Tall, short, cute, cool — hundreds of youngsters of different looks and styles sang and danced their way through the TvN Star Hunt auditions in Singapore over the weekend.
150 were shortlisted from 1,000 video entries and another 300 auditioned on the spot, but only two young hopefuls outsang the rest to win the chance at K-pop stardom at the finals of TvN's K-pop Star Hunt 2 auditions held in Plaza Singapura on Sunday.
16-year-old Singaporean student Anthea Wang Thong Yi and 20-year-old Indonesian Rendy Lauwady were selected by a panel of judges to fight it out in Seoul against other finalists from the region.
The winner of Star Hunt will be given a contract with top K-pop star talent company Cube Entertainment, which has trained and groomed the hugely popular 4 Minute and B2st.
The results were announced on Sunday evening after all 16 finalists performed live onstage to a crowd of about 300 people.
The finalists were a mixed bag of personalities that included shy 11-year-old primary school student Charlene Chua and audition veterans like blogger Hayley Woo and dancer Tara Elliot.
Despite the raw potential on display, few were able to both dance and sing. Dressed like a doll and clearly overwhelmed by nerves, finalist Chloe Pek squeaked and skipped her way through a rendition of IU's "Good Day", while Shobanah Mutiah, 17, displayed some fierce dance moves in an all-black ensemble complete with leather and chains but went badly off pitch singing Rihanna's "Take a Bow".
The judges expressed as much when they offered their closing comments, expressing disappointment in the poorer performances compared to the previous day's auditions and also explaining that their decision would be based more on vocal talent than their dance moves.
Fly Entertainment CEO Irene Ang said that while it "took a lot of courage" for the finalists to perform live, she was disappointed that all the contestants had not bothered to "connect" with the audience but were instead "too busy doing new things to impress".
Tony An, member of pioneer K-pop group H.O.T, echoed Ang's comments, saying that he had expected them to be more confident and that their tone and singing had come off as a little bit unstable.
Among the group, Anthea and Rendy had stood out for their steady performances and strong vocals. Anthea belted out 2NE1's "Ugly" and Rendy crooned the ballad "The Way you Look at Me".
Both elected to stick to mainly singing to allow their voices to shine, a decision that clearly paid off when they were announced as the two winners.
The two were visibly shocked when the results were announced. Barely able to contain his delight, Rendy bounced around the stage proudly displaying a black t-shirt with the show's slogan and posing for the cameras, while Anthea stood stunned for a good five minutes before tearing and becoming too emotional to speak.
The 2NE1 and Big Bang fan had turned up for a walk-in audition on Saturday never expecting to make it past the first round, let alone the finals.
And despite the ringing endorsement from the judges, Anthea said she was nervous about going to Seoul but overjoyed by the idea of being able to fulfill her dream of becoming a K-pop punk artiste.
In contrast, Indonesian Rendy, who had flown to Singapore from Jakarta just to take part in the Star Hunt auditions, said that he had been confident of winning the contest.
The 2pm fan added that he had a basic grasp of the Korena language and had performing experience back home in Indonesia, playing gigs for bars and pubs.
The two winners will be heading to Seoul by the end of this year to compete with finalists from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Shot in a reality-tv-style format, Star Hunt contestants will undergo rigorous dancing, singing, and physical training, and will face-off every week with a new challenge where those who do not make the cut will be eliminated by a panel of judges from Cube Entertainment.
You can catch the premiere on Saturday 24 November on tvN, StarHub Channel 824.