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Netflix’s ‘Take 1’ Review: A Showcase of Performances From South Korea’s Most Legendary Music Artists

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“What if you had only one chance to present a perfect performance before you died?” That’s the question a selection of renowned South Korean musicians must grapple with in Netflix’s new show “Take 1” that premiered on Oct. 14. 

The list of musicians involved include Sumi Jo, Lena Park, girl group MAMAMOO, Jung Ji-hoon, sibling duo AKMU, You Hee-yeol and Yim Jae-beom. Each episode focuses on a specific artist or group, and films the operation of putting together their own respective show before showcasing the finished product. 

The artists are given only one stipulation: they have to do it all in one take. A daunting task indeed, but the seven artists featured in the heartfelt docuseries display their thought processes and emotions towards putting on the most significant performance of their lives. 

To make matters even more nerve-racking, they are given a clock that marks down the hours until the show must go on. If any difficulties arise — such as technical or wardrobe malfunctions — the artists must continue performing as is. 

For some, this is an opportunity that they have been waiting for. For others, it is a revival of their careers that took an emotional toll on their mental states.

One of the most eccentric performances was in the second episode, which focused on brother-sister duo AKMU. The siblings debuted in 2014 under YG Entertainment and quickly rose to fame. When presented with the challenge at hand, Lee Chan-hyuk — the brother and lyricist of the group — already had a concept in mind. “I had this image as soon as I heard the question,” Lee said. “Two hundred dancers are wearing sunglasses. Lasers. A Trojan horse. Something like an airplane.” He concluded that this concept would best be executed if they performed their hit song “NAKKA,” which was a collaboration with fellow idol IU.

Surprisingly, Lee’s ambitious vision — excluding the horse and lasers — came to fruition thanks to help of Stage Director Seo Young, Director of Choreography Hong Se-jung, 200 background dancers and an ensemble of skydivers who were all part of the project. As opposed to performing for a live audience, AKMU decided to capture their presentation as a music video for a more stylized approach. “To be honest with you, it’s for me to watch. I don’t care what anyone says about my performance,” Lee said. 

Photo from Netflix

In contrast to the electronic pop vibes of “NAKKA,” “Take 1” demonstrates a variety of music genres like opera and soft rock. Most notably Yim Jae-beom —who is revered as South Korea’s best vocalist due to his powerful ballads —was overcome with tears returning to the stage after a six-year hiatus in the third episode. 

After his last performance in 2016 and the passing of his wife in 2017, Yim lost the motivation to sing.

“Those with similar experiences would understand that it’s not something you can easily overcome,” Yim said. “So, I still feel depressed and lonely.” 

Yim didn’t have a particular idea in mind, but he knew he wanted his performance to uplift others. That’s when he realized he would invite the self-employed and first-responders who were affected by COVID-19 to his show as a sign of gratitude for their service. 

His rendition of his hit “This, Too, Shall Pass” was performed at the rooftop of an old apartment complex to emulate current tribulations, despite the building being set to be renovated. Yim wanted it to reflect the intimacy of the performance. However, perhaps it was also a symbol of the reconstruction of hardships into prosperity.

“[The song] gave me so much comfort. I’m glad that it gave us the strength we needed to carry on,” one audience member said. 

“Take 1” is quite different from the usual K-Drama, films or variety shows Neflix usually produces from South Korea. It is a breath of fresh air to witness the dedication and sincerity artists have put into their performances. 

By limiting the amount of takes the singers had, it allowed them to critically think about the impression they wanted to leave if they were to pass. In interviews with the contestants, many of them were less concerned about putting on a huge spectacle. Rather, they focused on crafting an experience that mirrored who they are as musicians, and the obstacles they have endured in life.

MAMAMOO used their performance as a reflection of their career. From their humble beginnings of performing on the street to selling out huge concert venues, the ladies wanted to pay homage to their fans for being with them since their debut. 

When guests arrived at the show, they were given a towel that had a special hand-written message on it and exclusive Polaroids of the group. “We wrapped each gift ourselves,” one of the members said warmly. “These are photos you cannot get anywhere else. So, they mean a lot to us,” another member said.  

These musicians showed their passion for music, not fame or fortune. Although each episode is roughly 50 minutes or longer, viewers comprehend the days that were involved making sure the performances were without flaws. 

While there is no clear announcement of a second season yet, “Take 1” is one of those shows that leave viewers wanting more. It is a great series that causes one to ponder what positive influence they want to leave behind.  

Julissa Ramirez is an Arts & Entertainment Intern for the fall 2022 quarter. She can be reached at