Gangnam Style breaks YouTube record

It's more than just a pop song destined to be played at every wedding for the rest of eternity. It's also a record-breaking, money-making, industry-changing phenomenon.

Gangnam Style
Gangnam Style music video has taken YouTube by storm. Screenshot by Jennifer Guevin/CNET

2012 was the year the entire world went "Gangnam." In November, indigenous locals from the Andean hills in northern Ecuador gathered at a Saturday market in the nearest town, but the day didn't seem to truly get underway until someone plugged a flash drive into a boombox and South Korea's Psy began chanting "Op op op op oppan Gangnam Style!"

Psy and "Gangnam Style" have achieved a lot in just the second half of 2012. Not only did the K-pop sensation make galloping cool again, it made it a requisite dance move for just about anyone who appears on television. The wide range of people seen dancing "Gangnam" includes Tibetan protesters, Google's Eric Schmidt, and a piazza full of thousands of people in Sicily, Italy.

"Gangnam Style" didn't just set a trend, though. It swallowed other pop icons whole. The music video was so popular on YouTube that it overtook Justin Bieber's No. 1 spot -- which had been built up over the course of the last few years -- in mere months, on its way to become the first video with a billion views.

All that cultural mojo has plenty of "real" value, too. It illustrates a shift in the way music is released in Korea. And after only a few months of world domination, the "Gangnam" meme was estimated to have generated at least $50 million. Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson even saw the political value of the sensation and went "Gangnam" to get young people interested in his debt reduction efforts. Now, that's a ditty with some broad appeal.

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