PSY is reaching a cultural saturation point that most performers don’t even dare to dream about. His “Gangnam Style” video has surpassed Justin Bieber’s “Baby” as the most viewed video on YouTube ever and is well on its way to being the first video to hit one billion views. ONE BILLION. He’s performed with MC Hammer and Madonna, which you know caused quite a bit of envy. He is also responsible for the most surreal moment of my Thanksgiving dinner: my grandmother, urged by my son and maybe some champagne, did that equestrian dance move and yelled, “OPPA GANGNAM STYLE!” near the end of the evening. I still haven’t recovered.
A new measure of success is whether or not your song can achieve immortality through a signature dance. There are levels to unlocking this achievement though. Level 1 is if your dance is performed at weddings. Level 2 is if your dance is performed by shameless people for their webcams. Level 3, the hardest to attain, is getting a mass of prisoners to synchronize dance to your song so that we can all watch on the internet and wonder if this is some kind of wrong and if we’re bad people for enjoying it.
For reference, it took Michael Jackson nearly 30 years to reach that point. Though, obviously, the internet wasn’t around when “Thriller” came out. Can you imagine if it was? Almost makes me shudder. PSY’s “Gangnam Style” has reached this position in the Zeitgeist in just five months.
Yesterday, the Bangkok Post reported that inmates in the Bangkok Remand Prison had coordinated their own tribute to the song to coordinate with PSY’s concert there, his first show in Asia outside of South Korea.
It’s not an exact replica of the video. Part of the purpose of this exercise was to relieve stress and keep the prisoners fit. As you’ll see, there are several different groups, each with their own theme and version of the dance. Apparently this was a competition for the teams. The cowboys win for enthusiasm, the guys with the baffling facial expression makeup add a necessary dash of WTF, the ladyboys have the best moves, and the dudes in bright tshirts get points for not cracking up. They’ve got the makings of a viral sensation.