With more than 5 billion YouTube views and recently surpassing a landmark 10 million subscribers, PSY is the undisputed king of viral videos. But on his recently released 4X2=8 album, his eighth project since his 2001 debut on the Korean scene, the rapper-singer is coming with yet another unexpected, deeper message.
The singles “I Luv It” and “New Face” certainly play to his strengths as the high-energy, highly entertaining rapper-singer the world fell in love with in 2012, but a lyric like “I’m not what you expected/ I don’t really care” on the latter indicates a truly self-actualized side of PSY. With an all-star cast of Korean talent (including established and rising K-pop stars and producers), a newfound confidence (“Facts” state the truly impressive, well, facts of his career) and now five years as a global star, PSY has a refreshed, relaxed outlook as seen in a recent chat with Billboard. Read on below:
Your new album 4X2=8 is another chart and viral hit with the new videos for “I Luv It” and “New Face.” Why did you choose these two songs as the singles?
Since my debut, my singles’ general genre has been EDM — which stands for “energetic dance music.” [Laughs] I do what I got to do with a single, and I do what I want to do through a full length album. In “I Luv It,” I tried hard to make a different style of music video from my previous ones with sets, contrasts, and etcetera. But as you know, Lee Byunghun did it all. [Laughs] I personally prefer the “New Face” music video because this type of video is what I usually do. It’s a PSY video: bringing the dancing everywhere! Naeun did a great job. I have a dream that one day, my music videos will be [known like] “Jim Carrey movies” or the “Jackie Chan movies” of the music video industry.
Speaking of Naeun, how did she end up as your latest co-star on “New Face”?
?She’s of course very popular as a member of Apink in Asia and as an actress in Korea, but she has never done something funny and funky. I thought it would look great and fresh, so I called and asked her to be in my music video. She accepted. [Laughs]
There is a humorous moment in “I Luv It” where your YouTube video has a humongous amount of views. Are you concerned with video views these days?
Nah, my YouTube views are more than enough already. It’s just related to the lyrics of that specific scene in which I say, “I take it way too far / Got planes up in the air.”
While listening to 4X2=8, I got the feeling that you had a bigger message. On “I Luv It,” you say “I’m not what you expected, I don’t really care” and on “Fact” (featuring G-Dragon) you talk about your career accomplishments. Were you thinking about critics or haters on this album?
I sincerely love and care about the criticisms from the public and the critics. Aaaand, I sincerely don’t love and care about the haters. But this time, I took good care of the haters in the song “Fact.” And GD killed it!
Let’s talk about the great collaborators on this album. You have G-Dragon and Taeyang from BIGBANG on their own songs, “Fact” and “Love.” Meanwhile, B.I and Bobby from iKON are on “Bomb.” Zico also co-wrote and produced. Tell us why you chose to work with them.
Of course, BIGBANG is the strongest Asian act, and each is as strong branded individually as they are as a team. My songs got class because of their presence in the songs. But working with the youngsters who write their own stuff feeds me a great deal of raw energy. In this album, I got “piece and peace” from working with B.I, Bobby and Zico — I found a big piece of my creation slump puzzle by working with songwriting youngsters and I felt peace after solving the slump. From BIGBANG to BTS, lots of K-pop boy bands have made history, taking it to another level, and I feel like iKON will be the next generation of continuing that history.
How are you feeling these days? I remember reading after “Gangnam Style” that you were very stressed. Are you taking care of yourself?
I used to get stressed out with “Gangnam Style,” because it was something that was never done or broken before. But these days, I’m very happy and handsome. [Laughs] Making this album was a perfect getaway journey from “the Gangnam district” even though I recorded mostly in Gangnam. [Laughs]
We are coming up on the five-year anniversary of “Gangnam Style.” Can you believe it’s been five years? What would be your reaction if one day another YouTube video earned more views than “Gangnam Style”?
To me, it’s the biggest trophy in my life that the world has given me — like a trophy in my mind, I put it on a shelf in my mind to look at and feel proud of from time to time. The second-most watched video still sounds cool and it will happen sooner or later. Wiz Khalifa‘s going to be the next one! I’ve watched “See You Again” so many times. Great video and, foremost, it’s a great song.
What else would you like to share?
It still feels so unrealistic whenever I see a humongous number of comments in different languages in my SNS channels and my YouTube channel. Since I’m a Korean artist, I always rap and sing in Korean. One day, I will release something in English to appreciate my supporters from all over the world.