Those of you who follow my twitter account know that I’ve spent the past few weeks gushing about how great survival series LOUD has been. If you’re not already watching the show, there’s still time to catch up! I’m a veteran watcher of Korean survival/audition series, having followed the vast majority of them since 2013. Most adhere to the same general format, and LOUD is similar in many ways. But, I think it’s one of the best – if not the best – examples this genre has delivered. Here’s why:
1. The contestants are insanely talented. Like… really, really good. And LOUD focuses solely on this aspect – not on manufactured drama or sob stories.
2. The judges/mentors (JYP & PSY) are super entertaining. Their contrasting personalities bring a ton of humor, but their long history ensures a sense of comfort between them.
3. LOUD sets out to showcase creativity above all else, with songcraft and musical reinterpretation at the forefront. A number of the performances have been self-composed. Others, like this killer remix of Beast’s Shock, bring new energy to old tracks.
4. Though produced and polished for TV, the process of forming new groups feels realistic. Agency experts and staff are brought in for conference calls. Contestants are allowed to broach sensitive topics like time off and the use of social media.
5. LOUD will culminate with the formation of TWO new K-pop groups! And no matter who ends up making it, both will be stacked with talent and personality.
This past week, the series moved into its live rounds. The most recent episode saw each group perform three different songs. The first was a reinterpretation of an iconic single from their agency. The second was a cover/remix of Lee Hyori’s 2003 hit 10 Minutes (I love how far they reached back with this one!). And, the third was a mash-up performance. The mash-ups were the undisputed highlight, with P Nation’s group performing an EPIC combination of EXO’s Growl and N.EX.T’s 90’s symphonic rock classic Lazenca, Save Us. Seriously, watch this without delay. PSY’s creativity is on full display. I can’t wait to see what he ends up doing with his group once they debut.
JYP’s ambition doesn’t feel as insatiable as P Nation, which makes sense because the two are coming from very different places. PSY is clearly hungry for success, while JYP feels more comfortable slotting his group into a system that already works. With that said, his mash-up was also fantastic, blending BTS’s Idol with Choi Baekho’s About Romance (another classic that most international viewers probably won’t be familiar with).
Songs from the first two rounds have been released as studio recordings, and I highly recommend checking out P Nation’s funky cover of 10 Minutes. It could easily be a title track from an established idol group.
But, the song I wanted to highlight in this post is P Nation’s revamp of Jessi’s Nunu Nana. It’s been retitled 난 네 Brother (or, I’m Your Brother), and it’s a total jam. Seriously, the groove they get going on this one is absolutely massive. There are a few cringy lyrics (I’m patiently waiting for Daniel to become more confident in Korean so he can ditch the English), and the haphazard arrangement is clearly designed for a show-stopping stage performance rather than a streamlined studio recording. But, once the song gets chugging it’s a real treat.
From the start, my favorite LOUD contestant has been P Nation’s Junhyuk, and he’s often referred to as the group’s ace. But, I’m surprised how well this team works together. As a pure piece of music, I’m Your Brother is more enjoyable than the vast majority of Kingdom’s stages this past spring. To place a group of pre-debut trainees on that level is high praise, but I’m really anticipating what they (and their fantastic JYP competitors) deliver in the coming months.
Above all else, LOUD crystalizes the potential of a modern K-pop idol group. And though it’s not perfect, I’m Your Brother is a convincing encapsulation of that energy.
This show sounds great, girls planet 999 is largely just produce 101 again but harder to access and kingdom was turning out to just be road to kingdom again (and I couldn’t do that again). I can’t wait to get started
Okay, that performance (Brother) was amazing, but I don’t know how I feel about the inclusion of that very small child unless he’s at least four or five years older than he looks. If for no other reason (and there are other reasons!) than it seems risky to debut someone before their voice breaks.
I tend to get irritated when performances cut away for reaction shots, but Psy’s reactions were so delightful I’ll give them a VERY reluctant pass for cutting away from what looked like a nifty stunt.
Yes, the kid (Koki) is so talented but should have been eliminated weeks ago just based on his age. I think everyone is speculating that PSY just wants to recruit him as a trainee and won’t debut him with this group. That’s why he’s still there.
We’ll see, though. PSY is pretty unpredictable.
I showed my spouse ONEUS’ “Thriller” performance video recently and he joked-only-not-really that MJ and Kpop are a great match as both are/were overflowing with talent, fun to watch, and probably responsible for ruining the lives of multiple children.
I am so happy Oneus posted a full performance video for Thriller. It has given me Life! Now if only I can get an audio copy…
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I want to track down whoever choreographed that performance and give them a medal for coming up with a mashup of original and iconic choreography that actually worked. But yes, I would also take an audio copy – Seoho ate that one all the way up.
Yess, a LOUD recap! Agreed about the mashups being the highlights of this week. Lazenca was just spectacular, but I think I leaned the slightest bit towards the JYP team because of Amaru. He’s been my undisputable top pick from the first moment I heard his Hollywood’s Bleeding performance. His voice just hooked me in and hasn’t let me go. I love that it isn’t airy and light like 85% percent of today’s Kpop vocals (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s nice to hear something different) and carries some heft to it. It makes him stand out.
Of course, Junhyuk and Lee Donghyun follow him as my other favorite vocals of the show.
We’ve also had some solid rappers throughout the show. Daniel, Kim Donghyun, Justin, Eunhwi just to name a few. Kyungjun’s voice has started to grow on me too.
Dance wise, Yedam, Keiju, Haruto and Gyehun stood out to me the most. Yedam, especially, absolutely shines when dancing.
Whew, this turned into a mini contestant-recap for some reason, but I’ve been wanting to get it out since I have no one in real life to talk to about this. It’s truly been the highlight of my week for a while!
I want these guys to become my favorite k-pop group of this current-gen, I really hope they deliver in all criterias!
I’m Your Brother is such a cringe name, and I hate Nunu Nana. Yet, for whatever reason, I enjoy the remix. However, I loved Growl X Lazenca. It is amazing. These guys clearly are talented, wishing them the best, but Koki is just too young.
First off, a huge thank you to you Nick for putting me on this show. I never would have watched even a minute of it if I hadn’t seen your many tweets about how good it is. It really is every bit as good as you said, and I can’t believe I am going to say this about a survival show but I’m really happy I watched it.
Apart from your wonderful list of reasons to watch, I am going to add a few of my own.
1) One way or another survival shows always seem to have moments of needless cruelty towards its participants. They always want to up the ante with senseless drama by somehow creating challenges or moments that pull stunts that are legitimately harmful to the participants. I basically swore off watching group creating survival shows after the fiasco that was produce x 101 for this reason. However, I am all caught up on Loud and through all eleven episodes there hasn’t been a single moment where I thought they were being needlessly mean. Outside of the eliminations which are an inherent requirement of survival shows the show has been almost surprisingly wholesome (or as wholesome as a survival show can be). Hell, I’m even ready to hand PSY and JYP a gold star a piece for being such good mentors to all the participants. Their commentary has always come off like constructive criticism that has helped the participants grow rather than overly harsh commentary for the sake of entertainment.
2) During the casting rounds the fact that participants selected by both agencies got to choose the company they wanted to debut with is mind-blowing. Granted this was only true for a handful of them but still the fact that any of them had a choice at all is a wonderful thing. For a world that very often proves exceptionally restricting in terms of an individual’s freedom even this small moment of choice was like a breath of fresh air. Also watching JYP and PSY playfully duke it out over the participants provided way more entertainment than any artificially inflated drama ever could have.
3) Lastly as you’ve already said the talent level on this show is insane, all six performances from the last episode were outstanding. Honestly, I would much rather rewatch any one of those stages than about 95% of the stages we saw on Kingdom this year. I think my personal favorite was the trot/Idol mash up because on every level I can think of that mash up should not have worked. WHY DID IT WORK?
Right now, my only qualms are the fact that they caved to fan votes at the end and that they still seem to be eliminating people. I find that odd given the small number of participants left. Personally, I love JYP’s current line up but he’s down to seven at this point, if they cut anymore from his group, they’re just going to be chucking hard earned talent and skill out the window. Which would make me very cross and be straight up dumb considering how good all the remaining members are. So, I really hope they don’t do that because I really want to dub this the best survival show I’ve ever seen, and I can’t quite do that until the final whistle blows. But of course, I’ll be tuning in for the final rounds and I’ll keep my finger crossed that only good things remain!
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The combination of #1 and #3 makes me actually want to track this down eventually! The awful behavior towards contestants has been why I’ve almost never watched survival shows of any kind.
Good points! I agree with your concern about eliminations. Honestly, just debut who they have right now (minus Koki — he’s just too young) and you’ve got two fantastic groups.
I’m nervous about JYP’s roster because I can’t imagine any one of them being cut. But, maybe it’ll be a Stray Kids type deal where eliminated contestants end up re-joining for the finale? I can’t believe he’d debut a group with less than seven members.
As long as Donghyeon and Amaru make it, I’ll be happy. I’m pulling for Yoon Min too. It feels like he hasn’t gotten as much attention as others, but he has a killer voice.
Also… the fan votes are so unnecessary, but I guess that’s a required element these days. Thankfully they haven’t messed things up too bad so far.
Came out from lurking just to chime in on this conversation, and share how much I hate the elimination system on this live rounds. It just doesn’t make sense. Eliminating people just because you have to?? And from the way Team JYP got absolutely obliterated in the first round, I can’t see them winning any round in the future, so that means JYP will be left with 4 trainees at best. It’s just crazily frustrating for me.
My thoughts on I’m your brother exactly mirror my thoughts on P101 S2’s Hands on Me. Too fragmented to really be a clean studio recording but are a force to be reckoned with when they hit their groove. Good stuff.
This song is like the official successor of Gambler – cringe English, brass synths, bassline, beat drop that should not work but yet somehow does. So of course I like it. Rating’s right.
Now on to LOUD. I have always been one to support the underdogs, so when Haruto came along and seemed to get through the first round, I leaned towards him. When it seemed like it was inevitable for Koki to be eliminated due to his age (what am I doing with my life…..), I wanted him to at least pass as a trainee. Hell, even when this whole thing was announced, PSY seemed to be the underdog in comparison to JYP. (Plus I have an inexplicable bias towards PSY for bringing me into the K-pop world.) But it looks like that was a wrong impression – how did JYP suffer that much in fan votes??
I don’t have much to complain about the show, but what I do have is this –
Their musical sensibilities. Seriously, why does EVERYONE seem to hate happy, upbeat songs? Hyun Woo’s song was really good, yet they very nearly eliminated him. They were worried that Yoon Min would do something “cute” in the casting round. Eun Hwi’s Unboxing song was very easily his best on the show, yet it was the least appreciated. Please don’t put brass synths in all the title tracks, please, P-Nation. Hey, but as long they don’t stop the rock and industrial influences, no problem. Also, pleeeeaaase no more trap breaks. Almost every song in the show had one.
Now, onto the highlights of the show.
1. “Like an air fryer, air is the secret ingredient.”
“JYP.” – Lee Donghyeon
What a start to the show.
2. Daniel in Round One.
3. The moving sofas, and JYP trying it out.
4. The ATEEZ WIN performance.
5. Jun Hyeok’s Versace On The Floor
6. Sung Jun’s (failed) nun chucks trick.
7. Koki throughout the show.
8. Amaru throughout the show.
9. Keiju throughout the show.
10. The Behind-the-scenes of the God’s Menu performance.
11. The WannaOne Boomerang performance. They made me like a song I don’t, and that alone is enough to get this on the list.
12. JYP and PSY’s reaction to the Flowering performance.
13. The Safety Pin performance. (I usually hate this kind of song, but this has the same quality as Double Knot – something about is very catchy.
14. The Unboxing performance.
15. The Beast-Shock remix aka the performance where Donghyeon shows that he’s more than just the air-fryer guy.
16. The 2PM 10 out of 10 performance.
17. Hyun Woo’s Mint Chocolate performance. (Somebody knows what a key change is!)
18. Sung Jun’s In The Rain performance. (I like this more for the back story than the performance, but the performance was really good too.)
19. Amaru’s Half Moon performance. The first two lines gave me goosebumps.
20. Dongyeon’s WannaOne Burn It Up performance. (Again, it made me like a song I don’t.)
21. Lee Seung-Gi. I never knew him before this, but this one quote – “JYP, you look like a prehistoric property buyer.” – has permanently stamped him in my memory.
22. The little jokes sprinkled throughout the show, and Eun Hwi asking for the speakers in P-Nation, and the JYP staff being jealous.
23. Keiju’s Mmmh performance.
24. Gye-Hun’s Money performance.
25. The I’m Your Brother performance.
26. Kyung Jun in the funky 10 Minutes performance. (It seems like our definition of punk and Korea’s are vastly different.)
27. The rock 10 Minutes performance. (Especially for its lyrics, seriously….)
28. Growl X Lazenca performance. (My favourite performance in the show. Yet.)
29. JYP’s trot Idol performance. (How the hell did they do it?????)
There are a couple of things that makes this show stand out. Firstly, theer is a kind of friendly rivalry between the judges, and that is put on show. Secondly, the judges are not inhumane, robot-like people, the show actually humanizes them, unlike other shows we’ve seen from the genre (looking at you, Stray Kids.) You can actually see that they really are trying very hard not to cry during the live rounds’ elimination.
But why is there an elimination now in the first place?
That’s a definitive list and I agree with the vast majority of it!
#1 still lives in my head today, and I echo your irritation with all the brass and trap and drop-choruses. Unboxing was my favorite original track as well. All the others felt so similar/derivative and follow the same structure, yet get called “genius” and “original” by the judges.
When JYP was going on about how he could buy Eunhwi’s song for an actual idol group, I was thinking… yeah… but you’re the agency that rubber-stamped Mafia in the Morning so can we really trust your taste?