The Friday Song column this month turns its focus to Mandopop, which technically refers to all Mandarin-language pop music, but these days more often implies boy and girl bands, the type with seemingly interchangeable parts and high-energy, highly produced dance tracks.
“Wait a Minute” is a confident debut for Yuehua Entertainment’s darling boy band, NEX7. Released in June 2018, the song is a kaleidoscope of color, speed, and moody stares.
The group’s seven members, Zhu Zhengting, Bi Wenjun, Huang Xinchun, Ding Zeren, Fan Chengcheng, Li Quanzhe, and Justin, all had entertainment experience before coming together to form NEX7, which explains the ease they exude in their first video. All seven were signed as trainees for Yuehua, a Chinese entertainment giant that has recently expanded into South Korea and is known for managing the Korean boy band UNIQ and co-managing the girl-group WJSN. Due to the company’s Korea connection, NEX7 members received training over there as well.
The boys, ages 17 to 23, each had a considerable fan base before they came together, making them a fan favorite from day one. Zhu and Justin both performed on the second season of Korea’s Produce 101, coming in at 51st and 43rd, and gaining a significant following as a result. The seven performers also competed on China’s version of the show, Idol Producer. Fan, Justin, and Zhu came in 3rd, 4th, and 6th, making it into the group Nine Percent. Fan has the bonus of being actress Fan Bingbing’s younger brother.
The group’s One Direction-like chemistry makes it more than just a collection of individual heartthrobs. The singers are staples on interview shows, participating in dance-offs and failing at acrobatics. There is a slew of fan pages dedicated to collecting videos of their antics, many of which involve the boys making comments about each other’s butts. This only serves to make them more endearing to their fans, even if no one can seem to agree on how to say the band’s name (Nex-7? Next? Next-7?).
“Wait a Minute” takes a more serious tone than their internet antics, opening with a memorable sequence involving brightly colored lines on a white wall that match up perfectly with books that Fan holds up to cover his face as he sings. Affectionately known as the “woowooowooo woowooowoowoo skr skr” song for its catchy chorus, it features several tightly choreographed hip-hop sequences. These are interspersed with individual shots of the group members sitting in a dizzying collection of outfits, staring pensively at the camera and only occasionally singing. Li, known for being the group’s “little hamster” and for his adorable giggle, changes his hair color from bubblegum pink to magenta to blue-green over the course of just one line in the song.
The video alternates slow-mo and hyperspeed, giving the song and its seven performers a jolt of energy as they break into the Mandopop scene.
This act, however — like other bands formed from talent shows — has an expiration date: NEX7 is scheduled to disband on October, 18 months after it was founded.
NEX7 released four batches of songs in just six months last year, culminating in a full-length album in December. The group hasn’t released anything since, but their fans are waiting patiently.
Mandopop Month will continue next week.