Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fox News analyses "Gangnam Style" as only Fox News can

Following their election loss, many US conservatives have been pondering why Asians so overwhelmingly voted Democratic. Now there are numerous reasons for this, but my take is that Republicans and their allies are frequently revealed as completely ignorant and
vaguely racist when talking about anyone who is not a white American.

Case in point - this week on Fox News (the station that is basically a mouthpiece for the Republican Party), Bill O'Reilly and guest, psychiatrist Dr Keith Ablow, attempted an analysis of why Gangnam Style has become such a huge cultural phenomenon. If you are wondering about Ablow's credentials as a cultural commentator, well, he once co-authored a book with Glenn Beck, which right off the bat indicates a fairly skewed relationship to the real world.

Whether or not you like Gangnam Style, I'm sure you'll agree that it seems an odd choice for Ablow to hold up as an example of everything that is wrong with popular culture. But that's what makes Fox News so interesting.
Watch this. The stupidity is amazing.

"The most popular music, apparently, is that without intelligible words..."

Yes, he actually said that. If it's not English, it clearly doesn't mean anything. Reinforced by O'Reilly saying there's no comparison between Psy and Elvis Presley because Elvis' song's "had words".

Now there are a large number of ways in which Presley's music is unlike Psy's, but I'm pretty sure that "having words" is not one of them.

What's even odder about this interview is that despite these two conservative commentators putting forth their esteemed opinion on the internet and popular culture, neither of them seem to have ever heard of Google. Because in the time it took for them to spew garbage about how Gangnam Style is a sign of the times because it "has no meaning", they could have jumped on to Google and found hundreds of articles analysing the satirical nature of Gangnam style. Here is but one: PSY's Gangnam Style is South Korean social commentary.

Even to the non-Korean who doesn't know about the satirical subtext to the song, the video is appealing because it is so different to every other video out there. Psy subverts the conventional notions of cool, of what a pop star is meant to look like, and toys with the stereotypes of conventional masculinity. While many of the odd sights in the video have a particular South Korean cultural context, to the outsider, they are simply weird and random, which lends the video the same quirky oddball quality that Westerners find so fascinating about Japanese commercials and game shows.

And it happens to be an extremely catchy song. As are many other songs, such as those by Elvis and Justin Bieber, some of the touchstones that O'Reilly and Ablow refer to. Yet the popularity of Justin Bieber's mega-hit Baby (the second most popular clip on Youtube) is not being used to illustrate why the world is going to hell in a handbasket and we are all vapid fools for listening to it. Even though, if you compare the meaning of Baby with that of Gangnam Style, it's pretty obvious which has greater depth. Yes, it's possible for a song to have meaning, even if it's in Korean. Shocking!

And really, if you cannot work out why more people might possibly like something offbeat, outrageously kinetic and postmodern like Gangnam Style than a saccharine teenybopper hit by Justin Bieber, then you really shouldn't be in the business of analysing popular music at all. And particularly when your analysis includes the phrase "This is a little fat guy from Yong Yang or someplace."

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