MIX NINE Episode 1 Recap: The Agency Tour Begins

Forgive my word play, but I’ve had a pretty mixed reaction to Mix Nine so far.  On one hand, I like the idea of shining the spotlight on relatively unknown artists. I’ve been involved in the entertainment industry for most of my life and I never got a “big break,” so I really appreciate what these people are going through. Also, some of the contestants belong to groups that I like and want to support.  (So basically, all the reasons I watch The Unit) On the other hand, Mix Nine just seems like a big showcase for Yang Hyunsuk as a character person. It feels like the editing is 75% his comments and reactions and 25% actually getting to know the people auditioning.  But it’s just the first episode, so hopefully the balance will be better as time goes on.


BASIC INFORMATION (Premise, judges, audition process)




Yang Hyunsuk, the founder and face of YG Entertainment, travels to 70 agencies searching for hidden talent.  With help from guest judges, he chooses 170 participants from promising trainees and idols who haven’t made it big yet.  Through various missions, they will be narrowed down to one male team and one female team. The two then will go head to head to determine who will debut (unlike The Unit, which produces both a male and female team). So it’s both a survival show and a battle of the sexes.


Yang Hyunsuk (also known as YG) is the main judge, but he brings in other well-known YG artists as guest judges. For example, this episode’s guest judge is CL (formerly of 2NE1).  Members of Big Bang and Zion.T are also scheduled to appear.

Audition Process

The judges drive around greater Seoul selecting potential participants, visiting multiple agencies in one day.  YG and the guest judge will evaluate the trainees, while the agency’s CEO or representative will watch the audition in a separate room with host Noh Hongchul.  The evaluations are the standard fare: a group performance and then an individual one for each trainee to show his or her charms.

Throughout the auditions, YG and company are accompanied by two giant buses filled with the trainees he chooses. Seriously. Once the trainees are picked, they literally ride around with him everywhere and watch the other auditions from the bus. The debut bus is meant for the best of the best, the contestants who YG believes are almost ready to debut.  It only holds nine trainees – male and female – so the lineup will constantly change throughout the audition process.  Getting on the debut bus is the ultimate goal for those auditioning. However, most of them will end up on the trainee bus, which means they have potential but need a little more polishing.



Before I launch in, here some notes on how I’ve formatted this recap:

  1. The editing of Mix Nine is extremely confusing.  YG & Co. don’t visit the agencies in the same order the editing depicts, so there are a lot of omissions and back-and-forth.  Production also doesn’t show all the trainees who are auditioning, preferring to focus on one or two per segment.  In short, keeping track of everyone is very difficult. So I’ve linked all the video auditions for people who want to see the whole team, and I’ve put the photos of whomever YG picks at the end of each section.
  2. If a trainee is chosen for the debut bus, there’s a red frame around his or her profile photo.  The trainees on the debut bus will constantly change, and new people will kick out old ones. So instead of recapping who replaces whom at every turn, I’ll put an up to date list at the end of every post.
  3. Some of the participants are from groups who have already debuted and are looking for another chance to gain the public’s attention. I’m aware of some but not all, and I’m trying to stay as neutral as possible.  But like my recaps for The Unit, I’ll provide some basic information on these groups or any teams preparing to debut.



Number of Trainees Auditioning: 8 females
Group Name: SEEART (pre-debut team)
Last Single Released: “Cupcake” (pre-release December 2016)

Audition Song: “Mamma Mia” by KARA

SEEART (Yama & Hotchicks Entertainment, 2016)

Yama & Hotchicks is run by well-known choreographer Bae Yoonjung, who is responsible for iconic girl group dances like “Mister” (KARA), “Abracadabra” (Brown Eyed Girls), and “Up and Down” (EXID).  She’s also no stranger to survival shows, since she was a dance mentor for Produce 101.  Though she was known for her harsh criticisms on that show, we see her more vulnerable side here; she’s plagued by financial difficulties and worries for the future of her team.  SEEART was supposed to debut in early 2017, but that all fell apart after one pre-release.  I’m happy to see them because I remember their teasers from last year, and I’d been wondering what happened to them.

Baek Hyunjoo’s visuals are definitely idol standard.

Bae Yoonjung is sending her whole group to audition, but she has especially high hopes for Baek Hyunjoo.  In fact, she has so much faith in her that the girl becomes the focus of the whole segment. Hyunjoo was the first trainee to join the company, and is also the team leader. She’s very talented and very hard-working, etc. Looking at her, you can definitely see the idol potential. She has stunning looks and she’s really tall (she reminds me of GFriend’s Sowon), and the audition shows her solid skill set.

YG calls up Hyunjoo and three other members, announcing that he’s split them into two groups. Four will pass and four will fail.  Everyone expects Hyunjoo’s group to be picked, but they’re actually eliminated instead. YG and CL were talking about a trainee who was like a clean slate before announcing the results. We all assumed it was Hyunjoo, but it was actually Jung Yeeun. If you watch the segment back, you can actually see that they sneak in a bunch of shots of her – sneaky editing! Poor Hyunjoo looks shocked, and ultimately can’t prevent the tears that follow.

Trainee Bus: Han Byul, Im Jihye, Jung Yeeun, Park Chohyun

*SEMI-SPOILER ALERT!!!* I’m going to break continuity and reveal that Hyunjoo does end up joining Mix Nine. Apparently, she manages to convince YG to give her a second audition.  I’m mentioning it here because the clip is special footage, and not in any of the following episodes. Also I already put her in the photo below and I’m too lazy to redo it

Yama & Hotchicks



Banana Culture

Notable Artists: EXID
Number of Trainees Auditioning: 2 males
Notable Trainees Auditioning: Lee Jaejoon, former member of C-Clown
Group Name: Trei (hip hop duo, pre-debut?)
Group Debut Date: July 2017
Last Single Released: “Up” (August 2017)

Audition Song: A remix of “Dinosaur” by Akdong Musician

Handsome alert!

Banana Culture Entertainment belongs to prominent producer  Shinsadong Tiger, known for his collaborations with groups like Beast (pre-Highlight days), T-ara, Apink, and EXID. However, the star of this segment is an extremely attractive guy named Lee Jaejoon (also known as Maru from C-Clown).  He went back to being a trainee when his group broke up, and he went through some tough times mentally.  Luckily, fellow trainee Chae Changhyun has helped him regain some of his confidence.

Same, girl.

Once Jaejoon appears, all the girl trainees scurry to the front of the bus to watch him on the tiny screen. Even CL is stunned by his presence, and can’t help showering him with noona smiles.  YG, on the other hand, is completely immune.  He informs the duo that they performed exactly how he expected them to – no more, no less. He passes Changhyun for rapping smoothly without any beat, but fixates on Jaejoon’s stiff dancing.  When YG bluntly asks Jaejoon what he’ll do if he’s eliminated, the former idol is lost for words. CL convinces YG to put Jaejoon on the trainee bus, but it’s very clear that this is his only chance.

Debut Bus: Chae Changhyun ||| Trainee Bus: Lee Jaejoon (Maru)

Banana Culture



Number of Trainees Auditioning: 3 males
Group Name: M.O.N.T (pre-debut team)
Last Single Released: “Sorry” (pre-release May 2017)

Audition Song: “That Girl” (sorry, I didn’t catch the original artist!)

Everyone is perplexed to be heading out of Seoul to Ganghwado. No one expects an agency to be here in the middle of the mountains.  But FM Entertainment is a tranquil complex that looks more like a summer camp, and the CEO is a kind young woman who picks walnuts and spends all night making dozens of kimbap for her guests. The M.O.N.T trainees really play up the whole country bumpkin look: they play with dogs, they meditate on the rocks (also with dogs), and their fashion sense looks like it got stuck in somewhere in the nineties.  The other trainees attempt to hide their snickers, but they’re all surprised when the boys actually put on a fun and engaging performance. YG even mentions that leader Jung Hyunwoo reminds him of WINNER’s Kang Seungyoon.

Interrupting the interview to get the dogs in line.

Training in the countryside is peaceful, but there’s one major drawback: it becomes painfully apparent that these trainees don’t know how to dance. Because the CEO is limited on funds, they only have one month’s worth of lessons and thirty seconds of choreography to present.  The Banana Culture boys start to feel more comfortable…until YG randomly scolds them for failing to have solid expressions like M.O.N.T. (Such a stupid teaching tactic, but unfortunately a common one) Though the boys had very little to work with, they’ve managed to polish it until it’s perfect. YG sees their capacity to grow, and he knows that they might not if they remain in Ganghwado. He decides it would be better to take them back into Seoul with him.

Debut Bus: Jung Hyunwoo ||| Trainee Bus: Kim Sangyeon and Shin Joongmin

FM Entertainment



A100 Entertainment

Number of Trainees Auditioning: 6 females – five in a group preparing to debut, 1 soloist
Group Name: Neon Punch (pre-debut)

Audition Song: “Just a Feeling” by S.E.S

Neon Punch
Neon Punch (A100 Entertainment, 2017)

Remember when YG and CL had extremely different reactions to the Banana Culture boys? This is pretty much the reverse. After a string of not-so-satisfying auditions, YG immediately perks up when a bunch of cute girls appear and give a bright greeting.We spend about five minutes watching him turn into a grinning fool over these girls, and he even bumps his head on the Mix Nine sign when CL calls him out on it.  (Meanwhile, Queen CL serves up a ton of looks that go right into my GIF making folder for later) To be fair, the girls are really good – especially Lee Hajung, a fierce singer and dancer who looks exactly like Apink’s Bomi. But it just goes to show that even the great YG can be taken down by a pretty face.

This is basically what YG looked like the entire segment.

Trainee Bus: Kim Sua from Neon Punch, and soloist Jeon Yeim (we didn’t see her audition).  They also take Lee Hajung, but she must have dropped out since I can’t find her profile anywhere.




Number of Trainees Auditioning: 2 females
Notable Trainees Auditioning: Eyedi (soloist auditioning as Nam Yujin)
Last Single Released: “Best Mistake (K)” (March 2017)

Audition Song: Both trainees dance to “I Got It” by Bebe Rexha.  Nam Yujin sings “Spotlight” by Jennifer Hudson, and Jung Sara raps “Straw Cutter” by Nucksal.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see the resemblance.

Nam Yujin enjoys being called the next “IU.”  I think she looks more like Red Velvet’s Joy or DIA’s Chaeyeon, but she seems to be more interested in the musical comparison anyway.   She’s known for collaborating with a lot of foreign musicians under her stage name Eyedi, and her audition shows that she can sing.  Unfortunately, Nam Yujin frequently refers to herself as an “artist” – as in, she makes a clear distinction between being a singer (someone who’s in charge of their music and brand) and an idol (someone who’s not).

It’s true there’s a difference between the two, but the way she talks clearly implies she thinks one is better than the other. As someone who likes a wide variety of media – highbrow and lowbrow – this kind of attitude is a huge pet peeve. It’s like how many people at my film school in France looked down on most Hollywood movies. I’m trying not to hold it against Yujin, because she’s certainly entitled to her own opinion.  But the thing is, she says she stopped training in an idol group because she didn’t like being told what to do. So… why does she want to be on a show about making an idol group?  YG notes that she doesn’t have a unique voice; it’s a light criticism, but I think it’s needed.

Getting ready to be the next girl crush.

The second contestant is Jung Sara, who immediately gives off the “strong unnie” vibe with her  unique ensemble: black leather jacket, boldly red pants, and a bucket hat for good measure. She confirms this impression with a fierce rap that blows everyone away.  She also has a compelling reason for why she wants to succeed as a musician.  Both of her parents are deaf, and she hopes to use her fame to help her father with his charity work for the hearing-impaired. I found this really touching.  I probably would have rooted for her anyway – K-pop always needs more female rappers – but it’s always nice to see stories like those.

Debut Bus: Jung Sara (Sarada) ||| Trainee Bus: Nam Yujin (Eyedi)

Bace Camp Studio



Fave Entertainment

Notable Artists: IU, Fiestar, JBJ
Number of Trainees Auditioning: 11 females
Notable Trainees Auditioning: Park Soyeon (Produce 101 and KPOP Star), Lee Soomin (Produce 101 and KPOP Star), and Sun Yerim (Superstar K)

Audition Song: “Holiday” by Girls’ Generation

After seeing someone that looks like IU, we head over to IU’s actual agency.  The trainees are all beautiful young girls who deliver an enthusiastic version of “Holiday.” Though several contestants catch YG’s eye, we mostly focus on Sun Yerim – a contestant who was on Superstar K when she was just eleven years old.  YG is emphatic that he doesn’t want to take people who have been on audition programs before which I’m sure he’s really doing on a case by case basis.  So although the editing focuses on how Yerim is feeling emotional and really wants this opportunity – even singing the song that made her known on Superstar K and tearing up – YG holds his ground.  He doesn’t pick her in the first wave, and he doesn’t pick her when he says he’ll choose from four of the girls left. Olivia Hussey lookalike Park Haerin gets the last spot, and poor Yerim is forced to watch eight out of eleven girls go.

Son Yerim (left) and Park Haerin just before learning their fate.

Debut Bus: Lee Sujin and Park Soeun ||| Trainee Bus: Baek Minseo, Kim BoWon, Lee Soomin, Park Haerin, Shin Jiyoon, and Shin Soohyun

Fave Entertainment



Brave Entertainment

Notable Artists: Brave Girls, BIGSTAR, Samuel (from Produce 101)
Number of Trainees Auditioning: 6 females

Audition Song: “Nowadays You” by Brave Girls

Sure you don’t have any resentment there?

Most of our time at Brave Entertainment is spent on the “frosty” relationship between Yang Hyunsuk and Brave Brothers. I’m not sure what the issue is, given I wasn’t into K-pop at the time.  Brave Brothers got his start at YG Entertainment before striking out on his own, so I guess there were maybe rumors of a not-so-amicable split. I imagine most of the “drama” is for the cameras, but there’s definitely some awkwardness between the two.  Brave Brothers basically says “YG hates me” when Noh Hongchul asks about it, and YG is like “LOL no… but maybe.” YG also refers to the agency’s escalator as “cute” and kicks Brave Brothers’ car… so I guess we can draw our own conclusions.

Yoo Jinkyung has got her expressions down.

When it comes to the trainees, YG isn’t all that impressed. The editing highlights two potential picks: new trainee  Jinkyung and young dance prodigy  Hyoshin.  YG ends up picking Jinkyung; though she’s only been a trainee for two months, she has solid skills and a good attitude.  So basically, she hasn’t been a trainee long enough to become jaded by the hardships of the idol life.  But I can definitely see some potential in her, and I thought her “Bubble Pop” was entertaining.

Debut Bus: Yoo Jinkyung

Brave Entertainment Yoo Jinkyung



Staro Entertainment

Number of Trainees Auditioning: 6 males
Group Name: Seven O’Clock
Group Debut Date: March 15, 2017
Last Single Released: “Echo” (debut single)

Audition Song: “See Through” by Primary

Seven O'Clock (Hangyeom:A-Day and Sangwon:Vaan)
Seven O’Clock (Staro Entertainment, 2017)
Song Hangyeom becomes yet another dancer for me to stan.

Finally, we come to our first already debuted group.  Many of the trainees on the bus have heard of Seven O’Clock, but YG and CL haven’t.  They didn’t receive a lot of attention from their debut like they expected, which is sadly the story for many new groups these days.  Hopefully joining Mix Nine brings them more notoriety. After a polished audition, YG asks leader Hangyeom to dance.  Jaejoon failed to impress him earlier, but Hangyeom delivers a totally heart-fluttering performance.  He reminds me so much of Taeyong from NCT. (In case you aren’t aware of how much I adore Taeyong, I mean that as the highest compliment) It’s basically inevitable that he gets put on the debut bus.

Kim Sangwon is put on the debut bus.

He also decides to take Baby T.O.P Kim Sangwon, who gets a lot of attention for looking like T.O.P his charismatic rapping.  Since the bus is already full, the two new contestants are forced to kick out occupants.  They arrive bearing cards of the people who must move to the trainee bus, and the atmosphere is so awkward. The two boys end up replacing two girls…which, sadly, is probably our first indication that the two genders will not be on the same playing field on this show.

Debut Bus: Kim Sangwon (Vaan) and Song Hangyeom (A-Day)

Staro Entertainment




  • Star Empire Entertainment: 3/7 females, some from upcoming girl group OMZM
    • Debut Bus: Jang Hyokyung
    • Trainee Bus: Kang Shihyun and Kim Yoonji (Produce 101 contestants)
  • Liveworks Company: 3/5 males
    • Debut Bus: Moon Jaeyoon
    • Trainee Bus: Jin Sungho and Lee Rubin
  • JD Entertainment: 1/4 females
    • Trainee Bus: Jung Dasol
  • K-Tigers: 0/2 males
  • ELEVEN9 Entertainment: 1/2 males and 1/3 females
    • Debut Bus: Kim Heesu
    • Trainee Bus: Im Youngjoon
  • ONO Entertainment: 0/5 males and 3/7 females from upcoming girl group Black Mamba
    • Trainee Bus: Bang Yesol, Im Jungmin, and Lee Yongchae



Debut Bus Male Trainees.png
Debut Bus Female Trainees


All in all, this was a fairly interesting episode.  There was a lot of filler that I could have done without, but we met a lot of new trainees that I hadn’t heard of – which is exactly why I was watching in the first place.  I look forward to later episodes when we’ll start seeing groups I know like 24K, Dreamcatcher, and KNK; I wonder if it will be any different.

SOURCES: Mix Nine Episode 1 (JTBC), Youtube, Wikipedia, Omona They Didn’t (Livejournal)

All profile photos of the contestants belong to JTBC and Mix Nine, and all audition clips belong to JTBC’s Youtube channel.

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