I didn’t watch last season’s Produce 101, partly because I didn’t have the time and partly because I wasn’t all that interested in watching a show in which young women are set up against each other to become “the number one idol”. I know I’m being hypocritical as just because this season features young men doesn’t make the competition format any better. However, I’m going to try and be a bit more open as many of the contestants are out trying to achieve their dreams. That’s something I can totally root for.
While I am still behind an episode, I did catch up on two episodes in a row last night. If anybody is interested in gaining greater insight into the K-Pop industry and even learning the different characteristics of the many management companies, the show does provide some background even though it is in large part glossed over. The first filming had the 101 contestants show up and pick a seat on the pyramid in which all the chairs are numbered. They are basically being asked to rank themselves. A lot of the idols are quite modest about how they would rank themselves even though they hope to end up somewhere in the top ten. However, if two idols find themselves vying for one seat, the person who is seated there either gives up the seat or they figure some way to battle it out.
However, it’s the judges who make them reevaluate their skill as an idol. Each group, typically from the same management company, come out and perform and the judges judge them on their singing level, dance skills and other idol attributes such as their ability to tease or make the audience laugh.
What was surprising was that just because you’re with a big company doesn’t automatically make you better. In fact, many of the idol hopeful from the big companies like Cube, Jellyfish and FNC Entertainment, didn’t do so well in their audition and subsequently were graded D or lower.
One of these big companies is YGKPlus. Although the company is part of YG, home to Big Bang, Psy, CL and Akdong Musician, YGKPlus is a subdivision of the company for models. Although they were gorgeous and tall, I think they have a long way to go before we can call them singers and dancers.
As for Pledis Entertainment, it was shocking to see that their contestants were members from the group NU’EST, a group that has already debuted. They have a fan base even though they weren’t as successful as other groups who have debuted at the same time. It was especially hard for Kahi to see them as she remembers training with them. Now, they are back to square one and starting anew as their last chance to make it as an idol once again.
I was heartbroken when I saw Kim Dong Bin perform. He started out well with NCT Dream’s “Chewing Gum” but then he sees Judge Kwon Jae Seung taking out his earpiece and assumes that is a cue that his audition is done and over with. It wasn’t. And suddenly, the kid turns around and I am in agony as I hope he’s not having a panic attack on stage. Despite it being a competition, I like that the other contestants cheer him on when he’s given the chance to try again. Despite getting an F, his ability to turn around and keep going is what is admirable.
It took the judges a long time to finally award their first A grade and that honor belongs to Kim Samuel from Brave Entertainment. He originally trained with the other members of Seventeen but because he was too young, he couldn’t debut with them. He’s fabulously talented dancer, a decent singer and adorable so I am expecting a lot from him.
As the youngest contestant, Lee Woo Jin had us all smiling with his cute performance of Justin Bieber’s “Baby”.
I was also quite pleased with Brand New Music’s group of boys, especially Lee Dae Hwi. These boys not only performed a brand new song, composed and arranged by Lee Dae Hwi but one of the other members choreographed their dance. These boys looked tight and clearly ready to debut but Lee Dae Hwi is the one to watch out of these four.
Of course, we were all waiting to see the performance by Jang Moon Bok. He’s the kid who tried to compete on Superstar K with his rap but it ended up being a cringeworthy performance. I’m sure at a young age, it was hard to be a laughingstock of all his peers. It even became a hilarious SNL Korea skit in which Jang Moon Bok himself made a cameo appearance. I’m glad that he could brush off some of that pain and be able to laugh at himself but I’m also glad that he could get back up and put himself out there again. I can’t quite see him making it all the way to the end but I think a lot of people are rooting for him.
After all of the contestants are given their grades, they all move into the dorms. They’ve got to deal with a tight schedule and being away from home. It’s important to note that while the judges give them a score, it is ultimately the viewers who make the decision to pick the number one idol. I have to admit that I was surprised that Jang Moon Bok ranked so high after the first episode.
Depending on their score, everyone is separated in their respective levels and taught the new pick me song, “나야 나 (PICK ME) (Me, It’s Me (PICK ME))”. The contestants have 3 days to learn the song and audition it for the judges. Depending on how they do, their grade might change. Depending on their grade, they could be featured on center stage for their Mnet Countdown performance or be forced to serve as backup. It’s all about whether their voices will be heard and how many times they’ll be captured on camera. The melody is high and the dance is difficult and it’s a clear indication of what each contestant is capable of.
I was incredibly disappointed to see Kwon Hyun Bin, the model from YGKPlus. I get that he’s slow to follow along with the moves but he then gets incredibly flustered and gives up. He does that during the practices and even in his audition video.
Meanwhile, Jang Moon Bok may not be able to keep up with his fellow contestants but you could see that he practices non-stop. He doesn’t give up and that’s an admirable quality.
Unfortunately for the members of NU’EST, I am really surprised to see how they cannot keep up. After all they trained for years but it really makes you wonder if they are going to make the cut.
One of the hardest things the contestants have to deal with is just being away from home and the intensity of their training. It’s hard to watch as some of people breakdown in their phone call to their parents.
Back to the competition, it looks like we are in for a great deal of shift in the rankings as the judges announce the results of the second audition.
I have to catch up with the third episode tonight but are you all watching the show? If so, who are you rooting for?
Last week, I didn’t watch SNL Korea until the middle of the week. Because United Airlines has been in the news, a lot of comedy programs have been creating parodies of what happened with United as the bad guy. I laughed pretty hard during the SNL Korea skit which featured Jung Bal Jyang bemoaning the plight of the little man. It took me a little while to get that Jung Bal Jyang is a parody version of Jean Valjean from Les Misérables. He basically parodies the song, “One More Day,” from the musical with different lyrics recapping the entire United incident. It is not only hilarious but Jung Sung Hoon, Lee Se Young and Kim Joon Hyun are all quite talented singers as well. It worth watching and I’m hoping SNL Korea subtitles the videos soon. If not, I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about what is said or sung in the piece.