With the song and MV now widely available to any and all persons with a decent internet connection: What are your thoughts on Psy’s new release, ladies and “Gentleman?”
Amy: Before talking about the horrible content, let’s just talk about how it looked and the storyline. The reason why “Gangnam Style” worked was because it was funny because Psy was funny. This was “funny” because Psy was trying to be funny, and I think audiences will recognize that. “Gangnam Style” felt a lot more effortless and organic that way — horse dance! Little Psy! — but this one was Psy and his team picking up on what did well in GS and trying very hard to imitate it and/or one-up the ante.
It didn’t work.
Ambika: I don’t even think a lot of it was funny though. It was just disappointing. Psy literally has the entire world as his audience curious about what he’s going to do next, and this is it? Really?
Fannie: Yeah… at first I thought that it might be another attempt at social commentary (mocking men who self-righteously behave like assholes) but nothing in the lyric translations really validated that for me. It came off more as a “watch me troll women with complete impunity” piece, but one that was mildly offensive, to be honest. If it was intended to be a social commentary piece, I’d have to say it’s a pretty poorly executed one. It would be interesting to get a guy’s perspective, though.
From browsing around the webs, it appears that the English-speaking non-K-pop demographic seems to be eating up the humor (it still falls safely within the “let’s laugh at this funny Asian man” trope), although general consensus is that the song itself is not as good as “Gangnam Style”
Miyoko: I’m disappointed. It really feels like an extension or even remix of “Gangnam Style,” just with an electric-overlay and using similar scenes and people. I remember reading interviews when Psy said he was retiring “Gangnam Style” and worried about its lifespan. (Which indicated he wanted to move on and work on something new.) But “Gentleman” isn’t doing that; it feels like exactly the same thing, without any of the funny layers. Everything is really in your face.
Gaya: It’s too self-aware, that’s what it is.
Ambika: The music video had far too many repulsive parts. A lot of his pranks were against women. None of them legitimately tried to do anything aside from Ga-in‘s chair swipe. It just wasn’t funny, especially when you see things like the treadmill fall and think that someone could be seriously injured by that.
Gaya: Was it just me or did the MV come off as rather misogynistic?
Amy: Barely. It was a terrible, horrible music video.
Dana: THANK YOU, GAYA.
Gaya: I mean, he was equally horrible to Yoo Jae-suk and those kids, but most of his pranks were played on women. I wouldn’t have minded it if was a more even mix in terms of demographics — Psy trolling all of Seoul would be something I’d be more interested in watching. Ga-in got in a bit of revenge by knocking Psy’s chair over, but that’s piecemeal compared to Psy’s antisocial smorgasbord. Come on, Ga-in, lift your game!
Nicholas: Maybe I am the only one that finds it funny, in a crude, frat boy, low-level physical humour kind of funny. Got to admit though that i would not like to be in the situations that Psy subjects his “victims” to. Then again, maybe the whole point of the MV was to be a more charged form of “Gangnam Style,” to maybe have normal stressed out guys imagine they can just flip out for once and let loose without inhibitions, or just do some of the things in the MV to the people they really hate and still call themselves “gentlemen,” for the niceness they are 90% of the time.
The song sounds like a pretty okay club banger, but this time the whole thing is definitely more “engineered” for that sound, compared to “Gangnam Style” which grew into that role. If it succeeds, it will be because it was forced to, not be cause it suddenly could.
I might be a devil’s advocate here, but most of the disappointment comes from most people having misplaced expectations that “Gangnam Style” would change K-pop’s image on the world stage. I have given up on that, and maybe Psy believes so, which is why he finds it easier to just give the people what they want, which is a whole lot of fun (though this time it’s way more manufactured).
While most fans are of the belief K-pop is capable of more, there are too many preconceptions to change overnight, and I got to admit its easier to pay trust funds meeting what the world demands of the music.
Johnelle: My major reaction to the song and MV is indifference. The song is okay and has a good beat, but it’s nothing new from what we’ve heard before and the hook isn’t as catchy as Gangnam Style’s.
As for the MV, I wasn’t as disturbed by the crude humor as others possibly because I work with a lot of men (in an office of 20 there are only three women). No matter how old they are, some men still do think farting and acting like jerks at times is funny. Not saying that the behavior should be acceptable, but it’s just the way it is. A lot of guys I know are perfect gentlemen — until they’re with a bunch of their boys and they get sucked into the group mentality and start acting stupid because they think it’s funny and the “man” thing to do. I believe parts of the MV go a tad beyond crude humor and into the sexual harassment arena which kind of just makes me think that the whole effort is just sad.
What’s even more sad is the missed opportunity that PSY had to show the world that he wasn’t just this funny Korean guy who sang a funny song. He even said himself at his Happening concert that he wanted everyone to know that he wasn’t a Korean comedian, but a musician who could write and sing songs. I don’t think he proved his point with “Gentleman.” I’m not saying he had to sing some deep song with layers of meaning — just that a better song and MV could have been done instead of essentially giving us a lacking “Gangnam Style” 2.0. I think that he was just so stressed at trying to create the next “Gangnam Style” that he forgot how “Gangnam Style” became so popular in the first place — from Psy just being himself and doing his own thing.
Lindsay: I happen to enjoy the song a lot. I enjoyed it before the MV was out and I enjoy it now because it is catchy and has a steady beat that, for me, is addictive. I’m partial to dance tracks, so although the song isn’t the worldwide hit Gangnam Style was, for me it works just fine. I’ve been jumping around to it since it came out and I don’t plan to stop.
As for the MV, I have mixed feelings. I did find it crude, which was a major turn-off, especially the fart scene which to me is incredibly infantile humor. On the other hand, I didn’t take offense to the MV from a feminist perspective. This isn’t because Psy’s actions against women aren’t offensive, but simply because I assumed that was the entire ironic point of the MV. I saw it as a parody on men who call themselves “gentleman” but are, in fact, rude and immature in their humor. To me, the bathing suite scene was a perfect example of what young men tend to think is “funny” but absolutely isn’t.
My issue is that although I think PSY was condemning these sexist behaviors rather than condoning them, that isn’t how the MV ended up coming across. Because the pranks were framed in a more humorous way, and because the final scene just ended up being a big party, many people will probably miss the fact that these are actions a “gentleman” SHOULD NOT do, not the other way around.
Amy: Lindsay, I think that’s exactly the point — that while it was set up to be irony, they didn’t carry it through and condemn the men for not actually being gentlemen, which is the point at which I took the whole video to be offensive.
Gaya: I honestly don’t know what to make of it. People are saying that it could be a mutual sharing thing between Psy and BEG; I can see non-fans probably being directed to the “Abracadabra” MV and (hopefully) to more of BEG’s work. But I don’t see what Psy is getting out of this…
Miyoko: I’m not sure what Psy is getting out of it either. Conceptually, I like the idea of collaboration, but I don’t think Psy actually did anything fun or interesting with the dance — he’s just using it as filler. A lot of filler. At most, it’ll give Ga-in and BEG more exposure. But really, it isn’t the most dynamic or catchy dance, though I love “Abracadabra” as a song.
Ambika: I liked the usage of the “Abracadabra” dance. I thought it was one of the few aspects that was amusing and somewhat fitting for the whole ironic gentleman theme. And if anything, it’s easier than the horse dance from before. Though I hope it gets attributed to BEG at one point and not just Psy, just to give the ladies some love.
I rather enjoyed the dance scenes. I thought they were shot well. I do wish they had included the Infinity Challenge members more, but it’s understandable as it’s not their music video.
Nicholas: On the use of the “Abracadabra” and Ga-in, I am also okay with it too. Ga-in does seem way more comfortable with the sexy than HyunA ever did, and the BEG would probably enjoy the residual fame and exposure that comes with the song. Plus, iconic dances never get old or obsolete, they just fade out and get revived.
Young-Ji: Unlike Nicholas, I think this MV could have been funny if Psy didn’t over-do it with the sexist humor that he heavily relied on in this MV. And am I the only one felt that Psy was a tad lazy with the music and the dance? There’s nothing fresh or creative about either productions and I’m sure he had access to all sorts of talents. And the best thing he does after “Gangnam Style” is to recycle BEG’s “Abracadabra?” Com’on!
One thing that I do like about this release is that Psy released the song in Korean. “Gangnam Style” was in Korean because Psy didn’t have international fans in mind, but releasing “Gentleman” in Korean was surprising, at least for me, because well, Psy has become an international phenomenon. I’m happy that he released the song in Korean but embarrassed by the message — so I guess we can’t have it all?
Amy: I do have to bring up how unfortunate it is that HyunA is already being compared to Ga-in every chance ever with international fans, and now that Psy & co. actually brought Ga-in in as a Hyuna-esque video companion, the comparisons are really inevitable. Poor HyunA. Nothing she does will be well-received or can be done without comparison to Ga-in.
Mark: As much as we like to put the work of Ga-in on a pedestal for “Bloom,” and simultaneously contrast it to the work of HyunA, here Ga-in is in no way artistically superior because her character in “Gentleman” is basically HyunA 2.0. In fact, she sinks to a new low as she’s given more male-gazing sass and brings more sex than HyunA was permitted in “Gangnam Style.” She is simply a ploy to introduce a love-interest plot to the MV. Once Psy recognizes her as an object worthy of his acknowledgement, he sets about claiming her and in the end she becomes just another one of his back-up dancers. Sounds familiar? Please, let’s just hope there isn’t a Ga-in remix version of this song. She deserves better. We all deserve better.
Fannie: I was trying to think of at which point the video turned from slightly funny to slightly uncomfortable for me, and I think it was the scene where comedian Jung Hyung-don also participated in trolling the girl at the restaurant, and then he and Psy both had a big laugh about it. I think at that one point it started feeling like not just a Psy-is-trolling kind of thing, but something else that included the rest of the male gender united as “bros against hos” if you know what I mean. Except these “hos” were really just mostly innocent women going about their everyday business.
I know that encouraging misogyny was probably not what Psy was ultimately going for (perhaps they were even aiming for the opposite), but there were some poor choices made in the directing of the MV that, if looking at the responses coming from our team and from the web, definitely makes the enjoyment value of the humor polarized based on gender. If it had just been Psy being a troublemaker, and then Gain equally being a troublemaker, or if these women had legitimately done something horrible to deserve the abuse, or if in some way his actions came back to bite him in the end, I don’t think the video would have rubbed me the wrong way. There wasn’t any sort of turning point, not even after Gain kicked his chair out from under him. There was no lesson learned, and therefore the takeaway was just “Look what I can get away with!”
Part of what made “Gangnam Style” such a huge success was that there were elements to it that appealed to all ages and demographics — men, women, and children alike. While there certainly are exceptions to the case, “Gentleman” appeals mainly to the male demographic.
I do agree with Young-ji that sticking to his native language was a good touch. I also thought it was cute that he substituted HaHa for that mini-Psy dancing kid in the Gangnam-referential playground scene near the beginning of the video.
Amy: I think the part that did it for me was when Psy pulled the poor girl’s bikini apart. Sexual harassment is soooooo fucking funny!
What bothers me about “Gentleman” isn’t that it’s crude and one-dimensional as much as it is that the concept and irony (or “irony,” because this was a pretty terrible attempt at irony) in this video is exactly the same as that of “Gangnam Style.”
The commonly accepted interpretation of the “Gangnam Style” video was that it was a parody of snooty highbrow culture, and the original humor of the video was supposed to be rooted in how Psy was doing all these silly and embarrassing things while still dressed in a tux as a classy Gangnam man. Granted, most people ended up finding Gangnam Style funny for entirely different reasons. But I’d be willing to bet that when the “Gangnam Style” video was first conceptualized, that irony was supposed to be the heart of the humor. And there wasn’t anything wrong with it; in fact, I thought that the ironic humor was executed quite well in “Gangnam Style,” and it’s kind of a shame that “Gangnam Style” became popular for other reasons. But anyway.
The problem with “Gentleman” is that it uses the exact same brand of humor as “Gangnam Style” and not only that, executes it far more poorly than “Gangnam Style” did. The whole premise behind “Gentleman” is Psy basically acting like an undignified, decidedly un-gentleman-like asshole while still claiming that he is a gentleman. It’s the exact same approach that the MV producers took when they did “Gangnam Style.” Which, I mean, would kind of make sense if that approach was what shot “Gangnam Style” to success. But it wasn’t. Instead, it just seems as if they were intent on replicating Gangnam Style as closely as they possibly could without making it seem like a exact ripoff. Most people outside of Korea didn’t seem to get the irony of “Gangnam Style,” so using it again in “Gentleman” would probably fly under the noses of the audience that they are targeting (which is, obviously, the worldwide/Western audience).
This really irks me because — I mean, I think we all had a little bit of faith in believing that YG would have the good senses to handle Psy’s comeback intelligently. Instead, we get a video that is essentially an inferior clone of “Gangnam Style” — not because the on-screen antics or silly dances were the same, but because the underlying joke was the same. As demonstrated by the fact that “Gentleman” was able to rack up over 30+ million views in just one day, it’s clear that Psy already had a gigantic audience, and it was entirely up to him and YG to decide what to do with it. If I were YG, I would have taken this opportunity to try to shake off Psy’s status as a silly meme and gain substantial footing in the Western music market as a legitimate artist. But it’s understandable why a major label like YG would choose not to do that and instead try to milk whatever was left of the “Gangnam Style” craze. But using the exact same joke, the exact same form of irony as “Gangnam Style” makes it seem as if they didn’t even try. And I didn’t expect them to not even try.
But who knows? I guess the more pressing issue here is the fact that “Gentleman” is ridiculously and unapologetically misogynistic, and the effectiveness of its painfully “honest” jokes (pulling the girl’s bikini apart because like you said, Amy — so hilarious! Not!) is reliant on the audience thinking “yeah, that’s what everyone actually thinks but only Psy has the balls to say it out loud. Omg, SO RELATABLE!!!!!” and thus finding the jokes “funny.” The only reason why Psy’s antics in “Gentleman” make him relatable and not simply an asshole is because it taps into men’s inner 12-year olds and validates the things that men really want to do but the pressure to be politically correct says otherwise. If this weren’t true, no one would find any part of Psy’s antics funny.
So much crude and problematic humor works on this exact same wavelength — men find crude, misogynistic things to be “true” or “relatable” but they don’t dare to voice it out loud for fear of being seen as politically incorrect. But the moment one “brave soul” decides to go balls to the wall and say “the truth” out loud and adding an “amirite??!?!” at the end, and people come out to affirm it with that good ol’ “but you know it’s true” catchphrase — regardless of how messed up the “truth” might be — that really sheds light on how people really think and act when the things they know to be unacceptable and hurtful are validated as being normal and “relatable” by figures in the media. And “Gentleman” — in its flippancy, crudeness, and even in its existence as a piece of pop culture fluff not meant to have kind of deep meaning or social commentary — is a prime example of this.
Subi: I do think however, that “Gangnam Style” and “Gentleman” can be read as a commentary on contemporary manners in the context of heterosexual relationships. “Gentleman” is the same, but in the many ways, the exact opposite of “Gangnam Style.” While GS is a man’s attempt to conform to the desires of a female, in Gentleman, Psy is doing everything – but more or less, he gets the girl in the end. Seeing these two alongside each other makes a huge difference because while it’s disappointing to see how much the latter references the former visually, it makes sense as follow up because you see these two equally perverse depictions of masculinity.
Dana: I’m with Amy and Patricia about the bikini bit. I think that was where the music video fell apart for me and I admitted to myself that not only was I not enjoying the video, I was downright horrified by it.
I was really disappointed to see BEG’s dance used this way in part because the video offended me to such a degree. “Abracadabra” is a song about jealousy and revenge, yes, but at least the girls are in some way given the power in that video — the entire video is an elaborate and sexy plot to make a man pay for his misdeeds. In “Gentleman,” Psy wrests control of the dance from the empowered females who made it famous and turns it into a vehicle for his idiotic misogyny. So not having it. Also, way to take the lazy way out with this one — in 2009, absolutely everyone in Korea was doing the “Abracadabra” dance (even Olympic athletes were doing it on their podiums). It’s like he’s trying to trick American/international audiences into falling for it the same way Korea fell for it because it’s “tried and true.”
All in all, I think Psy was just trying too hard with this one. It smacks of laziness and over-reliance on old jokes.
Sophie: I’m going to take Psy at his reputation and buy that this video was the product of trying to achieve multiple goals (social commentary, but also continue being the “crazy korean guy” that made him so popular, and now the beacon of international Korean pop). When I read the (admittedly translated) lyrics, I got the sense that PSY was trying to parody aspects of pop music videos. The boastfulness of the lyrics, the rampant misogyny, the recent obsession with some non-existent archetype of classiness that Justin Timberlake seems so eager to embody. For goodness sakes, he says “Wet PSY” in the break. Seeing as men rarely refer to their sexual interest in this way, it seems more likely to be parody.
That said, I wonder what was going through his mind when he created the concept. He’s well aware of the vast refusal to acknowledge the parody in Gangnam Style and it seems like risky stakes to try and pass such as misogynistic video as parody, as it will likely not go down well. In the best of cases, this is social commentary at it’s best as it’s likely to get people talking about the presentation of women in videos. At worst, it’s a fairly toothless attempt at a mainstream crossover.
Was anyone else reminded of “Camp Granada”?
(Youtube; images via YG Entertainment, Sport Korea, Nega Network, Cube Entertainment, High Cut, WSJ)