The Addictive Appeal Of Gangman Style

The music video by Psy titled Gangman Style is visually entertaining and stimulating on a number of levels. We would like to briefly explore some of the elements that make this video highly effective. The provided images are for educational purposes only.



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First and foremost and perhaps most obvious is the use of sex and attractive females. No matter how cliché this sounds, the truth is sex sells and catches our immediate interest. People are naturally drawn to beautiful, scantily clad women, and Gangman Style clearly uses this to full advantage. Technically speaking, humans are drawn to symmetry, signs of health, and stillness in the human face.


If sex sells, then it is equally true that androgyny has an even wider appeal. By androgyny, we mean introducing characters or elements who share both male and female characteristics or a character whose sexual orientation is unclear. Androgyny has the advantage of creating sexual tension, mystique, and intrigue. In Gangman Style, there are at least two scenes in which Psy’s sexual orientation appears uncertain and/or his character exhibits both male and female qualities.

In every scene in the video, there is constant movement with either the main subject moving, the camera moving, or both. When we look at a scene, our eyes are immediately drawn to movement. In Gangman Style, the constant use of movement holds our attention and keeps us actively scanning and engaged. In one scene, in particular, where Psy and two models are walking through confetti and other wind-blown debris, the scene is literally awash in movement and motion. It is difficult to not be drawn in or engaged with that much controlled chaos and movement.

Gangman Style uses colors strategically. For many of the scenes, Psy’s character is wearing blue, pink, white, or black in order to contrast him against the background or competing foreground elements. The most notable use of color is where another androgynous character gets out of a red car and begins dancing with Psy. Bright colors are second only to movement in catching attention. It is hard to imagine this scene working as well if the driver had not been wearing bright yellow, one of the most stimulating colors there is.

When all else fails to engage a viewer, blow something up. Large explosions are always eye catchers! This is why many movies incorporate them.


A lot of attention to detail went into each scene to make sure that background elements were almost always present and active. The elements include horses, dancers, high-rise buildings, trains, harbors, and even carousels. It seems to us that nearly as much thought went into the background elements as the foreground ones. The dynamic tension between background and foreground creates a rich, deep frame, which easily holds our attention as we continue to take in what we are seeing.


This is related to the effective use of background elements but is a variation on that theme. In nearly every scene in the video, more than two subjects or elements are active or doing something, whether they are foreground or background elements. There is only one scene where Psy is portrayed as alone and that is near the end when he is sitting in a bathroom stall, but again, this scene adds a whole dimension in terms of shock value and awkwardly forces us into his intimate personal space.


There are at least three times in the video where the footage is cut at a quickening pace between approaching, moving, or contrasting elements. The classic introduction to Hawaii Five-O uses this same technique, which effectively conveys high energy and tempo.  In fact, the Hawaii Five-O intro contains many of the same elements under discussion here, although those elements are presented dramatically, not comically.


Despite its gratuitous use of sex, Gangman Style creatively exploits the key elements of visual storytelling to create an addicting and visually stimulating experience. The thoughtful use of these elements, all in the space of four minutes, shows their power to capture and hold our attention and influence us emotionally, even when the viewer might not understand the lyrics! In fact, we would venture to say that this video actually carries the music more than the music carries the video. In other words, the video really brings the music to life in a way that the music does not alone.