Gangnam Style would essentially be no different to any other type of commercial music – the
inevitable result of a music industry subject to the forces of monopoly capitalism.
To compensate for this standardisation, Adorno claims that the culture industry is able
to maintain a demand for its products by making them appear new and unique. It fosters an
illusory sense of choice whilst masking an 'eternal sameness' that serves to uphold
exploitative capitalist practices.5 There is an aspect of Gangnam Style which is seemingly
unique in the field of Western pop music, and which may even account for the video's
abnormally large amount of views. That is that the song's artist Psy, is a South Korean singer.
Pop music is also irrefutably a dominant feature of Asian culture (particularly Korean pop, or
K-Pop as it is known), but for a South Korean to have this much of an international impact is
a sizeable feat (an impact that resulted in U.S. President Barack Obama citing it as a positive
example of the global proliferation of Korean culture).6 It could be that as foreign commercial
product possessing a familiar musical form, Gangnam Style contains the optimum amount of
pseudo-uniqueness needed to create such immense consumer demand. Since digital
dissemination mass-produces media on a never-before-seen scale, resulting in a saturation of
videos that have a greater disposability, YouTube itself may also account for a need to create a
greater sense of pseudo-uniqueness.
An undeniable factor in its success has also been the video's distinctive dance move –
arguably its most fetishistic feature. This essentially makes it a three-pronged commodity as
the music, the video, and the dance move all become marketable exports that the masses can
not only consume, but in the case of the dance move, actively engage with through its
replication. As the song garnered global popularity, celebrities lined up to emulate the dance
5 Adorno, 'The Culture Industry Reconsidered', The Culture Industry, 99.
6 'And of course, around the world, people are being swept up by Korean culture – the Korean Wave. And as I
mentioned to President Park, my daughters have taught me a pretty good Gangnam Style. (Laughter.)',
'Remarks by President Barack Obama and President Park of South Korea in a Joint Press Conference', Office
of the Press Secretary, The White House, 7th May, 2013, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-pressoffice/2013/05/07/remarks-president-obama-and-president-park-south-korea-joint-press-confe (2nd May,