NCT-Hollywood: New talent show to scout for first US K-pop group

MGM Worldwide Television Group has partnered with Korea’s SM Entertainment to find young American men to form a new supergroup

Members of the South Korean boy group NCT 127 pose for a photocall during the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2019. AFP
Members of the South Korean boy group NCT 127 pose for a photocall during the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2019. AFP

The major Korean label behind bands such as Super Junior, Exo and SuperM is teaming up with MGM Worldwide Television Group to launch a talent show that aims to create the first US K-pop group.

The new competition series from SM Entertainment will scout young American men in a bid to form new boy group called NCT-Hollywood, reported The Hollywood Reporter. It will be part of the label's "concept" group NCT, which can be divided into a variety of sub-units.

Teen-only group NCT Dream poses on the red carpet at the 29th Seoul Music Awards in Seoul in 2020. AFP
Teen-only group NCT Dream poses on the red carpet at the 29th Seoul Music Awards in Seoul in 2020. AFP

Show contestants, made up of males aged 13 to 25, will be flown to Korea's capital city for training and during each episode they will compete in various categories, including dance and vocal tests. They will be judged and mentored by label founder Lee Soo-man and other NCT members.

It's not unusual for K-pop artists to be of different nationalities – NCT members hail from Japan, China and Thailand, for example – and this kind of competition show is commonplace on Korean TV. But a series made in collaboration with a US company to form a US K-pop group would be a first.

“I look forward to making an unconventional audition show that all music fans around the world can enjoy,” Lee said. “I hope the audience enjoys watching the journey of new stars being born in Hollywood.”

MGM's other series include The Voice, Survivor and Shark Tank.

“This series is exactly the type of innovative programming that MGM is committed to creating on a global scale,” MGM Television chairman Mark Burnett said, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

“K-pop is more than a genre of music; it’s a cultural phenomenon and we’re so excited to partner with the incredible Soo-man Lee and the team at SM to bring K-pop to the US.”

What is NCT?

An acronym for Neo Culture Technology, NCT is a South Korean boy group formed by SM Entertainment that is currently made up of 23 members – and counting – and can be divided into a variety of sub-groups.

At the moment, those sub-units total four: NCT U, Seoul's NCT 127, teen-only NCT Dream and China's WayV.

NCT-Hollywood would be the fifth sub-unit should it come to fruition. While it will be the first US group, NCT 127 has promoted singles such as Superhuman and Highway to Heaven in the US before, and one of its members, Johnny, comes from Chicago.

On Wednesday, it was also announced that NCT Dream have teamed up with the creators of Baby Shark to release an educational song about dinosaurs, called Dinosaurs A to Z, in which all NCT members make an appearance.

Baby Shark was a popular campfire song turned into a video by South Korean education company Pinkfong that went viral across the world, becoming the most-viewed video on YouTube of all time in 2020.

This comes ahead of the release of NCT Dream's first full-length album, Hot Sauce, which has reportedly sold more than one million copies on pre-order.

An American K-pop group?

The MGM and SM collaboration is not the first partnership vying to bring America into K-pop.

In February, Big Hit Entertainment, the label behind supergroup BTS, announced a strategic partnership with Universal Music Group to assemble and debut a new global K-pop boy group in the US, with members being selected from a worldwide audition process to be televised in 2022.

K-pop has fast become a multi-billion-dollar global industry, with more than 20 billion downloads and streams across the world.

BTS is one of the biggest and most popular, becoming the first K-pop group to be nominated for a Grammy in 2020.

Updated: May 11, 2021 11:12 AM

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