For 48 straight hours in early July, Korean pop star Psy and his crew drove Seoul's crowded highways in search of absurdist settings for his sexy horse dance. Obviously, they succeeded – "Gangnam Style" is not only spontaneously, ridiculously funny, it has snagged more than 167 million YouTube views since its release in mid-July and is climbing up the iTunes charts. "This is history in my country," Psy says, from a promotional tour in New York City, during an enthusiastic 45-minute phone interview that had been strictly scheduled for 15 minutes. Following is the singer's scene-by-scene breakdown.
THE SCENE: Lounging on a beach that's actually a playground
THE TIME: 0:16
PSY SAYS: "It was my idea. There was some playground in Korea. My thought was, the song releases on July 15th, and in Korea it's really hot in summer. You know there's a program called America's Got Talent? We had a version of the program, which is called Korea's Got Talent, and the boy [a miniature dancing version of Psy in the scene] came from there. He was not trained. He was just born like that. Isn't he amazing?"
THE SCENE: Horse stable
THE TIME: 0:18
PSY SAYS: "When we made this choreography, we called it 'horse dance.' I told [the director], 'Hey, this is horse dance, so let's find some horse place.' In that way, it can be more cheesy. It can be more ridiculous. So we did that. It was somewhere in Seoul."
THE SCENE: Debris and snow whooshing into Psy's face
THE TIME: 0:33
PSY SAYS: "Did you feel that I moved like Michael Jackson in that scene? [Laughs] I tried some things serious, to be ridiculous, you know. The snow and trash and everything . . . I asked them, 'Hey, throw it harder, throw it harder, so that way it's going to look really hilarious!' So they used a propeller. We edited a lot, and actually we tried a lot more than this."
THE SCENE: Dozing off in the sauna
THE TIME: 0:48
PSY SAYS: "It was a real sauna, so it was hot, and I was so exhausted, and all of a sudden I feel like getting sleepy on his shoulder. That was 100 percent ad-libbed. At this sauna, every staff, even me, was out of their consciousness. We were like, 'Hey, what are we doing right now? Why are we at the sauna?' The fat guy? Yeah, he was an actor."
THE SCENE: On the tour bus with the disco balls
THE TIME: 1:04
PSY SAYS: "It's like a tour bus, and a lot of older guys and older ladies are traveling to somewhere on the highways. Honestly, that's illegal, I think: They are standing when they are riding. When we were moving to this location, to that location, I suddenly found some bus on the highway, and I talked to the director: 'Hey, let's do that, the illegal thing, the older guys' party time.' The situation was ad-libbed on the highway. There's some lighting going on and mirror balls – that's not suitable for transportation, right? I cannot play that scene in the Korean National Broadcasting System. That's funny!"
THE SCENE: Explosion behind Psy's head
THE TIME: 1:08
PSY SAYS: "I've used very highly big-budget special effects in my own concerts for 12 years in Korea. So that was just a tiny piece of my concerts. That kind of explosion is kind of like a trademark of me in Korea."
THE SCENE: Dancing forward while the ladies march backwards
THE TIME: 1:15
PSY SAYS: "I try to show I'm dancing this horse-riding dance everywhere, and with everybody. The two women – they are walking back, right? In Korea, some aged women walk back to lose their weight, you know? That's a very normal situation in Korea. Younger people feel like, 'Hey, why are they walking back?' and aged women say, 'Hey, that's the kind of thing in Korea for 20 years.'"
THE SCENE: Dance-off with the Man in Yellow in the parking garage
THE TIME: 1:42
PSY SAYS: "The yellow-suit guy – he's a Number One comedian in Korea. His name is Yoo Jae Suk. In the music video, he danced very serious, right? Overseas, they are watching, just 'Oh, some unique yellow-suit guy's dancing, who is he?' But in Korea, everyone's going crazy: 'Wow, he's dancing so serious. He's a really busy man in Korea so we didn't have that much time with him. He's my very good friend. He just volunteered to do that for free so I cannot say, 'Hey, let's do that one more time.' We did it like three times, that was all. That was also ad-libbed – his moves, my moves, everything. We just played the whole song and we just danced what we know in our lives. There were some dirty moves and there were some horrible moves we couldn't use in the video. We have a lot of cut scenes. At the spot, everyone was crying – dying!"
THE SCENE: Elevator dance
THE TIME: 1:55
PSY SAYS: "He's also a very famous comedian in Korea. His name is Noh Hong-cheol. He's really a good friend of mine. He just came to my music-video spot to cheer me up. That was all. He didn't expect any filming. He didn't make [anything] up. The move – that was his trademark. He'd done that kind of move for several years. When he stepped in the elevator, I asked him, 'Hey, why don't you do that move in the elevator?' And he said, 'What are you going to do?' I said, 'I'm going to be between your legs, how about that?' He said, 'What?' And we were laughing. 'Let's see what's up.' All the staff was, 'What the fuck? . . . Oh, that's disgusting, that's nasty!' We didn't do that on purpose at all – as a result, I love the scene most."
THE SCENE: Dancing with the beautiful redhead in various locations
THE TIME: 2:11
PSY SAYS: "She is the leader of a very famous K-Pop girl group. The group name is 4Minute; her name is Hyun-a. She's kind of a sexy symbol among girl groups. She didn't do that kind of thing at all before. She asked, 'Why? Why? Why did I . . . ?' She was like, 'Oh, what is this? He keeps asking me to do some dumb shit. I don't have any clue. What are you talking about?' At some point she realized what's going on and she says, 'Oh, Psy, you idiot! This is genius, this is awesome!' That's what she told me in the middle of the video. And then she did it right."
THE SCENE: Splashing in a small pool with swim goggles
THE TIME: 2:38
PSY SAYS: "That was the same place with the sauna! The guy was one of my staff. After doing the sauna scenes, we are like, 'All right, it's done!' And we cheered. Honestly, that scene I copied Lady Gaga, you know? 'I want a volunteer from my staff. Take off the upper shirt. Who's it going to be?' He sat down there and I tried this move, that move.
THE SCENE: On the toilet
THE TIME: 3:16
PSY SAYS: "That was right outside of the sauna. [Laughs] That was the last spot, and we didn't expect anything. We were totally exhausted. Every staff, including me, we were thinking, 'Why don't we just finish here?' We went inside and found three scenes in there – sauna, water and toilet."