Behind the K-Pop Curtains at MBC Music’s “Show Champion”
I guess my dirty little secret is out – I am a fan of K-Pop. Not all of it, but at least enough of it that I could call it my guilty pleasure…if I was in the least bit guilty about it. When I first came to Korea, in common with a lot of expats, I thought of K-Pop as that annoying background music that always played in shops when I was out and about. In fact, as far as I was concerned, it might actually have just been the same song that was playing all the time in every store.
But then, strangely enough after I had been back in my home country for a while and was hankering after a fix of Korean culture, I actually downloaded some of it and took the time to listen to it – and I started to get hooked. Yes, there was a lot of cutesy annoying lovey-dovey cutey-cutey rubbish and lots of emotionally overwrought ballads by no-more-than-mediocre vocalists but in amongst that there were actually some great pop songs. The more I listened the more I found stuff I enjoyed listening to, and, if nothing else, it was also an easy way to hopefully practice listening to the language.
And, of course, once I discovered all the girl group videos available to stream on YouTube I was officially an addict. During the past couple of years, I have also had the opportunity to catch live performances by some of the top bands during the Formula One racing weekends where they put on some concerts for the race-goers around the main event. During those weekends I had a great time watching a whole host of artists from PSY to SISTAR and everything in between.
That being the case, when I got the opportunity to go to a recording of MBC Music’s Show Champion I jumped at the chance. The ticket was actually provided via an online lottery run by the Korean Tourism Organisation(KTO) www.kpopevent.or.kr which is open to visitors on a bi-weekly basis to apply for the chance to attend the show. If you are a resident, then you may not be eligible for this method of getting tickets but the KTO have more info on how to attend other K-Pop show recordings on their website http://asiaenglish.visitkorea.or.kr/ena/HA/HA_EN_7_7_2_1.jsp
The show itself, is MBC Music’s Wednesday evening ‘live’ music show (and having now been to the recording I would definitely put the quote marks around live) which runs from 6pm. Of course, as with most TV we were instructed to arrive well before the start so I set off from home in mid-afternoon aiming to be at the studio by 4pm.
The show is recorded at the new Bitmaru Broadcasting Centre in Ilsan to the north of Seoul. Getting there is pretty straightforward as Line 3 takes you to Juyeop Station from where the KTO suggest taking a bus or taxi to Bitmaru but, in fact, it’s easily walkable. Just follow the signs for Hallyu World, past the shopping centre and once you get to H&M or the MVL Hotel you’ll see the fairly huge Bitmaru complex on your left.
Once I arrived there was a fair amount of waiting around, while not very much happened. We did get some ripples of excitement from time to time as Ulala Session, Lovelyz and APink were passing through the foyer but they were fairly quickly whisked away out of sight. Other that they we all just waited around to be given our passes and then more waiting around while we waited to be ushered into the studio.
Once we were in we were tucked away at the back with the real hardcore fans already in position at the front. We had been given clear instructions not to take any photos, not to raise our hands above our heads, not to leave the studio and presumably not to do anything else objectionable under threat of being turfed out and not allowed back in. Toilet breaks were also forbidden!
Then it was time for the show to start. And overall it was good fun! Yes, a lot of it was mimed. And a lot of it was pre-recorded which kind of gives a lie to the idea of a live show but the acts themselves were putting a lot of energy into their performances and, even if the performances were a bit hit and miss, it’s hard to fault the artists for the sheer effort expended. Some of the acts I admit I had never heard of, and even now probably couldn’t name but there was a smattering of big names like AOA, Hello Venus, and VIXX to keep my interest. It was also good to see some of the lesser names getting some airtime and giving it their all even if I may never hear of them again.
Yes, there was still too many tear-jerking ballads for my liking but the girls around me seemed to enjoy them so I suppose there was something for everyone. Highlight for me possibly the Hello Venus performance or possibly watching one of AOA rehearsing their sexy ‘like a cat’ dance moves in a quiet corner fifteen feet away while some guy with a piano did something or other on stage.
Oddest moment of the day was probably when SISTAR’s Hyolyn was doing a duet with Jooyoung – except she wasn’t there. So we were treated to the bizarre sight of Jooyoung doing his bits of the song on stage with full backing dancers but sans Hyolyn while the TV audience at home watched a version with both of them that had presumably been recorded some time before.
Apart from that, some of the best entertainment was provided by the backing dancers who obviously have a lot of fun doing the show – maybe even more than the performers at times.
So overall? Yes, it’s a bit fake. And we know a lot of them are miming. And apparently quite a bit of it isn’t even live. But when it’s this much fun, who cares? Like everything artificial, perhaps the effect is best appreciated at a distance, but this was an interesting peek behind the K-Pop curtains and not a terrible way to spend an evening in Goyang.
Disappointed about Hyolyn though. I’d have asked for a refund…if I had actually paid anything for my ticket!