First, a little bit of background.
Show! Music Core is a music program that airs on the Korean network channel, MBC, every Saturday afternoon. It features both up-and-coming artists and rookies, as well as established industry powerhouses (such as 2NE1, Girls Generation, etc. etc.)
For the July 9th recording of Music Core, I had the rare opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes look at what happens every Saturday, thanks to my aunt, who had a Music Core staff member as one of her high school friends. So on the morning of July 9th, I set out for the MBC Dream Center (located in Ilsan, north of Seoul proper) to take a look at what went on behind the scenes of one of my favorite television programs.
DISCLAIMER: I TOOK HUNDREDS OF PHOTOS WITHIN THE COMPLEX. I WILL NOT BE POSTING ANY OF THEM, SINCE THE PICTURES MAY CONTAIN SENSITIVE MATERIAL AND MBC HAS REQUESTED THAT I REFRAIN FROM MAKING THEM PUBLIC. PLEASE DO NOT ASK ABOUT THE PICTURES, EITHER.
The morning turned out slightly drizzly, and I had to wait outside the complex for a few minutes before I was let in by the PD. We went through the ID card-activated gates and up the elevator to the 3rd floor (or maybe it was the 4th – not sure), and into the actual recording hall, where morning rehearsals were just beginning- it was 8:00 AM.
The hall itself was smaller than I expected – around double the size of my high school auditorium, which if you don’t know, is pretty tiny. The various staff members – there were around a dozen in total for morning rehearsals – were gathered in front of the stage, and the artists were clustered in the left side of the auditorium waiting for their turn.
Especially noticeable was T-ARA, who came in early and watched the other performers – I couldn’t help but laugh at Jiyeon dancing to Mighty Mouth’s “Lalala”.
Boyfriend also bowed at us, which was a pretty cool experience, until I found out later that they bowed to everyone.
After morning rehearsals wrapped up, I stayed seated for the pre-recordings. Pre-recordings are done by artists that, for some reason, don’t want to perform their song live during the actual broadcast. They perform beforehand, without an audience, and can repeat the stage several times. The biggest plus to this method is, of course, the fact that you get a higher degree of perfection because the editors take the best parts from the many performances and splice them together.
On that day, pre-recordings had been scheduled for CSJH, T-ARA, Rania, and HyunA (of 4minute). CSJH (천상지희) started first; it was their comeback stage after 4 years on hiatus. Their fanclub was present for the pre-recording; it surprised me to see just how much of a fandom they have, even after so many years of virtually disappearing.
Something that was pretty cool about CSJH’s pre-recording: f(x)’s Amber came out to cheer on their performance – and she sat two seats in front of us. And I have to say – she looks better (read: more like a woman) in person.
Next was T-ARA. CSJH’s fanclub moved out of the center seats to the sides, and the center was soon filled by T-ARA’s fanclub instead. And Jesus Christ, their fanclub was LOUD. The biggest thing that struck me about T-ARA was just how energetic they were – even after four straight run-throughs, they never seemed to lose their smiles and stuck with it to the end. After they finished, T-ARA’s Boram came out to greet her fanclub. Although she may look small on the screen….she’s even smaller in real life.
Next up was Rania. Powerful voices, powerful performances. Performed 5 times straight without breaking a sweat. Kudos.
This was approximately the point in time when two CSJH fans sitting behind me started having an intellectual discussion about Rania, and whether or not they were good rookies and comparing their voices to other artists…and debating if “that one girl” was named T-ae or Di-ae. (for the record, it’s T-ae.)
The final pre-recording session was scheduled for HyunA of 4minute. Now, I’ve never really been a fan of HyunA – if I want to see overly tanned girls pumping to electronica, I’ll go listen to Lee Hyori, instead. But my opinion of her has forever been thrown into the dumpster after today.
First of all – her attitude on stage was…to put it mildly…deflating. While other artists would cheer and yell “Thank you!!!” to the audience after they were done, HyunA would sigh, bend over on her knees, and groan before bowing awkwardly to the audience and leaving. Really? I mean – sure, she might’ve been tired. Wouldn’t be a surprise with what idols are expected to do these days with their schedules, but I’m sure that T-ARA has an even bigger schedule…and they’re older than her. If they can at least -act- happy on stage, so can HyunA. Disappointment.
In any case, HyunA wrapped up the pre-recording session, and then it was time for lunch. I met up with the MuCore staff member (who’s a video director) and had lunch in the MBC staff cafeteria. Afterwards, I had the opportunity to take a peek into some secret locations. First was the soundstages – there are several, and they are huge. Absolutely gigantic. You could fit a small-sized airplane in there and it would fit, no problem.
And the sets…look great. Bedroom sets, kitchen sets, outdoor sets…the staff member told me that actors for an upcoming drama or sitcom actually live in the sets for a few days, so they can get used to their surroundings. I got to see the interior set for MBC’s “Heartstrings” – currently airing Wednesdays and Thursdays at 9:55 PM (shameless plug), and also for “All My Love” – which airs every weekday at 7:45 PM. And before you ask…no, I don’t live in front of the television. Ha.
Anyways…after that, we went up into the Music Core control room. I don’t really know how to describe it except by saying it reminded me of the bridge of the USS Enterprise; sleek, computer screens everywhere, and a raised control platform in the middle that faced a bank of viewscreens that were showing everything happening on the MuCore set.
And following that, we went up into the rafters of the actual stage.
This was the highlight of the day. Looking down at the stage at the staff and audio directors prepping the stage for the live broadcast later on, I could really see for myself the work and the effort that everyone puts into a simple, 70-minute-long program.
….and then, it was showtime.
By this point, I was starting to get pretty tired – and to be honest, having seen all the performances before countless times, I started to doze off…
…until the ravenous shouts of “ONEW OPPAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!” that came from behind me nearly knocked my cranium into a million pieces. I opened my eyes only to see – and hear – the four MC’s of Music Core: SHINee’s Onew and Minho, Miss A’s Suzy, and T-ARA’s Jiyeon walk across the stage towards the MC set, which is positioned to the right of the stage and at the foot of the audience stands.
So that explained the sudden swell in noise, I thought, as a group of pre-teen girls started frantically waving their balloons in my face.
And then the lights dimmed, and a small monitor set up to the left of the stage showed the current broadcast situation on MBC – the final commercial was wrapping up, and the first performers were already on stage, and the cameras were ready.
The commercial dimmed to black, and after a few seconds, we were live.
I honestly don’t remember what happened after that, but it was definitely a whirlwind of noise and excitement, along with the omnipresent balloons that threatened to bash my head in every couple of seconds or so.
Something that I found interesting – remember the pre-recordings that happened earlier? I was curious about what would happen on the stage when the pre-recordings were played back for the TV audience, and it turns out that the artists actually come out on stage to perform (lip-syncing) along with their previously recorded performance. It caught me as both generous and unnecessary; what they were doing on stage wasn’t being broadcast or anything, it was purely for the few-hundred-or-so fans sitting in the theater.
Although it was definitely better than just sitting in silence for a few minutes, a part of me wondered if they really wanted to be there. HyunA definitely didn’t; while other artists at least pretended to sing, she wasn’t even trying. Another minus in my book.
Anyways, that wrapped up Music Core for the day. But what followed was a pleasant surprise:
By sheer fortuitous coincidence, this week’s recording just happened to be the final day for two of Music Core’s popular MC’s, SHINee’s Minho and Onew, who were leaving to focus on their music activities.
After the cameras had turned off, they came up on stage – along with Jiyeon and Suzy – to present a short speech to the studio audience.
I think some fangirls were actually crying.