Alex Dry examines Gangnam Style and other one-hit wonders

In Gettysburg in 1863 Abraham Lincoln espoused the Declaration of Independence. The world took note. In 1940 Winston Churchill told the world that Great Britain would defend itself against the tyranny of the Nazi onslaught and would never surrender. The world took note. In 1963 Martin Luther King stood of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and told the world that he had a dream. The world again took note. In 2012 a fat Korean man said ‘Oppa Gangnam style…’ The world again took note.

Sadly the world, or the moron sanctuary as I like to call it, was not without precedent in doing so. The overweight purveyor of ultimate Korean-based rap was just shrewdly cashing in on our love of one hit wonders. Ever since Toni Basil praised her pal Mickey’s mind-blowing capabilities in 1982 we have been hooked on bands that release one song and then go away again, either into obscurity or worse. The catchiness of such songs is undeniable, both because of musical and lyrical content. Indeed, the latter is often one of the most inexplicable elements of OHW as they will now be referred to. It is presumably because people have trouble discerning ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ (a difficult one we will all agree) that songs with fewer than ten different words appeal. See Carl Douglas’ seminal ‘Kung-Fu Fighting’ or Baha Men’s ‘Who Let the Dogs Out?’ for more details.

Yet oddly it is frequently songs in a different language that we as a British audience love more than any others. There is something about this non-comprehension that appeals to the masses in this country. Ever since Nena decided to release her balloons in 1986 we have gone absolutely spare for utterly dreadful songs that come to us wrapped in the misleading package of words we don’t know the meaning of. Why is this you may ask? Scientists would tell us that all hope is lost for mankind if everyone is listening to ‘The Ketchup Song’ on repeat, and this is probably why they have never done any detailed research on the topic.

Ultimately, tests conducted in my bedroom lead me to the conclusion that it is the ignorant bliss of simply enjoying a song’s melody without being troubled by the socio-economic ramifications of the words that appeals. No one cares for the travails of poor Chris Brown, with not enough women to beat up, or the Dickensian like woes of Adele, the 21st century’s very own Oliver Twist, if instead of one more bowl of gruel he had eaten the whole of London’s supply. This is why it makes no difference if a song is sung in modern English, Shakespearean verse, Klingon or Korean.

It seems then that in the modern world people are happy just not to care. Happy not to care about the words in songs, the bits that mean something, because they don’t want to be troubled by their messages. How long is it before books with words are dispensed with, and people read manuscripts that just include pictures of ducks and Justin Bieber sucking off Mickey Mouse? However we only have ourselves to blame. We should have seen the signs almost twenty years ago when ‘The Macarena’ came out; a song stolen from a band who in turn stole it from a Spanish nursery rhyme about children working in bread mines. We are all horrible people.

 

Alex Dry

Images by Korea.net