Advice for PSY, “The Past is Never Where You Thought You Left It”

Just three weeks after winning the MTV European Music Award for Video of the Year and two weeks after taking the “King of YouTube” crown from Justin Bieber, Korean rap sensation, PSY, faces a slew of controversy after anti-American lyrics from a performance eight years ago began circulating on the internet last week.

In a performance of “Dear American,” PSY rapped, “Kill those f***ing Yankees (also translates to b****s) who have been torturing Iraqi captives / Kill those f***ing Yankees who ordered them to torture / Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law and fathers / Kill them all slowly and painfully.”

Unlike PSY’s recent hit,”Gangnam Style,” these lyrics are fueled by anger towards Americans. While, it’s safe to say, most American’s had no clue what the lyrics to “Gangnam Style” meant when they first heard the song, they, like people all around the world, crossed the language barrier, reacted positively to the catchy tune and joined the horsey dance craze. PSY achieved fame in his own country well before this summer, but this year Americans helped him gain international mega-stardom.

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, praised “Gangnam Style” as a force for world peace; however, after hearing the PSY’s “Dear American” verse, placing PSY and world peace in the same sentence is a little hard for Americans to stomach. Can the musician regain his popularity and fame among Americans after rapping that they should die “slowly and painfully?” Should Americans let him?

PSY, who attended college in the States at Boston University and Berkeley College of Music, issued an apology Friday stating, “The song I was featured in — eight years ago — was part of a deeply emotional reaction to the war in Iraq and the killing of two Korean schoolgirls that was part of the overall antiwar sentiment shared by others around the world at that time. While I’m grateful for the freedom to express one’s self, I’ve learned there are limits to what language is appropriate and I’m deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted. I will forever be sorry for any pain I have caused by those words.”

The following day, the rapper attended the Christmas in Washington Concert and performed “Gangnam Style” for President Obama and his guests.

In our American culture, we pride ourselves with the ability to express ourselves freely. People can, in fact, say whatever they want (unless it’s slander, libel, false advertising, lying under oath, and so on), but that does not mean all forms of expression are socially acceptable or that society won’t hold people accountable– legal or not.

While musical artists, actors and other figures in the public eye have the right to express their opinions, hate speech certainly has no place in the public sector (or the private). Although PSY’s comments were uttered eight years ago during a politically charged and anti-American time and he’s apologized for “how the lyrics could be interpreted,” this scandal could taint his image in America for the rest of his career. Even when Americans contextualize the lyrics, the words still strike a chord–one no music artist wants to hit.

Cover Photo Source: Eva Rinaldi via Wikimedia Commons

Cassandra is a Content Manager and Developer at SJG. She earned her BA from Fontbonne University in 2011. Outside the office, she enjoys an active, healthy and well-rounded lifestyle including reading, writing, running, golfing, watching films, listening to music, taking photographs, and consuming media and social media.