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.