Top Band 2 Episode 20: Final

We started covering KBS2 survival Top Band 2 in our commentary series even before it started airing. Six months later the final has aired with Romantic Punch and Pia both facing each other a last time. Episode 20 was broadcast live on October 13th with the TV audience able to affect the outcome. KBS offers VOD to anyone with a KBS account if you want to watch the full episode. Daum does not allow video embeds, but if you click the song titles below the full performances are available for viewing.

In addition to myself the Top Band 2 commentary panel consists of Lightinthemind of Korean rock is real, Dahee of Dahee’s Plastic Castle,  Sangha of strangeseasons and Fabien of Kimchi Popcorn, Ranya of K-Underground Sweden and Xtian aka drowningn00b. This week we finally get to find out which band is the Top Band of season 2.


New Judges

Bae Chul Soo
Lee Seung Hwan

Anna: New judges!! And for once they’re providing some background info on the show! Although I’m quite disappointed to see that the full panel from before is still there. I really hoped we’d seen the last of them in Top Band. But wait, didn’t Lee Seung Hwan come out in favor of Pia during the Pentaport mission? How could they make him a judge for the final?

Dahee: YAY for Bae Chul Soo! I’m a little familiar with Lee Seung Hwan’s judging style from MBC Star Audition The Great Birth Season 2, so I’m thinking he’ll be pretty generous with his scores. And to be fair, he does acknowledge that he rooted for Pia in the past, but he promises he’ll be unbiased. We’ll be the judge of that.

Sangha: God, I love Bae Chul Soo.

Fabien: I hope these two new judges will be fairer than some of the other ones, but it shouldn’t be a hard task.


Romantic Punch – “꽃밭에서”(Jung Hoon Hee cover)

Anna: I thought Bae In Hyuk’s vocals a bit shaky in the beginning, but once he received the full backing of the band I’m enjoying the performance a ton. It feels like a daring pick for the final though, not being as outrageously out there and vivid as Romantic Punch can be at their best. Nevertheless Bae In Hyuk does take the microphone stand for a spin.

Dahee: This was lovely! It shows a softer side to them, but not too soft, and that arrangement, while not crazy in the way that we’re used to from them, is still very well-done. They grasped the meaning of this song very well, while still showing their uniqueness. Those little breaks in the song, and Bae In Hyuk’s singing! I kind of adored it. At the same time, I wonder if the audience will react very well to it, since it’s not a fast, upbeat song. I agree with Anna that it feels daring for the final.

Sangha: Lovely arrangement. I really enjoyed it, and Bae In Hyuk sounded fabulous, but not sure if the audience will dig it…

Lightinthemind: That was touching performance. Not so energetic and furious as their style is, but very warm.

Fabien: A beautiful introduction to this final. This is absolutely not what I was expecting from them, but not only do I respect their daring, but that softer side of them is also worth to be listened to.

Xtian: There’s a reason why Romantic Punch got as far as the finals, and this cover is just one aspect of that fact. Great instrumentation and fabulous singing. I didn’t expect them to go for the soft side of things, but I’m so glad they did for the last episode. Great stuff.


Pre-Final Happenings

D-5: Strategy Meeting

Anna: Nice! The bands are coming at this really professionally, having papers of the scores and comments from each of the jury members, checking out each other’s performances. I’m guessing the Top Band 2 production team set this up, which surprises me even more considering how poorly executed so much of the show has been until now.

D-4: Intermediate Check

The two bands meet up in Hapjeong and instead of Lee Ji Ae or Her Check as they’d been guessing for, Jeon Ji Han shows up as the special MC. The two bands perform their mission song and gets scored by the other band. Pia gives Romantic Punch 89 points. Romantic Punch shows Pia “66” before flipping the whiteboard showing 99 points.

Anna: More good preparations from the Top Band 2 side! Gives the bands a chance to see what they’re up against with, sort of like the mid-round specials from the first season of I Am A Singer.

Dahee: Except, of course, both bands say in the interviews that they did their worst on purpose to make the other team complacent. Haha!

Sangha: I’m not really sure why this comes after Romantic Punch’s performance (for timing purposes, I suppose) because we’ve already seen it and this seems kinda silly…

Lightinthemind: Ah, how arrogant RoPun are acting! They should apologize to seniors^^ Really, if not joking I think it is just impolite to put such a low score. And the scene which is coming to my dreams recently: those thin legs in blue trousers and fan in the hand… Jeon Ji Han is gorgeous.

Fabien: For the stupid things the production made us endure, they’re a few sympathetic moments like this one, when the bands are just having fun pretending to compete each other. Nice atmosphere. And if there is an occasion to see again Jeon Ji Han, it can only be interesting.


Pia – “Black or White” (Michael Jackson cover)

Anna: Another Michael Jackson cover from Pia? I’d wished for more from them.  I like how Yohan bites of “or white” sort of aggressively, but other than the beginning makes me think they’re trying far too hard to just emulate the original. The scratching doesn’t do much in the song’s favor, but once things get a bit rougher with both the arrangement and Yohan screaming I’m liking it a whole lot more. It was unusual to hear Yohan talk in the middle of it, but I sort of liked it. The “black or white” part in the end got a bit too repetitive for me the way it was carried out, but overall I think they made a decent performance.

Dahee: This arrangement was a tad ruined for me because of the excessive use of the synth. I feel like it would have been so delicious without it. Kind of like they added too many elements when a simpler approach would have done. I want to FEEL that wall of sound, man! Still, it’s obvious Pia put their all into this, and I love how confident Yohan is looking, even if he did mess up the lyrics a lot. If I were in that audience I’d probably love this to pieces, but watching from home, I’m just a little dissatisfied.

Sangha: Really not their best on the show. It sounded really messy to me and I completely lost interest half way through. Not good…

Lightinthemind: To the end of the show I feel like they are losing fresh ideas to show to the audience. Of course they felt that harder rockish things from their band are more appreciated by juries and audience but… Now it seems like they are taking the  song, arranging it with Shimji’ synth and then just put Yohan’s screaming here and there spontaneously and tadam! The successful track is ready! Now it is not working for me, sorry.

Fabien: I have the same feeling as Lightinthemind has, it sounds like an easy-arranged song from them, but actually it did work with me. Not that I would listen to this one again and again, there are still many flaws, but this time Pia gave an even performance, without the singer feeling out of tune.

Xtian: I liked it, surprisingly. The electro-dj bit grabbed me right away, and I wish PIA had done more original things to the musicality, but oh well. I’m not sure if it speaks to how good PIA is, or how good “Black or White” is as a pop song.


Jury Opinions

Romantic Punch Scores

Kim Jong Seo: 90
Chung Won Young: 85
Song Hong Seob: 85
Bae Chul Soo: 94
Lee Seung Hwan: 92
Jang Hye Jin: 87
Kim Se Hwang: 91
Sub-total: 624

Anna: Not bad! Quite fair scores too

Dahee: Why don’t they ever let Chung Won Young speak? I had been hoping for higher scores than this, to be honest. Romantic Punch were right to worry about what Chung and Salt Song would give them.

Pia Scores

Kim Jong Seo: 95
Chung Won Young: 90
Song Hong Seob: 90
Bae Chul Soo: 92
Lee Seung Hwan: 95
Jang Hye Jin: 95
Kim Se Hwang: 95
Sub-total: 652

Anna: Here I was thinking it’d come down to the fans at home and their televotes as during the earlier rounds, but it seems they’ve got the jury on their side too. I would’ve scored them a bit lower though, since I found some parts of the performance fairly questionable.

Dahee: They’re being overly nice today…


Toxic – “외로워

Anna: Of course! I was wondering why it took a year for Toxic to release an EP after winning the first season of Top Band, but this is perhaps the best possible timing. I haven’t really listened much to them since and have been so busy these last couple of weeks I never got around to checking out the trailer or the music video sooner. But what is this? Playback on a Top Band stage? Sounds a lot more pop than I’d expect from Toxic and they’ve gone farther in the electro rock direction than I’ve heard them before. Did they even write this song themselves or is it just the production that has distorted their original sound? It’s catchy though. I’ll have to give them that. And if I hadn’t been expecting the Toxic from Top Band I’d probably enjoy it a whole lot more too.

Dahee: I’m not overly familiar with their music, but this was pretty adorably awesome. Angsty in just the right way. Love the makeup!

Sangha: I don’t know what this is supposed to be but it’s making me laugh, not in a good way. Sorry any Toxic fans out there. I’m just not a fan of them. This song isn’t helping either, I feel like it’s just so… generic and tweeny rock-ish, if that makes any sense.

Lightinthemind: I haven’t heard their EP yet, only this song and must say that it is really well produced, well mixed and is targeting the young audience which is now enjoying a pop-rock sound. As for myself I always feel sorrowful when a band is losing originality and fierce power of hungry days in order to stay with a mighty producing company. Of course I hope it is not the story about Toxic.

Fabien: From what I see in your comments, maybe I should be glad that I didn’t really know them from the first season of Top Band. The song was actually catchy as any title song should be, I hope them the best. It’s not my style of rock songs, but it worked in making me interested in their EP. Good job!

Xtian: I’m sorry, but after AXIZ, I was expecting the actual winners of the first season to blow my mind with their release. Sadly, First Bridge sucks. This performance doesn’t improve things.


Pia – “Where I [m]

Anna: Yay! Another strong 3rd Phase song! A great pick and a great execution. Near flawless performance from all. Almost makes up for the new Michael Jackson cover.

Dahee: This is a great song, and they play it very well. I guess my only real complaint is that they’re not showing enough energy for me. Go crazy, y’guys! Smash things! Fall all over the stage! It’s okay! It was nice to hear the audience singing along.

Lightinthemind: Yummy!

Fabien: And THIS is a performance that’s good enough to make them Top Band of this season !

Xtian: Such a good performance! Great song for them to finish the season on, too. Great job, PIA!


Hongdae Playground

On October 18th, Pia and Romantic Punch scouted for bonus points and performed at the Hongdae Playground, again with Jeon Ji Han as the special MC. During 90 minutes they are supposed to collect as many text message votes as possible, handing out bracelets to those that vote. Once the 90 minutes have passed a “hidden card” mission starts during which the bands are to locate 20 foreigners each and gain their votes. At the end of the evening, Romantic Punch had gathered 1525 points while Pia had collected 1353 points total.

Anna: Wow! I’ve never seen that many people in the playground before! Really wish I could’ve been there myself. The Pia members all look so cute as they hand out free hugs to fans outside of Smoothie King. Romantic Punch really got the crowd going with “토요일 밤이 좋아 (Saturday Night Fever)”, even making Pia sing along.

Dahee: This was really cute. I just love that Jeon Ji Han kept popping up randomly in this episode. Man, this makes me miss Korea. I need to visit the Playground again!

Lightinthemind: Ah… so many places I’m missing! And the Playground! And those streets! I think if I’d be there during this event I would have definitely taken my chance to hug the Pia guys^^ The capture that touched my heart: Yohan and some ajusshi smiling. Really interesting way to entertain people around Hongdae, the place full of rock spirit, and to provide support to bands. Applause.

Fabien: I’m glad they found a reason to show Hongdae again, with its legendary playground, and this event seemed to have been joyful! A lot of funny moments, and it makes both bands look much more friendly than ever. I would have really liked to be one of the foreigner who helped either band to get their votes.


Romantic Punch – “치명적 치료

Anna: What a pity they’d performed “토요일 밤이 좋아” already earlier in the competition! Now we didn’t get a chance to see the true brilliance of Romantic Punch even though it’s the final! It’s a good song and a good performance, but I have a feeling this song works better for those that are already fans. Something more energetic would’ve worked in their favor. Still they do very, very well.

Dahee: I’ve never heard this song before, but wow, I really like it! This was amazing! Bae In Hyuk’s on fire! The way he plays with the notes and adds emotion and feeling to the lyrics…just wow! This was really, really fun. I am officially enamoured.

Sangha: Thank god they played this song! I love this song, and they do such a great job. Hopefully the votes will pull them through, this was impressive.

Fabien: That was energetic enough for me and enjoyed the performance, it seems to me it was faithful to their strengths and personality, and they shouldn’t have any regret.

Xtian: So glad they performed this song! Always a good thing to see RomPun do what they do best, and that’s commanding a stage like no one’s business and rocking out. I <3 RP, baby!


Jury Opinions

Romantic Punch Scores

Kim Jong Seo: 95
Chung Won Young: 85
Song Hong Seob: 80
Bae Chul Soo: 93
Lee Seung Hwan: 93
Jang Hye Jin: 97
Kim Se Hwang: 93
Sub-total: 636

Anna: I think they deserved more this time, but the scores are still quite high.

Dahee: This is me giving Song Hong Seob the evil eye.

Pia Scores

Kim Jong Seo: 90
Chung Won Young: 90
Song Hong Seob: 90
Bae Chul Soo: 92
Lee Seung Hwan: 94
Jang Hye Jin: 97
Kim Se Hwang: 92
Sub-total: 645

Dahee: I don’t think they deserve a 97, Jang Hye Jin. Just sayin’.

Anna: We’re seeing some very generous judges today.


Sinawe – “크게 라디오를 켜고

Anna: I always thought this to be Sinawe’s most overrated song, but this new incarnation of Sinawe is awesome in so many ways I’m perfectly excited to hear them perform it anyway. Adding The Koxx’s Shaun to the band has made Sinawe a bit more synth heavy than I’d prefer, but somehow their arrangements work out anyway. Shin Dae Chul plays the guitar like a god. And that long scream from Kim Bada! Makes me long for the October final of I Am A Singer 2.

Dahee: Sinawe!! I love them, and I love this song. I’m digging the way they’ve rearranged it to a more modern sound. Kim Bada is so awesome, and look at Shin Dae Chul go!!

Fabien: Oh, Sinawe! You’re still the god of the rock bands. While I listened to this song too often, they found a way to make it sound new and more awesome.


The Results

Anna: Barely 32,000 viewers contributed votes to the final episode. Almost as good as for the first of the live episode. If they keep this format with live votes for the next season I hope they also have a plan to increase viewer interactions.

Romantic Punch

Jury: 1260
Public: 305
Total: 1565


Jury: 1297
Public: 295
Total: 1592

Anna: Congratulations, Pia! 100 million won! Musicwise Pia is my favorite of the two, but considering the price I had still hoped that Romantic Punch would prevail. I must say I’m surprised the televotes favored Romantic Punch though, considering just how strong the support has been for Pia until now. Wait, wait, wait! Are Pia handing the prize money to Romantic Punch for real? As far as I’m concerned, this is the best possible outcome of this final! Finally my mind is at ease.

Dahee: There was absolutely no suspense in this result. I think we all knew, deep down, that Pia would win. Granted, I was spoiled (damn Korean news! I SPIT ON YOUR SPOILERY FACES!), but seeing those judges’ scores and all…it was inevitable. Well, congrats to Pia. This was by no means an easy success for them. Their image suffered because of this show, and hopefully this win will help them recover. And congrats to Romantic Punch! They’re going to fly higher after this, I’m sure of it. And er, WERE Pia handing Romantic Punch the prize money? I thought they were just letting them hold it…

Anna: Didn’t they? I really hope they did. At least Romantic Punch were still holding on to the giant check before the final performance started and Pia can definitely spare the money. I ran into Yohan before Pentaport and he let on that should Pia win Top Band he had no worthwhile plan for the money, although he seemed very tired then and I came disguised as a friend so it might be that I just caught him at a bad time.

Dahee: Okay, rewatching it, it looks like one of the Pia members was holding it the entire time. Romantic Punch never held it at all. Maybe Pia will use it to restore their destroyed rehearsal studio.

Anna: Oh crap. You’re right. I made the wrong assumption, thinking the bands were separated rather than lining up randomly. I blame the poor resolution and my general failure to pay attention to what people look like. And my heart that really does want to think highly of Pia.

Sangha: Such an anticlimactic ending. It’s like Show Me The Money all over again.

Lightinthemind: I should admit that I really like Pia. For their wild days, for their willingness to continue rocking and bringing me good emotions. But as for Romantic Punch I think they performed with brilliance during the show and opened all sides of In Hyuk’s voice. Hope this will help them to write down many new songs and release not just an EP (which is coming) but a full-length.

Fabien: At this point, I don’t really care anymore who wins. Both Pia and Romantic Punch did a good job, so I don’t have the feeling that Pia stole the prize. But it’s just that I would have wished the least successful band and struggling for recognition, Romantic Punch, to get this financial aid to help in their career. Being an indie musician is never an easy path, but in Korea it’s even worse as they have to deal with the high pressure of their families to find a sustainable job. But the good news is that Romantic Punch won over Pia with the public’s votes, which can only mean that they gained a lot of fans during this TV show-

Xtian: Sigh, I can’t say I’m surprised to see this result. I loved Romantic Punch from the beginning, and will follow them till they end (new EP coming!!), but I’m glad they got the exposure from Top Band. If there’s anything I learned from last year is that the fan favorite does better than the winner.


Ji Bark & Kim Se Hwang – “다시 만날 그날

Anna: What a beautiful way to end this season! I’m still all emotional from Pia’s grand gesture, and this . From the last few episodes I’ve become so annoyed with Kim Se Hwang I can’t really stand his facial expressions while playing, but if I turn my face away and just listen I like it so much more.

Dahee: Oh wow, this was beautiful. Exquisite. Awesome guitar work from Kim Se Hwang. Although I kind of wonder why they chose to go with this for the finale song instead of a special stage with all the coaches…


Final Thoughts

Anna: I was going to dedicate an entire post to my final thoughts on this season, to follow up on my post on my thoughts ahead of the season but this strange turn of events [as in I wrote this paragraph before Dahee investigated and I had to realize my mistake] has made me happier than I thought I’d ever become from Top Band 2 so I’ll have to type something brief right away. Sure, I did not get the Top Band I wanted. The rookie bands were all out before the show was even close to coming to an end and in the end one of the most famous bands won. The editing straight out sucked more times than I can count. But I did get to see some bands I already knew and once loved grow and get even better.

Dahee: Overall, this was a disappointing season. The ratings were abysmal, and there was some obvious favouritism going on, as well as major editing problems. Still, I’m glad I watched it. I got to know a lot of bands so much better, and my opinions on many of them changed, mostly in their favour. I also got introduced to some lovely new bands in the early episodes. It was a pleasure to watch these bands grow and blossom, and to see rookies like Rose Motel get thrust into the spotlight. Plus this commentary series just made the experience that much more entertaining. :) Let’s hope for a season three!

Sangha: I, on the other hand, hope season 3 never happens because this show was just so painful for me to watch. There were just so many things wrong with the show (editing, forced humour, and bands I’ve liked being really big disappointments) and the agony I had to go through in the latest few episodes thanks to the horror that is Kim Se Hwang and his awful mouth… God, I never want to do that again. Unless they hire new editors (maybe they can steal some editors from Mnet) and new judges, I don’t want to see season 3 ever happening. But then again, I really appreciated the first few episodes because I was introduced to so many bands that I really really like now. With the awful ratings and the ridiculous costs (and harsh criticisms from everyone, to boost), I’m pretty sure season 3 won’t happen, but if it does… let’s just hope that it’s better than this one.

Lightinthemind: I must confess that I wasn’t watching first season so carefully, just jumping through videos on Youtube but stopped after several weeks. And this season was a big issue for me since I watched all episodes from start to the end. And we even saw all videos of bands trying to step into the contest. (Yes, those were hard days of commenting). But due to Top Band 2 I finally understood what I like and what I dislike in the Korean rock scene, I found bands really worth to listen to, I had a chance even to see them live (waving to Rose Motel and Pia at Pentaport). So, it was a good time. BUT! I suppose that I lost many thousands of nerve cells while trying not to burn my PC watching those stupid cuts, stupid comments of juries and awful ‘dramatic’ endings. As for my opinion Season 3 will not (and must not) be created in two years even. Hongdae scene doesn’t have THAT amount (and quality) of rookie bands for now to create show with high ratings. And again and again I think that rock scene of Hongdae needs its own show to be on TV. For instant.

Anna: Now I’m back to being bitter over Top Band 2, but I really did enjoy the first season so I’ll still hope for a Top Band 3. Now that they already got all the interested big name bands auditioning all at once, there should be more room for rookie bands next time. I actually think there are more than enough fantastic rookie bands to make another season worthwhile already next year, although I suspect that it’ll be another few years before any show focusing on this kind of music will score high ratings. Even so the final episode of Top Band 2 only managed 1.6% whereas the final episode of Top Band got 5% of viewers. Go rookies!

Fabien: I must admit that I am very happy that it finally ends. The episodes were losing more and more of their interest, the remaining bands began to rehash the same things over and over and I really had to force myself to write comments (I think you could feel how tired I was). However paradoxically, the editing has improved. But for me, the pleasure I had was to discover many bands I’d never heard of before, rookies who did not always have the skills to deal with the bigger names, of course, but showed that the independent scene of Seoul remains alive and well. Other bands that I already knew but which I had never really liked, showed a new image of themselves which awakened my interest. In the end, I don’t think I would watch the next season of Top Band, whereas it was probably the last season ever. During these weeks, I felt the huge blank left when that amazing Music Travel Lalala was cancelled two years ago, which was the best open door on unknown singers and bands I had found (beside Indieful ROK of course).

Dahee: Okay, if we can’t have a season three, can we have a Hongdae documentary series focusing on a band a week? Something like that would be amazing. Or just bring back Music Travel Lalala! I share Fabien’s deep sorrow over that show getting cancelled. We need more TV shows that feature indie bands, dammit!

Xtian: The only thing I can add at this point is that even though the bigger name won, I still appreciate the idea of Top Band as a platform to reach wider audiences rather than a fair competition. If it wasn’t for this season, I would not have fallen head over heels in love with The United93, regained my love for Story Seller, and just love k-rock in general. I’m game for the documentary idea, since competition is not in Top Band’s interests to continue in the future.

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