'Gangnam' Close to Billion Views; China Takes Down Artist Ai Weiwei's Version

Most-Watched YouTube Video Has Life of Its Own as Parodies Continue

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On Dec. 11, Psy's "Gangnam Style" is expected to become the first YouTube video to reach 1 billion hits, according to search marketer WordStream, which reckons the video is racking up 4,062 views a minute. The horse-dancing K-Pop sensation is the craze that refuses to go away. Even in today's media-saturated world, it seems that people still can't get enough of the catchy song and silly dance.

Ai Weiwei parodies 'Gangnam Style.'
Ai Weiwei parodies 'Gangnam Style.'

Why is Psy so enduring? The chubby Korean is mocking the pretensions of Seoul's fashionable Gangnam district, and at the same time breaking down cultural barriers around the world.

Larry Kim, founder of WordStream, said in an email, "This astonishing video has redefined the very notion of viral video success. The intensity of the numbers leads me to believe he'll be around for a while, influencing pop culture on a global scale for many years to come."

Mr. Kim added, "Part of what has made it so irresistible is the easy-to-imitate dance moves. What really sets Psy apart is his kind demeanor and humility, which is a refreshing change. He doesn't look or act like the classic music celeb, and [that 's] quite endearing."

Even serious causes are finding "Gangnam Style" is a popular way to get a message across. Most recently, controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who is banned from traveling outside China, created a "Gangnam Style" protest video in which he pulls out a pair of handcuffs while dancing, a not-too-subtle critique of censorship in China. The video was taken down by Chinese authorities, prompting sculptor Anish Kapoor to make his own version in support of Ai Weiwei, wearing handcuffs and tape over his mouth, called "Gangnam for Freedom."

Politicians have also been getting involved. President Obama conjured up visions of him dancing "Gangnam"- style in the White House and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon really did dance with Psy at U.N. headquarters in New York.

Ban Ki-moon has himself contributed to the YouTube numbers by watching the video several times, and bears Psy no grudge for taking his place as the world's best-known living Korean. Mr. Moon told news agency Agence France Presse, "Through this promotion of arts we can better understand the culture and civilizations of other people. In this era of instability and intolerance we need to promote better understanding through the power of music."

Every time interest threatens to wane, another celebrity jumps on the "Gangnam" bandwagon and breathes new life into the phenomenon. At the MTV American Music Awards last week, it was MC Hammer -- himself no stranger to daft dancing -- who joined Psy onstage and delighted the celebrity-packed audience.

A week previously, Madonna danced with Psy at Madison Square Garden, and the week before that , he gave a lecture at prestigious seat of learning Oxford University, which culminated, inevitably, in a horse-dancing lesson for the academic crowd.

Posh boys at Britain's Eton College, which counts Princes William and Harry, Prime Minister David Cameron and Damian Lewis of "Homeland" among its alumni, created their own "Eton Style" meme. The lyrics mock the boarding school boys' privilege and wealth, as well as the other hallmarks of Eton Style -- feeling awkward, frustrated, lonely, insecure and unable to talk to women.

There's also a "Jewish Style" version, and even the Klingons have weighed in on the craze.

App developers are also busy cashing in on "Gangnam Style." You can put your own head, your friends' heads or the president's head on Psy's body, or pretend to be Psy in a range of games. These include running through South Korea's Gangnam district shooting arrows, or negotiating an obstacle course using Gangnam moves.

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