Psy's Gentleman Sprints toward Top of Charts

If the first three days since its early Saturday release is any indication, Psy’s new single “Gentleman” is on track to shatter even the YouTube record held by “Gangnam Style”.

As of noon Monday “Gentleman” had logged 60 million YouTube views or an average of about 20 million a day. At that rate — admittedly a huge “if” — it would shatter the current record held by “Gangnam Style”, with its 1.5 billion views, in less than 3 months.

There are other indications that Psy is successfully shedding the “one-hit wonder” label some had been trying to slap on his back during the 9-month gap between “Gangnam Style” and “Gentleman”.

A good leading indicator is “Gentleman’s” progress on the US iTunes singles chart. On Sunday morning, just hours after the song became available on Apple’s music store in the US, “Gentleman” had already risen to number 29. As of midmorning Monday it had shot up to number 18. That kind of early momentum is only seen in the releases of global pop scene fixtures, not one-hit wonders.

The “Gentleman” music video is essentially a prequel to “Gangnam Style”, complete with the clueless party animal, the elevator dancer, the yellow-suited guy and the kinds of antics that sent the original viral. The major difference is that Psy’s character is a pre-adolescent version of his Gangnam self. He kicks traffic cones, fondles the breasts of department store mannequins, pulls chairs out from under women, punches all the buttons of an elevator with a passenger in abdominal distress, and unties sunbathers’ bikini-top straps.

The main dance moves, however, are more refined than the buffoonish horse-riding dance of “Gangnam Style”. One component is the graceful hip shaking choreography introduced by Brown-Eyed Girls in 2009. The other component uses hand movements reminiscent of the traditional dance associated with the Korean folk song “Arirang”.

Contrary to Psy’s earlier pledges to use more English in his new single, Gentleman’s lyrics are mostly Korean. The only significant English phrases are “You’re so freaking sexy!” and the baffling “I’m a mother father gentleman”.

The song’s most distinctive refrains are the Korean phrases “alangamolla” and “maria” which translate, roughly, to “I’m not sure if you know” and “Is what I’m sayin‘”. Like “Gangnam Style” the new single is an electronics-laced dance number that relies on catchy phonetics and reliable beats. Somewhat disappointingly, it’s entirely devoid of the lyricism that distinguished some of Psy’s best earlier works like “It’s Art” and “Paradise”. Apparently while sweating out his new single Psy sought refuge in the security and comfort of a proven global hit rather than leading his global fans to an appreciation of his lyrical gifts.

Yet Psy has professed not to care about his new single’s viral potential.

“I’ve been doing this for 12 years,” he told Digital Spy before Gentleman’s release. “Would it be fair to call me a one-hit wonder just because my next song falls flat? I gained international fame almost by accident, but that does not mean that I will make desperate efforts to maintain that global popularity. I will just continue to do what I have been doing for all these years. If it satisfies people’s appetite, it will. If not, it won’t.”

His fans can only hope that he actually makes good on that threat with his next single and moves forward instead of continuing to be borne back ceaselessly into the security of the known past.