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. This is, sadly, the last in our series.
It’s nearly impossible to talk about the current state of Mandopop music without mentioning a bunch of temporary groups formed out of survival competition shows. With more and more Chinese entertainment companies adopting K-pop’s flagship trainee system, where teenagers equipped with star quality are recruited to go through a specialized and intense curriculum of dance and voice before their potential debuts, aspiring idols have flooded the market.
To stand out in this cutthroat competition, trainees have to grasp every opportunity to enhance their visibility and build their fanbase. In this context, survival reality shows like Produce 101 创造101 have provided a desirable platform for them to realize their dreams of achieving idol-group stardom.
As one of the iterations of the massively popular Produce 101 series from Korea, Idol Producer 偶像练习生, which was produced by Chinese streaming firm iQiyi and aired in 2018, has had incredible success. Following the footsteps of its Korean predecessor, the show’s premise is simple: hundreds of male idol hopefuls compete against each other to stay on the program as long as they can, on the backs of viewers’ voting after each episode. The final nine winners will form a boy band with a limited timespan, which, in Idol Producer’s case, is 18 months.
“Ei Ei,” the theme song of Idol Producer, perfectly encapsulates the gist of the show, which, to put it more explicitly, is 100 good-looking boys unabashedly competing for your attention. Musically, there’s not much to talk about. Essentially an upbeat pop-dance track, “Ei Ei” was carefully engineered to be catchy and inoffensive, serving the sole purpose of luring you into the show’s world and possibly root for some contestants along the way. “Hey you hey you hey pick me,” the trainees sing on the chorus, pleading in such a monotonous voice that you can barely recognize who’s who.
The song itself might be un-stimulating, if not underwhelming, but the trainees’ stage performance is the real deal. In under four minutes, they all bring their best to the table, serving you a feast of impeccable looks, energetic dance moves, and an enormous amount of charisma.
That’s it for Mandopop Month. Check out the other posts in this series: