BY GLOBAL TIMES
During Saturday’s final episode of the second season of Chinese streaming platform iQiyi’s reality show Qing Chun You Ni, nine finalists were chosen by fan vote to become China’s newest boy band, UNINE.
“UNINE suggests that the nine members will be unified and progress together through producing their own music pieces and building up their stage fame step by step,” explained Chinese pop star Zhang Yixing, one of the show’s two hosts that night.
The winners of season one, Nine Percent, also appeared in the episode to witness the formation of the new team that day, which was also their one year anniversary.
However, one member of Nine Percent in particular was notably absent. Cai Xukun, the team leader and most popular member of the band, was unable to make it as he is currently touring in the US.
Together as one?
Chinese boy bands like Nine Percent and UNINE were inspired by similar groups in South Korea, which act as role models for them and also act as the standard to which they are held. Considered temporary bands, the members come from different entertainment companies and only take part in activities as a group for a limited period of time.
However, while these boy bands follow the South Korean model, when it comes to the number of original music pieces, concerts and how tight-knit they are, Chinese boy bands still fall far behind.
South Korean boy band Wanna One, which was formed from the 11 winners of South Korean show Produce 101 season two in 2017, reached the same level of popularity as K-pop’s BTS and EXO despite being together for only one and a half years. Their farewell concerts between January 24 and 27 were incredibly popular, so popular in fact that tickets were being scalped for prices equivalent to $18,000.
Popular songs are what set these idol groups apart. Wanna One released five albums in total. Their song “Energetic” had more than 100 million views on YouTube. They also held dozens of concerts at home and abroad. Even their album names, such as To Be One, Nothing Without You and Undivided, suggested a strong desire to remain and act as one.
Although they have been together for a year now, Nine Percent have only produced one album and haven’t held any concerts at all, instead only holding fan meets and autograph sessions.
On the whole, individual development within the team has been prioritized over the progression of the entire group. Most members are currently recording their own albums, performing and taking on spokesperson contracts as individuals. This focus on the individual can be seen from the group’s participation in Zhejiang Satellite TV’s New Year Gala on December 30, 2018. Although several group members took part in the event, they performed separately.
In August and October 2018, many netizens criticized iQiyi for failing to provide more opportunities to their favorite members of the group. The lack of group performances and members’ tendency to work on their own led fans to suspect the group Nine Percent might exist in name only.
Marketing for the group only strengthens this suspicion.
There were no special celebratory events held on the idol group’s anniversary save for some videos posted to Sina Weibo reviewing the growth of the band. Posted itineraries only cover individual members instead of the whole group. Some members have also started to film TV series.
The group’s main problem seems to be a lack of focus, instead of producing music and performing concerts, members have been busy with other activities such as filming TV series and appearing on variety shows.
Even He Jiong, the other host of Saturday’s episode, once joked on reality show Who’s the Murderer that it’s very common in China for boy bands to spend a lot of time appearing on food shows.
Wei Ping, an entertainment manager for a British singer, told the Global Times that in his opinion idol groups like Nine Percent need to be given opportunities to perform. He noted that, unlike South Korea, in China there is no mature platform or system to encourage Chinese idol groups to present their music or seek a satisfying rank for it, which in return can increase the exposure of their music.
In the end, if UNINE truly wants to achieve long-lasting success as a boy band, then its nine members should adhere to the spirit of the group’s name and unite together as one.