Idol Training: The Road to Fame
Increasing numbers of Chinese youngsters are pursuing dreams of becoming pop idols, prompting the emergence of the “idol training” industry in China.
When asked about their favorite pop stars, most Chinese youngsters in the 1990s would have named singers from Hong Kong or Taiwan. During the early aughts, the answer was frequently some South Korean or Japanese idols or pop bands before expanding to cover Western household names such as Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber. In contemporary China, “idol” has become a term to refer to an attractive pop star who gained fame as the winner of a song or dance contest. Most try to extend their time in the spotlight as long as possible by appearing on reality shows and audition for film and television roles, through which they can amass enormous fan bases of teenagers and young adults.
In 2018, the popularity of Chinese mainland reality shows featuring the “idol training” mode originating in Japan and South Korea has become a craze that is hard to avoid witnessing on television sets across China. This mode aims to “produce” pop idols through months or even years of arduous training of young performers. Market analysts have reported that the trend heralds the emergence of the “idol training” industry in China. Tough Road to Stardom
Wu Qingli is a 19-year- old Hong Kong citizen who grew up in Shenzhen. She used to work parttime as a model while in school. “Hong Kong is too small to really make it big,” she lamented. With a dream of becoming an idol trainee, she ventured to Beijing alone in May 2018, turning a new page in her life.
In Beijing, Wu passed the recruitment exam of an entertainment agency and became a trainee— a necessary step for the overwhelming majority of youngsters hoping for a career in the entertainment industry. Trainees are subjected to arduous
association. I had to learn dance at an after-school training class.” After careful consideration, he dropped out of college as a junior and trekked from his hometown of Taiyuan to Beijing, where he became a trainee in an entertainment agency.
After months of training, Duan’s singing and dancing skills improved considerably. At a recent public performance, he performed two dances. However, life as a trainee isn’t always fun. “My every training schedule is very tight and exhausting,” Duan sighed. “After returning home, the first thing I want to do is to collapse on my bed.” Now, his closest friends in Beijing are all trainees at the same agency. “Similar experiences give us many topics for casual conversation, but this tendency also limits the scope of my social network.” Fast-growing Market
If Wu and Duan finish training and excel in every examination, their agency will arrange their official debuts based on their strengths and the market situation. Despite their promising career prospects, they must first endure rigorous training and survive brutal knockout exams. Chinese idol trainees face enormous pressure although the situation isn’t yet quite as bad as in South Korea, where only about one in 800 trainees can complete the entire program.
“I’ll consider changing my career direction if I fail to debut after two or three years of training,” Wu said.
The industrialization of idol training originated in Japan in the 1980s. Back then, several girl bands emerged and exploded overnight. Since the late 1990s, increasing numbers of boy bands led by South uth Korea’s H.O.T. have gradually gained popularity. Typically, a boy y band includes at least a dancer, a vocal singer and a rapper.
Market analysts trace the Chinese nese mainland’s pop idol market’s emerrgence to 2012. Despite the fact that hat a few trainees returning from overseas seas
Thanks to her on-camera experience and Mandarin fluency, Wu Qingli (left) was named hostess of the quarterly performance for the second time. Generally, an entertainment agency will strictly control the exposure of its trainees before their debuts.