Just over a week ago, the European auditions for SBS K-pop Star took place in London. As a somewhat naive and hopeful part-time fan of K-pop, I went along to try my luck.
Since registration was scheduled for a 9am start, I tried my best to get there slightly earlier to avoid being at the back of the queue. Obviously despite my best intentions, I got there just after 9 o’clock and had to join the back of a lengthy queue that was already forming. Thankfully I wasn’t on my own, and during the long wait to enter the building my boyfriend and I amused ourselves by cheering and waving with the group for the cameramen, holding up the K-pop Star signs we’d been given by different members of staff that were running around. I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of the K-pop Star hopefuls I saw in the queue were significantly younger than me, mostly around thirteen or fourteen years old. I was left wondering “how old is too old for K-pop?” and was hoping the answer wasn’t twenty-two.
We were finally let into the building and seated in the auditorium (pictured at the beginning of the post) around 11am, and were shown a series of Kpop videos including ‘Gangnam Style’ to get everyone excited. Noticeably a lot of people got up during Gangnam Style to join in with the dance moves, though I didn’t join in. After that, they handed out prizes to different people based on criteria such as who travelled the furthest, who was the youngest, who was the eldest, etc. It turns out that the youngest participant was eleven years old, whilst the eldest was somewhere in their thirties. I started to sweat a little bit less about my age after that; twenty-two being placed comfortably in the middle of the two. We finished off with some more sign waiving for the cameras and some cheering before the long wait for my audition slot began. During this time I decided to take a trip to the bathroom, but there was a distinctly off-putting air of anxiety with so many girls practicing their songs in or around the toilets. Unfortunately it turned out that I did join the queue slightly too late to be in one of the groups auditioned before lunchtime, so during the break my boyfriend and I headed off to a nearby Pizza Hut.
When we got back, it wasn’t too long before my audition number was called out and I joined my group to go to one of the upper floors for my audition. While we were waiting upstairs, we were individually given our final instructions for our audition slot and a cameraman came round to interview us. When he approached me my face threatened to turn red from having a large camera pointed in my face, but I managed to answer a couple of their questions about how I was feeling about the audition and then spoke a bit in Korean. It was a bit of a confidence boost when the cameraman seemed impressed with my Korean, but the guy sat next to me laughed a bit when I finished off with “화이팅!” (“fighting!”). From this point onwards the waiting period seemed to speed up a bit, with people going into the audition rooms looking nervous and aspirational, and most of them exiting looking not so cheerful.
At this point I will say that prior to my audition I thought I was in with a decent chance to pass the first round. But then again, reality does not always equate to expectation. Regardless, my main focus was to get through the audition without screwing it up too much like I had done when I participated in the UK auditions of ‘China’s Got Talent’ about a year ago. That time I managed to get so nervous about it that I panicked myself into a catching a cold and could barely sing by audition day. In comparison the K-pop Star auditions were turning out to be significantly better experience so far. When I was called to go into the room, I did feel relatively good about myself. I walked into the room, handed over my application and went to stand in front of the camera where I began to introduce myself in English and Korean. The judges seemed quite satisfied and asked me to perform the song I’d prepared, which was ‘아파’ (It Hurts) by 2NE1. I started off alright, and felt like I was singing quite well despite how nervous I felt in front of the camera. And that was when I mixed up the lines of the verse I was singing and had to start again… this probably didn’t work in my favour. The judges were nice enough to let me continue the song until the chorus, and then asked me to sing an English pop song that I’d prepared, which in this case was ‘Settle Down’ by Kimbra. They didn’t seem to like this one, and I had to squeeze out the higher notes a little bit because mixing up my previous song had made me even more tense. After that they cut me off and thanked me for auditioning, so I thanked them in Korean and left the room. On my way out I went back to find my boyfriend close to going into nap mode in the auditorium, where surprisingly there were some die-hard fans still dancing to Gangnam Style.
I suppose my gut reaction was to be disappointed that I didn’t get through to the next round. Even though that wasn’t my main focus, I felt like things were going so much better than my China’s Got Talent experience that I was hoping something more would happen. I walked away a bit more than bewildered about what to do next. Luckily I did have someone there to help with that confusion before I let it get to me too much. I have since realised three things:
- I still have a decent job.
- It wasn’t my first opportunity, nor should it be my last.
- I have family and friends that will support me, regardless or whether I try to find more opportunities to pursue a singing career/decide to make a fool of myself or not.
Rather than end with some false positivity, I will admit that it has partially put me off singing as a career. I am fully aware of the element of “idol manufacturing” that seems to occur with reality TV talent shows and generally in the pop music industry, be it Korean or from any other country. I guess participating whilst acknowledging this left me feeling a bit compromised, but since I didn’t get through, it’s an experience that’s still left me with my options open.