Two musically inclined freshmen meet on their first day at Mackendrick Preparatory High School, an East Coast boarding school. Sun Hi (Megan Lee) is highly caffeinated and forever filming herself on her phone, providing updates to the fans she doesn’t yet have. Jodi (Louriza Tronco), who comes “by way of Red Hook, Brooklyn,” dresses stylishly and is a cold realist.
Naturally, they’re roommates, and naturally, a huge adventure awaits them. On “Make It Pop,” which begins Monday at 7 p.m. and will air each weekday on Nickelodeon for a 20-episode run, they begin making music, despite the fact that the school doesn’t support them, provide them rehearsal space or think they dress appropriately. And initially, despite a third roommate, Corki (Erika Tham), a violin-playing striver with an overbearing father – “I’m here to study hard and get into an American university,” she says.
Of course, Corki is a natural performer underneath her lab coat. Once she’s swayed by the others, they form a group called XO-IQ that’s loosely K-pop in style.
Loosely, because like much of K-pop - shorthand for the often Day-Glo Korean pop music world – it’s got meaningful flecks of club music, R&B and hip-hop. Loosely, because while the music on the show has a heap of the saccharine energy that often permeates the genre, it could just as easily be billed as American pop. Loosely, because it’s easy to advertise a show as K-pop-influenced when its three leads have Asian heritage (not a thing to be overlooked, even on strategically diverse Nickelodeon).
The fourth member of the group is Caleb (Dale Whibley), a gawky DJ/producer who makes clumsy, silly electronic music, which is a perfect fit for the girls’ strangle-tight harmonizing about friendship and fame. (See songs like “Spotlightz” and “Now I Am Here.”)
“Make It Pop” is logic-defying in that children’s TV way – why does this prep school give Caleb a room of his own but cram the three musically minded Asian girls all together? This is also a school in which the freshmen are far cooler than the seniors, most of whom seem to be dim jocks.
That, though, is probably just a reflection of the speed with which the new cool is blocking out the old. And K-pop’s takeover may be imminent. The introduction of “Make It Pop” is a reflection of the music’s widening importance and reach, and also its traction with young America.
But not all of K-pop’s glitter is real. Lee has some relevant history here – last year she sued her Korean label, Soul Shop Entertainment, to nullify her contract, alleging verbal abuse and that the label entered her into projects without her consent. She won the lawsuit, not long after “Make It Pop” was announced. Maybe Lee realized that playing a K-pop aspirant on an American children’s show was preferable to being one in real life.