For over a decade, vocal trainer Sol Lee has been teaching aspiring stars at companies like CJ E&M, Kakao Entertainment, and YG Entertainment. Sol Lee recently joined her past student, well-known former K-Pop trainee Gina Maeng, for a YouTube video—and she explained why some talented trainees don’t make it to debut.
At the majority of K-Pop companies, all trainees must go through tests known as “monthly evaluations.” Each month, the trainees must show off their skills in singing, rapping, or dancing (and often all three) to the heads of the company. If they fail to impress, they may be sent home for good and miss their opportunity to debut. However, surprisingly, Sol Lee says that some trainees get cut from their companies even after doing “really well” on monthly evaluations.
If you’re the type of K-Pop fan who likes to keep up with pre-debut stars, you may have already noticed that some of the most talented hopefuls don’t end up debuting. Popular SM Rookies trainees Koeun, Hina, and Lami, for example, all unexpectedly departed SM Entertainment shortly before aespa debuted even though fans had seen how talented they were. While some trainees leave their companies for their own reasons, others get cut despite their skills—but why?
“It happens,” says Sol Lee, “You sing well, dance well, but many factors play a role.” She went on to reveal that you can be really good at what you do, really pretty, and have no negatives to pick on, and still end up getting cut from the trainee lineup. However, while this may sound absurd to onlookers, Sol Lee and Gina Maeng both agreed that it “makes sense.”
The pair say it’s all down to the elusive “wow factor“. Gina Maeng went on to say that if you’ve been in the industry long enough, you can tell when a trainee just isn’t “debut material.” While Sol Lee didn’t elaborate, there are several possible reasons why a talented trainee may not seem fit for debut, from their personality to their work ethic to their ability to handle pressure.
This extends to auditions, too. Sol Lee says that as soon as auditionees enter the room, before they even start singing, the judges already know whether they have the “wow factor“. In fact, she says it’s very rare that casting agents find themselves surprised by an auditionee who didn’t give off the right vibe at first.
Thankfully, it’s not all bad for cut trainees at major companies. For example, Sol Lee says that when YG Entertainment trainees get sent home, they’re immediately swamped with calls from other companies looking to sign talented aspiring stars who don’t need much work. As such, it’s common for former YG Entertainment trainees to debut at other companies.
Just a few of the stars who used to train at YG Entertainment include (G)I-DLE‘s Miyeon (who is now signed to CUBE Entertainment),
Secret Number‘s Jinny and Denise (who are now signed to Vine Entertainment),
AB6IX‘s Woong (who is now signed to Brand New Music),
and CIIPHER‘s Hyunbin (who is now signed to RAIN Company).