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With THAT THAT, The King is back!... and he’s brought along a Cat🐱

Updated: Aug 30, 2022

by Toyosi Begbaaji

Long time no see, huh? After 5 years since his last album, the undisputed King of Modern K-Pop, PSY, came back with his 9th studio album, PSY 9th, on 29 April, 2022. With this album, PSY reinstates himself as a pioneer of the modern K-pop scene, while showcasing his range as a musician, his acumen as a company owner (many of the features include artists signed to his label, P NATION, such as Heize and Jessi), and his ability to hang with the younger artists carrying on his legacy. Nowhere is this better seen than in the title track, That That, which not only feels of the current music landscape but ingeniously features 1/7 of the current biggest musical act on the planet.

PSY and SUGA of BTS from the music video for That That (Image credit: YouTube, PNATION - )

In this review, I’ll be focusing on the absolute juggernaut of a title track. Produced by and featuring Suga of the equally massive BTS (perhaps you’ve heard of them? I say tongue-in-cheekily), That That was essentially made for virality. Being a brisk 2 minutes, 46 seconds in length, with a catchy hook and undoubtedly addictive point-choreography, That That may (at first) seem like an attempt by an older artist to remain relevant by giving into what audiences of today want — short, snappy, easy to consume and discard within a matter of days, weeks if an artist is lucky. But, in typical PSY fashion, he’s gone about the creation and roll-out of That That much more intelligently.

As a fan of BTS, I first heard of PSY coming back through news of That That being produced by Suga, one of the rappers in the group. Then, it was announced not long after that news first broke, that not only would Suga be producing, but he’d also be featuring. Then came the music video teaser, showing that Suga would also be in the music video. And on and on, until we arrived at April 29th to see and hear That That in full.

That That is fun, catchy, obnoxious, brazen, and utterly addicting. Falling within (what I have since dubbed) the K-pop sub-genre of “Ahjeossi-Pop” — literally, ‘middle aged man pop’ — it makes use of loud rhythmic horns that drive the song from start to finish. Suga’s production is staccato and punchy in the verses, particularly in the opening from 0:22 - 0:36. This is put in contrast to the pre-chorus, which loses the horns in favour of a much more flowy, though still punchy, chord progression underlying PSY’s sung, “Can you feel it?” The punchiness builds as the song rams into its chorus, high-energy and perfectly paced. When combined with the choreography (a delightful mix of high cardio, complex footwork, and movements of levity that allow you to catch your breath), That That’s chorus never gets old.

Now, let’s take a moment to focus a bit more on the choreography. Typical of PSY, the choreography for That That involves a key point move of some form of jumping. From Gangnam Style to Daddy and now That That, PSY has always made sure we know that yes, he can still move like that (that). The choreo is deceptively difficult, accessible and fun to do whether you want to stop before the main hook (when they start jumping and kicking legs and all sorts of craziness) or you want to make it all the way to the second verse. Or, in some rare cases, if you want to do it at double speed.

In the music video, as a transition into the second verse, Suga announces his arrival with a cheeky, “Hey, you,” after falling from the sky and landing (presumably having been dropped by an eagle, if the screech just before is anything to go by). What follows in the second verse is a perfectly blended rap feature, riding the beat of the instrumental so perfectly. The highlight, arguably, is the end of the verse, when Suga raps, “Go-oh-oh-oh,” a moment that’s visualised in the music video as a slap fight between Suga and PSY dressed in his Gangnam Style suit (with Suga seeming to win). Cradling the bleeding and catatonic PSY, Suga then mouths along to the lyrics, crying out to the sky in anguish, “Can you feel it?!” before both look dramatically to the camera as the lead-in to the next chorus; this time featuring Suga dancing as well!

PSY and Suga in the That That music video (Image credit: YouTube, PNATION - )

Silly moments like this are what make That That so fun. It feels like a nod to a less serious time in K-pop, when high-energy but intentionally goofy choreography was the norm and music videos leaned into absurd humour. Compared to other music videos of PSY’s, That That is actually quite straightforward — he exits a saloon to celebrate how the “Pandemic’s over” by gathering with a large group of dancers in what resembles a town from the American Southwest. Then, Suga arrives, kills the version of PSY who’d last achieved international virality, and they all get together to dance carelessly, ending the song with a cry of “Do what you want, say what you want.” It’s straightforward, but can be viewed as symbolic if you choose to think of it that way.

Perhaps PSY is trying to say he’s ready to move on from being known as “the Gangnam Style guy” in the eyes of international listeners. Perhaps he’s been strategic, working with a member of the biggest act in music to garner guaranteed virality, and by showing Suga “killing” his past self, PSY is simultaneously moving on from that era while acknowledging the impact other Korean artists have had in widening the door PSY had first helped to open.

Or, more likely, it’s just a very very funny visual.

Final Thoughts

The ethos of That That is as simple as its music video — the last two years have been hellish, so it’s time to get up and dance and have fun now that we’re past the worst of it. Of course, things could still revert at any time (despite PSY’s bold decree, we’re still not quite back to where we were pre-pandemic) and we could be back to where we were in 2020 and 2021 before we realise it. But, at the very least, for now, we can (and should) “do what we want, say what we want” with reckless abandon.

One aspect I’ve not yet touched upon is the live performances of That That PSY has done since its release. Given South Korea’s recent lift on a ban on cheering at live performances and the overall relaxing of restrictions related to the pandemic, these live performances have featured large and loud crowds. If you have the time, I highly recommend checking out any of the concert cams from these performances, if only to see the joy and liveliness of the crowds.

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