Produce 101 Season 2 Episode 2 Recap: Pick Me, Pick Me

This episode covers two crucial parts of the Produce 101 process.  First, we finish the remaining evaluations.  Then we focus on the real challenge: learning and performing the “Pick Me” song.  After being separated into groups by rank, the members have three days to learn their new signature song.  After they perform it again, the trainers will re-evaluate them and give them their final rankings.  If you didn’t think the first episode was all that dramatic, just wait.

*Caution! This recap contains spoilers!* But not really, because I’m still behind. I’m waiting for subs, so I haven’t progressed to Episode 3 or 4 yet.

Also, this recap won’t have as many visual aids (screenshots/GIFs/etc.) as the last one.  Or at least, the second half of it won’t. MNET doesn’t have many clips of the training part of the episode, and I don’t want to get material from subbed videos that other people worked hard on.

AUDITIONS (Cont’d)

THE GOOD:

Lee-Woojin-BabyCutie Alert: We start off with Lee Woojin from Media Line Entertainment. He’s previously made an appearance on a kids version of The Voice (singing “Reflection” from Mulan!!!!) He’s the youngest contestant at 15 – Korean age, so really 13 or 14 – and he still has the baby face to prove it.  He plays up his adorable maknae status by giving us a cute rendition of Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” asking the trainers timidly for water after he’s done, and generally having trouble peeling any kind of sticker.  But he does have some talent under all that cuteness, so he gets a B.
screenshot50Looks Aren’t Everything (Part 1): After an interlude where the trainers marvel over some handsome trainees, we meet average-looking (by comparison) Kim Namhyung and Jeong Dongsoo from Show E&M. Ah, reality TV editing.  But while these trainees may be the subject of an editing gag, their talent is no joke.  Their aggressive rendition of “Goosebumps” surprised everyone – Cheetah even pulls out her earphone and starts jamming along to the rap. Their performance earns Namhyung (the rapper) an A and Dongsoo (the vocal) a B.

HOTSHOT-Very-GoodKrumping Your Way to an A: As we sadly saw with NU’EST last week, the trainees from previously debuted groups don’t necessarily have an advantage.  Their experience could be counted against them if they don’t meet the trainers’ expectations.  But for the members of HOTSHOT, it works just fine.   Noh Taehyun and Ha Sungwoon put on a dynamic and entertaining performance of Block B’s “Very Good.” It’s particularly impressive that they devoted about twenty seconds to an introduction filled with funny looks and gestures – it shows how used they are to performances.  After the trainers ask for a repeat of Taehyun’s sick krumping skills, they both get approved for A ranking.

Singer or Idol?: The big name companies have been having a hard time.  Like we found with the previously debuted trainees, the agency’s reputation does not guarantee talent. Large agencies like Cube and FNC just debuted boy groups, so it stands to reason they might not have trainees with sufficient experience.  Cube’s Lai Guanlin and Yoo Sunho were adorable but lacking last week, and FNC’s Yoo Hoseung hardly fares any better – though he gets points in my book for being brave enough to take on “Replay.”  Yoon Heeseok of Jellyfish strikes out too on a cover of “Chained Up.”  But Starship trainees Lee Kwanghyung and Jung Sewoon provide a fun and enjoyable rendition of Maroon 5’s “Sugar,” though it’s a little lacking on the dance part.

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Jung Sewoon has some pre-debut fame – he’s appeared on K-pop Star and is known to be a singer-songwriter.  He even performs a self-written song on the guitar at the trainers’ request.  BoA asks him if he wants to really be an idol, or a singer-songwriter.  He quickly replies that he actually wants to be the CEO of an agency, which of course makes everyone laugh.  This guy knows where the money is! They both receive Bs.

The Miracle Trainee Makes His Appearance:  Even if you’ve been trying hard avoid spoilers like me, you’ve probably still heard of Lee Daehwi. The show made no secret that he got the center spot for the “Pick Me” performance. He already appears shrouded in some mystery. His agency Brand New Music, is a hip hop agency – home to rappers like Verbal Jint and San E. Even Cheetah, who knows CEO and founder Rhymer, had no idea they were training idols. So everyone wants to know just what this group is capable of.  Cue the gasps and jaw drops when they confidently and flawlessly perform a song  they wrote themselves, accompanied by a dance they choreographed themselves.

Everyone is impressed with Daehwi, not for his vocal or dance skills (this time) but for the fact that he’s almost entirely responsible for the song.  Many idols write and compose their own music, but he also took care of the arrangement – which is much rarer.  In short, Daehwi is a force to be reckoned with and he obviously gets an A.  Park Woojin also earns one for choreographing the piece.  After listening to Kim Donghyun and Im Youngmin sing one more time, the trainers send them to B.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD:

YGK+-My-HouseLooks Aren’t Everything (Part 2): You might remember the super handsome, super tall models from YGK+ that everyone was gawking over last week.  The kindest thing to say about their evaluation was that they were obviously beginners. Their performance of 2 P.M.’s “My House” started out all right, but quickly slid downhill.  The main focus seemed to be Kwon Hyunbin, who got stuck and skidded on a sliding move and made some other fumbles.  The female trainers giggled about how they wanted to grab the boys’ hands and follow them, but they were able to resist.  All of them got Fs.

screenshot.jpgThe Dedicated EXO-L:  Jung Jongji of Wayz Company has been practicing  EXO’s “Growl” for a month.  Like, every day.  He even has the cell phone videos to prove it (one of them features his brother jamming in the background, which is hilarious).  So I’m expecting him to nail it-  but much to my chagrin, he completely flubs the whole thing.  It all looks so disjointed and wooden, like he was so focused on remembering the moves and getting them right that he didn’t actually perform them.  I’ll admit that I did initially laugh, but I felt so bad for the guy who worked so hard for naught.  Unsurprisingly, he gets an F.

It Wouldn’t be a Survival Show Without Tears: Like most of the trainees, Kim Dongbin from Kiwi Media Group is incredibly nervous.  Sadly, a misunderstanding causes a whole lot of unnecessary stress for him.  Halfway through his performance of NCT Dream’s “Chewing Gum,” trainer Jaesung pulls out his earphones because he can’t hear anything.  Dongbin takes this as a criticism and a sign to stop.  (In his defense, Jaesung didn’t simply pop them out – he actually held them up and then let them fall, so it looked like a gesture) The trainers sympathize and let him go again, but the nerves get to him and he bursts into tears.  BoA encourages him, and the room soon follows suit.  He finishes, but the trainers see that he is nowhere near debut ready and give him an F.

Great Expectations: Finally we come to ONO Entertainment‘s Jang Moonbok. Arguably the most well-known trainee in the room, everyone was anticipating his turn. As we quickly learned, he didn’t live up to that hype.  He was enthusiastic, but definitely all over the place. BoA remarked that while he was talented, it was clear that he never had a teacher to tell him how he was doing and what he needed to fix.  The trainers unanimously agree that they want him to go back to the basics, so they put him in F.

VARIOUS INTERLUDES DURING THIS PART INCLUDE: All of the trainees being very meticulous with their looks before going onstage, how Cheetah looks cute with her new hairstyle but is actually quite critical and blunt, how Don Mills looks scary AF but can actually be pretty nice, and writing last words on the show’s whiteboard (featuring a comparison of Yuehua and YGK+’s heights)

THE “PICK ME” TRIALS

At the end of evaluations, BoA reveals the overall rankings.  There are 7 (!!!) trainees in A, 17 in B, 21 in C, 25 in D, and 31 in F.  She also gives them more information about the M! Countdown performance.  There’s one aspect that’s the same as last year: not everyone will be on stage the same amount of time.  A will be present the whole time, while B through D will be added in at different parts on their moving triangles.  There’s not room for a fifth triangle, so F members will be backup dancers on the ground (and won’t get any close-ups or one shots).

But there’s more! BoA announces that the boy who gets picked for the center will actually have a solo line!  We all know it will be Daehwi, so that’s pretty anticlimactic.  But what we don’t know is that the A-ranked trainees will also have a performance on M! Countdown.  So in short, if you are in A you will get lots of advantages.

The boys take some time to find their dorms and put on their color-ranked clothing.  Everyone though A rank would be blue, but it’s still pink – so that’s hilarious. B is orange, C is yellow, D is green, and F is depressingly gray.  Then everyone gathers for the first round of learning the song and the choreography. Everyone seems to equally struggle with the song, although the Bs initially sound just as good as the As.  The As get back on top by mastering the choreography quickly. But the real fun begins when they split into their ranked groups for individual training sessions.

I’m actually kind of annoyed about this song (although I do like it more than last week). I think it’s very unfair compared to last year.  I’m no singing expert, but this version of “Pick Me” sounds much harder.  The song for the girls was indeed high, but probably doable for most. I’m an alto, and I could get through it either by forcing myself or switching entirely to head voice. The boys version is difficult, and I doubt that many currently promoting male idols could sing it with ease.  It’s crazy to expect everyone to be able to nail it, when many specialize not in vocals but rap and dance. Not to mention that boy groups often have more difficult choreographies than girls.  Even BoA points out that it’s practically impossible to perfectly sing and dance this song.

So the song is hard, the choreography is hard, and basically three quarters are the trainees have average to low rankings.  Unsurprisingly, we spend most of the second half of the episode watching the boys have trouble.  More than one rapper struggles to sing the song even passably (again, how is this kind of song fair?) Even the A members have trouble comfortably hitting those high notes.  In perhaps the harshest moment, vocal coach Seokhoon tells Yuehua‘s Hyeonseob (the one who danced all alone to “Pick Me”) that his vocals are the worst he’s ever heard.  He actually suggests faking the song to get through, which shocked me.

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The show’s editors also remind us that the dancing is ridiculously hard. Jaesung tells individual trainee Kim Jaehwan that he can never allow him to go to A the way he is, and if he doesn’t improve he’ll probably fall to F.  Kahi pushes NU’EST‘s Dongho, who seems to be having some kind of breakdown. Cube’s Guanlin gives up in the middle of practice, and YGK+’s Hyunbin also leaves the room in frustration. Even the A group isn’t immune: Fantagio‘s Seongwoo is more used to freestyle, and is feeling the pressure to get it right quickly.

There are a few people who stand out.  Obviously, Daehwi is one of them. Brave Entertainment‘s Samuel Kim is very nervous about those high notes, but is singled out by Jaesung to show the choreography.  Baby Woojin’s high voice gives him an advantage. Seokhoon gives D rank Lee Geunhee of RBW (Mamamoo’s agency) the honor of the person who best sang the song. We get our first potential cocky character in pink haired Daniel Kang of MMO, who seems in it to win it. And Moonbok, the only person who actually seems to be having any fun, looks to be steadily improving.

Happy-Moonbok

Soon it’s re-evaluation time. Each trainee records himself singing and dancing to “Pick Me,”  then the judges review the videos and give them final rankings.  This part is a real downer.  Some people do well (like Daehwi again), but most of the people they show us don’t.  I actually stopped taking notes because I couldn’t bear it.  Many trainees we watched struggle didn’t improve at all, like Hyunbin and Dongho (I felt terrible when I saw his groupmate Jonghyun‘s face). But to make things even more sad, some trainees who worked hard and improved totally blew it. Moonbok was one of them, as was NU’EST member Minhyun – whom all the C rank trainees voted most likely to move up.

Honestly, it was hard to watch. I grew up heavily in the performing arts, and stage fright is a very real thing.  Anything can go wrong at any time, and it’s totally embarrassing.  But one of the hardest skills to learn is the ability keep going. If you forget your lines, you either improvise or smile widely and jump in again as quickly as you can.  I realize many of these trainees probably don’t have the training or experience to be able to do this easily.  But it was so difficult watching most of them shut down halfway through the song and not attempt anything. It just heartbreaking.

As the episode draws to a close, the trainees prepare to change their rankings.  Each group is visited by a trainer, who distributes envelopes to trainees who get to move up or down.  But of course, the show ends right as those trainees are about to move rooms.  We’ll have to wait until episode three to find out the final rankings, unless you were paying close attention to that performance of “Pick Me” or you’ve already gone ahead.

Online voting rankings (as of Episode 2):

  1. Park Jihoon, Maroo Entertainment
  2. Samuel Kim, Brave Entertainment
  3. Lee Daehwi, Brand New Music Entertainment
  4. Ong Seungwoo, Fantagio Entertainment
  5. Jang Moonbok, ONO Entertainment
  6. Lai Guanlin, Cube Entertainment
  7. Ahn Hyeongseob, Yuehua Entertainment
  8. Joo Haknyeon, Cre.ker Entertainment
  9. Hwang Minhyun, Pledis Entertainment
  10. Lee Euiwoong, Yuehua Entetrainment
  11. Kim Jonghyun, Pledis Entertainment

So basically pretty much the same as before.  That’s probably to be expected since we’ve only got glimpses of most of these people.  One thing, though: How is Park Jihoon so popular. I’m really not trying to be mean, but I’ve seen him like twice in two episodes. Is there something I don’t know, or was this wink during “Pick Me” truly so spectacular?  Is it because of his visuals?  I’m not a hater, I’m just confused!

I’m reserving judgment for the upcoming performances to start making my picks. But as of now, the top-ranked ones that I like are Samuel, Daehwi, and Seungwoo.  Next week the guys will get their first mission, which is to get into teams and do covers of popular boy group songs.  I’ve avoided spoilers like crazy, so I’m excited to see what songs made the cut.  Also, the reality TV addict in me is looking forward to some groups dynamics and potential drama!

NOTE: All screenshots and GIFs were taken from clips on MNET’s official Youtube channel.  None of the original content belongs to me.

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