As outrageous as Psy’s music videos get, the 37-year-old Korean pop star knows how to keep it real. “We are focusing on single by single, not the full-length album,” the “Gangnam Style” singer tells EW from Seoul when discussing his just-released seventh studio effort, Chiljip PSY-Da. “I’m not an Adele.”
Chiljip PSY-Da — which translates to This Is PSY’s Seventh Album — might not go multi-platinum like an Adele record, but Psy knows a thing or two about ubiquity in the digital age. Since its July 2012 release, “Gangnam Style” has racked up nearly two and a half billion views on YouTube, topping the next most-viewed video by more than a billion.
“After ‘Gangnam Style,’ I was really happy but sometimes I was not happy, because that’s my lifetime biggest song and I’m not going to top that song forever,” Psy says. “For a while, I kind of felt a little bit of pressure, like, ‘How can I top that one?’ I thought about being me, not the ‘Gangnam’ guy, or whatever. I was focused on finding myself.”
Turns out, Psy being himself and Psy performing in “Gangnam Style” are one and the same. In the music video for Chiljip PSY-Da’s first single “Daddy,” the star flips the concept of will.i.am’s 2007 hit “I Got It From My Mama” (the Black Eyed Pea guests on another of the album’s songs) for a wild clip where his face is superimposed on child dancers and Psy himself is done up as a grandpa.
“As soon as I [came] up with the song, what I thought of was the movie Austin Powers and Dr. Evil and Mini-Me,” he says. “That movie is one of my favorite movies of all-time and what I thought was, ‘Oh, maybe that kind of weird daddy and son thing can be great.’ Besides, I thought about, ‘Oh, maybe I’ve gotta go with the grandpa, too.’”
To make the weirdness a little more palatable, Psy recruited his labelmate CL, from the wildly-popular Korean girl group 2NE1, to guest on the track. “I really like her as a human being, but I really like her as a female rapper,” Psy explains. “She has great voice, great flows, and also great dances. Someone’s gotta ask me ‘Where did you get that body from?’ I thought about her right away — she has the perfect voice for that question.”
Despite Psy’s extensive catalog — he released his first album PSY From the PSYcho World! in 2001 — “Daddy” and Chiljip PSY-Da arrive as he tries to introduce himself to a global audience that primarily knows him for a single music video. “The purpose of making a full-length album and releasing it to the world is maybe giving them a little more about me, not just one song, not just two songs, but several songs,” he says. Psy hopes that by trying out multiple genres on Chiljip PSY-Da, he’ll find a voice that clicks with listeners post-“Gangnam Style.”
“After ‘Gangnam Style,’ I got a lot of proposals from a lot of countries about concerts,” he adds, expressing his trepidation about taking a massive stage with only one global hit to his name. “If I’m doing a two-hour concert, the crowd and me, we’re all going to wait till the end, because [“Gangnam Style” is] going to be at the end. So, how can we overcome two hours with unknown songs?”
Still, as Psy recounts some of the most surreal moments from his “Gangnam”-related fame — he cites the U.N. secretary-general doing his dance and a flash mob performing the song in front of the Eiffel Tower — he knows that he has to manage expectations for his follow-up. “I’m just going to do what I gotta do, which is make a great dance song, along with a funny video and some stupid dance moves or something,” he says. “If people like it, that’s good.”
And if they don’t? At least, Psy says, he doesn’t have to worry about scrutiny abroad. “Well honestly, outside of Korea, they only know me when I wear sunglasses,” he remarks. “Whenever I need some privacy it’s really simple: The only thing that I’ve got to do is take off my sunglasses.”