It was the first YouTube video to cross the one billion mark (and is now on its way to 1.3 billion). It has sold more than four million copies in the U.S. alone and millions more across the globe and, well, try finding anyone on the planet who doesn’t know the lyrics or the horsey dance.
And yet, Psy’s “Gangnam Style” is not on the list of nominees at Sunday’s 55th annual Grammy Awards. Yes, the Recording Academy tends not to lavish nominations on songs that are considered novelty hits. But “Gangnam” feels like much more than this year’s “Macarena.”
“This is the ultimate song showing that music is the universal language,” Psy’s Schoolboy Records boss Scooter Braun told MTV News. “People got to know who he was and he made people happy. He told me he made the song because in his country at the time it was a record-breaking hot summer, the economy was down and people were down so he tried to make a song to lift their spirits and make them happy. He ended up doing that for people around the world.”
Aside from its phenomenal success and cultural impact, the song was created by an artist with a decade-long legacy in his native country of South Korea, where, Braun said, he’s known as “the king of concerts.” Psy not only broke through in America, he managed to score a massive hit with a song that has virtually no English lyrics and, whether you realize it or not, a pretty deep message about consumerism and social climbing.
He also paved the way for a generation of K-Pop artists to finally score a breakthrough in America with a song that United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called a “force of world peace.”
Despite all that, Keith Caulfield, Associate Director of Charts/Retail at Billboard magazine said he wasn’t surprised “Gangnam” got the cold shoulder from the Recording Academy. “This is not my personal opinion, but when you look at his pedigree in America, he’s walking and talking at this point like a one-hit wonder,” he said. “When it was presented to the voters the question was, ‘Do you choose to vote for what is perceived as a one-hit wonder or do you choose something that seems like a more worthy selection?’”
The reality is that Psy may have simply peaked at an inopportune time when it comes to the Grammys. As Caulfield noted, the Academy whittled down the pop categories several years ago, eliminating the Best Pop Male and Female categories and lumping them into Best Pop Solo Performance, as well as Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals and Best Pop Performance By a Duo or Group, consolidating them into Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
“Now you have two pop vocal categories and had it been two or three years ago he may have had a shot in Best Pop Male,” he said. But if you look at that existing pop vocal category, it is ruled by female singers with huge industry cred, including Adele, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry and Rihanna, as well as fellow Scooter Braun star Carly Rae Jepsen.
Braun, who has been vocal in the past about his displeasure with Justin Bieber’s shut-out at this year’s Grammys, said he’s done with “saying whether the Grammys missed the boat or not,” when it comes to Psy. “People around the world didn’t miss the boat.”
And it’s not like the Recording Academy pinches its nose at all fluffy pop anthem with massive success. Look no further than the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance to see LMFAO’s nom for “Sexy and I Know It,” hardly a sophisticated pop thesis. “They’re certainly embraced some things that are perceived as throwaway pop,” said Caulfield.