While July 19th may seem like an ordinary day for many, it’s a day that might just go down in K-pop history. Exactly 1 year ago, viewers tuned in to what would be the final episode of Produce 101 in Korean TV history. We watched as Kim Yohan of OUI Entertainment narrowly beat out UP10TION’s Kim Wooseok to be crowned the winner of the fourth season and follow the footsteps of past winners Somi, Kang Daniel and Jang Wonyoung to formally be named the centre of the resulting group. With this, X1 and its 11 members were ready to showcase a new era for the entertainment monolith that was the Produce franchise. It was meant to be a new beginning for the industry and fans alike with the group being presented a record 5 year contract instead of the expected 1 – 2 years. On a personal note, it was the first and only Produce finale that I had watched live so it may not have been the most exciting of moments, it’s one that I will forever remember.
But before anyone could really collect their thoughts and build up the hype for the resulting groups debut, tragedy struck. The franchise was riddled with one of the biggest scandals to hit the Korean entertainment industry. The Produce 101 corruption scandal unveiled layers of vote rigging, viewer manipulation and corruption on an unprecedented scale. It caused Korea’s biggest reality tv show to come crashing down and cut short X1’s 5 year lifespan to a measly 5 months. It sent shockwaves throughout the industry and pretty much crushed all hopes of the possibility of us getting another season of Produce in Korea.
So rather than spend an entire post ranting about and condemning the actions of the higher ups responsible, I thought today would be an excellent opportunity to celebrate the trainees and the music of the show. Over its 4 great seasons, Produce was the root of many laughs and tears and the music was a big part of this. So here are what I consider the best songs to ever stem from series.
1000% – Summerwish (Produce 48)
Dream For You – Produce X 101
IAM – 1AM (Produce48)
Pick Me – Produce 101
Super Special Girl – Produce X 101
15. Hands On Me – Produce 101 Season 2
A funky cavalcade of non-stop hooks, Hands On Me‘s ever-changing arrangement is held together by that impossibly addictive chorus at its centre. If it didn’t decide to change tempo and devolve into unnecessary breakdowns every 5 seconds and stick to its guns then it would have placed much higher.
14. X1 – MA – Produce X 101
While X1-MA doesn’t really do much to differentiate itself from the other Pick Me‘s, it shows that sometimes all you need is a relentless beat and explosive production to really stand out. It’s easily the “loudest” of the 4 title songs but since Produce X 101 was the one Produce I watched live, it does carry some sentimental value.
13. MOVE – SIXC (Produce X 101)
The very NCT-esque Move was easily one of the stronger concept songs from the 4th season of the series. The tight production and sinister bass line set it right up for greatness before that rather one note hook comes in. But even with that non starter of a chorus it’s a track absolutely dripping with charisma.
12. Always – Produce 101 Season 2
While not my favourite Produce 101 ending, Always is easily the most emotionally resonant track to ever come out of the series. It’s a song that solely rests on sentiment and boy does it manage to sell that one emotion and then some. From that fantastic production to the gorgeous layered chorus, it’s a song that manages to give me goosebumps on almost every listen.
11. U GOT IT – GOT U (Produce X 101)
What I find the most peculiar about the Produce series is that it’s made me fall in love with many songs that I otherwise wouldn’t ever consider listening to. U Got It‘s generic future bass and trap inspired production is as lurching and generic as can be but that breathless pre-chorus and punchy hook are enough to elevate this track over many of its peers.
10. Pretty Girl – Crayon (Produce X 101)
I’ll always love upbeat pop over more edge ridden concepts and the bouncy pop brilliance of Pretty Girl was easily one of the series most giddy moments. While the peppy verses are pure cutesy boy group cheese, the bright, hyper melodic chorus and exhilarating electric guitar driven bridge never fail to make me smile. Considering that four out of the six members of this team went onto be part of Cravity, it’s hard to not see why they chose to promote the similarly great Cloud 9.
9. Rumor – H.I.N.P (Produce48)
Much like U GOT IT, Rumor is another one of those songs that incorporates a number of generic and oversaturated trends to create a track that is better than it has any right to be. The combination of tropical house, Moombahton and trap come together to creating one of the series most addicting tracks. It’s one of those tracks that’s outgrown its produce status and has gone onto to heavily influence the post 2018 Kpop girl group landscape.
8. Boyness – Produce X 101
Oh now we’re getting to the real good stuff. Produced by Pentagon’s Hui, Boyness‘ blend of propulsive deep house rhythms and hard-hitting EDM is tailor made to match my tastes. It’s one of the series more sultry tracks and largely works thanks to that exhilarating bridge and mammoth chorus. It was one of the two songs unveiled exactly one year ago and is easily one of the best to come out of the show.
7. To Reach You – Memory Fabricators (Produce48)
I love my girl group songs to adhere to a more melodic template and To Reach You is exactly my kind of track. Its new jack swing and symphonic arrangement is absolutely timeless but its the streamlined production and surging chorus that really gets this one over the line. Easily my favourite concept song from Produce48.
6. To My World – Produce X 101
The second of the two excellent finale songs from last years penultimate episode, To My World is pretty much everything I wanted Hands On Me to be. It’s hard hitting funk expertly showcased the charisma of each of its performers and with a lineup this strong, the end result is no surprise. The hooks stick immediately and the dynamic rap verses send the track soaring into the stratosphere. Rarely do you find track so streamlined yet bursting with so much character.
5. PICK ME (Nekkoya) – Produce48
A mammoth dance track, PICK ME (Nekkoya) is pretty much the embodiment of the kind of over the top drama that the Produce series thrives on. Although its arrangement may be EDM by the numbers, that synth loop that underlines the hook and follows every chorus is just so freaking good. It’s one of those songs that manages to feel both celebratory yet emotional and that’s pretty much all you can want from one of these tracks.
4, When The Cherry Blossoms Fade – Produce 101
Jung Jinyoung is one of my favourite Korean producers of all time and the gorgeous When The Cherry Blossoms Fade is just the kind of classic pop song that he excels at. The production is just sublime, shifting from the harmonica led intro to the soaring chorus and even culminating in a pitch perfect climactic rap break. Out of all the Produce ending songs it feels like the most complete song and sounds as though it’s been ripped right out from B1A4’s own discography. That lush, shimmering chorus is what dreams are made of. Just brilliant.
3. NEVER – Sons of People ( Produce 101 Season 2)
Never is so good that its first few seconds alone are enough to catapult it into the top 5 of this countdown. It’s by far the strongest male led concept song from the entire series and might just be my favourite Hui produced track ever. Although it rests heavily on its production and wordless hook, it’s the rare song where style = substance. It’s a song that’s perfectly arranged to provide the maximum amount of melodic punch to listeners and Jae Hwans high note is just the icing on the cake. It’s the shows biggest domestic hit and deservedly so.
2. It’s Me (Pick Me) – Produce 101 Season 2
Not only is It’s Me (Pick Me) the best Produce 101 title song ever created but I would go as far as to say it’s the strongest soundtrack to any Reality Show ever. It’s Me (Pick Me) provided one of the decades most galvanising and euphoric performance pieces. From its wall of layered vocals, to that larger than life hook, it pulses forward with unrivalled intent. Though a dance floor anthem, the track provides a hefty emotional sucker punch , perfectly conveying the desperation of its performers into 3 and a half minutes of pure EDM catharsis. Its really got that “the show must go on” energy.
1. In The Same Place – Girls On Top (Produce 101)
A freaking masterpiece. That’s what this song is.
Jung Jinyoung may have only produced two songs for Produce (that too only in season 1) but both were incredible. For me, In The Same Place isn’t just another song from a reality tv show. It’s one of the greatest kpop songs of all time. That shimmering dance beat, the flawless vocal arrangement, the transcendent chorus, there’s nothing here that isn’t perfect. It’s an utterly gorgeous and timeless piece of pop music that stands so far above every other song on this list that it honestly deserves a post of its own. What starts as just another pop song transforms into an incredible piece of Korean Tv history. By the time the track rears its climax it’s honestly hard not to at least be a little teary eyed. It went onto become one of 2016’s most beloved songs and one of the few performances that deservedly won its round. No wonder the crowd were begging for an encore.