Fans of pelvic thrusts are going to love Psy’s new single. At a concert in Seoul on Saturday night, the South Korean star debuted the music video — and cheeky dance moves — for his new song, “Gentleman.” The show, which kept a crowd of 50,000 on their feet for several hours, was live-streamed on YouTube, the video-sharing site that helped make “Gangnam Style” one of music’s biggest ever hits — and where the song’s video is the most watched ever. The whole affair was an epic display of showmanship that included, among other things, Psy singing a heartfelt ballad (and welling up) while dangling on cables above World Cup Stadium, and a campy cover of Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” performed in a one-piece, thigh-bearing leotard. (Let’s just say we saw a lot of Psy.)
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Beyond the new song (it’s catchy) and dance (get practicing), the concert had the feeling of a homecoming. Since “Gangnam Style” went viral last year, garnering more than 1.5 billion views on YouTube, Psy has become an unofficial ambassador for South Korea, performing the hit around the world. Indeed, when Psy, whose real name is Park Jae-sang, met U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last fall, Ban joked that he’d been replaced as the most recognizable South Korean in the world. Psy, with characteristic modesty, said he was “touched” by the comment. Somehow, amid girls in gold lamé and back-flipping b-boys, the 35-year-old entertainer managed to strike a poignant tone, talking at length about what it meant to be home. He sang “We Are the One,” a crowd favorite, against a background of flashing South Korean flags.
In some ways it felt odd to be shaking it to Psy tonight. As anyone who has turned on a television recently knows, tensions between North Korea and South Korea are running high. The international press has been warning of an “imminent” missile launch for days. Just yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Seoul to talk nuclear strategy with President Park Geun-hye and other South Korean officials. Certainly, having myself awoken at 7:00 a.m. for a tour of the demilitarized zone, I didn’t imagine I’d spend the evening watching Psy show Beyoncé how it’s done.
But as I learned this week, it seems the further you get from the Korean Peninsula, the greater the level of panic. Americans may be more worried than ever about North Korea, but South Koreans have learned to shrug it off. It’s not that they don’t care — most care deeply. When asked about the political situation before the concert, Psy called it “a tragedy.” “We are the only countries divided right now,” he said. But he quickly added that he hoped North Koreans might also like the new single. “My music videos and my choreography, they might enjoy them too,” he mused. Perhaps. Either way, the show goes on.
— With reporting by Audrey Yoo