Other than the finale, the best part of each year’s Produce 101 is the concept performance battle. This is where the remaining contestants are split into groups and given an original song that fits within a specific genre. Last year, this segment resulted in the gorgeous In The Same Place, which became a bit of a sleeper hit even after the show had ended. This year also has its hit in Never, but I don’t think any of the 2017 songs quite live up to Season 1’s best.
As we draw toward next week’s final episode, I thought I’d rank all five original songs from worst to best. This is entirely subjective, but doesn’t have anything to do with which contestants are paired with which song. Honestly, I’ve watched every episode of this year’s season so far but still don’t have any strong favorites when it comes to individual trainees.
5. Open Up
Though this did really well on the show, longtime readers will know that I’m just not a fan of this particular genre (or producers Devine Channel, for the most part). Open Up has its strong moments (that layered intro to the chorus), but its repetitive, atonal hook is everything that has irritated me about VIXX and Nu’est‘s recent material.
4. I Know You Know
I Know You Know bops on the best groove of all of these tracks, but is let down by its underwhelming chorus. It’s a shame, because the light funk of the song’s verses goes down real easy. It would make a nice b-side for any boy group, but doesn’t feel strong enough for promotion.
3. Show Time
Looking at genre alone, Show Time‘s burst of synth-driven pop is most closely aligned with my personal taste. The beat is strong and the verses and pre-chorus build up a lot of good will. I wish the hook wasn’t quite as repetitive. It skirts the line between catchy and obnoxious, and the post-chorus chant feels as if it has been grafted on from another song entirely. Still, I love the upbeat energy.
2. Oh Little Girl
Though classified as “hip-hop” on the show, Oh Little Girl is probably the most melodic track of the five. It’s not groundbreaking or attention-stealing, but its laidback groove and warm chorus give it a certain appeal that the other songs lack. It’s also especially well-performed, driven by beautiful harmonies and vocal layering.
There’s a reason Never has been perched at the top of the charts for the past week. What it lacks in a strong chorus, it makes up for with its fleshed-out production and impressive verses that give it a momentous sound. Of all the concept songs, it feels the most like an actual single. I’m getting more and more tired of k-pop’s never-ending tropical trend by the day, but Never does the genre justice.