Ride the popularity wave, Gangnam Style

Just two months ago, it would have been unthinkable for anyone to be able to draw parallels between a portly South Korean rapper and a family celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri in Malaysia. But now, they can.

What links them, and perhaps millions of others across the globe, is that they have all done this thing which has taken the world by storm - bobbed around like a crazed jockey astride an imaginary horse while going "Op, op, op, op".

No, it's not a sign of Armageddon (or perhaps it is), people are just aping the dance moves of South Korean rapper Psy, or Park Jae-Sang, in his ludicrously popular music video on YouTube, which at press time had garnered an unbelievable 105,546,849 hits. From London to Lithuania, everyone is doing it, Gangnam Style.

Whether young and agile, or studious and stocky, many have attempted to dance like Psy, whether in public parks or the privacy of their bedrooms. It's harder than it looks. But have no fear, those without basic hand-feet coordination can check out the numerous tutorials on YouTube, one of which bizarrely sees the dance being taught by a stuffed toy frog called Kowi. These YouTube posts have garnered several thousand hits themselves.

Much has been written about why Gangnam Style has, and continues to explode around the globe - people are tired of androgynous-looking, waif-thin and vacuous K-pop stars; he parodies Gangnam, the wealthiest, most powerful neighbourhood in South Korea; the rollicking invisible-horse dance. Whatever it is, what is certain is that it underscores, yet again, the considerable power of YouTube.

One could achieve worldwide fame, or infamy, in an instant courtesy of the video sharing site and other social networks. No longer do we have to achieve something monumental, or be involved in a spectacle of the sort that grabs global attention to be famous.

Last year, a 53-year-old unkempt hobo in America, Ted Williams, became a YouTube sensation all because of his "radio announcer's silky voice".

Susan Boyle, too, was catapulted from her reclusive existence to worldwide super stardom overnight when a clip of her singing on television show Britain's Got Talent exploded on YouTube in 2009.

Justin Bieber is now a teen idol with a worldwide fan base thanks to YouTube. Thus, it is fitting that Psy has also inked a contract with Island Records, the agency that manages Bieber.

The vacuous Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian burst into the limelight - but before that out of their clothes - as a result of their sex tapes being "leaked" on the video sharing site.

Malaysia has its success stories too, in artistes Zee Avi, Ana Raffali, Yuna, and Wee Meng Chee, or Namewee as he's more popularly known. Even those in the industry acknowledge that YouTube is more effective than anything else in helping singers promote themselves and achieve success. Talent is optional, all you need is a webcam.

YouTube does not just unearth singers and rappers. It also highlights current issues, for instance, how "disgustingly fat" Bollywood goddess Aishwarya Rai has become. Sometimes, it is used by the authorities to identify rioters, stompers and mooners at rallies and demonstrations; and helps bring to book animal and wife abusers.

With the deluge of bizarre and offbeat videos posted, it can also be a source of endless entertainment and mirth.

One recent widely shared video was titled "The Wiper Women (Only In Malaysia)". It is difficult to describe the hilarious goings-on in the video, only that it involves a minor accident in Kuala Lumpur, an enraged woman, and a windshield wiper.

Another entertaining clip is that of Malaysian millionaire Jho Low's lavish date night with Taiwanese pop star Elva Hsiao in Dubai which ended in a wedding proposal.

Despite fireworks, flowers, parachutes, a violinist, Rolls Royce, and Chopard baubles, Hsiao, allegedly turned him down.

If you are having a bad day, watch "Baby Twins Dance To Dad's Guitar", and all murderous rages will evaporate instantaneously.

All these YouTube posts appear to have nothing in common, but they do. People generally have short attention spans, and Gangnam Style, like everything else that has been propelled to fame by YouTube before it, will eventually be forgotten. Cameras and search engines will soon switch focus elsewhere.

"Microwave fame" seldom lasts, unless your name is Justin Bieber.

 By Chok Suat Ling


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