Korean rapper Park Jaesang—otherwise known as Psy, short for “Psycho”—has taken the Internet by storm with the wacky video for his song “Gangnam Style.” The irresistibly absurd “horse-riding dance” featured in the video has everyone from Britney Spears to David Gregory trying it out for themselves; even Scooter Braun—the man who discovered Justin Bieber—wants a piece of the viral action and has signed the K-Pop star to his Schoolboy Records label.
Not everyone’s on board with the song’s fun, however. Fourteen lifeguards were fired last week for filming their own video version on work premises and have created a Facebook page in the hopes of getting rehired. So far they’ve got 12,000 sympathizers who disagree with their boss’s decision—including their city’s mayor, who agreed that the video was “a very good parody of a very popular music video.”
“Lifeguard Style” isn’t the only parody out there, though. In the grand tradition of viral summer hits, Psy’s infectious track has spawned enough covers, remixes and homemade parodies to rival Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” Here are some of our favorites.
The Original: Psy’s “Gangnam Style”
Aside from making it onto the Billboard charts, becoming YouTube’s most “liked” video ever, and getting Psy an American record deal, “Gangnam Style” packs some subtly subversive messaging. Though most Americans can’t understand a single lyric, some have noted that the song seems to criticize the material-obsessed culture of South Korea’s wealthiest neighborhood, Gangnam, where a mere 15 square miles contain 7 percent of the entire country’s GDP. As the blogger behind My Dear Korea told The Atlantic, the video satirizes “Gangnam itself but it’s also about how people outside of Gangnam pursue their dream to be one of those Gangnam residents without even realizing what it really means.” For those who don’t want to mix politics with funkiness however, there’s this brilliant video.
Ai Weiwei’s Gangnam Protest
The latest “Gangnam” dancer is… oppressed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei? Rocking a hot pink shirt, Chinese contemporary artist revealed his cover of the Psy hit earlier this week. But behind the silly, energetic dance around the studio is Ai’s message regarding political activism: He dangles handcuffs to hint at the ineffectiveness of his incarceration and has also replaced “Gangnam” with the phrase “Grass Mud Horse”—a phrase that has been used to poke fun at censors within Chinese cyberspace. Chinese censors pounced within hours, banning it from several sites—proving that there’s no protest too silly that can escape them. Weiwei, whose second appeal of tax evasion charges was recently denied, said he has “been censored for so long. If you post a photo of my back or mention ‘the fat guy’ on Chinese social media it will be blocked. But I can always make something new.”
Could the United Nations achieve world peace through dance? U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently took a dance lesson from his fellow South Korean national, Psy, at the U.N. headquarters in New York. Psy admitted to be starstruck to be with one of the most powerful people in the world, but Ban laughed as Psy showed him the dance’s trademark moves. Ban called for the world’s peace-keeping mission to start their own dance: “U.N. Style.”
The ‘Today’ Show Horses Around
Who knew David Gregory was such a rad dancer? Psy stopped by Rockefeller Plaza on Friday morning to show the Meet the Press moderator, Savannah Guthrie, Natalie Morales, and Al Roker how to bust a move, Gangnam style, and then put on a show for the audience. The news anchors donned Wayfarer shades and valiantly tried to keep up—poor Guthrie in those stilettos!—but none pulled it off like the pro, Psy himself.
Gangnam style underwater! These lifeguards (and exceptional multitaskers) filmed their own version of the South Korean hit dance during their off-hours at their El Monte, Calif., pool. The video got them fired—but it’s almost worth it just for that crotch-popping elevator scene.
Gangnam Goes to College
When “Gangnam Style” goes to college: a pretender wearing the beak and feathers of the University of Oregon’s duck mascot, with the help of some perky cheerleaders, a giant ape, and some enthusiastic co-eds, have garnered nearly 4 million hits so far.
Britney, Meet Psy
Worlds collided this week when newly minted X Factor judge Britney Spears met Psy during a taping of Ellen. Psy made possibly the best entrance in Ellen history by horse-dancing and air-lassoing his way onto the stage and over to Britney, who gamely danced along in her platform heels.
A Ring, Vows, and Gangnam
Those who horse-dance together, stay together. This bride and groom made their wedding video a version of “Gangnam Style,” using local scenes in San Francisco, their friends and family, and even the wedding itself. Prepare to utter an involuntary “Awww!”
The title of Most Photogenic goes to the Miss Korea 2012 contestants, who set aside their rivalry long enough to put this parody video together. They dance in markets, in pajamas, at malls, and they powder their collarbones. Stay tuned for their unison squeaking, “MiKo Style!” (It’s an abbreviation for “Miss Korea.”)
One thing that makes “Gangnam Style” so absurdly appealing is that 99.999 percent of people dancing along to it have no idea what Psy is saying. It’s in Korean, after all. So how does one sing along? If you’re parody musician Chad Wild Clay, you sing the English words that the Korean lyrics sound like. Suddenly, “Gangnam Style” becomes “Condom Star.” Sample “English” lyric: “Go pee on Johnnie. You, you are on a poop dog in a no job.”
While “Gangnam Style” is meant to lampoon the ostentatious wealth and fashions of a particularly vainglorious Seoul neighborhood, “Gunman Style” takes on the polar opposite American demographic: the Old West. Clad in a miniature cowboy hat and red bandana, and waving a toy gun, the singer in this Western parody encourages listeners to “put your hands up, and shake your boots to this song,” as they “whip it gunman style.”
“Gangnam Style”: it’s not just for the kids. This Gangnam mom shows off impressive dance moves in her homemade take on the viral hit. Watch as she particularly nails Psy’s “ride-the-pony” footwork when the chorus hits. (The guy, perhaps her son, isn’t so bad either.)
PSY Vs. LMFAO—Sexy Style (Mash-Up)
A meme is not officially a meme until it’s been mashed up. And what better track to mash up “Gangnam Style” with than last summer’s own megahit, LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It.” Much like Psy’s own song and video, “Sexy” features outrageous fashion (hello, leopard print and Speedos), gloriously cheesy choreography (the return of the running man), and an embarrassing earworm of a chorus that’s impossible to shake.
After YouTube views for Psy’s original “Gangnam Style” skyrocketed, an attempt was made to capitalize on its popularity explosion by remixing the song with K-Pop star Hyuna and giving it a more legit, less ludicrous music video. The production values are ramped up, the cinematographer crisper, and Hyuna’s dancing puts Psy’s original awkward moves to shame. But fear not: the signature “ride-the-pony” move reappears.
Ponies Gangnam Style
What could possibly be better than lifeguards, moms, men in cowboy hats, a bridal party, and Britney Spears doing Psy’s “ride-the-pony” dance? How about a pony doing Psy’s “ride-the-pony” dance? A clever animator took on the meta task in a too-short 30-second YouTube video. Bonus points for setting the dancing equine against a My Little Pony backdrop.
Get ready to swoon. A group of U.S. Naval Academy sailors with particularly impressive rhythm performed a lip dub to Psy’s hit, and the ubiquitous galloping dance move has never looked so crisp as when a dozen Navy men in their whites ride the invisible horse in unison. The sailors also embrace the absurdity of the original “Gangnam Style” music video, taking their dance moves to places as unusual as the bathroom.
Alexa Valiente and Jaewon Kang also contributed to this.