SM Entertainment is holding another round of global auditions this year, hitting up locations in Korea, China, Japan, Canada, and the United States. Auditions in North America kicked off last Saturday in New York City, and yours truly was there to see it.
You heard that correctly. I participated in the SM Entertainment 2012 Global Audition. No, you will not be seeing this on my resume. Ever.
But you do get this snazzy fanaccount of my experience, though.
According to the global audition website, auditionees were required to register via email at least one day before the actual audition. After registering, auditionees received an email with the audition location and an assigned audition time. Mine was at 1:30pm.
I arrived outside NYU’s Wasserman Center at around 12:45pm, a good 45 minutes before my assigned time. But lo and behold, a line that extended halfway down the block had already materialized. The audition was running late. And so we waited, watching and craning our necks in the hopes of seeing the revolving door to the building start to turn, indicating that the line was ten or fifteen people shorter, and that we were ten or fifteen people closer to getting out of the cold and into the door.
Yes, it was really that dramatic an affair.
There were two guys with SM staff badges hanging around their necks who were constantly running in and out of the building, trying to figure out if the judges were ready to take more people into the building. You would think that they would have walkie-talkies for this, but no — it seemed as if there were only a few English-speaking staff members at hand who were then delegated to run around and basically do anything in the audition process that involved speaking English. Which was just about everything. Hope they were paid enough for their jobs. Heh.
At around 3:15, about fifteen of us were let into the building and told to proceed to the second floor (as directed by the pink signs, in true SM tradition), where we would find a “registration” table. The table was manned by one very harried-looking young woman who thrusted forms at anyone within a five-foot radius of her. The forms really didn’t ask for much — name, age, ethnicity, height, weight, prior experience…as well as your school and grade. Admittedly, I was feeling pretty old as I sheepishly filled in the name of my university and year.
I guess it’s a little bit sad that the defining point of my audition was that I spent half the time reflecting on my old-ness…and the fact that I’m not even that old (old enough to be in college, but not old enough to be Taemin’s noona) made things all the more pathetic. Every other girl I saw still had braces. I was practically a senior citizen by comparison.
After returning the form, we were each given a numbered sticker to wear. The numbers divided the auditionees into two groups — an “A” group and a “B” group. There was no specific differentiation between the two groups; apparently, there were two audition rooms with two sets of judges, and splitting the auditionees into two groups was a way to make the audition process all the more efficient. Wouldn’t expect anything less from you, SM.
We were then ushered into a holding room that was filled — filled! — with about seventy or eighty other auditionees. The fact that this only constituted only a fraction of all the audition participants in New York kind of blew my mind, and despite the way that we were herded from location to location, I couldn’t help but be impressed with SM’s ability to accomodate so many people with such ease.
There was another guy standing at the front of the room, mic in hand, rambling off announcement after announcement like a human PA system. Take a seat if you have a number. Sing only thirty seconds of your song, and only the climax. When you are done, please leave immediately. Audition results will be disclosed via email, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The audition ran from 11am to about 7pm, and I would be surprised if this guy didn’t hate his life after spending eight hours repeating the same four sentences over and over again to an otherwise inattentive crowd. He should’ve collected tips.
The holding room was decked out in posters of every SM artist you could possibly imagine, and there was a projector set up that was playing SM music videos, presumably in chronological order — from “Hoot” to “Mr. Simple” to “Hot Summer” to…every single EXO teaser that SM has released to date. Ell-oh-flipping-ell.
Numbers were called up in groups of ten to fifteen, at which time we were ushered out of the holding room and into a lobby, where we were instructed to line up in number order in front of the audition room doors. Two groups of ten were called to line up at a time, which made sense once the doors to the audition room were opened. The first group of ten was called to line up against a wall in front of the judges, while the second group of ten sat in chairs by the side, waiting and watching.
As expected, the actual audition was fairly systematic and uneventful. There were two judges — both of whom seemed to only speak Korean — and one camera-guy-slash-English-translator. First, they called out all of the dance auditionees, put on thirty seconds of “Moves Like Jagger,” and told them to dance freestyle. After that, the dance auditionees left.
They went down the line, and each person was given approximately thirty seconds to sing a portion of their audition piece. Originally, the website said that each person would be allotted two minutes, but because of time restraints, the time allotment was shaved down to thirty seconds. However, it seemed that the judges were pretty lenient with timing — they only asked for the climax to be sung, and only cut people off if it was clear that the auditionee was planning on crooning through the entirety of their song.
All of the auditions were videotaped, to the point where we were explicitly told to look at the camera and not at the judges. It seemed to me that the judges weren’t really there to scrutinize over every audition, but rather pick out the auditions that were worth a second look via the video recording. They could’ve been a little more subtle about this, though; as each auditionee performed, the judges would skim over the auditionee’s registration form, and after the auditionee finished, the judge would put the form in either one of two piles — face down on a pile at the front of the table, or face up on a folder in front of her. You can probably guess which one was which.
After our group was finished, we were told to gather up our belongings and head out the door. And that was it. Unlike past auditions, there was no “rhythm test” or freestyle dance portion for the singers. Anti-climactic? Well, yes — if you were expecting a climax of any sort to begin with. It’s really hard for me to draw any conclusions based on this audition experience due to the fact that a) the actual audition lasted about five minutes; b) there was very little interaction between the auditionees and the staff; and c) this was the first K-pop audition I’ve ever attended.
What’s interesting to note is that most of the auditionees I encountered weren’t necessarily hardcore K-pop fans. The crowd at the audition was very different from, say, the crowd at a K-pop concert — and I found this to be somewhat expected. As mentioned in a previous article about SM’s global auditions published a few months back, the ideal audience of a K-pop audition is very different from the ideal audience of a K-pop concert, in that SM isn’t necessarily looking for fans as much as they are looking for future singing-and-dancing commodities. There was a decent amount of Korean-Americans, a handful of Asian-Americans of other ethnicities, and a surprisingly large chunk of Caucasians, African-Americans and Hispanics. Most auditionees sang Korean songs, regardless of their nationality.
And as for me? I sang “Listen” from Dreamgirls, mostly because I was too lazy to memorize Korean lyrics…and because it’s become my default song for any auditions that involve singing. And though my general knowledge of the audition process probably doesn’t exceed far beyond what I’ve disclosed above, feel free to ask any questions in the comments below.
I am also taking suggestions for fanclub names and balloon colors. Just so you know.