A new SBS audition variety program, “Universe Ticket,” invites viewers to grant eight girls the ticket realize to their dreams of becoming the next global K-pop group.
“Universe Ticket,” the first episode of which airs Thursday evening on SBS, features 82 contestants competing for eight spots in a new girl group, who will tour the world for two years and six months after the show wraps up. The number 82 is Korea’s country code, and the decision to present 82 contestants holds a special meaning in K-pop, according to the program’s producers and panel of judges.
“Our program name and concept is a kind of declaration, that if you want to do K-pop, you have to come to Korea,” producer Lee Hwan-jin said during an online press conference held Thursday. “If you want to make films, you go to Hollywood, and if you want to be a part of the K-pop scene, Korea is the place to be. That is why we chose 82 as the number of contestants.”
Audition programs have become the “it” trend in Korea and globally, and broadcasters are all vying to launch a new hit program and introduce the next big K-pop group, Lee said.
“We have produced ‘Universe Ticket’ to be the next big audition program that will bring a global group to fans worldwide,” Lee said. “And usually, in audition programs, people talk of votes that they throw for their favorite contestants. To differentiate from that, we have come up with the concept of a ticket — the viewers of ‘Universe Ticket’ provide the tickets for these girls to achieve their dreams.”
Seven judges and coaches, referred to as “unicorns” in the program, participate in “Universe Ticket” to instruct the contestants on missions and review their performances. The seven unicorns are Hyoyeon of Girls’ Generation, Kim Se-jeong of I.O.I and Gugudan, singer and producer Adora, singer Younha, choreographer and member of dance crew Lachica Choi Ri-an and ITZY members Yeji and Chaeryeong.
“I have been active as a member of a girl group for a long time and have met and seen a lot of K-pop idols,” Hyoyeon said during the online press conference. “I think I have an eye for spotting girls who have the talent and what it takes to make it as an idol.”
Kim, who herself debuted in an audition program — “Produce 101” (2016) — said she felt that she could offer a lot of sincere advice to the contestants.
“I wanted to be a person who could offer useful advice to the girls instead of being a person who just instructs them on how to sing and dance,” Kim said. “And I decided to appear in ‘Universe Ticket’ with the hope that I could go back to my own roots and get to the basics by watching these girls chase their dreams.”
Young girls from a total of 128 countries applied in the first round of video auditions, before the 82 contestants actually appearing in the program were picked, according to the producers. Girls from countries including Malaysia, Italy, Indonesia, Canada and Thailand had auditioned for “Universe Ticket.”
Each of the seven unicorns had a different point they focused on in evaluating the contestants as they carried out their missions. Kim focused on how much each of the girls “knew their own charms,” while Hyoyeon looked for an “aura” when they were performing on stage. Younha said she searched for those with a good attitude and potential, and Choi wanted to see contestants who could deliver “goosebumps-inducing performances.” Adora focused on girls who naturally drew her eyes to them.
“We will not hold back support nor finances to the eight final contestants who make the group,” producer Lee said. “We also have big plans for the two years and six months that the final eight will be active. I hope many global viewers enjoy what the girls have to show in ‘Universe Ticket.’”
BY LIM JEONG-WON [firstname.lastname@example.org]