I’m not exaggerating: six out of seven groups we see tonight will discuss who is center to some degree. And almost half of them will have much more than a talk. I certainly understand why everyone wants to be center, but I forgot how vicious it gets sometimes. Drama aside, this episode has some really interesting moments. A lot of trainees really start to separate themselves from the rest, and there are some really moving performances.
POSITION EVALUATION, PART 2
7) “SPRING DAY,” BTS
Members: Bae Jinyoung (#12, C9), Yoo Seonho (#15, Cube), Lee Woojin (#18, Media Line), Takada Kenta (#28, Star Road), Kim Yongjin (#53, Wings)
Leader: Takada Kenta
Center: Lee Woojin
The Prep: Baby Woojin thinks that he’s a lock for main vocal; both Jinyoung and Seonho basically said as much during song selection. However, Yongjin suddenly pulls the “I’m going to be eliminated so this is probably my last chance” card, making things extremely awkward. Leader Takada suggests that they both try singing the part to decide. Woojin doesn’t sing well because he has a cold, and Yongjin wins the part. This is especially aggravating to Woojin because Yongjin is actually a rapper. He sulks a little, but at least he doesn’t full-on sabotage his team like Joo Haknyeon.
But the drama’s not over! At the performance check, Lee Seokhoon and Shin Yumi take issue with Yongjin’s nasally voice – recommending that they redistribute parts after listening to a recovered Woojin. When the other members support the change, Yongjin voluntarily gives up the position. Woojin recognizes what Yongjin has done for him, and feels that he has to do well. But the pressure is on, because he’s having some trouble with those high notes.
Most of the trainees in this group are pretty young, and their inexperience shows a little in their mannerisms and staging. However, they sing beautifully and their rendition of “Spring Day” is incredibly moving. This version might possibly be more emotional than the original. (Not dissing BTS’s vocal skills! I just mean that the original is a more classic pop style!) I’m especially impressed by Jinyoung. I thought he was the super handsome guy who kept looking at the floor, but he sings pretty well! His vocal tone actually reminds me a lot of V. And while Woojin does miss that high note, it doesn’t detract from the pretty and pure quality of his voice.
#5: Kim Yongjin
#4: Bae Jinyoung
#3: Takada Kenta
#2: Lee Woojin
#1: Yoo Seonho. I think that Woojin’s flub ultimately costs him first place, but Seonho does make a strong impression by playing the piano for the inro. To his credit, he’s super humble about it and says it’s really just because he worked hard.
8) “POP,” *NSYNC
Members: Jung Jung (#50, Yuehua), Park Woodam (#55, HF Music Company), Lee Insoo (#57, individual trainee), Lee Kiwon (#58 2Y), Yoon Jaechan (#59, The Vibe Label), Kim Sangbin (#60, individual trainee)
Leader: Lee Insoo
Center: Jung Jung
The Prep: This team has the lowest ranked trainees that didn’t have the chance to pick the song they wanted. Apparently kids these days don’t appreciate classic 90’s pop music, but I acknowledge most of them were very young when “Pop” came out. The bottom group that isn’t expected to survive usually gets a sad package, and we do briefly have some footage of Woodam struggling to keep up. Luckily, this all turns out to be a fakeout! At the performance check, Kahi and Kwon Jaeseung say they have a great choreography and the best teamwork. Encouraged, they continue to work their hardest. They’re fully aware that this could be their last performance, but at the same time they’re not going to give up.
This group is mostly trainees who aren’t dancers, so the choreography is understandably a little basic. However, it’s still pretty entertaining. They make up for their more simplistic moves with a fun “school’s out” themed story, and they have a nice progression with different formations. You can tell that they’re working hard and trying their best, and that makes cheer them on. The part where they spell out “We Must Survive” is a little gimmicky, but at least it’s memorable.
#6: Kim Sangbin
#5: Park Woodam
#4: Lee Insoo
#3: Yoon Jaechan
#2: Lee Kiwon
#1: Jung Jung. This is pretty logical because he’s the only one who’s a dancer, he threw in a couple of fun flips, and I’m sure he enticed many with his exposed collarbone and abs. He seems like he has potential, so I hope this benefit will keep him around.
9) “I’M NOT THE ONE YOU USED TO KNOW,” Simon D and others (from Show Me the Money 5)
Members: Lee Euiwoong (#17, Yuehua), Kim Sanggyun (#43, Hunus), Woo Jinyoung (#42, HF Music Company)
Leader: Lee Euiwoong
Center: Woo Jinyoung
*NOTE: Ha Minho was also apparently in this group before he got kicked out, so this segment is edited super weirdly. He’s either cut out of all the shots or blurred, which is funny but distracting.
The Prep: This team has a very awkward atmosphere. While all of them are serious rappers, their images don’t really gel together. Sanggyun has a handsome and cool vibe, while Jinyoung and Euiwoong are definitely more young looking. Sanggyun apparently didn’t even think they listened to hip hop, much less rapped. When it comes to center, he doesn’t consider it to be a contest. So he is very bemused when the other members choose Jinyoung, the other rapper trainee everyone is anticipating (besides Youngmin).
I was hoping that Sanggyun would take the Woojin route over the Haknyeon one. But like we’ve seen so many times before, he acts out and isolates himself from his team. Instead of taking his frustration and channeling it into his lyrics, he slacks off and says he’s uninspired. He gets a pretty rude awakening when he messes up in front of Don Mills and Cheetah, and Don says Jinyoung is the most experienced (Sanggyun is a member of Topp Dogg and has been active for four years). This spurs him to cop the attitude and become more active in the preparation.
This is probably my favorite rap performance (Sorry, Jonghyun!) I’m generally not much rap, but the ones that interest me go hard and have interesting rhythms and flow. That’s exactly what this group does. All three of them have different styles, but it works. Their stage is smooth, yet filled with confidence and swagger. Jinyoung definitely is worthy of the center, and Sanggyun holds his own. But Euiwoong actually stands out the most to me because he’s such a surprise. He doesn’t look like a rapper at all, but he can spit out some seriously fast lines!
#1: Jinyoung. This is actually inaccurate because Minho apparently won. Now I’m super disgusted with what he did, and part of me is glad that MNET is adopting a zero-tolerance policy. However, because he won this round (and purely because of that), I think they should have at least shown him during the performance. They could have put a statement about him before the segment and then featured him as little as possible. It would have been better than cutting him out and pretending he didn’t exist, because now we don’t know why he got first place.
10) “RHYTHM TA,” iKon
Members: Kim Taewoo (#38, Narda), Lee Gwanghyun (#44, Starship), Lee Yoojin (#48, Namoo Actors)
Leader: Lee Yoojin
Center: Lee Gwanghyun
The Prep: For once, we have a group that’s drama free! The drama is that everyone’s so nice that no one wants to be the leader or center. When no one claims center, Gwanghyun seizes the day. Even though he’s actually a vocal, he wants to try something different – he hopes he can gain some recognition like fellow Starship trainee Jung Sewoon. The trainers predictably criticize him for having plain lyrics and basic flow, but he’s undeterred and motivated to improve. He actually enlists Jinyoung’s help and works tirelessly until the more experienced trainee approves.
“Rhythm Ta” is the song that I’m the most familiar with in the rap category. It’s hard for me to listen to it without the original simultaneously playing in my head. I think that iKon has extremely talented rappers in B.I. and Bobby, and unfortunately this group doesn’t really come close. But “Rhythm Ta” also has a great beat, so I’m trying really hard to go along for the ride and enjoy it. Though they’re a little weak – especially following powerhouses like Jinyoung – it’s clear they’re doing their best and it’s very endearing.
#1: Gwanghyun. All of that practicing pays off!
11) “AMAZING KISS,” BoA
Members:Lee Gunhee (#29, RBW), Yoon Heeseok (#30, Jellyfish), Jung Dongsu (#35, S.How), Seo Seonghyuk (#51, WH Creative)
Leader and Center: Lee Gunhee
The Prep: The funniest thing about this group is that no one has actually heard “Amazing Kiss.” (I think it’s because BoA originally sang it in Japanese). Gunhee, who is ranked #29, is stunned to find that he’s the first one to choose it. After center tryouts, everyone wants Gunhee to be the main vocal. Everyone, that is, except for Heeseok. Much like Woojin, he finds himself under the weather and struggling to hit those key notes. Once again, we have someone who’s greedy for center. Once again, we have someone with a bad attitude when he doesn’t get his way. And once again, we have someone who thinks the best solution is not cooperating with the rest of the group.
Things escalate during rehearsal with the trainers, who can see right through Heeseok’s behavior. Seokhoon even says he can’t tell if Heeseok is still feeling unwell or if he’s intentionally not putting in any effort. After all that, Heeseok still continues to act like a diva because he’s the one with all the high notes. (Gunhee saying “This person is calling himself the ‘high note shuttle'” is so delightfully shady) When the team has a sitdown, Heeseok suddenly realizes that he’s behaving terribly because he’s afraid of being eliminated. Why don’t they ever realize a bad attitude is the easiest way to deter people from voting for you?
This performance is so beautiful. I adore harmonies, and a song chock full of them like this is candy to me. That high note gives me chills. Although they should have given Seonghyuk more to do, I think that each member was able to make his impact onstage. Dongsu cracks me up with his super-specific hand gestures, but his expressions are on point. Heeseok makes a noticeable mistake in the beginning, but he improves and regains his confidence as the stage progresses.
#1: Gunhee. I feel like I’ve been saying this every time, but this totally does not surprise me. If you watch the video, he is so captivating in those opening shots beginning. He looks like boy group material, just by the way he holds his microphone and looks at the camera. The members were right to make him the center, because he definitely fits the song best.
12) “DOWNPOUR,” I.O.I
Members:Yoon Jisung (#3, MMO), Hwang Minhyun (#11, Pledis), Kim Jaehwan (#16, individual trainee), Ha Sungwoon (#21, Ardor & Able), Kwon Hyunbin (YGK+, #23)
Leader: Yoon Jisung
Center: Kim Jaehwan
The Prep: This team is pretty drama free, so it looks like Hyunbin is the focus of this package. If you remember, he came off really badly in the last battle. Now, I definitely wasn’t happy that Jonghyun got scolded over Hyunbin’s shortcomings. That being said, I believe that Hyunbin got a lot of undeserved hate. I don’t think he’s lazy or has an attitude; I think he’s just really green and doesn’t understand what it takes to be a singer.
All of the online comments are getting to him, and his confidence is sinking like a stone. But what’s really beautiful is how everyone tries to help him. His “Sorry Sorry” teammates Minhyun and Jaehwan clearly care about him. Jisung, who is also getting his fair share of hate, is determined to see the both of them through it. And when Hyunbin starts to shake and tear up during rehearsal, Seokhoon is surprisingly gentle with him. K-pop is very much a tough love industry, and over the course of this show we’ve seen many trainees scolded – Hyunbin included. I think that he’s really lucky to have such a kind support network.
This is definitely my favorite vocal performance. “Downpour” is already a beautiful song that makes you want to cry. But I cried far more watching this than I did watching the original – and I was a huge I.O.I. fangirl! And I’m not the only one crying, as we see many trainees with tears in their eyes. Hyunbin himself is holding back the entire song, and at the pivotal moment he nearly breaks down. Jisung looks right at him and sings to him, and it’s just this beautiful unique moment – the kind you can’t ever plan for.
I think what gets me is the combination of their beautiful voices and the clear emotion that they’re conveying. Sungwoon and Jaehwan sound amazing as always, especially when they’re harmonizing. And can we please talk about how Minhyun is the perfect lead vocal? He’s obviously not on the same level as Jaehwan, but his voice is so clean and pleasant. It’s the ideal balance to a main vocal. Plus when he’s on camera, it feels like he’s looking into my soul. Man, these NU’EST boys are getting to me.
#1: Jaehwan. I think all of them are a big part of the stage’s success, but there’s no denying Jaehwan’s amazing voice. (Fun fact: it turns out that Minhyun lost by one vote!)
13) “GET UGLY,” Jason Derulo
Members: Park Jihoon (#1, Maroo), Kim Samuel (#2, Brave), Ong Sungwoo (#4, Fantagio), Kang Daniel (#5, MMO), Ahn Hyeongseob (#6, Yuehua), Park Woojin (#24, Brand New Music)
Leader: Kang Daniel
Center: Kim Samuel
The Prep: This team seems to be this season’s answer to the iconic “Bang Bang.” It’s literally comprised of all the high ranked trainees. Woojin is definitely disheartened because he’s #24, but Sungwoo reassures him that they really wanted him to be part of their team. There’s a brief center debate between Samuel and Jihoon. Samuel really wants it – he says it’s like a deer trying to survive against a tiger. Luckily for him, Jihoon decides it would be better if the American took center for an English song.
This time, the drama and suspense lies with the leader. Daniel volunteers for the job, having been inspired by Jonghyun in the last challenge (recognize!). However, he quickly finds himself in a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation. Instead of one person making the choreography, there are three – and all of them have different styles. Daniel isn’t confident enough to speak up and say he’ll do it himself, so it results in a disjointed mess. When the dance trainers call them out, they’re motivated to create a stage that’s worthy of their high ranks.
This is hands down my favorite dance stage. The choreography is a step above all the other numbers, except for perhaps “Shape of You.” And since this team is all dancers that wanted to be in this category, they actually look like a professional crew. It really incorporates all of their different styles, from Daniel’s B-boying to Jihoon and Sungwoo’s popping. (I thought Sungwoo was joking about taking over the choreography, but maybe not) A lot of these trainees are fan favorites, and I think the fans will be satisfied that each one has significant center time. But because of that, I don’t think Samuel gets enough center time – which is the one flaw of this stage. I actually thought that Sungwoo’s parts suited the position, thought that’s probably because he seems so at ease. In any case, this performance slays.
#1: Woojin. When I saw these results, it confirmed that something weird was definitely going on with the on-site voters. I’m not saying Woojin doesn’t deserve 1st place, because he’s an amazing dancer. But putting Daniel and Samuel last? I’m willing to bet that there are a decent amount of fans playing God and holding back those votes.
THE TOP TRAINEES
1. Kim Jonghyun, Pledis (665)
2. Lim Youngmin, Brand New Music (651)
3. Lai Guanlin, Cube (642)
1. Lee Gunhee, RBW (717)
2. Jung Dongsu, S.How (709)
3. Yoo Seonho, Cube (642)
1. Noh Taehyun, Ardor & Able (621)
2. Joo Haknyeon, Cre.ker (581)
3. Hong Eunki, GON (566)
We have to wait for Episode 8 to see the final results. What is up with live audience voting? I agree with their voting for top trainee in each category, but some of the best performances didn’t get many votes at all! How is it possible that “Get Ugly” members had the fewest vote?!?! “Downpour” and “Playing With Fire” were too low as well. I wasn’t so sure with the last evaluation, but now I’m convinced that some audience members are intentionally not voting for certain trainees out of spite. Hopefully the overall rankings will once again even things out!
NOTE: All clips and GIFs are from MNET’s Produce 101 Season 2 Episode 7.