Dance like you’re riding a pony at the state fair, but wear a suit while you’re doing it — you’ve got Gangnam style. And so do several hundred UMD students — surprise!
Decked out in Maryland gear, a crowd of students gathered on McKeldin Mall, faced the administration building and began to dance to Psy’s “Gangnam Style” when the clock struck 4:30 p.m.
The Mall was flooded with a sea of red shirts — some were there to watch, and others were there to dance. And others … others were confused.
Nathan Ackison, also known by his Muslim named, Muhammad Yusef, was one of the confused.
DBK: “Do you know what happened?”
Ackison: “Some one told me there was going to be a flash mob, so I came.”
DBK: “Have you heard of Gangnam Style?”
DBK: “Gangnam Style. The song they were dancing to.”
Ackison: “Oh. No.”
Ackison works for a company that provides roadside assistance and was on campus helping a client who had locked their keys in their car. He overheard someone say something about a flash mob and just followed the crowd.
He said he was even further confused when he couldn’t see anything — just a crowd of students standing and some music playing.
The song and its video made their debut on YouTube on July 15 and since then, the video has garnered more than 280,000,000 views. It is currently the number one most downloaded video on iTunes and the second most downloaded song.
“Gangnam Style” actually refers to a famously wealthy district in Seoul.
The song and its video are reportedly intended to parody the district’s superficial, luxurious lifestyle, according to The Atlantic’s Max Fisher—which is why Psy is shown well-dressed and with scantily clad women, dancing through famous Gangnam landmarks as well as the dirstrict’s seedier valet parking garages, horse stables and bathrooms.
The video is confusing for Americans and the lyrics are in Korean (save for the line, “heyyyyy, sexy laaady” in the chorus), but the selling point is Psy’s trademark “horse dance.”
Junior communications major Drew Blais thought it would make for an excellent flash mob.
“It’s pretty much my brainchild,” he said. “I like the song and I think it’s catchy—I’ve listened to it probably a hundred times or more by now and I’m still not tired of it.”
Blais watched the video over the summer and after talking it over with his roommate and friends, the McKeldin Library video assistant talked to his boss. With administrative approval, Blais made a Facebook event page, but didn’t invite anyone.
“We made the page last Wednesday,” Blais said. “I didn’t really check my Facebook and I had class until four, but when I got back around four and looked at the page, it already had about 400 likes.”
By Wednesday morning, almost 2,900 people had said they were coming.
Blais recorded two instructional videos teach students the dance moves, which he himself learned after repeatedly watching Psy’s music video and his guest appearance on Ellen, where the rapper taught Britney Spears and Ellen Degeneres the basic moves.
Students seemed to respond positively—Blais said that the number of likes on McKeldin Library’s Facebook page went up 27 percent.
Blais said that while he has been impressed with the turnout—even Dean of Libraries Patricia Steele learned the dance—the fact that not everyone can have Gangnam style was the key to the event’s success. Confusing people is the whole point.
“We like that there’s a little bit of anonymity,” he said. “We want as many people involved as possible, but at the same time, flash mobs have that element of surprise.”
Some students said that while they liked the idea of a flash mob, they didn’t expect it to be so confusing.
“I just think it’s funny that you can see more people standing around and watching than actually dancing,” junior government and politics major Catherine Thompson said.
“If everyone could have heard the music it would have been better,” junior anthropology major Katie Chen added. “Otherwise though, this was really random, with people dancing in the middle.”
“But it was fun to walk down here,” Ackison said.