[Special] Produce X 101 Music Review

This is another long post. You have been warned. 

Another season of the Produce 101 series wrapped up. The season is a little different to the previous few and it all revolves around the letter X in the new season’s name, Produce X 101. For example, the season introduced the X grade (a lower ranking than the F grade); and that the top 10 trainees (selected based on the votes from the public during the final voting period alone) and an X member (the member with the most accumulated votes from the entire season) would go on to debut in the final group, X1. In the end, the 11 members debuting as part of X1 later this year are Kim Yo Han, Kim Woo Seok, Han Seungwoo, Song Hyeong Jun, Cho Seungyoun, Son Dong Pyo, Lee Han Gyul, Nam Do Hyun, Cha Jun Ho, Kang Min Hee and Lee Eun Sang.

Per usual, I didn’t tune into the program until the 3rd round when they performed their Concept Evaluation stage. This is the round which introduces original tracks in which the members would present on stage for the third round of votes. For this review, I will be focusing on these five songs, along with X1-MA and the few extra tracks they performed on stage during the final episode. Due to the length of this post, you can find the performances in the playlist at the bottom of the page.

Performers: Produce X 101 Trainees

X1-MA is, by far, the least annoying out of the theme tracks. Right off the bat, it takes on board an EDM instrumental like its preceding tracks. But it is not as catchy as Pick Me or Nayana, which might be the reason why I don’t see much fanfare from the track. However, X1-MA makes up this potential flaw with a palatable pop-leaning melody that makes the song enjoyable (and less annoying over time). I find the dance breaks to be quite cool. It amps up the EDM and features a bit of electric guitar as well. Pretty dynamic. Like the instrumental, I find the vocals to not be in-your-face, which also contributes to that less annoying factor. As for the dance moves, the X gesture features a lot. Apart from that, there isn’t that catchy move (as far as I am aware) and the overall performance looked fairly complicated. But it looks good and when on stage with 101 members, it looked cool! The dance break has to be the best bit for me.

Pretty Girl (이뻐 이뻐)
Group: Crayon Pastel (크레파스)
Trainees: Son Dong Pyo, Ham Won Jin, Kang Min Hee, Koo Jung Moo, Song Hyeong Jun, Lee Jin Woo

As much I dislike the cutesy concept, I really can’t complain about it here since this is what was given to their team. However, I found the track to be quite fun and playful, which is what I am sure is the intention of a song like this. The track had nice hooks, especially the ‘Pretty Pretty‘, which wasn’t repeated too much. I also liked the pop instrumental but really enjoyed the change-up with the electric guitar for the bridge. The vocals were good. There are two things that I was left questioning. The choruses ended up going soft, which I wasn’t sure why. And the rapping felt weak in this track, which was slightly disappointing. As for the performance, I found the moves to be nice and it managed to show that youthful and innocent side as one would expect for a song like this.

U Got It
Group:  Got U (갓츄)
Members: Kim Woo Seok, Hwang Yun Seong, Han Seung Woo, Cha Jun Ho, Kim Yo Han, Lee Eun Sang

I think U Got It can be passed off as a track for a number of active male groups in the industry. But its typicalness won’t get it to the title track status. It is a dance-pop track that feels quite ordinary and better served as a B-side track on an album. That being said, I did like the focus on the raps during the verses and vocals during the chorus (which is why I say it can be a track for a number of male groups, especially with many debuting with rappers). Though, I think the group would have benefited if the song was slightly more aggressive, that way the song could have come off as more interesting and bold. There was a nice melody and it was decently catchy. The dance moves were good and I liked their formations. I also thought it was good that they didn’t become shy regarding their dance moves, giving fans a chance to see something captivating.

Monday To Sunday
Group: Daily Vitamin (데일리 비타민)
Members:  Tony, Lee Se Jin, Lee Hyeop, Kim Min Kyu, Kim Dong Yun, Nam Do Hyun, Joo Chang Uk

Monday to Sunday starts off slow and slowly builds to find its footing during the chorus by adding a club beat to make it a little more dynamic for listeners. And I quite like this, as they keep on going back from slow to upbeat, which keeps the song interesting. I find the chorus to be catchy since the melody felt very simple yet smooth sounding. The vocals were impressive within this group, especially with that high note. And I really like the rapping just before the second chorus, which really packs an unsuspecting punch as it does come out of nowhere. The performance looked cool. Their moves were good. While the song did have a somewhat serious atmosphere thanks to the instrumentation, I thought the members did well by keeping it lighthearted with some smiles. This went well with the lyrics of the track, which was all about meeting their lover during the week. It also felt like they managed to strike a fine balance with the atmosphere as well.

Super Special Girl
Group: MamMam (맴맴)
Members: Kim Si Hun, Park Sun Ho, Song Yu Vin, Choi Su Hwan, Kang Hyeon Su, Keum Dong Hyun

Super Special Girl stands out for its energy. From the very first second, the song is loaded with a bright upbeat energy that really makes me want to groove along. It also feels very appropriate for the Summer season in which the show was aired. The brass in the instrumental adds to the energy and makes the track quite catchy (in addition to the hooks. My favourite was the ‘I Go I Go‘ part). The vocals here are quite strong for a fast dance track like this. And the rappers were exceptionally powerful with their parts, evenly showcasing all of the member’s potential. The performance is probably the most intense yet. They were constantly moving and at times, you could hear out that they were slightly out of breath. Despite that though, they pulled off a really fun and energetic performance, which I think is an amazing feat to do.

Move (움직여)
Group: SIXC (6 crazy)
Members: Cho Seung Youn, Kim Hyeon Bin, Lee Jin Hyuk, Kim Kook Heon, Lee Han Gyul, Choi Byung Chan

Move is probably the most intense track on the list of 5 Concepts. The start made it sound like the intensity we would get from a tough KPOP group. But as the song progressed, it loses this particular form of intensity and opted for something a little wilder. The track is also produced by Zico, who I am most familiar with and you can sense the hip-hop influence during the chorus. I find flute in the chorus still intense but in a more subtle manner. The vocals were good but I think the song really let the rappers shined more.  It is also a dance track that manages to show off the group’s potential in the dance department. The moves showcased here were quite cool. But it is the song’s wild side that I thought was well portrayed on stage, which keeps the performance from going into a strict dance routine and allowed a little more freedom on stage.

To My World
Members: Han Seung Woo, Lee Eun Sang, Kim Min Kyu, Lee Se Jin, Cha Jun Ho, Kim Yo Han, Keum Dong Hyun, Cho Seung Youn, Hwang Yun Seong, Song Hyung Jun

Well, they always say leave the best to last. And I think Produce X 101 did just that with the songs. One of the three tracks performed live during the final episode was To My World, a very dynamic and intriguing track performed by half of the final 20 trainees. It is a dance track that features catchy saxophones in the background and an addictive post-chorus hook that I thought was very smooth and very sleek. The track isn’t too intense and it is not underwhelming. Instead, it manages to be well-balanced in all regards. A similar comment could be made about the choreography. The best part of the entire performance has to the routine during the post-chorus hook. However, overall, I found the performance to bring forward very masculine and alluring energy, which I think suits the song so well. Their outfits were perfect for the performance for the same reasons. Out of all the tracks on this review, I think my favourite has to be this one!

Boyness (소년미)
Members: Ham Won Jin, Kang Min Hee, Tony, Koo Jung Mo, Lee Han Gyul, Nam Do Hyun, Song Dong Pyo, Song Yu Vin, Lee Jin Hyuk, Kim Woo Seok

Boyness started off with a more elegant and soft introduction. There is almost a sensual vibe that comes for this paced beginning and during the verses. But it slowly builds up to a club-like dance track. It is a bold route to take given the soft start. But the contrast really manages to make it captivating, especially how the song effortless moves between each section. The vocals were amazing in the track, with falsettos everywhere. The rapping was also quite cool, adding that masculine vibe to the song. And I like how the song goes full circle, ending like how it started. The elegance is revisited, reminding us what type of track it is. And I thought the performance managed to showcase the song in a similar manner. Slow movements during the slower parts and vice versa for the faster sections. The start reminded me of a blooming flower and I thought the red ribbon was a nice smooth touch to the performance, emphasising the smoothness of the entire routine.

Dream For You
Performers: Top 20 Trainees

Finishing off the entire season of Produce X 101 is a ballad. It keeps with the tradition, ending this chapter of their careers with a touching track and thanking those around them for supporting them this far. I don’t think any track is going to top Always on an emotional level. But Dream For You manages to still be touching and reflective at the same time. The vocalists shined with a beautiful melody during the chorus and the rappers had decent sections to contribute in this track. We all know how tricky ballads can be for rappers. The instrumental, when I guess the occasion doesn’t force you to cry, was rather pleasant and soothing to an extent. It was also nice to see the trainees in different pastel coloured outfits, as opposed to their uniform as previous seasons did. Overall, I thought it was another nice track to end the season.

And that is all. These are the new songs from the latest season of Produce X 101. Hope you enjoyed this review and agree with some of my thoughts. For the trainees, they have come so far. After reviewing KPOP releases for many years (almost 8 years now), I know how tough the industry can be. So, I hope every trainee who participated this season well with all future endeavours. We will obviously see some members return in the coming months as they rejoin their old groups or debut as solo artists. And I wish the very best for X1 as they prepare for their debut.

Thanks for checking out my review and I will see you all again for the next special post!

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