So this is how it has been whenever I watch WIN: Who Is Next – my heart is literally in my throat. I’ve been watching it while lying on my bed with either the laptop or iPad on my stomach and every minute that ticks by, I kid you not – I can totally feel and hear the rapid beating of my heart. Lately I’m such a loose cannon and a crybaby, and this show isn’t helping my situation. Typically I’ll end up tearing up during my watch and by the end of an episode, I’ll feel so choked that I need to steady my breath, telling myself I need to friggin’ calm down cos this ain’t real.
But it is. For these eleven boys – it totally is.
The Quick Facts
Let’s be totally clear before I jump in to my mangled, jumbled thoughts about the show now that we’re so close – so, so close – to the finale and big reveal. I suggest if you’re uncomfortable with these two facts then by all means, there’s no need to read any further. They are:
- I am 100% for Team A, which I guess you can say this means I’m Team A-biased
- I don’t believe in debuting all eleven boys as a single team – stakes need to count, period
Before anything, let’s kick start by revealing how an obsession looks like….
Obsession Y’all, Obsession – Or Is It Addiction? Or Ack, Both?!
I have been insanely busy this week, not even kidding. Forget all the premiering dramas and whether Heirs is sucking or brimming with potential, I’m barely keeping up with schoolwork and when I’m not, I’m too tired to do anything – even eating started feeling like a chore, imagine that. So. Tired.
However, when I get quick, short breaks in which I can slot 5-minute videos during my timeouts, this particular video’s my go-to jam. Its been on replay, several times in a day. Honestly, I haven’t done this in so long; typically I’ll watch a performance and move along but for way too many reasons to name, I just keep coming back to this one. The feels. The sincerity. The metamorphosis. The evolution. The sophistication. The passion. The triumph!
And here’s where it gets crazy: I’ll watch the subbed version to get into the state of emotion and then rewatch the official, unsubbed version because it’s in HD. It’s basically this – play, repeat, play. Repeat.
Between Smile Again and Officially Missing You, I can’t decide which is better. So I just end up watching both.
And then I get so pumped up and excited, wanting more. Plus, I really love their little skit – Song Minho is seriously super adorable and hilarious. Okay, I admit it – I’m a sucker for rappers who beatbox. So off I go, watching this one too…
And then! I start feeling like I’m missing the vocals because the three of them are great vocalists. Except… I just watched the two most recent stages. So what do I do? Backtrack and end up here, is what.
Sometimes when I need a good laugh, I’ll go for either this one, for that short acoustic rendition of Smile Again and the gem at the end, thanks to Song Minho:
Or this one, which is equally as epic – Song Minho isn’t the best thing about Team A, but he’s pretty darn close to topping that list, just by this self-composed song alone and okay, the voice. Of course the voice!
Last night, I didn’t study. Too tired and face it – Friday night! Too sad to be caught studying and the subs for episode nine weren’t ready (typically they’re only ready by late evening on Saturday, which works for me) so I ended up… Rewatching the earlier episodes, but this time around keeping an incredibly close eye on each of the Team A members – little things and details I missed during my earlier watch when I couldn’t put names to faces. The short story is, they’ve come so, so far from the first episode which must’ve been recorded sometime in April or May of this year!
The long story is – let’s jump right in. Be forewarned, this entry is insanely long. I just know it.
Thoughts on Episode Nine
I figured it’s best to start with the latest episode or more appropriately, the second-to-last episode. This episode honestly served as a filler, like warming us up to the grand finale but I did enjoy watching the development of their preparations for the final stage. Team A‘s self-composed songs, especially the one where they’ve to rearrange Teddy‘s track sounded SO GOOD. Very, very promising.
Honestly, Team B‘s sounded really, really good too. I just love the kind of ideas that the Bobby-B.I. duo come up with – except for Winnin’ which I totally dig the beats but not the lyrics (or vocals, homg the vocals… Let’s not go there…) – because they’ve come up with fresh, youthful and pumped up songs. A true competition is when two equals stand on the same stage fighting for the winning title, you know? That what makes the stakes truly count and the win deserving, even if the battle to get there and having to sit through it will be a bitch.
What I didn’t enjoy about this episode is that bit about Donghyuk‘s dad. Don’t get me wrong and I’m not trying to disrespect the dead, but putting this particular slice of story in this episode, at this point in the show… Frankly, I find it to be an emotional manipulation. The context of the scene is obviously incredibly heartfelt and deeply personal which I totally agree, but like I said – putting it this far along feels like it’s with calculating emphasis, ergo the editors and producers are trying to wring emotions to Team B‘s side. At this point where it should be fair play and equal airtime focusing on both teams as a whole rather than individuals, this one’s just… Unfair, to put it simply.
Another thing I noted is how incredibly sincere Kang Seung Yoon is, as a person. When I wrote my first loose thoughts about the show, I contemplated about him – is he this sincere, sweet kid or is he at the advantage of having been schooled by reality show enough to know the do’s and don’ts? This episode gave me the answer – it’s the former. It’s not the tears that did it for me, but his statement that led to his tears. It’s this, “Even if we win, I really won’t feel happy. There are members in Team B who couldn’t attend school because they solely devoted themselves into this. We’ve stayed up all night and really worked hard for everything. I wish there was instead one way for all of us… Just… I would at least be able to imagine all of us becoming the winner. I would hate it if we didn’t become the winner but I also hate that we have to step on all of our juniors’ hard work just to win that position.”
THANK YOU Kang Seung Yoon, for saying that.
The fact that your triumph – and you will, you better! – comes at the expense of other people’s dreams, it makes the win feels almost dirty indeed and what moved me is that it’s obvious he wants to win this as badly as all the rest do, but his conscience still speaks for him. This is totally worth commending because this kid, he’s a good one.
The funny or rather ironic thing is that immediately, we cut to B.I.‘s interview in which he starts off all gung ho and mad determination by saying that his resolve and desire to win won’t be moved and affected by the affections expressed by his hyung. I don’t blame him for saying this because I like his fighting spirit and I love his attitude about it even more. He knows exactly what he wants – it’s clear as day to him – and he’s so effortlessly confident about it, too. So it’s unsurprising that his resolve isn’t shaken, even if his eyes did give away his real emotions. There’s a sincerity that’s still there underneath all the swagger and determination, which I’m happy to note.
All in all, the above poster gets to me – D-day y’all, D-day.
Brief Thoughts on The (Possible) Aftermath
Here’s my honest thoughts: I think both teams will eventually debut because it makes no sense for YG CEO to disband them, given the kind of response and fanbase which have existed following the show’s premiere. He’s a smart business man who follows the money train, that much is clear because hello, if he didn’t this show would never have been conceptualized – but it’s a matter of timing. Will it be the near-future for both teams? Will it be over an extended period of time for the second one? Will they have to be temporarily or permanently separated in order to improve their craft?
I don’t believe in a team of eleven for two reasons: 1) I think the teams have been divided justifiably and fittingly, and 2) keeping to the spirit of a deserving win in a competition between two extremely strong contenders. It’s heartbreaking and incredibly difficult to stomach, but let’s not mar the prize anymore than it already is. Let’s honor the spirit of a competition because as I said, realistically I highly doubt YG CEO will disband the second-place team.
Thoughts on Team A (!!)
Yay we’re finally on my most-anticipated topic! I’ll start with my thoughts on them individually, beginning with…
- Lee Seung Hoon
I admit, my first impression of him was… This dude can’t sing. Then I watch him dance and rap and thought… he’s alright. He’s a good dancer, but easily shadowed by those stronger than him like B.I. He raps well too, but lacks the charisma and X-factor that’s innate to Minho and B.I. Nothing spectacular or particularly outstanding, you know what I mean? I didn’t watch KPop Star 1 but heard plenty about it from Housemate #1 (I followed the second season, not the first) who didn’t like him, so I admit that I had prejudged notions about him.
Then I watched this and thank you show, for letting me dismiss my previous, unaccounted for thoughts about him.
I still don’t think he’s the best in his craft and I do admit there were moments throughout the show in which I pondered upon his significance in Team A. I wondered a few times whether they really benefited from having him in the team and what his contributions were, because like Kim Jin Woo, often he fades into the background as the other three members outshine him. Episodes eight and nine however, really gave me pause and now it has finally hit me.
His maturity and sensibility. I really, really like these two traits of his.
I think for him it comes part and parcel with his previous experiences of having been in a reality show, being so close to winning the chance to debut but didn’t and even the realization that he’s not exceptional in his craft but unable to give up his dream. What he lacks in talent, he makes it up in hard work but frankly, who doesn’t? Which is why in my book, where he particularly shines is being this silent, protective shadow-leader.
He’s the hyung, that’s definite and it’s clear he takes the role very seriously. I like that he’s rooted in reality check, evident through his comments and also through his actions. He’ll get excited, but not over the top. He’ll say he’s happy, but – there’s always a but. When the rest are being their goofy self or whatever, you’ll notice him off at the corner or in the background just taking it all in. It’s not that he spaced out, rather he’s observing and looking out for them, as if on standby to catch them when their cloud nine bubbles burst.
Most of all, I greatly appreciate the fact that when I think of what’s at stake for Team A – which I know, I’ve mentioned and discussed plenty before this – my mind will reflexively return to him first, before anyone else. He reminds me of Seungri of BIGBANG, honestly. Here’s the guy who’s always so close to the object of his desire but for some reason, it’ll slip past him just as he closes in on it. In the final interview when he said he’s never won first place in anything, to me he didn’t say that to be pitied – that’s just fact, how it has always been for him.
Which is why Team A has to win, he needs to experience this for himself – the sweet, saccharine taste of triumph.
- Kim Jin Woo
When I backtracked and watched earlier episodes, I realized that he actually carries himself with confidence. Until… Of course, up to the JYP-YG battle where he epically forgot the lyrics of JYP‘s song right in front of JYP himself. I think the accumulated stress, pressure, past record of having lost twice before and this blunder finally overwhelmed and took over him. He caved into himself and eaten by insecurity, started to fade into the background in post-battle episodes which was such a shame because I personally love his voice.
So for me, when I watch Officially Missing You and Smile Again stages, it’s him that my heart bursts and overflows for. The two performances are testament that he’s finally won over his insecurity to embrace himself again. There’s a maturity in him that’s evident from the first day, being the eldest and the oldest trainee and all that jazz, but that maturity disappeared somewhat in recent episodes because it’s so obvious, like everyone pointed out, that he’s trying not to repeat his mistakes. So in those two stages where he finally lets himself go, allowing himself to be embraced by the music and finally understanding that teamwork doesn’t just mean you’ve a role to play, but also that you’ve a group of people you can depend and fall back on – he’s made big leaps, grown wings and in my eyes, metamorphosed.
It’s so interesting because when we think of the show allowing for growth and progress of these eleven boys, it’s him that I’d point out as showing these most obviously. I don’t know if I’m the only one who noticed, but I really thought that in episode nine he finally quit looking so impish and a lot more relaxed. Based on the past eight episodes, my deduction about his personality is that he’s one of those folks who are naturally shy, only opening up to those close to him and perhaps someone who’s better as a team member as opposed to being a leader. Frankly, there’s nothing wrong with that. He seems damn good as a team member, active and dedicated in his role. He’s quiet yes, but he’s not incompetent, you know? I disagree that only the outspoken has what it takes, so I’ll take him as he is.
Keep doing your thing and being yourself, Kim Jin Woo!
- Kang Seung Yoon
I just… I love this guy. I sincerely do, because he’s such a good kid. He’s product of good upbringing, trust me. He is immensely talented and I really, really thought he stepped up and more, once he was made leader. Personally, I am in complete agreement and happy that he’s the leader because he is definitely the stronger of the two. It’s evident through the planning stages – he’s got game plans thought of, engage the others during discussions but most importantly, from beginning to end he stays focused. It’s not about being a control freak or trying to control everything, rather knowing how and when to take charge. That’s the difference and in my opinion, the exact point that separates him and Song Minho as leaders and the main reason why I’m totally okay that he’s leading the pack.
In terms of his craft, I don’t know if there’s anything more to say that I haven’t already. His music style is totally my style – the vocal-driven kind of songs with meaningful lyrics – and his voice is just pure heaven. I’m excited at what he’ll bring and present to us in the finale because self-composed songs are obviously his strength.
I can’t wait for you to show us what you’ve got, bring it on!
- Song Minho
For all my opinions on what he lacks as a leader, I don’t think he was terrible, not at all, just that he’s less effective than Kang Seung Yoon. However, him as an artist is something else – he’s not only oozing with charisma and appeal, but most importantly he has this unspoken, quiet confidence about himself. Self-assurance, ah that’s what it is.
It’s the reason why watching him onstage is always so damn enchanting – he doesn’t let the stage swallow him, instead it’s the other way around. Plus, I really appreciate that he understands very well what makes a dynamic team. When he was the leader, he attempted to fill that shoe and throughout the show as part of a team, he’s such a strong team member through his active participation and contributions in the song-writing, song-selection processes and more. I think his previous experiences definitely helped and I’m glad, but they’re also my driving force in wanting the team to debut. Like Lee Seung Hoon and Kang Seung Yoon, it is just friggin’ about time you know, that they get their debut after years of being in that murky gray area of neither here, nor there. Get to it, YG!
In those unreleased videos, homg this guy! So funny! I just love it that he’s extremely good-looking and has all the points to be stereotyped as The Cool Guy – like TOP, come to think of it – but instead, he turns out to be the goofiest, most playful guy whose modus operandi isn’t in acting cool, rather finding all the different ways to break that.
It makes him the coolest kid on the block by sheer default, you know what I mean? He’s real, keeping it real and is clearly having a jolly good time with his silly songs and playful banters. Once it’s showtime though, he steps up automatically. It’s impressive and is exactly why I just love this dude.
- Nam Tae Hyun
OMG Nam Tae Hyun is just LOVE. Pure, pure love.
Next to Kang Seung Yoon, he is a close favorite of mine. He is so adorable, endearing and immensely talented. I love his voice so, so much and love even more how well it complements Kang Seung Yoon‘s deep vocals. I can’t get enough of his voice and equally love that he’s working on his musical depth. He’s definitely green compared to Seung Yoon and Minho, but without a doubt, he has the potential. I feel like… Give him a few years to grow up as both a person and a musician and he’ll come into his own, for sure.
Like Minho, I really like his self-assurance too – it’s attractive. It’s evident through his actions and responses towards Kang Seung Yoon, namely there’s no competition or envy. Instead, it’s acceptance and acknowledgment that the latter is his senior musically so instead of being spiteful, they collaborate and work together, enhancing and giving life to Seung Yoon‘s ideas. The results, as we’ve witnessed, speak for themselves.
General Thoughts about Team A
To me, their Smile Again stage was outstanding because it is akin to them growing wings and freeing themselves from the clutches of their mental breakdowns, past failures, apparent differences and limitations. It’s definitely a metamorphosis – heck, I’d even go so far as to call it a revolution – because in that single stage, they demonstrated success in every way possible. It’s that climax in a typical underdog story, that defining moment when the underdog realizes he is his own hero and embraces himself. By doing so, he frees himself from the clutches of what ifs and decisively move towards what is. For me, this is why that Smile Again stage was so meaningful – it’s testament of how far they’ve come and more importantly, what it took for them to arrive at their destination.
I’m still all about the stakes as my main justification on why they deserve the win, but after the second battle, I’m now certain that they’re ready to debut. Months ago when the show first started recording, in those earlier episodes it was clear they weren’t ready – nervous ticks and all were too obvious – and their defeats showed that. Now though, they’ve really come into their own, learning to embrace themselves as individuals and as part of a team.
I believe it’s true that their differences vary significantly in both personality and musical taste, but this just makes their teamwork and stage all the more affecting. The thing about differences is that it’s not about trying to flatten each one, desperately attempting to shape similarities out of them. Rather, it’s about acknowledging and embracing the differences and thus, coming up with ways to go around them, whether to minimize or enhance to the team’s best advantage. It’s not about trying to be cookie-cutter molds of each other, rather to create a new hue, representative of the team as a whole while distinctly keeping and holding steady to one’s own colors.
All these… they’ve finally achieved that, evident through the stages in the second battle, but you and I know that the real deal lies in the after; the follow-up. It’s in whether they can bring this same acquired dynamics and wisdom from the first success to the second and the subsequent ones after. In my opinion, based on their preparations as shown in episode nine – they’ve totally succeeded. The teamwork becomes effortless and second nature. Frankly, in Real Life it takes time for teams to really become one and within this show’s duration, it’s unrealistic to expect this of them. I find them to be in parallel to BIGBANG and we’re all aware how far BIGBANG has come post-debuting, which just goes to show that debuting is only the first step – it’s totally okay to be imperfect now, because that’s a given. Wisdom is gained through experiences and some lessons are learned only through time, period. At the end of the day what matters more is the journey, not the destination. The fact that they’ve got ways to go but are totally capable of reaching each stepping stone, that’s longevity; it’s reason enough. They are so here to stay.
What matters is that in this present, do they have what it takes to stand on a stage and not lose themselves in it? Have they demonstrated that they’re capable of progressing and creating revolutions, both as individuals and as a team? Factoring talent, skills, determination and unwavering passion, have they proven their worth?
In my opinion – yes, yes and yes.
Team A, your journey’s been incredibly heartfelt to witness and to be a part of. I’m trusting each of you wholeheartedly and I don’t just mean this – I know it. I’ll see you guys as the WINNER next week and for the years to come!