“The music and style is very upbeat and fun without the usual western cynicism and overt sexuality,” says Mark Russell, author of “Pop Goes Korea,” a book about the K-pop phenomenon. “The videos and fashion and dancing are super-splashy and over the top.”
Psy, he says, embodies this spirit of K-pop – though not entirely.
He may be “unusual for a star in terms of appearance,” says Mr. Russell. But “his music is light, catchy, and fun” mixing “braggadocio with slightly self-deprecating lyrics.”
The son of a wealthy businessman who lives in Gangnam, Psy went to the US to study management at Boston University, then switched to music at the Berklee College of Music. He graduated from neither but learned to synthesize American and Korean pop music influences into the K-pop melange.
“People like American culture,” says Han Koo-hyun, director of the Korean Wave Research Institute here. “Then they found similar and friendly culture from Korea. We made the Korean wave from American culture.”
Mr. Han acknowledges “some people dislike American culture” but says the relationship between Korean and American styles is unavoidable. “Why not French or Japanese or Chinese?” he asks. “They have their own culture. It’s not familiar to the people of the world. We accepted American culture.”
At last night’s concert, the Korean wave, or hallyu, lapped up on Korean shores after having washed over audiences from Japan to the US, from China to Europe. Here was the wave’s biggest sensation running through one number after another, responding to shouts in English of “encore, encore” with still more singing and dancing.