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Moment that mattered: Psy releases ‘Gangnam Style’

South Korean rapper Psy performs his massive K-pop hit "Gangnam Style" live on NBC's "Today" show, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, in New York. (Photo by Jason DeCrow/Invision/AP Images)

“I saw the ‘Gangnam Style’ video early on and thought it might be a hit – but the way it’s taken off is crazy. I watched Psy at the United Nations the other day teaching Ban Ki-moon to do the dance, that’s insane. Even with all the madness around the ‘Saturday Night’ dance, I was never asked to teach it to world leaders.

I know exactly what Psy is about to go through and I’m excited for him, but I don’t envy him. This is the time when everyone wants you and you do anything the record label tells you to do. With me there was no time to question anything, to think ‘is this a good move?’ You end up really pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion and doing what people expect you to do rather than what you want to do.

I run a production company now and I can see what’s happening to some of the groups that are signed to major labels and I feel sorry for them. It’s worse now than it was in my day. The labels have to really push their artists and the artists have to be everywhere. In the old days there were fewer music channels, plus there wasn’t really the internet, so it wasn’t as difficult to stand out. Now there are so many different media you need to attend to. The work for the artist has tripled.

When ‘Saturday Night’ first went global it got wild. Suddenly I was being chased down the streets and everywhere I looked people were doing that dance and trying to get me to join in. Most of the fans were great, but you’d notice a few people turning up everywhere you went. Was it sweet or was it scary? How did they know where I was staying, where I was going to eat, which radio station I was going to be at? And don’t they ever sleep? You also get weird fan mail – people asking for toenails and whatnot. Psy should prepare himself for that. I never obliged them. Maybe I should have.

In the end it all got too much for me and I had to stop. I was booked up for six months in advance with no time off.
So I said ‘I need a break’. Then when I came back I wasn’t 20 any more and I started feeling funny going on stage. I found myself much more comfortable in production and doing things under different names. I wanted to work with other people and to help from behind the scenes.

All in all I’m really happy with how it all worked out, I’ve had my cake and I’ve eaten it too. I had the experience of being out there and enjoying the success, but then when it got too much I managed to take a step back. Now I’m tentatively stepping back into the spotlight with a new album. And you know what? I feel 25 again. I still do my style of music, and some people may feel it’s cheesy, but that’s what I love. You can’t get rid of me. We’ll see how it goes, but I feel lucky – it’s been almost 20 years and that’s not bad for somebody who was written off after one song.

My advice to Psy – and it might be a little late – is don’t ever do the dance! Nobody remembers it this way, but I never did the Saturday Night dance – yet it’s everywhere I go, tied to everything I do. For a while I felt haunted by the dance, but looking back I’m grateful for it, as it really helped the song. It’s the same with the ‘Macarena’ dance. Now at weddings when the song comes on folks jump up and start doing it together and that’s so funky. You just won’t see me doing it…”

Whigfield’s new album ‘W’ is out now.

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