Reality competition series produces new J-pop idol group


Sandy Moncayo Cuji

&TEAM is a new J-pop boy band formed from the TV show “&Audition”. Their record label HYBE plans to release their first single next month.

It all started with a record label and an interactive television concept…

HYBE, the label of big names in the K-Pop industry such as BTS, SEVENTEEN, Tomorrow By Together, ENHYPEN and pop artists like Justin Bieber, is set to debut a new Japanese boy group in December under its subsidiary Hybe Labels Japan. 

In July, HYBE launched a survival show or competition among their trainees to debut a new Japanese boy group. The show “&Audition – The Howling” captured a lot of attention before it was aired and grew in popularity because it was rumored that trainees K, TAKI, Nicholas and EJ, who previously competed on the show “I-LAND” in 2020, which formed the rising global star group ENHYPEN, were set to compete. 

The mission throughout the show was for the contestants to fill up the &RING container through four different rounds with marbles called &BALLs. After each round and performance, individual contestants received &BALLs based on their performance. The contestants had to work together to fill up the &RING so that all fifteen contestants could make it to the final round of the show. If they were not able to fill up the &RING, members from the original debut team (K, TAKI, NICHOLAS and EJ) may not make it to debut this time around either. A lot of viewers and fans felt conflicted by this since they have supported the debut of members from the debut team from “I-LAND”.

“For a Japanese group, they have a lot of Korean trainees!” Mumtaz Abdi (9) said. “I was expecting only Japanese trainees like [in] ‘Nizi Project’, so this is interesting. Their concept looks so good! HYBE, in general, is so good [at] storytelling.”

Compared to other idol survival show competitions, such as “I-LAND”, “&Audition” was more about group effort in order to debut instead of the performance of individual contestants. In this way, the show was less toxic and had no evil editing of contestants, as many survival shows tend to have. Evil editing is when editing is used to maliciously make someone seem mean, judgemental, arrogant or rude by cutting context out of footage or rearranging clips in a manipulated manner. 

“They’re slightly reminiscent of the ‘I-LAND’ profile pictures, which, in my opinion, were done only partially well because I just liked the outfits,” Nesra Omar (10) said. “I like that they included Japanese elements; they’re like regal samurai werewolves going into battle. Personally, [I’m] looking forward to a girl group debut too… [I] love the styling, especially of the confirmed members. It’s giving fantasy history drama vibes…” 

The judges of the show included mentors Son Sung-deuk, also known as BTS’s choreographer, and Pdogg, the main producer of BTS. Performance director Sakura Inoue and vocal director Soma Genda were also featured as mentors. Scooter Braun, producer for Justin Bieber and CEO of HYBE AMERICA, was a judge for the final episode of the show. RM of BTS and Tomorrow By Together also made an appearance during the final episode.

ENHYPEN appeared in the first episode of the show, having not met the debut team (K, NICHOLAS, EJ, and TAKI) in over a year. They also came to support the trainees and the debut of &TEAM during the final episode. After the final members were revealed, ENHYPEN congratulated them on their debut and gave messages to the new team. 

The members of &TEAM, the group comprising the final chosen contestants of “&Audition”, were decided mainly by the show’s judges, but global fans were also able to vote and take part in choosing who they thought should debut. 

While HYBE originally intended to and currently is just promoting the group in Japan, the success of “&Audition” has proven to be popular among global fans too, and now fans around the world can look forward to the debut of &TEAM in December. 

And the next stage is a new boy band ready to take on the world…

Set to make their debut on December 9, 2022 with members K, NICHOLAS, YUMA, FUMA, JO, HARUA, TAKI, MAKI and EJ, the meaning behind the name &TEAM may be obvious. 

“[This is] a team that connects with fans around the world through music and stage,” founder and chairman of Big Hit Entertainment and HYBE Corporation Bang Si Hyuk said on the final episode of “&Audition”. 

On September 26, 2022, &TEAM announced their fandom name, LUNÉ, which both translates to “moon” and is an acronym for “Light Up New Energy”. 

Even though they have yet to make their debut, &TEAM already has a large following worldwide through their social media platforms. They became more well-known as a result of “I-LAND ”, another survival reality show, with some of the members being ex-candidates from that competition. The show created many big names such as SEVENTEEN, BTS and TXT.

“&TEAM will grow into a group that can impress viewers and global fans through various types of music and stages,” Bang said. “We will support them for a successful debut and continued growth.”

As the first worldwide boy group formed by HYBE JAPAN, &TEAM have great ambitions to succeed just like K-pop stars BTS, a group that has sold a total of over 31.8 million albums worldwide as of 2022, making them the best-selling South Korean act in history. &TEAM are already coined by many as “BTS’s younger brother group.” When talking about what the group would like to become, they referenced BTS as their role models.

“We want to become artists who shine globally,” &TEAM member K said. “We will work hard so we can head toward the Billboard charts like BTS.”

Although HYBE has handled rumors well in the past, the entertainment company has been slipping up with recent controversies, including significant speculations that `the show “&AUDITION” as well as the resulting group &TEAM is a cover-up for rookie HYBE girl group LE SSERAFIM’s Kim Garam’s school violence and bullying allegations from this past summer.

 While rock, hip hop, jazz, R&B, blues, and soul are all prominent and influential genres in K-pop, J-pop acts like &TEAM tend to combine several classical and melancholic aspects. Despite this distinction, Western music influences can be heard in both K-pop and J-pop, which helps artists like both BTS and &TEAM expand their fan bases internationally.

“I want the nine of us to come together as one in building a long-lasting, genuine relationship with our fans,” group member HARUA said. 

&TEAM could very well build meaningful relationships with worldwide fans by creating entertaining and unique music that appeals to them and touring in different countries. Here’s hoping that they can make that happen!