SEOUL-- It was neither the threat of a North Korean missile launch nor a visit to Seoul by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that kept South Koreans on their toes during the weekend.
Rather, South Korean rapping sensation Psy and his new song and music video took center stage on the Korean peninsula.
The 35-year-old “Gangnam Style” star, whose real name is Park Jae-sang, unveiled his new single, “Gentleman,” at midnight Thursday and performed the song live at a solo concert Saturday night.
At the concert at Seoul’s World Cup stadium, Psy performed his hits and covers for three hours before some 50,000 fans. More than 130,000 fans also watched the concert streamed live on YouTube and Korean websites, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news service.
During the concert, Psy flew over the audience suspended by wires. At one point, he was overcome with emotion and burst into tears. But for the most part, Psy showed relentless energy and humor. He also did a Beyonce cover, wearing a red bodysuit and a pair of red knee-high socks and stilettos while performing “Single Ladies.”
Before the concert, Psy appeared before some 200 members of the news media with his agent Scooter Braun, Psy was asked about the one Korean who is even more famous — North Korea’s 30-year-old leader Kim Jong Un.
“It’s a tragedy. We are the only countries divided right now,’’ Psy said somberly.
Psy admitted that it was hard to live up to people’s expectations after the runaway success of “Gangnam Style.”
“It was hard not to feel pressured,” said Psy. “But it was the best song I could make.”
Psy, whose smash hit has inspired millions of people to mimic his horseback-riding dance, is a hero at home for having catapulted himself and his country to stardom. Although K-pop has been huge in China and Japan for years, it remains relatively new to Western listeners.
Now, after nearly nine months since “Gangnam” was released, all South Korean eyes were on Psy’s sequel, with people wondering whether the new song would be as popular as “Gangnam,” which became the most viewed video on Youtube with a whopping 1.5 billion hits.
On Friday within minutes after its release, “Gentleman” topped South Korean music charts. The music video, which was uploaded Saturday, had gotten more than 10 million hits by Sunday.
An electro-house dance tune with a catchy refrain, “Gentleman” has simple lyrics, with Psy, a self-described gentleman, singing of his own coolness, joy of partying and appreciation of beautiful girls.
The music video is along the same lines as “Gangnam Style,” a tribute to and a satire of the upscale Gangnam neighborhood in the southern part of Seoul. (The name “Gangnam” means south of the river.) In “Gentleman,” Psy, dressed in a quirky tux and signature shades, is a mischievous gentleman, who plays practical jokes on the cast members in the video.
The song and video have received mixed reviews from South Koreans and the rest of the world.
“With the song and the music video, Psy once again plays the prankster he is. He’s confirming that he is not a hero that the Korean media portrayed him to be,” posted one microblogger on a Web discussion board.
“ ‘Gentleman’ is just a mere duplication of ‘Gangnam Style.’ I don’t see much creativity in it,” another South Korean blogger wrote.
During the concert, Psy shrugged off the reviews.
“I am proud and thankful that the whole nation is giving attention to my new song,” said Psy. “So I don’t even care if it fails.”
[For the Record, 7:50 a.m. PST April 14: An earlier version of this post gave an incorrect venue in which Psy shrugged off the reviews of his new song and video and made the statement quoted in the last paragraph. He did so at his concert, not at the news conference beforehand.]