In Korea, singing audition programs are all the rage these days. Some focus on certain age groups, while others are open to those of all ages, as well as all nationalities even. Superstar K, Made in U, Birth of a Great Star, The Voice Korea, The Voice Korea Kids – these are examples of some of the various programs on air these days.
But there is one show that has gotten major acclaim for various reasons. That show is SBS’ KPOP STAR Survival Audition program, judged by representatives of the three largest entertainment agencies in Korea: JYP Entertainment (represented by founder and artist Park Jin Young), SM Entertainment (represented by one of SM’s first solo artists, BoA), and YG Entertainment (represented by founder and former Seo Taiji & Boys member Yang Hyun Suk).
Two seasons later, and this program has received some major acclaim for its star judges and their way of giving advice and criticism; the tremendous amount of talent that has graced the KPOP STAR stage in only two seasons; and, the great and memorable performances put on by many of the contestants who make it to top ten. In this post, I will share my top three favourites from each season as well as three “honourable mentions” from each season, in the hope to show the variety of talent that has graced the KPOP STAR stage!
SEASON 1: My Top Three:
This girl is no stranger to the stage or to the households of the Korean public. Early on during the competition, she was noted for her strong vocal range, particularly her performance of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”, which gained the attention of overseas media as well as celebrities like Ashton Kutcher. Despite her young age, she has a very unique tone which will allow her for more growth as she gets older. Her ability to speak English also puts her in a very good position to consider an overseas debut.
Another big name to come out of the season 1 top 10, Lee Ha Yi has been gaining plenty of attention these days for her soulful voice, which has been put to good use in some very catchy songs that she’s released, including “22.214.171.124”, “Rose”, and “It’s Over”. She also gained a lot of attention early on during the competition and proved to be quite the rival to Park Ji Min.
This fellow caught the attention of the judges enough to make top 10 in season 1, and he proved himself an accomplished singer-songwriter. Having an established fanbase on YouTuber, Jae Hyung brought his soft crooning style and skillful guitar playing to the table.
Season 1 Honourable Mentions:
Firstly I have to give it to him for auditioning for this show despite his partial blindness. His skill and talent shows just how much hard work he put in to get into the show, and although he did not make top 10, I think he has a great voice and could go a longer way as a performer.
Another Cali native, although he didn’t make top 10, he brought a refreshing style to the table – guitar player, singer and dancer. He is currently signed to Polaris Entertainment as a trainee, and he has a great career ahead of him!
I’ll admit that I have a partial bias as I found out during the competition that he’s originally from Waterloo, and went to university in Ottawa, but is now out doing music full time in Korea as a session musician. Although he did not make top 10, his Canadian musical sensability made him a stand-out in a good way, especially during his duet cover of Michael Buble’s “Everything” with contestant Leann Kwak.
SEASON 2: My Top Three:
So much can be said about this songwriting brother-sister duo, but all I have to say is that these two super talented kids from Mongolia really took the competition to another level with their original work and acoustic re-workings of popular Korean and American songs, my favourite of which was their rendition of Tamia’s “Officially Missing You”. I’m excited to see what the future holds for them.
The oldest contestant in KPOP STAR history, Andrew proved that you’re never too old to pursue your musical dreams, and he made top 10 and lasted out till top 3. His soulful voice and his vast musical experience as a producer and songwriter with SM Entertainment definitely helped him during the competition, and I know things will only go up for him from here on out.
Of all the contestants that took eyes this season, Yegeun surprised me the most with her piano-driven reworkings of Korean songs and her jazzy voice for someone her age. Her talent is brought her to top 10 and even though she was cut early on during the top 10 rounds, she has a lot of potential to grow as a great artist.
Season 2 Honourable Mentions:
Firstly, I want to say how disappointed I was that Jenny was cut during her initial audition in Korea. But that being said, this goes to show what kinds of artists have auditioned for this program – her being a seasoned veteran of the YouTube scene with a huge following and a gift for singing urban pop. While she may not have been KPOP material in the eyes of the judges, she is still very much a talented force to be reckoned with.
Another example of a great YouTube artist who auditioned for the show, but from Germany this time. While he made it through several rounds but was cut well before the team battle rounds, Minseong represented as one of the older contestants on the show (along with Andrew Choi), and also brought a more urban vibe to his voice.
While the judges were blown away with his voice but considered him a bit of a showoff, I think he has tremendous potential, given that he almost could have made top 10 because of Kim Do Yeon dropping out of the show. That being said, his voice can take on almost any song, either in English or Korean, which gives him a great advantage for the type of stuff he could pursue musically.
With that being said, a lot of great talent has graced the stage of this still relatively new singing audition program, but has also proved that great talent can be found in any place. For those looking for a unique experience with audition programs from the viewpoints of three of the most wanted entertainment agencies in Korea, this is the show to check out! Be sure to check out a performance from each of the aforementioned season 1 and season 2 contestants below!
Park Ji Min – “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele
Lee Ha Yi – “Mercy” by Duffy
Park Jae Hyung – “We All Try” by Frank Ocean
Kim Su Hwan – “I’m Glad” by Lee Juk
Kim Woo Sung – “Live High” and “How to avoid the sun”
Eddie Chun & Leann Kwak – “Everything” by Michael Buble
Akdong Musician – “Don’t Cross Your Legs” by Akdong Musician
Andrew Choi – “Lately” by Stevie Wonder
Choi Yegeun – “I Have a Girlfriend” by Park Jin Young
Jenny Suk – “Gangnam Style” by Psy and “OMG” by Usher ft. Will.i.am
Ha Minseong (UrbanGermany) – “You’re the one” by Park Jin Young
Yoon Juseok – “Englishman in New York” by Sting