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Korean rapper Psy releases single to follow "Gangnam" hit

Singer Psy (C) performs during the inauguration of South Korea's President Park Geun-hye (not pictured) at the parliament in Seoul February
Singer Psy (C) performs during the inauguration of South Korea's President Park Geun-hye (not pictured) at the parliament in Seoul February

By Narae Kim and Elaine Lies

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean rapper Psy released his much-anticipated new single on Thursday hoping to repeat the success of "Gangnam Style" that made him the biggest star to emerge from the growing K-pop music scene.

The video for "Gangnam Style" has become the most watched item on YouTube with more than 1.5 billion hits and Psy's horse-riding moves sparked an international dance craze.

The details of his latest single, "Gentleman", were kept under wraps until the song was released at midnight in New Zealand (1200 GMT).

The song, with a techno beat, was full of puns in Korean and contained the lines "I am a party mafia!" and the refrain, "I am a mother father gentleman".

Psy, 35, will perform "Gentleman" in public for the first time on Saturday at a concert at Seoul's World Cup stadium but he has been coy about what dance to expect this time, except to hint that it is based on traditional Korean moves.

"All Koreans know this dance but (those in) other countries haven't seen it," Psy told South Korean television last week.

He has asked fans to wear white to Saturday's event and his stylist told Reuters last month that the concept for the new song would again be a formal suit with "an unexpected twist of fun".

In "Gangnam Style", written as a commentary on materialism in the wealthy Seoul suburb of Gangnam, Psy was decked out in sunglasses, a white dress shirt, bow tie and tuxedo jackets.

The song racked up 3.59 million digital sales last year in the United States and Canada, according to Nielsen SoundScan and Nielsen BDS, putting it ninth in the best-selling list. It was third on Amazon's MP3 song bestseller list for 2012.

"Gangnam Style" catapulted Psy to global fame after an rocky career in the music business over the past decade.

Psy, whose real name is Park Jae-sang, graduated from the Berklee College of Music in the United States and made his debut in 2001 with the album "PSY from the Psycho World".

But he ran into trouble with the authorities for "inappropriate" content in the lead song on that album, which was seen as sexually suggestive. He was also charged with possession of marijuana in 2002.

Since then he has released five more albums.

Psy's brash style - at a concert last year he parodied Lady Gaga, complete with fake breasts that he set on fire - stands in stark contrast to the squeaky clean singers that dominate K-pop which is finding an increasingly large international audience.

A Music Industry White Paper published by the Korean Creative Content Agency said sales of K-pop outside Korea surged 135 percent in 2011 from a year earlier to $196 million. In 2006 overseas sales were worth $16.7 million.

Psy acknowledged last month that the stress of following up Gangnam was taking its toll.

He tweeted a picture of himself covering his face at a recording studio, with the caption: "The pain of creation."

(Reporting by Narae Kim, writing by Elaine Lies, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

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