ARTICLE Music Recommendations: Best Rocket Girls 101 Performances


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Written by: Polaris_Tae

Rocket Girls, or Huǒjiàn Shàonǚ (HJSN) 101, is a Chinese girl group formed following the conclusion of the first season of Produce101 China in 2018 consisting of the top 11 ranked trainees from the show, two of which (Wu Xuanyi & Meng Meiqi in particular), belong to the K-pop girl group WJSN. Anyone who follows C-Pop, or even WJSN, would know that the group recently disbanded on the 23rd of June. This was obviously an emotional time for all fans of the group (officially titled 炒粉 (Chǎo fěn) - literally meaning fried noodles). Prior to the announcement of the disbandment concert and the confirmation of their final album, there were a number of rumours floating around from contract extensions, reforming into a new group under Wajijiwa Entertainment and some members re-debuting as a permanent unit, among other things.

In preparation for their disbandment, I have decided to compile together a
list of recommendations of some of my favourite performances by the group, both as a unit and solo, to hopefully convince you to maybe add a song or two to your heavy rotations.

#1- HJSN101 - 'Extraordinary Girl'

"Extraordinary Girl" was released on June 23, 2019, as the 13th track of their most recent studio album "立风" (The Wind). The song is a poppy song about living free of worries without a care in the world. This is probably one of, if not my favourite song by Rocket Girls 101 as it truly encapsulates the feeling of a spring day and not having a care in the world.

I also enjoyed the fact that Yamy's rap verse is not jarring but acts like a natural bridge to process the song into the final verse without it feeling out of place at all, and I'd probably consider this to be one of the best-placed raps on any Rocket Girls 101 song. One other great addition to the track is that the line distribution is almost completely even. This allows even the sub-vocalists within the group a chance to shine, which is often a rare thing for a group so large.

Rocket Girls 101 is a unique case. The group, despite being chosen through a survival program where more often than not the more popular idols regardless of talent usually come out on top, have managed to secure a number of talented vocalists. This is seen in Duan Aojuan, Li Ziting and Meng Meiqi, the latter of whom has really managed to come into her own and showcases her vocal ability to her fullest when compared to her earlier releases with WJSN. They also have a solid rapper in the form of Yamy, as well as a jack-of-all-trades Sunnee. Through this combination, HJSN101 have been able to establish themselves as one of the most promising idol groups to debut within China's slowly developing idol group market following its surge in popularity after the formation and debut of NINE PERCENT in 2018.

This performance was held at the end of 2019 during the Tencent Video All-Star Awards, which I happened to stream live (Never again! 4+ hrs of my life - wasted, I blame Wang Yibo). The group was invited to the awards ceremony alongside R1SE, their junior group that had just debuted following their creation through Produce Camp 2019 (PD101 China Season 2) where they performed a collaboration stage together and then another song from each of their discographies. For Rocket Girls, this meant performing "Extraordinary Girls", one of my personal favourite songs by them.

#2- Meng Meiqi & Zhou Zhennan - 'C'

"C" is the latest collaboration between Meng Meiqi and Zhou Zhennan of R1SE, the group formed by the 2nd season of Produce101 China (which was renamed in season 2 to Produce Camp) - a huge star in his own right. The pair have often collaborated in magazine photoshoots, their most recent being a fantasy style photoshoot for VOGUEme, and a number of collaboration stages with each of their respective groups. This is, however, their first musical collaboration together.

They both finished their respective seasons of PD101 ranked #1, thus becoming the centre of their respective groups. This song details the honour and prestige that the "centre" of the Chinese Produce series has and how if you want to be the centre, you can't just be a passive competitor - you have to work for it. Meiqi actually displays quite a different aesthetic in this video to her classic fresh look when compared to her group promotions with Rocket Girls. We are introduced to the pair dressed in black and white respectively. The song has an experimental RnB instrumental that adds a sensual tone to two idols that we likely wouldn't expect from based on their group activities. However, based on their solo discography — Meng Meiqi with "JIANG" & Zhou Zhennan with "Love" & "Desire" — it perfectly fits their solo images as this is the image they often display to the public in their solo work. Zhou Zhennan in a corset and Meng Meiqi in a jumpsuit is a bonus!

#3- HJSN101 - 'Dálābēngba'

The group first performed Dálābēngba during their concert tour throughout 2018-19. The song is a cover of the single by Vocaloid artists Luo Tianyi & YANHE. A song about heroes with extremely long names — the main subject's name is Dalabengba Bandebedi Boduobiluweng for instance — the performance features the group dressed up in lolita-inspired clothing as they perform the song in front of a venue full of enthusiastic fans. This is also probably my second favourite rendition of Dálābēngba that is not performed by -- or alongside — Luo Tianyi (this is my favourite rendition for anyone interested) that I've seen thus far! The song has an extremely long introduction -- at almost 2 min 45 sec -- but once the song begins the addictiveness of the song sucks you in so much that you will never want to take the song off repeat ever again. Meng Meiqi actually breaks the lightstick prop that was given to her early in the performance but manages to pull off the performance as if it's nothing out of the ordinary and gives an absolutely stunning performance all-round! I found that this performance in particular suits both Duan Aojuan and Lai Meiyun perfectly. Aojuan manages to bring a youthful quality to the song that others just didn't quite manage, whereas Lai Meiyun has the perfect image overall to pull off the concept that the group was going for in this performance — think, Sailor Moon but with lolita outfits and lightsticks instead of Japanese uniforms and metal tiaras. Overall, this is a great performance that will likely stay as one of my most played performances by them even years after Rocket Girls' disbandment.

#4- HJSN101 - 'The Queen & The Dreams'

Rocket Girls performed "The Queen & The Dreams" as their first performance at "We Are Blazing", which is a Chinese performance-based show — produced by the Chinese media powerhouse Tencent — which is similar in format to M-net's "Queendom" where groups compete against one another every week to see which performance is the best, which after a number of knockout rounds, will eventually culminate in there being only one winner. The group entered the competition late -- during the third round — as a wildcard following the shock elimination of SING女团 the week before and went head-on against their junior group R1SE. Ultimately they lost the round and R1SE came out as victors, as R1SE were likely given more time to prepare — due to their participation in the show from its inception — and performed a completely self-produced performance thus accomplishing the intended mission of the 3rd round (the "Killing Part" mission) which is what likely resonated with the audience and judges alike.

However, despite not displaying a killing part to the audience in this episode, I found that their entire performance of this song was, in itself, a "Killing Part". There isn't a single moment throughout the entirety of the girls' performance where you feel that they are lacking.

#5- HJSN101 - 'Sailor Moon'

"Sailor Moon" was a song that was included in the group's debut EP "Collide" released on the 18th of August, 2018. I find that "Sailor Moon" is one of those songs where the studio version of the song just doesn't do their vocals — or the song itself — any justice, as it just sounds overproduced and messy. However, when the song is performed live, it's a different matter entirely. This specific performance was done at the Zhejiang TV Tmall 6/18 Super Gala and is one of my favourite performances of the song, as we've seen them go from absolutely tiny venues when first performing this song, to stages large enough for over 100 people to be able to stand beside them and still not encroach on their space! This performance adds a small retro style intro that -- while I was live streaming this — added major anticipation towards who exactly was the next performer, which turned out to be my all-time favourite (and only) girl group! Though this stage, you can tell that -- while mostly bare of visual and special effects — Alibaba (and ZJTV) did not disappoint when it came to the camera angles and microphones -- which, for anyone who has ever seen a snippet of Rocket Girls early performances (such as the earlier linked QQ performance), will greatly appreciate. Overall, this is likely one of my favourite performances of "Sailor Moon", as it showcases just how good the song can be when performed live.

#6- HJSN101- 'Rampage To The Next Stop'

Read the lyrics here (translated by Vanilla Cupcake for Hallyu+)

"Rampage To The Next Stop" was released on January 14, 2019, as a single in conjunction with the first season of the group's reality show "Roaring 20's". They performed this song during their set for the Hunan TV New Year's Eve gala on the 31st of December, 2019. This performance is probably one of my all-time favourites from the group as it showcases both their unique personalities and their all-rounded skill as performers — showing how far they've come in just a few short years. From a group that is made up of majority main vocalist material — Fu Jing, Li Ziting, Zining, Meng Meiqi, Duan Aojuan & Lai Meiyun — this song perfectly shows just how great their vocals and overall performing ability is, especially when given a more substantial budget allowing the members to express their vocal ability without it sounding low-quality. This performance is a video that regardless of how long it's been, I will keep going back to it. Just like Dálābēngba, it has an addictive quality that will leave you unsatisfied with just one listen, especially once you seed that addictive drum intro with each of the members walking onto the main stage as if they owned the place!

#7- HJSN101 - 'Calorie'

Read the lyrics here (translated by Sunflower for Hallyu+)

"Calorie" is arguably HJSN's most well-known song and it served as the OST for the hit Chinese film "Hello Mr. Billionare". The song itself is an inspirational electro-pop dance track that serves to motivate the listener into losing calories — however not in a harsh way — as the group talks about having large appetites and low motivation (in regards to exercise) and attempting to lose weight despite that. This performance, along with the earlier listed "Sailor Moon", was the group's final scheduled performance together before their disbandment on the 23rd of June. I could say that I'm satisfied, as it was a great performance -- however, I just wish that they had performed some of their newer songs as well. One that obviously stands out to me would be "Shh! I'm Telling You" from their final album "Hello · Goodbye". Nevertheless, it was a great performance that wasn't lacking in quality one bit!

#8- HJSN101- 'Pick Me Up'

"Pick Me Up" is the survival group song that all C-pop survival shows want to try to emulate when producing theme songs for their show. It has both a fantastic hook in "Pick me, pick me up ~" and a great dance that, when combined together, make for an addictive combination. "Pick Me Up" was also incidentally, the first song that the group performed as a group after they were formed on Produce101 China, and as such, remains one of the staples of the group's discography, despite likely remaining an earworm for anyone exposed to the Produce101 China franchise, considering that there was an entire episode dedicated to the song. Nevertheless, it deserves a place on this list simply due to the happiness and euphoria that is visible on each of the member's faces, plus we finally got to see the song performed by only the debuting group, which is a sight within itself!

In Conclusion, I will deeply miss Rocket Girls as they filled a space in my heart that I just did not find when attempting to get into K-pop girl groups. I wish them all the success in the future, both solo and in whatever group they may find themselves a part of next. I expect Lai Meiyun to rejoin SING女团 after the expiration of her contract, Meng Meiqi & Wu Xuanyi may rejoin WJSN, though knowing Duhua, Yuehua Entertainment's CEO, she'll likely want to keep them in China to milk them of all their worth (which she does has a track record of). One member whose future is currently up in the air, however, is Zhang Zining who was a part of the C-pop group Mera prior to Produce101 China. The group has continued to promote for the two years that she was out of commission while in Rocket Girls. I assume that she will likely announce her official departure from the group and either leave Mavericks or become a soloist under the company. However, there is one positive out of their disbandment, they'll finally be free from Wajijiwa Entertainment, which is considered to be one of the worst companies to be under in the Chinese idol industry — unless of course, the rumours that some of the members signing with Wajijiwa following the disbandment of HJSN101 are to be believed. Nevertheless, I wish them the best and hope they see as much success apart as they did when they were a group.

PROOFREAD BY: @Dragon of the West

Special thanks to Vanilla Cupcake & Sunflower from H+ translations!
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