[Recap] MBC “Survival: I am a Singer” Sets Bar Real High


MBC “Survival: I am a Singer” Episode 1 Recap (03/06/11)

MBC started an interesting reality show last Sunday called “Survival: I am a Singer.” It’s basically a survival reality TV show with individual performances, a la “American Idol,” only with real, professional singers—and we’re talking about some of the best, top-notch singers in the country. The contestants in the first episode, believe it or not, involved seven of the best Korean singers in different genres: Kim Gun Mo, Lee So Ra, Kim Bum Soo, Yoon Do Hyun, Jung Yeop, Baek Ji Young, and Park Jung Hyun (Lena Park). These singers are arguably some of the most popular and most talented live performers we’ve seen in the past two decades or so, and it’s quite amazing how MBC was able to pull off a show of this caliber.

The show works like this: each participant gets to perform once every episode, and based on the number of votes they receive from the seven comedian panel and the 500 live audiences, one singer gets eliminated and replaced by a new singer. The seven comedians serve as designated managers for each singer, who will be asked to help complete a mission from next week (e.g. a cover of an 80s hit song). But each accompanying manager also gets eliminated when his/her partner gets kicked off the show. The first episode didn’t involve any elimination but all of the performances were just totally off the hook. Each singer had their own distinct styles, and the unique format of the show created additional suspense.

Lee So Ra, who also happens to be the host of the show, kicked off the competition with an emotional performance of “The Wind is Blowing.” Jung Yeop came up next with a soulful stage of “Nothing Better,” followed by Baek Ji Young’s “Like Being Hit by a Bullet.” Yoon Do Hyun brought his whole YB Band to give a strong rock performance of “It Burns,” and Kim Bum Soo sang to his popular song, “I Miss You.” Park Jung Hyun’s “The Beloved of a Dream” was one of the most powerful live performances we’ve seen in a long time and Kim Gun Mo showed once again why he’s called “The Nation’s Singer” with his debut single “Sleepless Rainy Night.”

The results were quite stunning too. Instead of elimination, this week’s show only had a popularity vote by the audience. Park Jung Hyun was rated the highest, followed by Kim Bum Soo, Kim Gun Mo, Yoon Do Hyun, Baek Ji Young, Lee So Ra, and Jung Yeop, respectively. It just blows me away how Jung Yeop, after putting on such a thrilling live performance (it almost brought tears to my eyes), could possibly be voted last. In fact, this episode just set the bar so high for me I can’t imagine what MBC and these singers will bring from next week. This show has all the potential to become one of the most popular shows in Korea. It’s that good.

Listen to Park Jung Hyun’s live performance here (a fan in the audience recorded and uploaded this unedited version online):

Good: Quality of singers/participants. When I first saw the roster of contestants, I couldn’t believe my eyes. These people are unbelievably good singers and you could tell they were giving all they had for this show. Park Jung Hyun’s performance was truly one for the ages and I still get chills every time I hear it. The elimination stage adds extra motivation as I’m sure none of these singers want to be labeled “last place” in any type of singing contest.

Bad: The flow of the show. Why do they have to show the back stage interview during the live performance? Can’t they just wait two more minutes? The viewers want to see the full live performance uninterrupted. I don’t think other competition reality shows, like “American Idol” or “So You Think You Can Dance?”, do that either. When the show is on, you keep quiet!

Spoiler: MBC has already finished taping the next two episodes, so the first elimination has already been determined (we’ll get to see it on Mar. 13th). But according to local media, an inside source said, “It will bring even bigger shockwaves (than Jung Yeop’s last place result) once the eliminated contestant gets revealed.”

Soompiers: Our Soompiers were quick to respond and have already created a forum thread here. The responses are overall very positive. One member said “It’s crazy how they got so many good singers on one stage for just the FIRST episode,” while another user said, “It’s like ‘American Idol’ on steroids.”

Wishlist: It’s sad (or not?) but the show replaces one contestant every week. Soompiers mentioned a lot of singers they’d like to see in the future, including Lee Seung Chul, Sung Si Kyung, Park Hyo Shin, and even Seo Taiji. Me personally? TIGER JK. I’m a big hip-hop fan and Tiger JK’s one of the best rappers in the country. He’s a proven live performer and we all know he’s going to put on one hell of a show. Plus, I think there needs to be at least one contestant representative of the hip-hop genre in this type of program. Represent!!

Check out each performance: