The boys looked at one another and mulled over this question in deeper contemplation. Immediately, they knew that Iris would love being in an group with her cousin, Cindy. But beyond that, who would she click with in a group? What kind of dynamics were necessary for a balanced lineup?
One by one they considered the other trainees. Iris's personality would blend basically with anyone as long as they were honest and real with her. Perhaps looking at the trainees who befriended Cindy would give a good idea?
"It seems like Cindy is friends with Jiyeon and Ahreum already," noted Namjoon. It was clear to see that the two were centered around Cindy.
However, it seemed that the other trainees were centered around Jiyeon even while being close together to Cindy when they all sat down.
The other BTS members agreed with their leader's observation. It was hard to tell when the girls huddled together, but having been in a group together as well as being in the industry for some time, the subtleties of friendship were clear to them.
With that, Namjoon confirmed to the staff. "Cindy for sure, and probably the friends she has as well. But Iris probably would do well with all of them as long as they all respected one another without being..." Namjoon trailed off for a bit as he flashed back to when Iris got kicked out of 'The Truth Untold.'
"...overly selfish or underhanded..?" He finished with an uncertain laugh. Namjoon couldn't quite pinpoint the words that wouldn't sound too offensive. Iris was competitive, but she put the team first and fairly gauged what was necessary for the group. This was obvious with the way she acceded the center positions on Produce 48 a few times.
His group mates chuckled at his phrasing. Jin slapped his leader's back in mirth. They all knew what he meant.
The staff as well understood. "Well we've weeded out those who were underhanded in the last round after missing them in the initial selections for potential trainees," informed one staff member.
Indeed, the selection process was rigorous considering the popularity of BTS. They had to ensure that the girls weren't obsessed with BTS to the point of causing them injury, whether direct or indirect through a scandal.
With the first evaluation round over, the staff were confident that the remaining were the best of those who auditioned in both skill and temperament.
Now the trainees would be tested in their ability to withstand not just stress from fellow competitors but also the public. Their next task was to cover any artist of their choosing and perform in public individually.
The trainees who were able to amass a larger audience would receive higher scores. Thus, they had to overcome any fears of performing alone in public and being subjected to passerby scrutiny. In short, it was a test of confidence and charisma.
When Cindy heard the news inside the room that BTS had left, she was happy that her k-pop cover dancing in public would directly pay off in this challenge. It was like the task was made after Iris's past history.
Of course, performing on the streets was actually very common in South Korea. Known as 'busking,' many idol trainees and civilian lovers of music would perform across the country. Some open spaces were even known for being a popular place to 'busk.'
While BTS flew to LA, Cindy began practicing for her chosen dance cover of Black Pink's 'Ddu Du Ddu Du.' It had released in June around the time that Produce 48 had started. Halfway through the show, she had first performed this song with Iris's old dance crew.
Although their crew performed it late due to Cindy's slow learning pace, because it was such a popular song, they still got a lot of views from covering it. And for the same reasons, Black Pink's song was also perfect for this busking challenge.
Some people might consider the song choice to be safe because its popularity, but that also meant it was subject to more criticism. Additionally, Cindy was still an amateur dancer, so while it was a doable challenge, it was still difficult for her.
They had just one week to prepare, and thankfully, Cindy could finesse the small details because she knew the choreography already. However, she did have to tweak the song to be suitably interesting as a solo cover.
A week passed quickly, and the Big Hit girl trainees traveled to Hongdae, a popular busking place. Each trainee would perform in a separate area while a staff member nearby each one would keep track of the crowds attracted.
"Hmm? Who's that foreigner?"
Before Cindy even started dancing, people already stopped in their tracks to oogle at her setting up her performance space.
"Is she going to dance?"
"Or maybe she'll sing? Some foreigners these days actually can be surprising with their Korean.."
"Oh like Iris Huang?"
"Hey you watched Produce 48 too?! Yeah I was surprised by that girl. She was really good!"
"Yes! I voted for her, and I'm so happy she debuted!! I wonder what Big Hit's up to signing her and putting her in the show..."
"Well, I guess we won't find out until after IZ*ONE's contract ends."
A corner of Cindy's mouth quirked up in a smile. She overheard the strangers' discussion about Iris and couldn't help feeling pride as well as amusement.
'Wow, Iris really is popular if people talk about her in public casually like this. I wonder how they'll react if they knew I am her cousin and am also signed under Big Hit to potentially form a girl group.'
Cindy shook the thoughts away to focus on her performance. 'Yeah, let's do this well, so I can shock them all later.' She settled into her starting position and counted the beat as the music began and her cue to dance arrived.
If she made it as one of the secured trainees, Big Hit would create a show about the formation and development of the group. The busking performances of the final trainees would be included in the mini series. So, Cindy was determined to create the shocking scenario that popped into her head after hearing the conversation about Iris.
Meanwhile, Jiyeon, Ahreum, and the others similarly were about to begin their performances. However, unlike Cindy who had the advantage of being foreign looking and drawing curious passerby, they weren't noticed as quickly because they were Koreans who blended in more with the crowd.
As soon as they cleared the spaces for performing, people began to gather around each individual girl. Although no one knew who they were, the Korean culture of busking was strong. People would stop to at least check out the performers for a bit.
Since the trainees were a good distance from each other, people didn't make the connection that they all belonged together too.
The staff noted the beginning number of people for each girl.
Jiyeon - 15
This girl's sharp, chic looks paired with her impeccable fashion sense and aura drew a sizable crowd. All of the Big Hit staff agreed that she was the ace of the group who was truly born to be an idol.
Rinah - 11
The pretty Rinah who looked like the princess daughter of a chaebol family similarly drew a crowd with her looks, sophisticated aura, and microphone paired with a guitar. The contrast of her looks to a quaint guitar naturally made people very curious.
Minhyun - 9
The somewhat androgynous girl due to her boyish fashion choices also made her stand out a little. She looked like a rapper, and while she could rap, she had chosen to dance while singing and rapping a little. Her charm was in her powerful dancing. The staff predicted she'd draw more crowds once her performance was mid-way because it took time for her to demonstrate this charm.
Ahreum - 18
This adorably cute girl actually didn't draw the crowds naturally like the others. If she had, she would've only gotten seven people. But the resourceful, peppy girl shouted out to passerby to watch her performance. The accompanying staff member couldn't help but chuckle at this. Those extra people were counted because it was still her own effort and charm in luring people in.
Haebin - 5
Unfortunately, she was the most 'ordinary' of the group with no outstanding aura, looks, or skill set. Thus, the nearby staff member was keen on seeing how she would fare. Like Minhyun and Jiyeon, she was an all-rounder. Whether her balanced abilities would be a positive or negative was yet to be determined. It could come off as mediocre overall or jack of all trades strong.
Cindy - 26
Because of her top notch looks which had the extra benefit of foreign appeal, people flocked to see what she would do. The biggest hurdle she would face was retaining that crowd. If she performed well, the Big Hit staff imagined that the people would stay to the end. Otherwise, she could lose them as quickly as she had received them.
As the minutes ticked by, each staff member jotted down the increases and decreases as quickly as they could. Whether for bad or for good, the trainees' performances went as predicted while others were a surprise to the staff. In particular, Cindy was the biggest surprise...
Awesome comments last chapter!! I was really impressed by all you smart and thoughtful readers. ^-^
I already had plans set in advance, but you almost made me change my mind due to your sound logic! XD I will try my best though with what I have planned. Maybe you’ll figure it out like the detectives you all are, or maybe it’ll throw you off in predictions... Here’s a hint:
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