What Happened To The Guy Who Sang Gangnam Style?

In 2012, Psy shot to international fame after releasing "Gangnam Style." This single from his sixth studio album Psy 6 (Six Rules) sold millions of copies, the music video went viral, and this K-pop star became a household fixture. But following the tremendous success of that song in the United States, you may be thinking Psy — whose real name is Park Jae-sang — has all but disappeared. Think again. 

Let's find out what the man behind this K-pop earworm has been up to.

Psy is no longer the undisputed king of YouTube

Psy's "Gangnam Style" didn't just break multiple YouTube records, it broke YouTube, period. The music video was the first to receive over a billion views on the platform, and the numbers kept on rising. In December 2014, some two-and-a-half years after "Gangnam Style" was uploaded, YouTube was forced to make changes to its code in order to keep up. "We never thought a video would be watched in numbers greater than a 32-bit integer (=2,147,483,647 views), but that was before we met Psy," a spokesperson told NME. "'Gangnam Style' has been viewed so many times we have to upgrade!"

According to Guinness World Records, "Gangnam Style" (which, at the time of this writing, has been viewed more than 3.4 billion times) quickly became the most liked video ever, as well as the most viewed. Of course, records are made to be broken. Despite these astronomical figures, Psy is no longer the king of YouTube. In 2017, "Gangnam Style" was dethroned by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's "See You Again," the super popular tribute to late actor Paul Walker.

Responding to the news, Psy tweeted that he was "#stillproud" of his achievement. The K-pop star was incredibly humble about passing the torch when he spoke to Billboard. "I've watched 'See You Again' so many times," he said. "Great video and, foremost, it's a great song." As of this writing, the most-viewed title belongs to Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito."

He rapped about torturing and killing U.S. soldiers

Shortly after Psy's rise to fame in the United States in 2012, a 2004 video surfaced of the musician calling for the deaths of American soldiers, CNN reported. The controversial (and profane) lyrics are part of the protest song "Dear America," which was written by South Korean rock band N.EX.T. In the song, Psy raps the following lines (via New York magazine): "Kill those f**king Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives / Kill those f**king Yankees who ordered them to torture / Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law and fathers / Kill them all slowly and painfully." Not exactly the party anthem he's become known for.

In a statement, Psy profusely apologized for his language, claiming it was an emotional response to the Iraq war and the death of two young Korean girls killed by a U.S. military vehicle. "I understand the sacrifices American servicemen and women have made to protect freedom and democracy in my country and around the world," his statement read in part (via CNN). "While I'm grateful for the freedom to express one's self, I've learned there are limits to what language is appropriate and I'm deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted. I will forever be sorry for any pain I have caused by those words. While it's important that we express our opinions, I deeply regret the inflammatory and inappropriate language I used to do so."

The 'Gangnam Style' singer drinks, a lot

While Psy has enjoyed the spotlight and all the perks that come with fame, he's also battled a seemingly dark side. In 2013, he confessed his alcohol intake to The Sunday Times. His attitude about drinking proved to be shocking, particularly in light of the constant positive press surrounding his name. 

"If I'm happy, I'm drinking, if I'm sad, I'm drinking," Psy explained. "If it's raining, I'm drinking, if it's sunny, I'm drinking." He claimed the only time he's not attached to booze is "when [he's] hungover." His beverages of choice include whiskey, vodka, and tequila. The interview also exposed his constant smoking habit, something that's thought to ruin a singer's voice. 

At the time of this writing, it's unclear if Psy ever sought professional help for his habits. However, it's important to note that a writer for Kpop Starz revealed the singer-rapper's perceived drinking "problem" may be a matter of "cultural misunderstanding" in the West. Citing a 2012 World Health Organization report which found that South Korea had the second-highest rate of alcohol consumption at the time, they wrote, "Why would a man whose fame and success depend on his likable personality admit to the world that he is a raging alcoholic? Simple. He didn't ... Throughout his career he has been rather outspoken about his patriotism and undying love for his motherland. This also means that Psy embraces all aspects of his heritage and culture — and yes, that includes excessive drinking."

Psy nursed a hangover with Snoop Dogg

In 2014, Psy and Snoop Dogg joined forces for a single titled "Hangover," which they debuted in the United States on Jimmy Kimmel Live! The video was a gigantic hit online. It seems hundreds of millions of people enjoyed watching the unlikely duo — who met for the first time at the video shoot in South Korea — experiment with assorted remedies for too much of a good time. The gentlemen tried swimming in a fountain, brushing their teeth side by side, and partaking in the hair of the D-O-double-G.

However, other fans voiced disdain at the mixology of K-pop and gangsta rap. "This is the biggest insult to the history of rap since the birth of Kanye West," read one comment on the video's YouTube post (via the Independent). Others complained the track featured too much Doggfather and not enough Asian persuasion.

Regardless, Psy and Snoop have no doubt basked in their combined internet glory. "For me, it was awesome because I've always wanted to be in a martial arts movie, and I just felt like I was in the kingdom of it all," Snoop told Kimmel. "I felt like I was a karate star."

He was considered too raunchy for Kim Jong-un

When Psy was interviewed by The Daily Beast in 2017, tensions between North and South Korea were at a high. Kim Jong-un was ramping up his anti-South and anti-American rhetoric at the time, so the North Korean leader inevitably came up during the conversation. Unsurprisingly, the musician refused to be drawn into a political debate, telling the website that he wanted everything to be figured out in a "very calm and safe" fashion so tragedies could be avoided. "As a Korean citizen, I want peace," he said. "That's all I can say. I want permanent peace. I want the North and South to be good."

It was a sensible response from a man who isn't exactly known for his diplomacy, but it wasn't enough to convince his own government that sending him to the North was a good idea. In 2018, a host of K-pop stars crossed the DMZ for a landmark concert in Pyongyang, watched by Kim Jong-un in person. Despite the fact that "Gangnam Style" is the most successful K-pop song in the States in terms of platinum awards, Psy wasn't invited. "There is an image that this side [North Korea] is imagining," a South Korean government rep explained (via Korea Portal). "And he would stand out too much from that image." 

We can only imagine what Kim Jong-un would have looked like dancing to "Gangnam Style."

The 'Gangnam Style' singer became a tourism ambassador

After putting South Korea in the international spotlight, the country tapped Psy to be its tourism ambassador in 2013, according to CNN. In lieu of a hefty payday, the music star accepted minimum payment. Psy's appointment replaced Kenny G, who oddly enough was the face of South Korean tourism in 2012. At the time, Psy wasn't a stranger to important duties, as he had held the same honorary title for Seoul's Gangnam district in 2012. His appointment also opened doors for other business deals — most notably, his ambassadorship for Asiana Airlines for 2013.

Psy: 'I'm not an Adele'

In December 2015, Psy released his long-awaited seventh studio album, Chiljip PSY-Da. Aware it would be nearly impossible to top his previous record, the musician reportedly felt immense pressure to succeed and fell into a dark depression. "I'm not an Adele," he told Entertainment Weekly at the time. "After 'Gangnam Style,' I was really happy but sometimes I was not happy, because that's my lifetime biggest song and I'm not going to top that song forever. For a while, I kind of felt a little bit of pressure, like, 'How can I top that one?'" Psy added, "I thought about being me, not the 'Gangnam' guy, or whatever. I was focused on finding myself."

Though the album didn't top his past successes Stateside, Psy's new K-pop singles were very well received at the 2015 Mnet Asian Music Awards.

He's still a big daddy globally

Psy may not be the household name he once was in the States, but elsewhere in the world and online, his dance tracks and signature Capri pants are still tapping toes and turning heads. The video for his 2015 smash single, "Daddy," transposes the star's face on children's bodies, which is equal parts disturbing and delightful — and ingenious enough to attract hundreds of millions of YouTube views and a spot on the U.S. charts. According to Billboard, the accompanying album, Chiljip PSY-Da, was his first to debut on the top dance/electronic albums charts. The project also showcased more A-list collaborations, including an Ed Sheeran remix and a feature with will.i.am.

If you're a Westerner who's suddenly wondering if you've been missing out, well, you have. But don't feel bad. It's true that Psy has not been spending as much time in the U.S. and European markets. Truth be told, there's more money to be made elsewhere. "Having earned an estimated [$55 million] from his work in the West, Psy is now racking up similar amounts from the lucrative Chinese market, where his collaboration with world-class pianist Lang Lang is currently producing a run of consecutive number ones," BBC News reported in 2015, adding, "Psy's decision to focus on the Asian music market may be an indication of where the entertainment industry turns over the highest profits for musicians — China's entertainment market was last valued at [$95.7 billion.]" 

How's that for a mic drop?

Psy's landlord controversy

Psy is far more relatable than the vast majority of K-pop idols, but for independent business owner Choi Soyeon, he's apparently nothing but another heartless rich guy. In 2015, the singer became embroiled in a very public controversy over an experimental coffee shop called Takeout Drawing (via NPR). This cultural space was situated on the fifth and sixth floors of a building in the Hannamdong neighborhood of Seoul for over a decade when Psy (who used his K-pop fortune to buy the entire building from the previous owner) decided that he wanted to renovate and replace the art house cafe with a franchise. "He's not a good building owner," Choi claimed. "I like Starbucks, too, but it would be good to have different types of cafes, some that manage the space like ours."

The battle between Psy and Choi raised fresh concerns about gentrification in South Korea's capital city, but the musician's lawyer claimed that he was being more than fair with Takeout Drawing and the rest of the building's residents. "Psy wanted them to leave very peacefully," K.S. Chong explained. "He offered some money to compensate for their moving, but they denied. He was very, very frustrated." In the end, the courts sided with Psy, ordering Choi to pack up and get out. According to The Korea Heraldshe was ordered to pay Psy around $55,000, the amount the cafe made while illegally occupying the space. But ultimately, Psy decided to let the business remain in the building.

The 'Gangnam Style' singer returned to his roots

By the time he started working on his eighth album, Psy was well and truly over the "Gangnam Style" phase of his career. He admitted that he'd started to actively avoid the swanky Seoul district during a 2015 press conference (via The Telegraph), and later revealed that he'd made an effort to get back to his musical roots on 2017's 4x2=8. Speaking to Reuters, the eccentric rapper-singer said he didn't want to "linger in the past" with this album.

"'Gangnam Style' gave me fame, while as a creator, some rough times," Psy said, adding that he would not "make two, three, four versions of ['Gangnam Style'] because I'm hung up on its fame." He went on to compare his global success to an addiction of which he was glad to rid himself: "Like when you throw a party, it takes some time for that excitement to die down after it's over. I think it took a while for that exhilaration to subside."

Psy has learned to stop caring about YouTube views, but he still wants his videos to be remembered. "I have a dream that one day my music videos will be [known like] Jim Carrey movies or the Jackie Chan movies of the music video industry," he told Billboard while promoting 4x2=8. The dance featured in the video for lead single "New Face" was nominated for an award at the 2017 MAMA, but it lost out to Taemin's "Move."

Psy founded his own record label

In 2018, Psy parted ways with YG Entertainment after eight years with the company. YG gave Psy its full blessing, affirming that the "close relationship" that existed between the company and its former artist would "continue forever regardless of a contract" (via Billboard). YG also hinted that Psy could be starting his very own label now that he was free to do so, and that's exactly what he did. In January 2019, Psy launched P NATION, which he promised would be "a playground for passionate players chasing their dreams."

The idea of creating his own record label is one that Psy had been flirting with for a while, but he chose to bide his time. Thanks to the massive crossover success of bands like BTS, interest in K-pop was at an all-time high, meaning the time was finally right for Psy to strike out on his own. Speaking to Billboard that April, the "Gangnam Style" singer said that he was ready to share everything he'd learned with the next generation of K-pop stars.

"As we're talking, K-pop is really huge and it's not domestic anymore," Psy said. "Right now, a lot of young kids dream about being a K-pop star. When I sign young kids these days, I meet their parents and they're really different from my parents. They're so supportive. The world's been changing: K-pop has done a great job, and that's why so many parents are so supportive."

He's targeting the U.S. market with rapper Jessi

The first artist Psy signed to P NATION was Jessi, a Korean-American idol who was raised in New Jersey. She rose to fame in Korea with appearances on reality TV shows like Unpretty Rapstar, earning a reputation as an aggressive, no-nonsense rapper. Jessi became known for getting vicious with her opposition during the show's rap battles, but that's just a part of her act. "I can see how people would get scared by the way I came across," she told OSEN (via AllKPop). "However, I'm not really like that ... I'm human so I would lose my temper and get tired, but I also have fun and take care of the younger ones."

Psy has seen her more sensitive side and intended to harness that once the pair took on the American market together. While speaking to Billboard, the P NATION founder and CEO hinted that Jessi (whose 2017 single "Gucci" racked up over 18 millions views on YouTube) was capable of making "commercial pop music" and could well become the next big K-pop export. "She raps in English very well. Not right now, but in the near future, I'm thinking of making some good U.S. songs as well," Psy said. "She's from the States and has a lot of global ideas ... She has so many ideas and she has good taste. My job is choosing and concentrating Jessi's big ideas into the best they can be."

Psy is breaking the K-pop mold

With Jessi on board, Psy turned his attention to recruiting some more traditional K-pop idols to his new label. HyunA had already been around the industry for a long time, debuting as part of Wonder Girls in 2007 before joining five-piece girl group 4Minute. She was able to continue as a solo artist when 4Minute disbanded, partly because of "Gangnam Style" — the rapper-singer co-starred in Psy's smash hit music video, making her a huge star. "After 'Gangnam Style' we were close friends and I have a habit that if I team up a friend, I imagine, 'How would I work with them?'" Psy told Billboard. "I thought of a lot of projects for HyunA just by myself. HyunA's a great performer, a great performer."

HyunA became a free agent in 2018 when her relationship with labelmate E'Dawn (formerly of boy band Pentagon) became public knowledge. Dating is a big no-no in K-pop, so both idols were dropped by Cube Entertainment. The company's loss was Psy's gain — he signed them both. As far as he's concerned, his artists are free to date whomever they like. "They were in love before meeting me," he said. "That's a really delicate thing. They are very good looking — I mean, every idol is very good looking. They are young, they are so talented and, you know, it's human nature. If you're good looking, talented men and women, you're inevitably going to feel good feelings about each other."