Psy Launches Gentlemanly Push to Reconquer US

As his new single climbed to number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 Psy began his US publicity campaign Friday in New York by accepting the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award.

“Who knew, right? Giving me this award in itself is a form of innovation, I think,” he told the audience which included fellow award recipients Glenn Beck and Twyla Tharp. The award is given to people whose creations change conventional expectations. It was awarded during the Tribeca Film Festival which is held at New York University.

“I applied to this school in 1996, but I failed [to get in],” Psy added in reference to the award’s NYU venue. “So I consider this a success as I finally entered this building this morning.”

The award marks the kickoff of Psy’s US publicity tour to promote “Gentleman”, the new single he debuted on YouTube on April 12 and in a concert at Seoul’s World Cup Stadium on the following day in front of a live audience of 55,000 as well via streaming video to a much larger YouTube audience.

Already the song has hit number one in several dozen nations and has set a number of new YouTube records for the most views during the first 24 hours, the most views during any 24 hours and the fastest to reach 200 million. As of April 28, it had hit over 250 million views. More importantly, it had reached number 5 on Billboard’s Hot 100 on the strength of digital downloads and two weeks as the top streamed song in the US, with 23 million streams during that span.

It’s hard to say yet whether Gentleman’s popularity will come close to matching that of “Gangnam Style”. It has a catchy electro dance sound and more English than Gangnam, though not close to the 50% mix Psy had promised earlier. As for the baffling lyrics “Mother, Father, Gentleman,” he came clean.

“The English doesn’t make any sense. ‘Mother, father, gentleman?’ What is that?”

Some suspect that it was meant to suggest “Motherf***ing gentleman” without being banned in his home market of S. Korea, not to mention possibly in many other markets around the world. As it was, the music video was banned by Korea’s national TV broadcaster because it shows Psy kicking traffic cones in violation of rules against videos showing public property being defaced or damaged.

On Saturday Psy followed up with an appearance at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner with President Obama as a guest of CBS News, along with the likes of Ashley Judd, Nicole Kidman, Jessica Alba, Steven Spielberg, Kevin Spacey and Bon Jovi.

Psy had already met the President during the taping of last year’s Christmas in Washington. That meeting had been under somewhat strained circumstances in the wake of the revelation that the Korean rapper had participated in a performance of an anti-US song in 2004 with the lyrics, “Kill those ——- Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives… Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law and fathers… slowly and painfully.” Obama did, however, shake Psy’s hand anyway on that occasion, perhaps taking into account the fact that the performance had been given at a time of intense anger toward the US for the running down of two Korean schoolgirls by a US tank and the deaths of Koreans in Iraq.

During the coming month Psy will be making appearances around the US. After that he will heading off for two more months of appearances in Europe, Asia and other parts of the world. His publicity is being arranged by his US manager Scooter Braun who also manages Justin Bieber, Psy’s stablemate at Schoolboy Records.

“It went like No. 1 in like 52 countries, so it was kind of mind-blowing for us,” Braun said of Psy’s new single early last week. “But he is just fun. He’s coming to the States end of this week to start performing it on TV, and around the world. And he represents having a good time, so good for him.”