For weeks "Gangham Style" has been on loop in my head. Not the original, but the mash-up DJ Kooze uploaded to his TikTok last fall that transforms the whimsical K-pop smash into a lush soul groove by putting the vocal over Steve Lacy’s "N Side." It pops into my mind at the grocery store, or while I'm loading the dishwasher or walking the dog. It's in my head when I get up to use the restroom in the middle of the night, taunting me with its catchiness as I try to will myself back to sleep.
Kooze's mash-up flips "Gangham Style" into a euphoric burst that reminds me of spring—or least what I like to romanticize about spring. Sun kissed mornings that feel like Amerie's "Why Don’t We Fall In Love." The gentle pitter-patter of a random rain shower giving way to the the perfect nap. Rooftop brunches by the beach. Swaying in the desert at Coachella. Playing hooky to go to Six Flags. Summer vacations being right around the corner.
That combination of the smooth percussive loop Lacy plays on "N Slide" (a rather straightforward ode to copulation) and Psy’s ecstatic shouting shouldn't work. At all. But it somehow does, which makes it the kind of earworm that eventually finds its way into your timeline and embeds itself into your brain long before you've even noticed. Kooze's mash-up drips with that contagious, feel-good joy we associate with the carefree vibes of spring and summer—which makes how it's largely being used on TikTok all the more compelling.
If you’ve somehow managed to avoid being lured into TikTok’s addictive algorithm, Kooze’s vibey mash-up of “Gangham Style” is the backdrop of a trend that sees TikTokers sharing their most harrowing memories. The videos all start the same, with the user telling an innocuous story before the shocking, and typically traumatic, ending is revealed through an effect enclosing text or a photo inside a cluster of bubbles that spin and dance across the screen. It's jarring, and oddly thrilling, to see the big reveal as Psy is shouting "Ehhhh sexy lady" over a beat that makes me think of sunny skies.
It is hard to say when this habit began, but most of my nights are spent tucked under the covers with my phone hovering above my face as I watch total strangers reveal their traumas because as part of a TikTok trend. I scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll until my eyelids simply give up on me.
During the early days of lockdown, scrolling TikTok was a distraction from the news of the world. The tabs of my phone browser was all doom and gloom. The last thing I read at night and the first thing I consumed in the morning was news that only sent me spiraling. An endless cycle of horror, death, grief and rage. Obsessing over the election turned into obsessing over the pandemic which turned into obsessing over the insurrection and on and on it went.
TikTok offered solace. I could turn my brain off and watch videos of people making food with their little catch phrases and men shaking their ass into the camera and not think about our unending pandemic or whatever war crime was being committed. I could also see how other people were getting through these strange times. And for some, trauma dumping to "Gangham Style" is cathartic.
There is something about watching strangers put the uglier parts of bereavement on display in such a lighthearted fashion that makes you reconsider your own relationship to grief. One would think the sharp sting of an iPhone to the face or subsequent night terrors from indulging in hours of trauma dumping might steer me away from ending my nights like this, but it hasn’t. I can't look away, and I haven't actually figured out what that might say about my state of mind at this point of the pandemic.