’m a, ah I’m a
I’m a mother father gentleman 
I’m a, ah I’m a 
I’m a mother father gentleman
I’m a, ah I’m a
I’m a mother father gentleman 
I’m a, ah I’m a 
I’m a mother father gentleman
I’m a, ah I’m a
I’m a mother father gentleman 
I’m a, ah I’m a 
I’m a mother father gentleman
I don’t know if you know why it needs to be smooth
I don’t know if you know why it needs to be sexy 
I don’t know if you know darling, hurry and come be crazy 
I don’t know if you know, it’s crazy, crazy, hurry up
Hey there
Your head, waist, legs, calves 
Good! Feeling feeling? Good! It’s soft 
I’ll make you gasp and I’ll make you scream 
Damn! Girl! I’m a party mafia!
Ah Ah Ah Ah I’m a…
Ah Ah Ah Ah I’m a… 
Ah Ah Ah Ah I’m a mother father gentleman
Ah Ah Ah Ah I’m a…
Ah Ah Ah Ah I’m a… 
Ah Ah Ah Ah I’m a mother father gentleman
I’m a, ah I’m a
I’m a mother father gentleman 
I’m a, ah I’m a 
I’m a mother father gentleman
Gonna make you sweat.
Gonna make you wet 
You know who I am Wet PSY
Gonna make you sweat.
Gonna make you wet. 
You know who I am 
Wet PSY! Wet PSY! Wet PSY! Wet PSY! PSY! PSY! PSY! 


Ah I’m a mother father gentleman
I’m a,  ah I’m a 
I’m a mother father gentleman 
I’m a, ah I’m a, 
 I’m a mother father gentleman
Mother father gentleman
Mother father gentleman 

Source:
 http://www.policymic.com

Alright, so maybe the lyrics aren’t that great, but we are assured that there is cutting satire at the heart of it all when combined with the video; I will let a blog in the Wall Street Journal explain:

  • If it ain’t broke: PSY could have appeased critics by releasing something completely different from his shock blockbuster; instead, he deliberately chose not to jolt fans, issuing a song that’s candidly similar in sound, and pairing it with a video that’s not just familiar, it’s arguably a direct continuation of the first viral clip — set in the same surreal version of Seoul and featuring many of the same characters. Which should make it clear that PSY is trying to…
  • Tell a continuing story: In case this needs reinforcement, the PSY we see in “Gangnam Style” and “Gentleman” is a fictional character; he bears little relationship to Park Jae-Song, the artist who plays that role (Park is, by all reports, a rather nice guy). But PSY, which is short for “psycho,” is a persona that Park has been workshopping for over a decade, across six albums, each of which can be seen as chapters in PSY’s evolution (they’re even more or less presented that way — after his debut, PSY from the PSYcho World, his subsequent releases have mostly been numbered, with his current EP, PSY 6, coming on the heels of his last full album PSYfive). People soon realized that “Gangnam Style” was more than just prankster dada — it was a sly, intentional riff on Korean materialism and classist inequality; “Gentleman” could be seen as planting the same satirical barb into the world of the gender dynamics of Korean society, which is decidedly male-dominated. No, Korean men don’t usually give women the stinkfinger or yank chairs out from under them — but, PSY seems to suggest, the way that males treat females in a patriarchal Confucian society isn’t really that different. He also allows Son Ga-In to give him his comeuppance at the video’s end, before closing off with scenes that show both Ga-In and PSY hilariously aping the cliche exotic-dancer inspired moves that mark both Western hip hop and a growing number of K-Pop videos. (I would be surprised if there weren’t at least a third chapter to the “PSY trilogy” that tips another of Korea’s sacred cows. PSY dancing in the DMZ? Haha, we’ll see. Meanwhile, the details above show how PSY is always careful to…
  • Pay attention to the little things: PSY is as close as you get to an artist-auteur as you’ll see in Korean pop music’s hyper-managed ecology — he writes his music and lyrics, co-directs his videos and actively participates in choreographing the outlandish dance moves that go with his grooves. (For “Gentleman,” he adapted the Brown Eyed Girls’ well-known “Arrogance Dance” from 2009’s “Abracadabra,” even paying a fee to that song’s choreography team, Yama & Hotchicks, for the right to do so.) PSY’s level of meticulousness can be seen in nuances like the hypnotically switching ponytails of the dancers during the song’s signature hipsway, as well as the song’s tongue-in-cheek gangsta elements — the “mother father gentleman” chorus and the shoutout at the end, not to the West Side, but to “Wet PSY.”

Let’s do a little analysis of this shall we.

Point 1 

Psy is simply a genius for sticking with the same ‘tired and tested’ formula (sorry ‘tried and tested’), he could have appeased his critics but he chose to do a song and video that are so similar that everyone who was happy with ‘Gangnam Style’ must surely be happy with ‘Gentleman’.  Good on him.  Or could it just be that he could not have produced anything else and was worried that any originality would not create the desired response?

Point 2

He is a genius again this time for producing two songs that are so subtle in poking fun at first materialism and second the treatment of women in a patriarchal society like Korea.  It is surprising and shows greater depth to his music than anyone thought there could be.

Seeing as Psy is so smart, perhaps he should realise that the overwhelming message that both ‘Gangnam Style’ and ‘Gentleman’ sends is that of horsing around (quite literally), which there is nothing wrong with but let’s not try to give it anymore credit than that.  The message is so subtle and so covered in dirt in the video of ‘Gentleman’ that you wouldn’t know there was a message there at all unless you were told so.  The deeper message in ‘Gentleman’ is comparable to belching and farting the tune to REM’s ‘Everybody Hurts’ and expecting those grieving lost loved ones to find it meaningful.  ‘Gentleman’ is not likely to highlight or improve the plight of woman in a patriarchal Confucian society (unless he does some serious work outside of the song to campaign for better treatment), but there might be a few more farts flying in their faces and stolen bikinis. 

Since the release of ‘Gangnam Style’ I have not noticed Koreans or people from any other country changing the way they look at their increasingly materialistic lifestyles, the underlying statement of that song has gone almost completely unnoticed by people in his own country and it is therefore highly likely in the rest of the world also.  I can’t also help but notice that Psy has promoted countless products in TV adverts since his big hit, including products from LG and Samsung, he also advertised beer, soju, facial products, Ramen and many more.  It seems that the hidden messages aren’t even getting through to him.  He himself appears to be a Gangnam ‘Oppa’ and proud of it.

Point 3

He is a genius, he is a music artist that writes his own songs (not always) and co-directs his videos (rare in South Korea maybe, but not in the rest of the world).  He is also a genius for not coming up with an original dance routine but copying another one from another group and including them in the video.  Or could it just be that he was desperate to develop another crazy dance move and was finding it difficult to come up with anything that hadn’t been done before.  Again, there really is nothing wrong with any of this, but let’s not attribute any of this to nuance and genius.

There is more.  This post from the Korean Gender Cafe shows even more hints of Psy’s refinement and meticulous nature in producing his music and videos.  I know he is from Korea, and it is understandable he is aiming all the subtlety at his Korean audience, but I wonder how many of them get it either.  Will they only understand these subtle messages if someone ends up pointing it out to them?

This post is turning into a bit of a rant on my part, and I am not usually persuaded to use this style of writing and perhaps I am wrong about Psy and he really is showing an extremely deep and meaningful side to his art.  He is certainly intelligent, I will give him that, he has produced a song that has rocked the world and now maybe a second, and they aren’t even that good.  He must know what the people want.

I don’t really dislike Psy or any of his work that much really, but the hype over it, and the meaning some are attributing to it, is starting to get my goat a little bit.  The tireless promotion and obsession about Psy by many South Koreans also makes me worry just how other countries will view Korean culture as a whole – as I wrote about in asiapundits – in that, although the deep hidden message isn’t vulgar and crude, the crassness of it all is precisely what most of the world will see and the obsessive pride Koreans have in it. 

I wonder what the true motivation for making his music videos really is.  Is it to highlight problems in society and bring about social change or is it simply to be clever?  Or is to make a crude video that gets panned by supposed intellectuals just so he can then turn round and say ‘haha, I am really smarter than you, you didn’t see all this stuff.’  He is right most of us did need some help to see it, but it is still simply an excuse for a crude video in my eyes.  Bit of fun, maybe, enlightened and concerned social commentator and activist, I don’t buy it.

Psy is smart, no doubt, and many attribute more to his music than there is to see at first glance, so if he is so smart why can’t he see that his style is counter-productive to getting any deeper information over to the public?  Perhaps it really is not his intention to convey anything deep, just to create an interesting piece of music and video, but he does seem to take extraordinary care in placing these subtle aspects into his music.  The problem is, however, the serious stuff can’t be taken seriously when the overall tone is so crude.  To me it seems a bit of a waste of time to put all this time in to a video that hardly anyone will understand and, if they do, will largely ignore anyway.  But who knows, maybe that is why I am not a successful music artist.

One other thing I am curious about, is if I were really concerned about how people in my country were too materialistic, or too misogynistic I would be really anxious to make sure my music was understood for what the true meaning is.  Maybe I am wrong, but Psy doesn’t seem too bothered that the vast majority of his audience don’t care for or at least don’t notice his messages.  I don’t know anything about the man, so this is just a theory; I think that he is not too worried as long as the money and the youtube views keep rolling in, but I am waiting to be proved wrong about that.

‘Gentleman’ is simply bad taste, full-stop, no amount of disguised nuance can take that away and the vast majority of all those millions that will watch on youtube and buy his music will take the childish messages rather than the enlightened ones.  I don’t want to sound snobby but his kind of music will not appeal to the kind of people who will understand or receive the nuance meaning of it all. 

Each to his own, and if ‘Gentleman’ is as successful as ‘Gangnam Style’ you would have to say well done.  I am not knocking the guy really, if he wants to produce music and videos like this, then great, but let us not big him up to anything other than finding a formula that is appealing to the masses.  I would urge Korean people not to get too preoccupied with promoting him (or using him to promote Korea) because the association could very well end up back-firing on the culture at large in the long-run.  Without the hype, honestly, is the music really that good and is it really worth being proud of?

 

 


2 thoughts on “Hidden Meanings of ‘Gentleman’ and ‘Gangnam Style’ are…”

  1. Re: Hidden Meanings of ‘Gentleman’ and ‘Gangnam Style’ are…

    Interesting article, though I think you're being a little overly critical of Psy despite saying you're not trying to be. (As I currently am unemployed and sit at home all day I would like to engage in a rational discussion, tough as it often is on the Internet).

    Like you, I don't know much about him except that he grew up rich, he had some troubles with marijuana, he protested against US policy, and that he's always been controversial. Also, like you I can only speculate when speaking about his character and intentions. Finally, like you, I don't actually like or dislike Psy and I find his (as well as any) over promotion to be annoying.

    What I found most interesting about this article is that it continually points out that Psy is doing little to try to change flaws in Korean society. This is true. I also agree that his message is missed by most listeners, both Korean speaking and not. Still, I think that the fact that there is a message there can't be ignored. Psy is an artist. I think first and foremost, that is what he is. He has his beliefs and his art is shaped by them. Amidst all the manufactured pop music in this country, I enjoy the most world famous Korean musician to be somebody who puts some thought into his music, regardless of how noticeable it is. 

    I also really enjoy the crudeness. Normally it's not something that gains my attention, but in this society, where image and respect is everything, it's fun to see someone just have a go. Other pop stars in Korea are so controlled, they're not permitted to speak to the media on their own, to have girlfriends or boyfriends, or (it seems) to have an independent thought. They all have such a clean image. Psy has be relieved of those burdens. I think it's better that an individual represent Korea on the music scene than a corporate puppet. 

    Psy may not be a philathropist, but he is an artist so this is what he should be judged as such. As an artist he may not be Maynard James Keenan or Buddy Holly (two of my favourites), but he's head and shoulders above any other Korean pop artist of today. I think for that he should be celebrated.

     

    Reply
    • Re: Hidden Meanings of ‘Gentleman’ and ‘Gangnam Style’ are…

      Actually, I agree with most of what you say here and perhaps I was a little over-critical.

      Just think his crudeness goes a bit too far and I think he is a little hypocritical in placing hidden messages in his songs that he himself does not seem to really believe in, i.e. the anti-material side of 'Gangnam Style' yet he appears in adverts all over Korea.

      I don't really think his music is original either, not when you focus only on the sound of the music.  As I said, as a bit of fun its fine but any do not find anything clever about it or anything meaningful, but maybe it was never meant to be so.  I think perhaps his fame will fade quite quickly after his latest song, I am certainly hearing far less about it from my high school students than I did about Gangnam Style.

      Reply

Leave a Reply to smudger81299 Cancel reply