PSY, or Park Jae-Sang, a controversial and satirical hip-hop artist, broke world records and became a global sensation with a single viral video on YouTube (the first to hit 1 billion views), but as the echoes of the famous song faded, the singer also appeared to have slowed and mellowed.

Born on December 31, 1977, known more popularly as PSY, he is a South Korean singer and rapper.

In 2012, his popularity grew to the point where he was the main artist at events. In Malaysia in 2013, he became a symbol of success for many, including political parties.

While he did not get embroiled in a looming controversy when then-PM Najib Razak invited him to sing at the launch of the ruling party’s election campaign in the state of Penang, things turned ugly for the Malaysian leader who almost lost the elections.

According to rumours, his song was so popular among Malaysians that the tiles in the Prime Minister’s official residence broke due to people thumping to the alluring lyrics and music of the Gangnam Style song.

If you want to relive the moment, here’s a video of the song:

The singer is the son of a successful businessman and he grew up in the upscale neighbourhood of Gangnam. As a teen, he had the interest to be a singer but had to follow his father’s footsteps he went to the US to study English in 1996 before starting business studies at Boston University in 1997.

PSY then transferred to the Berklee College of Music after a semester. He did not graduate from college but returned to South Korea to pursue a music career.

He adopted the stage name PSY, in reference to his concept of himself being psycho. In 2001, he debuted as a hip-hop artist with the album PSY from the PSYcho World!.

PSY detained

The album was controversial because of its raw lyrics. PSY was arrested and briefly detained for marijuana possession.

Following that, he released the albums Ssa 2 (“Cheap 2”)—which, after a legal challenge based on its “inappropriate content,” was restricted to sale to adults—and 3PSY. He had a hit with “Champion,” a single from the latter.

It has been a decade since Gangnam Style was released. He is proud of his “greatest trophy” and is freed from the stress to release another superhit.

The hit song was launched on YouTube back on July 15, 2012. PSY reached a milestone that most K-pop acts before him couldn’t which was to be the first YouTube video to reach one billion views.

At the height of its popularity, the singer shared the stage with Madonna, led a flash mob in front of Eiffel Tower and performed for Barack Obama. There was pressure to deliver another hit after Gangnam Style. 

The singer confessed that it is one of the most hardest periods of his life.

Things became “heavier and harder because… every time I (had) to have that kind of strong song”, PSY told Agence France-Presse (AFP) in an interview at his company’s headquarters in Gangnam – the posh Seoul district he poked fun at in the track.

“I had a huge dependency (on) the song… But you know, it’s 10 years ago, so right now I’m really free.”

The song not only changed his career but the music industry as well. It showed how an artist not performing in English could reach international audiences through the Internet.

It also transformed how music charts were compiled and how Billboard take YouTube views and streams into account.

K-pop acts “are very huge on YouTube, they are getting a lot of views”, PSY said.

“If Billboard didn’t change, it (wouldn’t) be that easy,” the 44-year-old added.

PSY’s groundbreaking role has been acknowledged by some of the biggest names in K-pop.

“He’s always someone I was grateful for,” Suga, a member of hugely popular group BTS, said in a video last month.

Funny Dancer

“With ‘Gangnam Style‘, he paved the way for K-pop in the United States… We were able to follow his footsteps with ease,” he added.

PSY cites Queen as his earliest inspiration – while in middle school, he watched a video of the British band’s famous 1986 concert at Wembley.

“I thought: I want to be a frontman like him (Freddie Mercury),” PSY told AFP.

“At that moment, I was not that good at music, not that good a singer… I was just a funny dancer.”

While attending university in the U.S. in the late 1990s, he was exposed to what many have described as one of the golden ages of hip-hop, including the music of rappers Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.

“I literally heard hip-hop every day on the radio,” PSY said. “I thought: Oh, if I cannot sing that well, I gotta rap. Then I can be the frontman,” he explained.

Following the success of Gangnam Style, PSY has released three albums.

The latest, “Psy 9th,” was released in April by P NATION – the record label and artist agency he founded in 2019.

The singer says that he is far from done and he divides his time between his own music and concerts and working with P NATION acts.

Gangnam Style source of pride

And “Gangnam Style” remains a huge source of pride.

“It’s the biggest and greatest trophy of my life,” PSY told AFP. “When I do a show, it is my strongest weapon,” he added.

In a recent concert, the crowd sang a long to every word that included songs from his first album more than two decades ago, as well as his latest one.

The fact that the young audience knows all the words to songs that were released before many of them were even born is not lost on PSY.

“These days, (I say to myself): ‘Wow, dude, you are very popular. They love you!’

“How lucky I am as an artist. I’m happier than ever these days.”

In a recent tweet, Psy posted a video of ‘That That (prod. & feat. SUGA of BTS)’. In the comment section, fans left comments such as, “That’s Suga!”

Another commenter wrote: “I’m excited to see you again love you suga I can’t wait”

“Whoa!!! that was awesome! goosebumps,” said another commenter

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