Ten years ago, his wacky music video "Gangnam Style" was a worldwide hit, and his famous horse dance was imitated by millions of fans around the world: today, the South Korean Psy is living his best life, proud of his "biggest trophy".
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Uploaded on July 15, 2012, the clip became the first YouTube video to reach one billion views, suddenly propelling the singer to global stardom.
At the height of his popularity, he was everywhere: on stage with Madonna, leading a dancing crowd in front of the Eiffel Tower, or even performing in front of Barack Obama, the American president at the time.
A double-edged success, synonymous with pressure to match this first success. A period that Psy describes as one of the most difficult of his life.
Things became "heavier and more difficult because each time, I (had to) have this kind of tube", admits Psy to AFP during an interview at the end of May at the headquarters of his company in Gangnam, the uptown Seoul which he pokes fun at in the song.
"I had a huge addiction to this song... But you know, that was ten years ago, so now I'm really free," says the artist.
Beyond Psy's career, the title changed the music industry by demonstrating how an artist who did not perform in a dominant language like English could reach an international audience through the internet.
It has also transformed the way of establishing music rankings by taking into account views on YouTube.
The groundbreaking role of Psy and “Gangnam Style” has been recognized by some of the biggest names in K-pop, who also have a strong presence on the platform.
"I've always been grateful," BTS member Suga said in a video last month.
"With 'Gangnam Style', he paved the way for K-pop in the United States [...]. We were able to follow in his footsteps with greater ease.”
"A Funny Dancer"
Psy, whose real name is Park Jae-sang, was a superstar in South Korea long before “Gangnam Style”.
Marked by a video of the famous Queen concert at Wembley in 1986 when he was in college, he holds the British group as his first inspiration.
"I said to myself: 'I want to be a headliner like Freddie Mercury'," the singer told AFP.
"At that time, I wasn't that good at music, not that good at singing...I was just a funny dancer."
While attending college in the United States in the late 1990s, he was exposed to one of the golden ages of hip-hop, with artists like Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.
"I literally heard hip-hop on the radio every day," Psy recalls.
Appeared in 2001, he quickly made a name for himself thanks to his humorous and explosive stage numbers, and won several national awards.
Unusually for a Korean pop star, several of her early songs were categorized as “mature” due to language deemed rude by censors.
“My most powerful weapon”
Since the phenomenal success of “Gangnam Style”, Psy has released three albums.
His latest, “Psy 9 th”, was released in April by P NATION, his label and artist agency founded in 2019.
Dividing his time between his own creations, concerts and work with P NATION bands, Psy is far from done with music.
And “Gangnam Style” remains a huge source of pride. "It's the biggest and most beautiful trophy of my life," Psy told AFP.
"On stage, it's my most powerful weapon."
He demonstrated that during a show at Korea University in Seoul last week, to an elated crowd who sang every word of an energetic set that included tracks from his debut album, released more than a year ago. two decades, as of his very last.
The fact that the very young generation knows the lyrics of songs, some of which were released before they were born, does not escape Psy.
"These days, (I'm like), 'Wow man, you're very popular. They like you!' How lucky I am as an artist. I'm happier than ever right now."