Korean Idol
September 3, 2009 8:05 PM   Subscribe

The live performance shows for Superstar K (warning: audio autoplay) will start beginning this Friday, September 4, 11 pm, Seoul time. The South Korean version of shows such as American Idol and Britain's Got Talent, 713,503 hopefuls in 8 Korean cities were winnowed down to 10 contestants, all vying for the 100 million Won (approximately USD 80,400) prize and recording contract reserved for the winner. The show has been a massive hit for Korean cable music channel Mnet, garnering viewership above 6%, or 1 in 10 televisions on at the time, where 2% or higher is considered a hit on Korean cable TV.

Superstar K's tearjerker moment so far was the group challenge featuring a blind contestant, which brought judge Lee Hyori to tears (the male judge is Yang Hyun Suk, head of YG Entertainment and former member of legendary Korean group Seo Taiji & Boys). For those who prefer the trainwreck aspects of such competition shows, episode 2 with judges Wheesung, Alex from Clazziquai, and veteran singer Hyunmi is a treasure trove, including an exchange between the judges comparing the pain of childbirth and circumcision as an adult (even if you don't understand Korean, the judge's facial expressions require no translation).

The top 10 contestants have been in seclusion for the past month, having had to turn in their cell phones, no access to internet or TV, and undergoing dance lessons, vocal training and physical training. Contestants have been told to lose weight or gain weight to look their best on camera. Currently leading in internet votes (which count for 20% of the score, with 70% coming from SMS votes on performance night and 10% from the judges) is one-half of self-described "street musician" duo Lost Cats (길 잃은 고양이), Jo Moon-Geun (조문근 - he's the one in the hat). On his way to the top 10 he passed the duet challenge paired with Berklee student and fellow top 10 finalist Jung Sun-Kook (정선국) with an enthusiastic rendition (starting at 4:35 mark) of Korean rockers Yun Do Hyun Band's "I must have been in love" (사랑했나봐). The Lost Cats had one last street performance featuring some fellow top 10 contestants before going into seclusion.
posted by needled (4 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What—no caustic, deprecating British judge? Weird.

Contestants have been told to lose weight or gain weight to look their best on camera.

They do this on American Idol, too, but they're usually more cagey about it: "You need to work on your look" or "I'm not sure if you really fit the mold of a pop star".

One thing that struck me about the "enthusiastic rendition" clip was how heavily the show leans on an extreme quick cut editing technique. It was rare that a single shot was held for longer than a few tenths of a second, which is just super, super fast. This is a style that is pretty much never used on American TV (not even MTV, which popularized the rapid-paced editing style back in the 1980s).

I'm just wondering if this style is something unique to this particular show, or if it's a common characteristic of Korean TV.
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:34 AM on September 4, 2009

Atom Eyes, it's a characteristic of shows on Mnet. I haven't seen that much quick cut editing on regular network shows, except maybe in some commercials and music videos.
posted by needled at 2:03 PM on September 4, 2009

I'm so, so glad they kicked out Jaejoong's birth mother early. Watching her embarrassed me too much on his behalf, and lord knows being a Jae fan had conditioned me to a certain level of perpetual embarrassment.
posted by fatehunter at 8:57 PM on September 4, 2009

There's a "party" on Monday night for this show at a popular club. They'll be filming. I've been invited--no surprise, actually, since the party is only for non-Koreans or half-Koreans. I'm really not sure why, and I'm not going, but I was pretty surprised to see the invite in my email this morning (the email said something about "foreigners' different reactions to music performances")...
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:51 PM on September 4, 2009

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