20160314_seoulbeats_produce101_kimjunaIt’s been a long time coming, but we’re back again! The Produce 101 Support Group has met once again as the first group challenge got underway. But before that…

Gaya: What do we think of the re-evaluation results?

Pat: I think that they were pretty spot on. An idol’s success has always been due partly to talent, partly to hard work and partly due to pure luck. In this case, those who were unlucky to have a performance that didn’t showcase their full potential in the first two episodes were able to showcase it with the “Pick Me” exercises and were placed at levels more indicative of their potential. Those talented enough, or worked hard enough were able to place better.

We never got a lot of footage giving reasons why others went down, but I honestly had to pause when Kim Ju-na was placed in F. If Park Bom could debut with little to no dancing skills, why can’t she? But the Park Bom comparison is for later on, me thinks.

Laverne: I think its because Produce 101 has a very set idea of what they’re looking for in a girl group. They want to produce the nation’s next girl group a la SNSD, not something like 2NE1. This idea was reinforced when one of the vocal trainers was talking about the song — it’s deliberately high and girly. I think they made the right decision to bump her down to F because of her dancing skills when viewed through that criteria.

Elaine:  There were some moments that made me glad the judges caught onto the talent (or lack thereof) they missed in the first evaluation, and others that left me slightly baffled. I don’t want to join the MBK trainee hate train, but I would say that Dani‘s skills do pale in comparison to some of the other As; on the other hand, I didn’t think Kim Ju-na’s ineptness at dancing was enough to warrant her dropping all the way down to F given she is one of the strongest vocalists on the show.

20160314_seoulbeats_produce101_choiyoojung_idoleemoCamiele: I’m in league with Pat. My bias is very clearly Ju-na. Her voice is quite obviously the most versatile, the most technically sound, and has the best quality of tone than any of those girls. However, it does seem obvious they’re attempting find the SK’s next SNSD.

That being said, Ju-na really… canNOT dance… at all! What’s unfortunate is that that weakness was so strong in the trainers’ eyes she had be docked down to level F. But it’s one of those things. She needs to work on it and needs help, thus she’s in the section that needs the most help.

Gaya: I don’t see any glaring discrepancies in the re-evaluation, either; I am all for F group trainees rocketing up to A! And we not only get to see Choi Yoo-jung move up to A from D (practice, practice, practice), but also how she was voted to the centre position for “Pick Me” by the rest of the A group. Possibilities of Mnet machinations aside, I liked the tale of Yoo-jung going from most likely to fail to becoming the centre, all by peer vote.

Produce 101 has a very clear idea of what kind of girl group they want to debut, which is why I loved the first group battle challenge of head-to-head performances of girl group debut songs. There was a decent variety in the concepts available, and the ladies were given the freedom to flex their creativity muscle.

One kind of decision was with the A trainees — who got to select the songs they wanted to perform — selecting their group members. While some struck out, like the poor girl who picked Risa and the 2NE1 group without a single rapper, others hit the jackpot, like the 2NE1 group that scored Ju-na (absolute perfection) and, or course, The Avengers. MBK/DIA‘s Cathy managed to get Somi, Chanmi, fellow DIA member Chae-yeon and Pledis girl Jung Eun-woo.

The picking order was apparently decided by the order in which the A trainees locked in their songs; so either Cathy was really fast and got to pick first, or the people before her didn’t pick Somi for whatever reason. Getting other big names also helped.


Elaine: The “Into the New World” performances were definitely a highlight of these two episodes. SNSD had one of the more legendary debuts amongst girl groups, and I think that these stages were evidence of this — the stages were so fun and energy-filled, it was refreshing to watch.

The blue team clearly won in my opinion: Yu Yeun-jung killed those high notes just as cleanly as the original, and the performance was very neat and well-practiced on the whole. On the other hand, with the pink team, Chanmi obviously cracked her high notes, not once but twice; but I also felt bad for her in the sense that Mnet sure made sure to drive home the point with all those replays. In addition, I feel like the team just didn’t suit the concept. Somi herself said that she wasn’t confident in doing girly songs, and I feel like Cathy and Chanmi would’ve also suited a stronger concept.

Pat: I loved, loved, loved Yeun-jung slaying “Into the New World” and cringed so hard when Chanmi choked hard during her high note. Just the way Mnet was building up the tension, you knew it would either go really well or really bad. As for the other group, I didn’t know Somi could sing like that. I didn’t pay attention to her that much during Sixteen, so I really don’t know what’s the hype for her, aside from her being pretty. And that dance break by Cathy broke any love I had for their performance. Why do that kind of dance break for a song that talks about chasing dreams despite the rough terrain ahead? It just did not suit the song.

Gaya: I had the same opinion about Cathy’s dance break, but when you consider that the original choreography has girls in miniskirts doing high kicks towards the camera, is there really much difference? Hyoyeon’s pop-and-lock dance break is hard to emulate, so Cathy decided to go with sexy. I think Cathy could have taken the dance break in a more original direction, but I can understand why she did what she did.

Camiele: Yeah, those “Avengers”… what exactly have they done thus far to even earn that title? As far as I can tell they’re mostly basic. Team 1 ROCKED that SNSD song, and this is from someone who doesn’t even listen to SNSD. Home girl was all about those high notes, and also had incredible control over her voice, something the self-proclaimed tenth member of SNSD couldn’t even manage.

The way Chanmi is portraying herself (or being portrayed) is kinda… sad. I mean, she actually recorded SNSD’s debut song while she was training with SM, a point they kept reiterating (obviously to set us up for the fact that she can’t actually sing the song, and probably couldn’t while she was training). Jea made the point she was trying to sound like a professional singer (operative word “trying”) and the age difference between her and Yu Yeun-jung was obvious.

Chanmi’s confidence is there, but at the age she’s at and the fact she’s trying to focus on being in an idol group, which by its nature is very, very young, just shows me she’s desperate. She may need to try a different route at this point. Just like everyone kept making the point that Ju-na really should be a solo singer (something I’m sure they saw as a negative but I thought of as an absolute compliment and truth, because her voice is just that good and belongs on a stage of its own), they need to make the point that Chanmi may just be past her idol prime and needs to focus on other avenues.

But watching episode three gave me SO much validation when her team not only got an overwhelming amount of the votes, Ju-na got the most votes of ANY of the girls for the on-site voting. Was rather happy about that. (I legitimately applauded and screamed, “That’s right, bitch!” at the screen!)

Gaya: My favourite performances were of the 2NE1 and Miss A debut songs; all the groups aced their performances. And while we’ve been seeing groups win because they had popular members, the Miss A battle showed us the opposite — Oh Seo-jung‘s negative image from Superstar K4 continued to plague her, leading to a low score.

Pat: Unexpectedly, “Fire” was awesome and Ju-na totally rocked her role as the future Bom. If she were ever put in a group, I see her role as being similar to Bom – that powerful voice with the super awkward dance moves.

Honorable mentions: I feel like “La Cha Ta” was not done well. Someone also needs to pick Chungha from whatever small agency she’s from. I just feel like she won’t be able to reach her full potential in a small agency where success is like a game of Russian Roulette.

Gaya: And then we have Choi Yoo-jung. She gave up the centre position, despite trainer Bae’s protests. Even with the vocal fans in the audience, Happyface‘s Hwang Soo-yeon got the most votes with her risque top-lifting.

That battle in particular drove home the importance of the centre position. The way Yoo-jung matched her expressions to the song reminded me of my own Bharathanatyam training, where you are taught the importance of maintaining facial expressions, and especially eye movement. I loved how Bae Yoon-jeong pointed out Yoo-jung’s capabilities and really wished the team had stuck to that decision.

Kahi changed the centre for the first A Pink group, too, but it felt as if it was more about punishing Pinky for her complacency than picking the best person for the centre position. I wasn’t a big fan of the way she went about making her point.

As for the other A Pink group: netizens can mock her arms, the trainers can put her on a diet, and the cameras can tease her about snacking, but Kang Mi-na motherfucking killed that first turn. She just glowed, and I hope she never loses that.

Pat: I will fight for Kang Mi-na. She is a baby and a precious bunny who does not deserve the hate she’s getting. As someone whose legs are thin yet her arms aren’t, I totally feel for her. Also, the stylist should not have put her in that dress. She killed her first turn and I hope whenever she debuts in the Jelpi girl group, she keeps her innocent charm.

Elaine: I agree with what Gaya said about the importance of what Bae Yoon-jung calls “expression acting” — Choi Yoo-jung’s micro-expressions were what drew me in during “Pick Me,” and So-hye did well for the same reason — she looked like she was really enjoying the stage.

There were quite a lot of things going on with that one — the whole So-hye-Se-jeong storyline, for one; as quite obviously spotlighted by the show, Sohye showed a ton of improvement during the practice period, and I respect her for that. Just as an interesting aside, did anyone feel like her experience in acting paid off with the way she worked her expressions during the performance?

The leaders of both teams also did reallllllly well. I started stanning Se-jeong after this episode, because she really is the full package in terms of looks, talent and personality. She was a great leader in making sure every member was keeping up, and showed a flawless execution of her own parts on stage. My anticipation for her performance was on par with Bae Yoon-jung: “Turn up the volume please, we have to hear Sejeong’s voice.”

However, Lee Hae-in really got the short end of the editing stick this time — she came off as arrogant, but you can tell she really wanted to do well for the sake of her group. In terms of her performance, she also pulled her weight as leader, center AND main vocal, and her necktie tugging performance seems to have been a defining moment of her team’s stage. Even the MCs recognised her by that gesture when she was called up in episode 5.

Camiele: I’m also really hurt that after Sohye moved Queen Bae during their second evaluation she ends up messing up the lyrics… of all the things! I mean, I understand she was probably the most nervous contestant there, but that just really made me sad, not gonna lie.

Also, was I the only one looking exactly like Kahi after those two groups did squat with the After School cover? I mean, that mess was just… unfortunate.

Pat: I hated the “Ah” performance. I felt for Kahi — the song she debuted with just to be butchered in such a way. And don’t even get me started on the cutesy version. “Ah” is anything but. But I’m biased because “Ah” is actually one of my favorite debut songs – the energy, the dance, the attitude and the unrepentant sexiness wasn’t a frequent sight in the Era of Gee and Tell Me.

Elaine: I had the same reaction as Jang Geun-suk when he saw Kahi’s expression: “She’s scary.” Neither group did particularly well with their rendition of the song, but when I saw the cute one I was cringing the entire way through.

Despite being a fan of A Pink, the two performances for “I Don’t Know” weren’t exactly much of a standout stage. Nevertheless, I do think there were some trainees that benefitted from the choice of song — Kang Mi-na killed me with her eye smile right from the beginning, and Park Si-yeon surprised many with her vocal skills given that she was originally a rapper.

Gaya: Remember how Lo talked about the Somi vs. The World set-up? It feels like Se-jeong has become the champion of team Everyone Else, with some help from Mnet. They didn’t choose to highlight the difference in votes between the two for no reason. I’m glad it’s Se-jeong because she is absolutely precious, but I hope Mnet’s focus on her doesn’t hurt her in the long run.

As for So-hye making the top 11… The biggest reason she is there is because of Mnet, so I can’t be mad at her. I can’t even be mad at Mnet because, what’s the point? They’re just going to keep doing what they want to do. As long as So-hye keeps up the hard work and shows improvement, I’m not too fussed.

(YouTube. Images via: Mnet, Idoleemo)