Korean rapper PSY’s “Gangnam Style” was an internet phenom which no one could have predicted. The catchy tune and the ridiculous dancing in the music video, however, made it a meme waiting to happen. But, as you sit and listen to the song (which I have, far too many times), what does it mean? Since it’s in Korean, many of us have not taken a time to review what the words mean. I’m going to do that today. Here are the translated lyrics.
PSY begins by singing what will be the line we’ll see throughout the track, “Oppa is Gangnam style / Gangnam style.” What does that even mean? Gangnam is an area in Seoul which, according to PSY himself, “I describe it as noble at the daytime and going crazy at the night time.” Oppa is a term used to describe an older man. Generally, when a younger lady is talking to an older dude – she may refer to him as “Oppa.” So, we have PSY beginning the track looking for younger ladies saying that he’s cool in the day, but a freak in the night. We’ve seen this same type of statement in popular American music, (example when Ludacris says “Lady in the street but a freak in the bed” in Yeah!!! by Usher featuring Ludacris and Lil’ Jon). How does that stand up to Biblical muster?
The Bible says we are to present ourselves well, as Christians, so the world will have nothing to attack us on apart from our faith and to glorify the Lord (Matthew 5:16, 1 Peter 2:12). Does that mean we should be sinning in secret? Absolutely not. God sees all things in secret, in the heart (1 Samuel 16:7), all things we do in the darkness of night (Psalm 90:8). He sees our sins whenever they are committed. Going crazy at night when not around the proper people still can be sinful and God will judge us for these secret sins (Ecclesiastes 12:14, Romans 2:16).
PSY continues by getting into the rap saying, “A girl who is warm and humanly during the day / A classy girl who know how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee / A girl whose heart gets hotter when night comes / A girl with that kind of twist.” He basically goes on to describe a young girl as he described himself earlier. A girl who is proper during the day, but crazy in the evening. This isn’t the type of girl the Lord is calling men to seek for marriage (1 Peter 3:1-6). Then again, PSY isn’t necessarily looking for marriage but most likely a hookup. As discussed when I reviewed the theology behind Pitbull and Kesha’s Timber, hookup culture is not Biblical and is detrimental. Sex is designed for marriage (Genesis 2:24, 1 Corinthians 7:8-9).
PSY continues with the next set of lines describing himself also as a man who’s calm in the day, but crazy at night. PSY says, “A guy who is as warm as you during the day / A guy who one-shots his coffee before it even cools down / A guy whose heart bursts when night comes / That kind of guy.” Proper and a little swanky during the day, but crazy in the evening looking for love (or more accurately, lust). Again, not the type of man a Christian should be seeking (Ephesians 5:25-31, 1 Peter 3:7). Men are to sacrificially love their wives, lay down their lives for them, help encourage them up in the faith, live with them, not deny them sexually. If you fail in these, Peter says your prayers will be weakened (1 Peter 3:7). A lot is riding on a man being a Biblical husband. It’s important. Seeking random tail is not being a Biblical man.
In the well known chorus, PSY calls to these young women, “HEY SEXY LADIES.” He then says that he’s “Gangnam style.” Very classy cat call.
In the second verse, PSY is continuing to describe much of the same. First, for the ladies he says, “A girl who looks quiet but plays when she plays / A girl who puts her hair down when the right time comes / A girl who covers herself but is more sexy than a girl who bares it all / A sensible girl like that.” After describing, once more, one who looks proper but acts crazy in private he mentions something else. He says he finds a girl who’s modest in public more attractive than one who’s showing tons of skin. Modesty is encouraged in the Bible and it’s encouraging to see PSY talking about it boldly here (1 Timothy 2:9, 1 Peter 3:3-4).
Now for the “gentlemen,” PSY says, “A guy who seems calm but plays when he plays / A guy who goes completely crazy when the right time comes / A guy who has bulging ideas rather than muscles / That kind of guy.” Once again, he describe the same kind of person – but then talks about how the inside matters more than the outside appearance. Again, this is a Biblical ideal of seeing the true nature of a person and not merely their adornment. Encouraging words in the middle of a song about an older dude seeking sexy young proper ladies who are crazy at night.
PSY closes the song calling these ladies beautiful, saying he can go all night, and that he knows a thing or two. With my previous detailed commentary on sex and the Biblical rejection of hookup culture, I don’t think much more needs to be said.
People who claim to be Christians in Korea make up about 30% of the population (11% Catholic, 19% Protestant). It’s not surprising in a culture which is nearly 50% irreligious to see very few Christian beliefs in pop music, especially a song with the themes of Gangnam Style. Songs like this may be catchy and fun to listen to, but the words serve as a reminder of a broken world where hooking up is the norm. Let us break the norm by clinging to the word and encouraging others to do the same.