“When I said I’m going to produce a popular song, the songs were never really popular. If I knew the formula to produce good songs, then my life would have been much easier. I believe that the fans who love our music helped us become who we are now. And for once I wanted to ask the public to make the decision. The two teams are equally talented. I ask around when I can’t make the decision by myself, but this time I would like to ask the viewers.”
This was a comment from YANG HYUN SUK, the founder of YG Entertainment, at the Production Sneak Preview for the real survival battle program called ‘WIN’. The viewers of the show will determine the formation of YG’s new boy group.
‘WIN’, which stands for Who Is Next?, is the first program where viewers get to decide the debuting team since the establishment of the entertainment agency (where Korean Wave creators BIGBANG and 2NE1 belong) 15 years ago. The 11 trainees who have been at YG for years will be divided into Teams A and B for a competition to make a debut. The winning team will be able to become a professional artist immediately after the show ends, seizing the name ‘WINNER.’
Team A, which consists of KANG SEUNG YOON, the recently debuted ex-contestant of Mnet’s Superstar K2 and LEE SEUNG HOON, the ex-contestant of K-Pop Star, have 5 members in total with the average age of 20. Other members include the leader SONG MIN HO, YG’s longest trainee KIM JIN WOO and the team’s youngest NAM TAE HYUN.
Team B has 6 members with the average age of 17, with the then boy rapper B.I. who featured in MC Mong’s ‘Indian Boy’ and Koo Jun Hoe, another ex-contestant of K-Pop Star. Other members include the team’s oldest KIM JIN HWAN, BOBBY from New York, vocalist KIM DONG HYUK and SONG YUN HYUNG.
From episodes 1 to 10, there will be 3 battles in total, and along with YG’s founder YANG HYUN SUK, other YG artists will be participating in the process of the competition to give advice. Other than this, the viewers are completely in control of voting in the next boy group.
Team A, on the surface looks like they are in a more advantageous position because of some of the members who are already well-known to the public, but CEO YANG views Team B more competitive. “Team A is afraid of Team B. That is one of the interesting features of this show.”
KANG SEUNG YOON is already a solo singer. “If we wanted to make him a solo singer, then we should have done what we did with Lee Hi from SBS’s K-Pop Star. When we asked KANG SEUNG YOON to join us, he was already hugely popular. But the image that he had back then would have been easily employed by other entertainment agencies as well. So I wanted to focus on just 25% of what he had and look for the other 75% in something that wasn’t already visible. KANG SEUNG YOON who can not only dance but also can do rock, rap and R&B. If KANG SEUNG YOON just wanted to be a rocker, he didn’t have to go hand in hand with me. He did release a single album already, but I think he’s journey is yet to start.”
On the difference between Teams A and B, he said, “Team A members are all tall and Team B ones are short, because they’re still young.” He laughed. “But BIGBANG members are not that tall either, so Team A members’ height makes me think that they are the first group we produced. Team B is mainly focusing on hip-hop, while Team A, although LEE SEUNG HOON is in it, is not limited to a specific genre—a pop group.”
There’s already a member on which CEO Yang is keeping an eye. “In Team A, KANG SEUNG YOON, who is full of talents, and SONG MIN HO, the leader. In Team B, B.I. and BOBBY.” But since he keeps his distance with the trainees, he said that he is not too familiar with their personal lives. He hinted that BIGBANG and 2NE1 will be showing themselves to the fans through TV reality programs like ‘Real Docu BIGBANG’ and ‘2NE1 TV’. He said, “Just like the fans, I also wanted to look into the more personal lives of the artists. I have high expectations because these programs will show the fans personal stories of the artists.” JANG HYUN SEUNG, who is now a member of the group Beast, gained much popularity on the program but had to experience bitter failure.
The founder of JYP, one of the 3 largest entertainment agencies apart from YG and SM, Park Jin Young, pointed out that CEO Yang is showcasing 2 teams because he is that confident. His message was shown on the screen at the preview.
To this, Yang said, “He is exactly right. If there were a big gap between the two groups in terms of their musical talents, then it just wouldn’t work. It’s not good tactic. Many say that if you can draw popularity, why not wait 3 or 4 more years, but I wanted to change that perception altogether.”
“I thought, the longer the training period is, the better. When you make a debut, the time you put into preparation shortens. If you go overseas, like artists do these days, the time shortens even more. BIGBANG and 2NE1 are sustaining themselves on the preparation they did for 5 years. The two groups are simply amazing. But even if there are no losing members in the team, the entire team might have to break up. The losing team will not make a debut. We are not going to deceive the audience.”
Some people point out that it is too harsh for making the trainees from the same entertainment agency to compete with each other. “People could think that way, but even the losing team will gain popularity through the show. Many gave me a nickname of being an ‘angelic’ judge on K-Pop Star, which I don’t think suits me, so they will wonder why I’m being so harsh. I’m not an angel to my children who are in YG.”
The winning team, named WINNER, will be YG’s first boy group in 8 years since BIGBANG’s debut. “Until now, there have been changes to BIGBANG and YG. The company has become bigger, and the world changed. YG was a hip-hop specializing agency until 1tyme and Jinu Sean, but BIGBANG helped it become a mainstream one. I wanted to produce the best idol when I was in the process of producing BIGBANG. WINNER will be the next boy group that will maintain YG’s reputation for the next 8 years.”
It’s a fresh approach, but many question whether YG is simply making another BIGBANG. He said, “If the public thinks that way, then the group would be a failure even if they gain huge popularity. But YG never made a group that overlapped with one another. The number of members are all different. That is YG’s taste. But if the audience thinks the new boy group overlaps with BIGBANG, then that is a complete failure. That’s something I need to solve on my own.”
But he empathized that BIGBANG is not the product of his own. “I didn’t participate in SEUNGRI’s album this time. I am just helping them grow.” He said, “BIGBANG was not so popular in 2006 when they released their first album. It was after about 2 years since their debut, when they released the song ‘LIE’. Until then the group sang different songs by other producers, but this time G-DRAGON produced it. Like this, I will never be directly involved with WINNER. I won’t tell them what to do. I will help them discover themselves. That’s the competitiveness we have at YG. We respect each artist’s own color.”
He added, “Initially we were planning to reveal YG’s version of Girls Generation. Frankly, I did want to produce a girl group just like them. Pretty and talented, that’s what people want. But as you can see from Jinu Sean and Big Mama, I focus more on their talents than their appearance. I think I was envious of Girls Generation. If pretty girls like that do hip-hop and YG music, what would it look like? I looked at Wonder Girls and had the same thoughts, but as time passed, it faded away.”
He initially chose scores of attractive girls, but now remains just six because the rest lacked the talent he wanted. “We haven’t made the final decision yet. But we will reveal a girl group before the year ends, at the earliest.”
The show goes on Mnet every Friday at 10p.m. starting from August 23. The show was supposed to be aired on national television. “I actually had SBS in mind. But because YG was producing the program, I thought this might create some misconception. There were numerous regulations for national TV as well. So, instead of going through them on national TV, we decided to be more truthful to the contents. And it was great that Mnet gave us a fantastic time slot for the show.”
The program will be aired overseas beginning from September 17, through channel V (part of the cable channels of START TV) and channel M (part of the cable channels of FOX) in 10 countries including Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Maldives, and Macau. In China, the largest video-sharing website Youku will exclusively air the program. YG is negotiation with Arirang TV to air the show beyond Asia and expand it to 188 countries from mid September. BIGBANG’s leader G-DRAGON’s ‘LET’S SHAKE THE WORLD’ will be used as the introduction song for the program.
Source: YG Life Blog