Why Psy’s “Hangover” and its Music Video are Offensive

by / 2 Comments / 616 View / June 10, 2014

Psy, the Korean pop artist that took the online community by storm with the release of “Gangnam Style,” is back. His new single “Hangover” features American artist Snoop Dogg and South Korean rapper G-Dragon.  Apart from the half-beat electronic tinkles and trap-driven melody, “Hangover” features Psy’s typical love of looping lyrics.  From a first listen, it is no surprise that the man who brought us “Gangnam Style” is behind this new piece.  Yet, the looping joke has grown old and his music has become, in a multitude of ways, half-hearted and border-line offensive.  I take that back: it is strictly offensive in its portrayal of cultural decimation.

The song begins with a redundant “Hangover” being robotically meshed together in an 8-measure beat.  This loop supplements the snare sample, giving it the basic fist-pounding “vibe.” With this musical architecture, Psy clearly intends for this song to be a “party” tune, with elements of electronic pop and basic house music.  It’s too bad that the only time the track will ever seem artistic is when someone is drunk enough to have that hangover. The meshed synthesized beats coupled with the loose snare and flute samples demonstrate that this song relies on repetition to draw amusement and is probably the last thing I would want to hear hung over. The clumsily arranged ensemble is, very cleverly (if random associations for cheap humor is considered clever), associated with a music video full of absurd elements: puking, domino-falling shot glasses, and aggressive dental work.

Realistically, this could turn out just to be a fun visual ballad: the first few seconds of the music video simply display Psy and Snoop Dogg messing around.  If Psy and his studio wanted to pursue a completely ridiculous piece, a repetition of the first few seconds of the music video could properly compliment the triviality of the record.  But Psy is clearly, at the same time, poking holes at the “American culture” or international drinking culture—an identity that is tarred with heavy consumption, unsafe party habits, and “hooligan-like” mentalities.  My criticism isn’t against the drinking itself; Psy’s portrayal, while harmless on camera, is condescending to individuals that participate in this behavior almost unwillingly.  Psy is no social critic; unlike critical musicians, such as Kendrick Lamar who portrays the realistic impact of drinking in “Swimming Pools,” Psy crafts the light, madness-driven ridiculousness to mock a problem that afflicts not only Americans, but individuals around the world.

So what?  We have tons of videos like that: why does it matter that Psy takes drinking as a joke?  The disturbing part about all of this is the levity depicted as Psy, Snoop Dogg, and two women just laugh at each other while they drink endlessly:

“And I can’t quit,

I wake up in the morning doing the same sh*t.”

Psy is getting at nothing here: he is glorifying the alcoholic slavery that torments the characters in the video.  With sleazy and sloppy internal rhyme:

“Tipping and dripping, flipping the flow
Whipping and dripping a drink on the floor”

Psy shows his music is pointless.  There isn’t a single lyric that has any meaningful social criticism; instead, we just get banal drinking imagery weaved into cluttered rhymes and maladroit vocabulary.

It is up to a listener to judge a song, and with over 300,000 likes on Youtube, it is clear that Psy has some devoted fans.  If “Hangover” had been contained to a party-driven scene of young boys running around mindlessly, it could be mildly offensive to those who struggle with alcoholism and yet still be a simple, carefree beat.

Did I say pointless?  If anything, his music video demonstrates a horrific point about social culture.

Psy, with his diverse and well-choreographed (debatably) music video, takes another step in the wrong direction. Psy portrays himself and Snoop Dogg as worshiped figureheads throughout the video, as if they deserve some royal appraise for being drunkard lunatics dancing around the world.  The offense lies in his portrayal of women, donned in scanty and sexual attire, as submissive to such male figureheads.  This patriarchal imagery isn’t uncommon in the music industry; if anything, the music industry’s videos are the harbinger of sexism in media marketing.

Granted, Psy’s video doesn’t take the extreme ends of male-worship that was pursued by Robin Thicke in “Blurred Lines.”  But the male-praised and female-shamed complex is still visible.  Psy and Snoop Dogg portray themselves as rich (which isn’t far from a lie) patriarchs that have the license to drink nonstop while being surrounded by an ensemble of beautified actresses.  The video equally takes a dark fat-shaming turn at around 2:40, where Psy’s sexual lust is interrupted by the realization that the women he is staring at is pudgy. The arrogance to argue that hefty women are dispensable is apparent throughout the video, as is the praise of thin women subservient to the male half-witted figurehead.

“Hangover” is absolutely offensive, and while the musical beat is debatable as always, the music video and lyrics are objectively haughty, with a humiliating lack of respect for those dealing with either alcoholism or patriarchal oppression.  Psy’s video could be satirical at best, but with the attitude the video takes, pure egotism is the best bet.
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  • Anon

    Lets not start calling Kendrick Lamar a social critic…
    He has written one song about alcoholism being bad but I don’t think we can interpret him telling a woman that already is in a relationship to come have a threesome with him and a girl off the street as social criticism too.
    I get that gender inequality and offensive things in the media and in music happen, but I think there are more important things to write about. The reason videos like these are made and songs like these are written is because attitudes towards women and drinking are flawed across society. Saying “Hey, this song is offensive” doesn’t change peoples’ views. Explaining why the views that allow these songs and videos to happen are bad is what changes peoples’ minds.

  • just_sharing

    I don’t mean to disagree entirely with your article (since I agree that the portrayal of women in his video is completely sexist), but I think the drinking part of the music video becomes a little less ludicrous in context with Korean culture. Drinking, and drunkenness, is a common occurrence in Korea, and it’s not necessarily looked down upon or regarded as a problem. The “absurd…domino-falling glass shots” you mentioned are actually a common way for people in Korea to drink; I forgot the actual, Korean term for it, but they literally place a shot into another glass of beer or soju. Of course, the music video is exaggerated, but it’s not entirely misrepresentative either. I just wanted to share this little cultural tidbit on your article so that people who watch the music video and later read your article will hopefully be a little less shocked about it.