IT has been imitated by everyone from David Cameron to Anish Kapoor, keen to tap into the popularity of a chubby-faced rapper in a tight suit singing and dancing to a Korean pop song in front of explosions, sexy ladies and artificial snow.
Now Gangnam Style – by the Korean pop star Psy – is officially the world’s most watched video on YouTube with an unprecedented 817 million views and rising.
This weekend, the song finally surpassed Canadian teeny bop star Justin Bieber as the most watched YouTube video of all time.
“Justin Bieber didn’t make in two years what Psy made in four months. Good guy PSY” said one fan – while another added: “Justin Bieber who?
While Bieber’s Baby has been watched 803 million times since it was first released in 2010, Gangnam Style, which came out in July, topped the YouTube charts on Saturday.
Emotional Bieber fans took to the internet to express their dismay, with Boy Belieber posting on Twitter: “Seriously… If Justin’s record was broken by Usher or Chris Brown its fine… but not Psy’s Gangnam Style.” Commentators now predict the worldwide success of Gangnam Style will soon make it the first video to be watched a billion times on YouTube.
The YouTube Trends blog said: “It’s been a massive hit at a global level, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.”
United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, who is South Korean, was reported to have told Psy that he is no longer the world’s most famous Korean and said the international dance craze was “a force for world peace”.
Barack Obama promised to perform the dance for Michelle at the White House, while David Cameron and Boris Johnson are said to have enjoyed dancing Gangnam Style during a weekend at Chequers.
As he tours the world Psy, real name Park Jai Sang, has been happy to teach others how to dance Gangnam Style including Madonna, Britney Spears, Jay Leno and Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills.
YouTube said the “velocity” of the video’s popularity has been unprecedented and users from all over the world search the site for “Psy” and “Gangnam Style”. The official YouTube count for Gangnam Style represents only the figure for the original video posted to the site, not parodies or copies on other websites.
A parody by a group of students from Eton College and called Eton Style is one of the most popular with 2.7 million views. The Gangnam Style dance has also been performed by flash mobs, and by artists Anish Kapoor and Ai Weiwei.
Matt Fiorentino, spokesman for the online video tracking firm Visible Measures, said counting all the different versions, Gangnam Style and its related videos now have more than 2.2 billion views across the internet.
Mr Fiorentino said the dance naturally lent itself to parody. “Without the dance, I don’t think it would have been as big as it is,” he said.
“Psy has a unique sense of humour which comes through in the video. He doesn’t take himself too seriously.”
The song is now number one in 28 countries and has made a worldwide superstar of 34-year-old Psy, who is currently on an international promotional tour.
The artist has been a star in Korea since 2001, but his satirical style is unusual for K-Pop stars. The son of a wealthy industrialist he went to college in the US and speaks fluent English, but says he prefers to sing in Korean to express his sense of humour.
The lyrics of Gangnam Style poke fun at the materialism of people living in the district of Gangnam, a wealthy neighbourhood of Seoul, which has been called the Beverley Hills of Korea.
In an interview with Jonathan Ross, Psy said he had been surprised by the way Gangnam Style had swept the world. He said: “I don’t call this success. This is a phenomenon. This is not made by me. It’s made by people.”
Talent manager Scooter Braun was the first person to post the link to Gangnam Style in America. Psy is said to have offered to pay for his wedding to thank him.
Peter Robinson, editor of pop music website popjustice, said: “While Psy’s appeal was initially a novelty, his breakout success is another example of Scooter Braun’s shrewd management style.”