Introducing Nine Percent, the nine-member boy group ready to take over China's idol industry.

Idol Producer (偶像练习生), the Chinese reality boy group survival show produced by IQIYI, finished airing in early April and has drawn all eyes on China’s idol scene. Broadcasted between January to April, the show garnered over 100 million viewers with the first hour of broadcast.

Bringing together 100 trainees from 31 different entertainment companies and talent agencies, both within and beyond China, including independent trainees, nine will ultimately be chosen by the viewers after a four-month training period to debut.

Nine Percent

Credit: Idol Producer Official Weibo

With the slogan ‘the harder you work, the luckier you are’, citizen producers, the name given to the viewers of the show, have the chance to vote for their favourites and bring them closer to debut.

Trainees range from those who have only trained for a few months to the experienced who trained for a few years. Some have even debuted under other boy groups before, while for others this is not their first time participating in a survival show.

Guoran Entertainment’s Zhu Xingjie and Zhou Yanchen, independent (formerly of Guoran) trainee Zhou Rui and Banana Entertainment’s Lu Dinghao, for example, have previously participated in King of Pop and subsequently debuted as Mr. BIO.

Independent trainee Cai Xukun was a member of boy group SWIN and OACA Entertainment’s Qin Fen debuted with boy group The Legend in 2014 (the group, unfortunately, disbanded in 2017).

Banana Entertainment’s Lin Yanjun and Bei Honglin and Guoran Entertainment’s Zhu Xingjie and Xiao Gui previously participated in Rap of China.

Nine Percent

From left to right: Zhou Jieqiong, Cheng Xiao, Li Ronghao, Zhang Yixing, Jackson Wang and MC Jin. Credit: Idol Producer Official Weibo

The show is led by EXO member Zhang Yixing as the Nation’s Producer, with singer-songwriter Li Ronghao as the vocal instructor, GOT7 member Jackson Wang and Hong Kong-American rapper MC Jin as the rap instructors and Cosmic Girl’s Cheng Xiao and former I.O.I member, Pristin’s Zhou Jieqiong as the dance instructors.

Following an initial evaluation where trainees performed with their respective groups and graded from A-F, they were then tasked to learn and perform the titular single ‘Ei Ei’ with only three days to prepare.

The second challenge involved separating the trainees into 16 teams to perform 8 songs. Two teams performed and competed against each other for each of the 8 song which ranged from Jay Chou’s 兽人 (The Orcs), CNBLUE’s ‘Can’t Stop’ and a remix of viral video ‘PPAP’.

Following the second challenge, 60 trainees remained.

The third challenge was the Position Evaluation group performances where trainees selected songs that can showcase their specialities in the vocal, dance or rap categories.

Five songs were up for grabs for vocal, four for dance and four for rap ranging from Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, Stefanie Sun’s 怀念的(What I Miss), Zhang Yixing’s ‘Sheep’, Zico’s ‘Artist’ and Jackson Wang’s ‘Papillon’.

The fourth challenge was the Concept Evaluation where national producers chose the trainees who would become the singers of 5 original songs of different styles and concepts. However, the elimination leaving the Top 35 will happen midway through preparation, leading to possible rearrangements in later episodes.

The five songs were ‘Firewalking’ (tropical House with chair dances), ‘Boom Boom Boom’ (R&B), 听听我说的吧(Listen To What I Say) (hip hop),我永远记得 (I Will Always Remember) (pop ballad with soul), and ‘Dream’ (hip hop with dance).

After the third and final ranking announcement, only the Top 20 remained.

Just before the final mission, the Top 35 trainees had a chance to collaborate with mentors Zhang Yixing (‘Mask’), Cheng Xiao (‘Havana and 24K Remix’), Zhou Jieqiong (‘Agent J’), MC Jin (‘Zero’) and Li Ronghao (‘Quit Smoking’).

The final challenge and final episode of the show was the Live Broadcast on Friday 6 April, where online and live voting determined the 9 members of the new boy group, officially named Nine Percent. The two songs for the live performance were ‘It’s OK’ (pop) and ‘Mack Daddy’ (hip hop).

The final episode introduced the official members of Nine Percent. Over 100 million votes were cast for the nine members, with center, Cai Xukun, racking in almost 48million votes alone and guarding the number one spot since the first episode.

Nine Percent

Credit: Episode 12 Screenshot

The final nine consists of Cai Xukun (individual trainee) as the group’s center, Chen Linong (A Legend Star Entertainment), Fan Chengcheng (Yuehua Entertainment), Justin (Yuehua Entertainment), Lin Yanjun (Banana Entertainment), Zhu Zhengting (Yuehua Entertainment), Wang Ziyi (Simply Joy Music), Xiao Gui (Guoran Entertainment) and You Zhangjing (Banana Entertainment).

Nine Percent

Credit: Idol Producer Official Weibo

The members have recently returned from their trip to LA where they trained, filmed for their upcoming reality show, 9% Youth, and prepared for their upcoming debut, as well as enjoyed a well-deserved break exploring Universal Studios Hollywood.

After Idol Producer

Debuting as part of the Top Nine is certainly not the end for some of these trainees. With their popularity increasing as a result of the show, some have seen endorsements and gig offers while for others, Idol Producer proved the perfect platform for exposure and to gain loyal fans anticipating more music and the day of their debut.

Just a few weeks after the last episode aired in April, at least three boy groups comprised of Idol Producer trainees have emerged and announced their debut dates.

Qin’s Entertainment announced the upcoming debut of members Yue Yue, Bu Fan, Mu Ziyang and Ling Chao under the name Oner. Capturing the attention of fans with their rap prowess, striking visuals and rich vocals, this group is set to debut in August this year.

Tugging at the hearts of fans with their perseverance to stand on stage and their unwavering brotherhood, the five trainees from OACA Entertainment (Qin Fen, Han Mubo, Jing Peiyao, Qin Zimo and Zuo Ye) are set to debut in the near future under the name AWAKEN.

Most recently, Mavericks Entertainment introduced Mr-X, the six-member boy group comprised of Luo Zheng, Li Xikan, Yu Mingjun, Deng Langyi, Sun Fanjie and Lu Chenyu, with their single ‘U&I’.

Yuehua Entertainment also mentioned the possibility of debuting Yuehua OT7 after the three Yuehua members (Fan Chengcheng, Justin and Zhu Zhengting) complete their Nine Percent activities.

Trainee18 from Banana Entertainment has been teasing a new song release soon.

For independent trainee Zhou Rui, the popularity of his ‘小半’ (Stomach) performance, where his ethereal and fairy-like beauty had fellow trainees and even mentors captivated, coupled with his strong vocals and unique personality, garnered subsequent photo shoot and interview offers after his elimination. This trainee certainly proved that you do not necessarily need a company backing you up to conquer China’s magazine and modeling industry.

Zhou Rui and fellow Idol Producer trainee Jeffrey recently won the Best New Trendsetters award from Fashion Pop Night in April, where they also performed their respective self-produced songs.

Some trainees are also known to release music online and this increase in popularity can be seen with Guoran Entertainment’s Zhu Xingjie who released his single ‘失眠夜’ (Sleepless) two days before the last episode aired. The song immediately shot up to number one on QQ Music’s popularity ranking.

Most recently, the multi-talented trainee emerged as number one on the weekly idol ranking on NetEase Music (one of China’s biggest music streaming site) beating Nine Percent’s center Cai Xukun and Chen Linong who finished at number two and three respectively.

Zhu Xingjie has also proven that he is not only a talented rapper, vocalist, dancer, producer (and magician), but that he is also socially and environmentally aware. He was recently invited by China Women’s Development Foundation as the new ambassador of Champion of the Water Alliance/Water Conservation. Honestly, these trainees will never fail to surprise you.

Nine Percent members are also able to continue working with their respective companies and boy groups. This can be seen with Wang Ziyi from boy group BBT, currently of Nine Percent after securing a spot in the Top 9, releasing 热小孩 (roughly translated to ‘Shy Kid’) where he is endearingly referred to as ‘Nine Percent’s Wang Ziyi’.

Although C-pop groups are by no means new, this appears to be the first time in a long while that a platform to showcase and nurture China’s idol talent has garnered such public attention.

As of April, the Chinese version of the popular Produce 101 franchise, which produced idol groups I.O.I and Wanna One in South Korea began airing. Boasting a mentor line up of ex-EXO member Huang Zitao as the ‘Nation’s Producer’, Tiger Hu as the composition instructor, Jason Zhang and S.H.E’s Ella Chen as vocal instructors and Show Lo and UNIQ’s Wang Yibo as dance instructors, Produce 101 China aims to produce the nation’s girl group and revitalise the idol scene in China.

The emergence of a platform to truly shed light into China’s blooming idol talent has created a resurgence of interest in C-pop idol groups and China’s vast range of musical genres in general.

With the popularity of Idol Producer and Produce 101 China and the subsequent groups created through such shows, could this be the idol revolution China has been looking for?