Mnet's 'Build Up' sets itself apart by focusing on the vocals

From left, judges Seo Eun-kwang, Kim Jae-hwan, Solar, Wendy, Baekho and Lee Seok-hoon pose for photos during a press conference for Mnet's new survival K-pop program ″Build Up″ at CJ ENM in Mapo District, western Seoul, on Wednesday. [NEWS1]

There are countless K-pop survival programs, so the latest Mnet show, “Build Up,” has differentiated itself by focusing on one aspect — vocals.

“Many of the survival programs or audition shows so far have centered on the performance aspect,” said producer Ma Doo-sik during a press conference for “Build Up” at CJ ENM in Mapo District, western Seoul, on Wednesday. “'Build Up’ is different in that we focus 100 percent on the vocal abilities of the contestants.”

Airing its first episode on Jan. 26, “Build Up” features 40 contestants, including those who have already debuted as K-pop group members and altogether new faces competing for four places on a new boy band. The show also boasts an all-star panel of judges, from actor Lee Da-hee, who hosts the program, to Lee Seok-hoon of SG Wannabe, singer Baekho, Seo Eun-kwang of BTOB, Solar of Mamamoo, Wendy of Red Velvet and singer Kim Jae-hwan.

“A group focused on the vocal aspect needs members who cannot only sing well on their own but also harmonize well with other members and know how to work as a group,” said Wendy. “I felt that each performance by the contestants was different with each stage, so I am a bit worried about how my judging skills will appear to viewers.”

According to those gathered for the press conference Wednesday, Seo was the harshest judge and gave the most pointers to the contestants.

“I think I became more sensitive, and my standards were higher because a lot of the contestants I was judging were colleagues I have performed on stage with,” said Seo. “Some contestants lacked vocal skills when we began shooting ‘Build Up,’ but as we continued filming, there were so many cases where I got goosebumps from the singing.”

Baekho and Kim, who both have experience in survival shows themselves, agreed with Seo that sometimes a sharp reprimand was needed to boost the contestants' singing.

“I debuted through a survival program, so I understand what the contestants are going through, and that makes me sincerer and leaves me giving harsher pointers because I want them to do well in the end,” said Baekho.

Survival programs can continue for so long because of the array of skilled contestants who keep popping up, said Lee, the host of “Build Up.”

“You get immersed in the show when the contestants are very talented,” said Lee. In ‘Build Up,’ there are so many contestants that make you wonder, ‘Where have all these people been hiding?’ And I think viewers will agree with me once we air the first episode.”

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