Street Woman Fighter, if you’re not already aware, is much closer in lineage to Unpretty Rapstar than to some other Mnet “competition” shows. Mainly in that it really doesn’t matter who “wins”; just being casted has proved to be a boon to every participant’s career. So to talk about Street Woman Fighter’s penultimate episode as some sort of peak for the series is a recipe for folly. And no one is more aware of this than Mnet, who choose to spend more time self-congratulating themselves than to building a satisfying conclusion.
But for the sake of content we’ll entertain Mnet’s self-pleasure.
The episode starts with everyone gathered back at the studio, including eliminated crews and some celebrities like Sunmi and Chungha. The season is quickly recapped with all sorts of statistics on how everyone loves the show and how women dancers would never find respect in the industry without the benevolent graces of Mnet. Kang Daniel then explains finals are entirely up to votes from the general public, with 30% coming from the online voting leading up to the finale and the other 70% coming from live text voting. The results of the online vote are then revealed:
- HolyBang – 300 points
- HOOK – 290 points
- LACHICA – 280 points
- CocaNButter – 270 points
After some pre-recorded fan service featuring their counterparts from Street Gag Woman Fighter, yet another retrospective montage is broadcast, with all the contestants talking about how much SWF has changed their lives yada yada yada.
The final mission is a two-parter. The Performance Song Mission will be a special stage where each crew will perform to an original song gifted to them by a celebrity guest. The Color of Crew Mission will be a no-holds barred performance showing the unique characteristics of each crew.
LACHICA is first up. We’re shown footage from a few days prior, with LACHICA in the studio wondering who their celebrity benefactor might be. After some pipe-dream conjecture it’s revealed that it is, of course, their old friend Chungha. No wonder why she couldn’t come to the show earlier, they were saving her for the finale! Chungha takes them to her studio and shares her song with the crew. Rian faints with joy, Gabee tears up, and they prepare for the performance.
“Bad Girl” sounds kind of like a minor-league version of BoA‘s “Better” (by no means a bad thing) but with more space in the arrangement for a dance performance. Disappointingly, Chungha doesn’t join in with the actual dancing, appearing from stage right to sing along as the LACHICA girls do their thing.
CocaNButter are next, and they meet their special guest, CL, at the studio. She’s happy to gift them a song, as well as costumes for the performance. They go back and forth on the arrangement, and CL even calls up the producer of the song to make adjustments. Can I just say I am enjoying CL living her best life as of recent? Because I am.
“Caviar” is like “Doctor Pepper” 2.0 and even outro’s with a rearrangement of “Hello Bitches” for good measure. CocaNButter’s performance features CL in a central role.
HolyBang’s celebrity benefactors for this round are AOMG‘s Simon Dominic and LOCO. HoneyJ has a long history with both artists, having known Simon from Amoeba Culture since her days working with Dynamic Duo, and having first worked with AOMG on LOCO’s 2014 hit “Thinking About You”. They reminisce about days of twerking on variety shows past, and how much the show has changed the conversation around backup dancers.
Simon and LOCO’s song is a hip-hop burner and obviously suits the HolyBang crew well. Taeyong says some nonsense about 808’s, hip-hop and rap that doesn’t make a lick of sense.
HOOK is last up and their guest artist is Sunmi, who looks happy to be out of the Girls Planet dungeon. The song she gifts to them is quite the departure considering the retrowave material she’s been pumping out for the last few years.
“Too Young To Die” has a trappy backbone that would sound right at home in CL’s oeuvre. It definitely fits HOOK’s krumping style. Might be Sunmi’s most interesting song in a while? HOOK do a racecar-themed performance with uniforms that channel Crayon Pop‘s iconic tracksuits; a cool look but not really thematically in-line with the song.
With this portion of the final judgement complete, Kang Daniel announces that CocaNButter are currently still in 4th place. Next is the Color of Crew mission.
LACHICA again gets to show off first. The show flashes back to a photo session for the team, with a surprise for leader Gabee via some video messages of thanks and support from her teammates. They enjoy a quick mukbang session before their big, final performance.
LACHICA get back to their big, brassy energetic selves on a crowd-pleasing performance featuring Destiny’s Child’s “Bills Bills Bills” and Gloria Estefan‘s “Conga”. Gabee‘s hair spin is a nice callback to her first performance, a fun coda to LACHICA’s time on the show.
A mystery person preps a party for CocaNButter. The crew thinks it’s the production crew, but it turns out to be Beebi, their missing member. Beebi is a nurse and couldn’t find time in her work schedule to be a participant on the show, but had been watching and supporting the team from the sidelines.
CocaNButter’s final performance doesn’t take the easy route. Going from hip-hop slow burn into some wobbly EDM dubstep is something only this crew would dare to try. The formations are tight and the synchronization is clean despite the complex signature changes in the music.
Through a collection of their old stage costumes, HolyBang reminisce about their time together as a crew. HoneyJ reflects on her growth as a leader, about how she felt she treated her team too harshly at times. But her team also thanks her for her sacrifice and hard work, saying they wouldn’t have grown as dancers without her.
Their performance has no gimmicks, no tricks. It’s pure hip-hop dance, as only HolyBang can do.
HOOK’s AIKI treats her crew to a massage day before their final performance. They then get energized through some calligraphy and making a goofy TikTok.
Their performance is quite the opposite in intent from a TikTok; an ode to the bond between mothers and daughters is almost something that Prowdmon would’ve come up with. The very pastoral “Mother to Daughter” by Yang Hee Eun is not the first song that comes to mind for a dance adaptation but HOOK makes it work via their experience with theatrical setups.
While tabulating the results, we are subjected to the “Hey Mama” Halloween Practice featuring Taeyong. Not sure how “Hey Mama” became a thing, I’m actually not convinced it actually is, just that Mnet keeps saying it is. My eyes start to glaze over as Mnet continues to shove forced viral content down my gullet like a incarcerated goose being prepped for foie gras. When I regain my sight they’re all playing Just Dance for some reason. The voting period officially ends and we get “Hey Mama” one last time.
It’s finally time to reveal the final, final result.
CocaNButter come in 4th place. LACHICHA in 3rd. And after some teasing and a commercial break, HolyBang is crowned winner, meaning HOOK comes in second.
The flower wreathes and the tears come out as HoneyJ and AIKI thank their collaborators, their fans, the production crew, the rest of the cast, and their teammates for the opportunity to be on the show.
Street Woman Fighter by all metrics was a huge success for MNet: financially, ratings-wise, and a much needed balm for their beleaguered reputation. Ironically, Mnet’s biggest contribution to this success was quickly getting out of their own way; the appeal of the show entirely rested on the strong personalities of the dancers and not any sort of contrived subplot Mnet attempted to install. Lee Chaeyeon was touted as the main character of the first few episodes, but was eventually shown the door the show’s own momentum was enough to sustain itself.
That’s not to say it wasn’t a standard Mnet show. SWF retained all the typical Mnet Reality Program fingerprints: jarring editing, unwieldly amounts of filler content, and unnecessary amounts of pretense. Those watching the show expecting an actual dance battle found instead an awkward competition format and some very subjective judgement calls. But while they flocked to the internet to complain, enough people stuck with it long enough for MNet to drop those aspirations as well.
It was a nice change of pace seeing young artists with such agency. Unlike the Produce series, or even say Unpretty Rapstar, no one’s career was hinging on a victory. At worst, the show could flop and everyone would just have to settle for being the professional choreographers and teachers they had all built successful careers around. At best, well, we’re currently experiencing it. Even Chaeyeon, whose fanbase was extremely worried about her going through the Mnet meat grinder yet again, came out of the show looking pretty alright.
Again, kudos to MNet for getting out of its own way after a few episodes. The weird competition setups and gamesmanship were somewhat memorable but left a bad taste in most people’s mouths. After the first elimination things became much more streamlined and much more about dance and personality and the show became much better for it. The transition from side-eye and shit-talk to hugs, cheers, and tears is almost whiplash-inducing.
And now, when I think back on the best moments of the show, I don’t really think about Chaeyeon getting shit on by the other teams, or clowning on Noze to get the upper hand, or sabotaging YGX by putting them out of the camera’s view. I think about HoneyJ’s aegyo. Prowdmon’s high-concept tomfoolery. AIKI’s motherly instinct. Hyojin Choi unleashing the beast. I remember Rihey‘s Himbos, LipJ‘s mukbang, Monika‘s take-no-shit attitude, Gabee’s softness, Emma‘s sly confidence, Yeojin‘s loyalty, Leejung‘s perseverance.
Street Woman Fighter was at the same time an obvious idea and lightning in a bottle.
Now let’s all be prepared for the concept to be driven right into the ground.
- The first spinoff, Street Dance Girls Fighter, has already begun. I’ll watch the first couple episodes and probably write a thing, but I doubt I’ll cover it for the full season, unless something major happens. I’m glad they’re doing “girls” first versus “Street Man Fighter” or something like that.
- No point in doing a winners / losers, everyone’s a winner on this show lol.
- No more “Hey Mama”. Please. Stop.
- It’s really wild just how popular this show was. The dancers from the show are all over variety and will appear at the majority of the end of year entertainment programming in Korea. I can’t remember the last time Mnet successfully delivered on their hype in such a complete way.