Maybe we should slow down. I offer as Exhibit A, Psy’s “Gangnam Style.”
I’m only quoting Wikipedia here, but read the jarring ridiculousness (but I’m presuming, accuracy) of what the world’s most sketchy authoritative source says about this enormous hit:
“The song and its accompanying music video went viral in August 2012 and have influenced popular culture since then.”
That’s followed two sentences later by:
“On September 20, 2012, [my note here: That is one month later] "Gangnam Style" was recognized by Guinness World Records as the most ‘liked’ video in YouTube history. [Me again. In the entire seven year history of YouTube.] It subsequently won Best Video at the MTV Europe Music Awards held later that year.”
That’s followed about a paragraph later by this:
“By the end of 2012, the song had reached the number one position in more than 30 countries including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Although the song's reception in Japan remained lukewarm, the song topped China's Baidu 500 download list and was labeled by state-controlled media as having a ‘divine melody.’ ” Later in the Wikipedia entry, we read that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon “hailed the song as a ‘force for world peace.’ ”.
That has all happened in four months and two weeks.
Oh yes. This week, YouTube is celebrating that “Gangnam Style” is about to go over 1 billion views. It’s produced its own homage to the hit and other various weekly YouTube flotsam, jetsam and phenomena.
The Website gadgets.ndtv.com notes that the hits keeps on keepin’ on, “with South Korean social networks awash with conspiracies that tie Psy's horse-riding dance with 16th century French seer Nostradamus and the December 21 apocalypse prophesied by the Mayans.”
Well, that would explain it for me.
I bring this up because, personally, I’ve only seen “Gangnam Style” about twice, three times max. But I’ve seen dozens of references to it, or parodies of it, or remakes by everyone from marching bands to our soldiers in Afghanistan. And I started seeing those in September, just as “Gangnam Style” was being named the most liked video in YouTube history.
The stunning truth of that is that parodies or remakes only have entertainment value if sufficient zillions of us out in the audience are thoroughly familiar with the original. The big market in Gangnam Style+ material online suggests that viral media now works so fast it’s as if we say Gesundheit! before there’s an actual sneeze. (The truth is, my first “Gangnam Style” experience was a parody of it, which I watched only because I knew the original was, as they say, trending.)
But there are a lot of people in this world.
Here’s a research assignment for the holiday season that you can do at home—or better, at your relatives’ homes. Mention (or egad, re-enact!) “Gangnam Style” and monitor reaction. If your findings are what I think they will be, it will perhaps cool down your definition of what a YouTube phenomenon really mean, even within the various so-called “coveted” demographics that advertisers so-called “crave.”
Your friends and relatives will, I bet, speak about “Gangnam” in the past tense—like it’s already “happened”—or will stare at you blankly because this thing “trended” right by them, and they see enough trends come and go that they are content to wait for the next bus. "Gangnam Style" is history, old even faster than it was new.
I think I’d be right about that, even if were 18 and writing this. So much of what’s available online quickly—so very, very quickly—becomes like that toy your kid will get at this time of the year, play with for 10 minutes and then never again.
That’s the problem. What’s the point of “engagement” like this? Is it only me who thinks “Gangnam Style” has more to do with what’s flawed with online video and social media than what’s powerful about it?
Yes, the world sees the message and spreads it, in a snap. And in another snap, the message is over, done, replaced, forgotten. If this is a positive manifestation of the power of online video, man, I’m pulling for the Mayans.