On the afternoon Aug. 15, Korean rapper PSY and the overseas business manager from his record label, YG Entertainment, arrived in Los Angeles after a 13-hour flight from Seoul. At LAX, they were greeted by a smattering of fans and YG’s American rep, who ushered them into a waiting car. PSY was going to Hollywood.
As his ride rolled through L.A. traffic, PSY, aka Park Jae-sang, cheerfully reflected on his whirlwind summer. It had been a month to the day since the video for “Gangnam Style,” the first single off his sixth album, PSY 6 (Six Rules), Part 1, was uploaded to YouTube. A satirical ode to his Seoul neighborhood, “Gangnam Style” had all the trademarks of a PSY anthem: an aggressive rap with a catchy hook, coupled with a whimsical dance step and a comedic, over-the-top video. Like much of his previous work, “Gangnam Style” was very much a PSY DIY: He wrote and co-produced the song and also co-directed the video. In Korea, where PSY has topped multiple domestic music charts a half-dozen times during his 12-year career, the record was an instant hit.
But then the unexpected happened. Thanks to social-news site Reddit and tweets from high-profile artists like Robbie Williams and T-Pain, “Gangnam Style” went viral beyond Korea, spreading across Asia, Europe and South America-and now, finally, to the United States.
As “Gangnam Style” approached 10 million YouTube views at the end of July, Scooter Braun-the music executive famed for discovering YouTube-sensations-turned-pop-stars Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen-tweeted a link to the video, writing: “HOW DID I NOT SIGN THIS GUY!?!??!” What Braun didn’t reveal then was that he had already planted the seed for a secret meeting with the rapper. PSY’s video was pulling in more than 1 million new viewers per day. If the rest of the world was flocking to it, Braun figured, why wouldn’t the United States?
And so, slightly more than two weeks and 15 million YouTube views after that tweet, “Gangnam Style” was on its way to Braun’s house.
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