On March 9 The Los Angeles Times ran a piece announcing the imminent release of K-Pop singer Psy’s follow-up to “Gangnam Style,” the novelty song that became the first YouTube video to be viewed a billion times. How you feel about this probably depends less on whether you like the song than whether you think a cultural phenomena that has more to do with being a meme—like the angry cat— is interesting. In a related development, Billboard Magazine recently began integrating YouTube views into their calculus of chart positions, which pretty much ensures that the world of popular music, at least in terms of its pop charts, will continue its descent into a tween mentality driven by novelty songs, which will then be covered widely by a rapacious 24-hour news cycle that must be fed. This is bad news if you are not a teenager and suggests nothing as much as our collective Psy-chosis. All of this has less to do with music and more to do with hula hoops and mood rings.
No matter how you think about Psy—and I’m not as sure as the L.A. Times that he ever crosses your mind at all—let me give you some comparisons to show how ridiculous this has all become. An article about the follow-up to “Gangnam Style” is the equivalent of writing a serious article about Jump ‘N The Saddle Band’s follow-up to 1983’s “The Curly Shuffle” (for the record, they didn’t have one), or Los Del Rio’s follow-up to 1995’s “Macarena” (it was “Macarena Christmas”). Wait, this is fun I can’t stop: Brian Hyland’s 1960 “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” (the follow-up was “Four Little Heels [The Clickety Clack Song]”); Ray Stevens’ “The Streak” from 1974 (the follow-up was “The Moonlight Special”); Joe Dolce’s “Shaddup You Face” from 1980 (gratefully, no follow-up); Eiffel 65’s 1998 “Blue (Da Ba Dee),” (the follow-up was 1999’s “Move Your Body”); The Afternoon Delight’s General Hospital parody “General Hospitale” from 1981 had no successor. You see a pattern here? I wonder if these one hit wonders would have had more sustained careers in the age of YouTube.
There have always been novelty records and bubblegum records aimed at kids, but they never seemed as depressingly ubiquitous. As for Psy, we’ll have to wait and see. I hear that Buckner and Garcia (“Pac Man Fever,” 1981) have set a place setting for him on the One-Hit Wonder dais right next to toastmaster Dickie Goodman (“Mr. Jaws,” 1975). Fingers crossed, because the thing about fads is that you’re relieved when they go away.
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