By all accounts, the original Pick Me wasn’t a great song. Yet, it waltzed its way into the top twenty of my 2016 best-of countdown. On the surface, its incessant, chirpy repetition seems utterly ridiculous, but within the context of Produce 101‘s kitschy battle royale pageantry, it became a real showstopper of a moment — and eventually, a cultural touchstone. While I’ve been looking forward to the upcoming male version of the series, I never imagined that its theme song could have the same effect. But while the new Pick Me (subtitled, “Me, It’s Me!” for added desperation) doesn’t feel as monumentally memorable as its predecessor, it gets Season 2 off to a rollicking start.
The track was co-composed by Ryan S. Jhun, which all but guaranteed that the quality would be high. Jhun rarely lets pop music lovers down, and his work on last year’s show gives him a good ear for the Produce sound. Pick Me (나야 나) emulates the repetitive catchiness we’ve come to expect, but smooths things out for a more mainstream electronic dance style. I love how the track incorporates the titular phrase of the original Pick Me as a recurring background vocal, creating continuity between the seasons. But this time around, the key hook is 나야 나 (or “me, it’s me”), shouted to the sky in a chorus of trainee mania. Rather than sugarcoat the cutthroat nature of k-pop’s idol world, Produce 101 mines it for all the drama it’s worth. Pick Me‘s frantic hand-raising, jump-out-of-your-seat energy encapsulates this intensity well. It’s a song in near-constant build, so tensely arranged that it feels as if it might burst at any moment.
Melodically, Pick Me is simple but effective. When looking at the difference between boy and girl groups in Korea, you might expect the guys’ track to rely more on hip-hop-infused attitude than classic pop melody, but this version of Pick Me actually feels more like a full-fledged song than its predecessor. Though the enthusiastic EDM production ultimately drives the track, its chorus is no slouch, offering a laser-beam-focused earworm that’s accessible enough to immediately stick in your head, but substantial enough to stick around for awhile. Here’s hoping the series itself will follow suit.