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Wanna One storms the charts with a unique debut

Aug 21,2017
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Wanna One debuted on Aug. 7 after 11 episodes on the audition program on Mnet with their first album “1X1=1 [To Be one].” The final 11 members were voted for by the public from a total of 101 contestants. [CJ E&M]
Wanna One is a new idol group that made its debut on Aug. 7, but it’s already disturbing the traditions of the entertainment business. Unlike other rookie idol groups who need time to get their music heard and their name known to the public, Wanna One is storming the online music charts with their song “Energetic” and topping viewer ratings of the TV shows they appear on. This may be a bed of roses for the group and its fans - and a truckload of cash for CJ E&M - but the rest of the entertainment business is suffering from the rookies’ gigantic success.

The group of 11 boys was chosen by viewers of an audition program on Mnet called “Produce 101 Season 2” during April 7 to June 16. Since the members were hand-picked by fans over the course of three months, Wanna One’s debut was completely different from the typical debut of an unknown group of performers. The public not only knew of them: it voted for them and wanted them to succeed.

The 11 members were the most popular boys among a total of 101 contestants on the show, and fervent fans are eager to open their wallets to see their favorites succeed. From Aug. 7, 6 p.m. when the group’s song “Energetic” was released online, it has been topping major streaming sites such as Melon and Bugs Music. Their first album, “‘1X1=1 [To Be one]” sold over 520,000 copies in the first batch of sales, a number that’s not easily reached even by top idols.

Their debut “show-con,” which was a mash-up of a showcase and a concert tried for the first time for Wanna One, was held in Gocheok Sky Dome in western Seoul, a venue that can seat up to 25,000 people. Whereas most group’s showcases are free admission, the tickets for Wanna One’s show-con went for 33,000 won ($28.92). All told, 700 million won of tickets were sold.

According to CJ E&M, the company “didn’t make that much money through the show-con because the expenses like stage equipment cost a lot.” But industry insiders are skeptical about that claim. They doubt the company would have gone through the trouble of coming up with the new idea of a show-con if it didn’t make money.

CJ E&M created Wanna One through its TV channel Mnet and is working on making the group even bigger through its affiliates. “SNL Korea Season 9” on tvN, another channel owned by CJ E&M, has allotted two episodes to Wanna One this season, saying, “A single episode wasn’t enough to show the charms of Wanna One.”

In addition, Wanna One’s appearance on KCON 2017 in Los Angeles was made official even before its debut. The global concert is organized by CJ E&M.

“[Wanna One] has completely taken over the market with a conglomerate’s power added to their televised fame,” said an industry insider.

“In contrast to other idol groups that have to grow step by step, they have only a set amount of time together so it’s important that they keep up their popularity.”

BY HWANG JI-YOUNG [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]