Reality television from the late ’90s to early 2010s was filled with unforgettable moments. Scenes from the early seasons of America’s Next Top Model, Love & Hip Hop, and The Bachelor are still referenced in pop culture today. Drama, conflict, and fist-fights for laughs were often placed at the forefront of captivating television. Reality TV shows from the early 2000s (in particular) were famous for capturing intense moments, public freak-outs, and outrageous lifestyles. From Somethin’ defecating on Flavor Flav’s house stairs on Flavor of Love to Abby Lee Miller’s shouting matches on Dance Moms, the early 2000’s gave us a lot to tune into.

The borderline extraordinary nature of these shows are often expressed in K-Pop music, as these series would often convey advice, lessons, and cautionary tales through customary drama. K-Pop songs echo these sentiments in the contexts of love, friendship and wealth. In honor of the current Y2K resurgence, we look back on popular reality shows with current K-Pop songs as theme songs! “Have several seats” and come along for the ride!

The Real Housewives (Franchise) 

Show Duration: 2008 – Present

The Real Housewives franchise follows a group of women known in part for their famous husbands. Some of the earlier installments focus on housewives from Atlanta, Orange County, New York, and New Jersey. Segments from the show provide a look into the life of each housewife, and their mutual friendships with each other. Popular qualities in the franchise’s earlier seasons include comebacks from Nene Leakes and dinner table arguments from Lisa Rinna. Never before were you able to see a woman slam her prosthetic leg on a table at a dinner party as a sign of dominance! In addition to the juicy plot points and arguments, the personalities of the show’s main women became viewer favorites. As a franchise with some of the most quotable moments (ex. “Even Louis Vuitton makes mistakes”), this guilty pleasure has since had fans tuning in for the conflicts, fashion, and cringe-worthy moments. 

Paralleling the theme of indulgence is MINO’s song “(탕)TANG!” Similar to the sentiments echoed in many other reality shows, this song conveys a sense of affection as a person wishes to shower their significant other with whatever they desire. The song and music video demonstrate different forms of materialistic aspirations, such as money, expensive meals, and clothes, which are all pivotal factors of the Real Housewives franchise. MINO plays into his partner’s possible vanity when he sings lines like “If I show you a copy of my bank statement will you come over?” and “All you like I’ll get the bill.” Extravagance, luxury, and power are expressed all throughout the lyrics of the song, making this a perfect entry as a theme song for the iconic Real Housewives franchise. 


Show Duration: 2004 – 2020

Hold onto your veils, because this one gets wild! In each installment of Bridezillas, the audience follows a couple in the days leading up to their wedding. The brides are highly particular about their requirements for their special day, which often comes at the expense of their family and friends. They tend to lose their cool, lash out at their families, or even call off their weddings. Whether or not these couples are still together, the show tapped into the potential for reality shows to depict the visible stress of planning a wedding. This, in addition to the constant drama, made for entertaining television.

TWICE’s “MORE & MORE” is the perfect K-pop song for Bridezillas. As the title suggests, the song expresses the desire to want more in one’s life. This desire can materialize itself in the form of a person, wealth, happiness, or more. The song celebrates the theme of being unapologetically selfish, “You’re gonna say more, more, more, more, more and more.“ This indulgence ties into the custom ending of each Bridezillas episode, where even though the brides constantly put their grooms through hell, the wedded women (along with their demands) reigned supreme in the end.

College Hill 

Show Duration: 2004-2009

BET’s College Hill documented the cross section between college life and co-ed drama. The show filmed students at historically black colleges having their patience tested as they aimed to complete a full semester while living together all under one roof. Drama stemmed from the misuse of shared facilities, tested friendships, and differences in lifestyles. The unique premise of this show showed viewers how students were able to balance the common factors of reality TV (such as being watched, getting into fights, building relationships, etc) with homework, exams, and attending class. 

EXO’s Xiumin plays upon the subject of building a new start in his 2022 song “Brand New”. Throughout the song, Xiumin shows interest in a “brand new” image to those around him. The phrase of “brand new” itself is constantly echoed throughout the song, signifying his desire to display a fresh representation of himself. This sentiment is repeated in each College Hill installment as well. In addition to creating memorable moments with their respective cast mates, the students aimed to successfully excel in all of their classes, which provided the world an alternative look into the lesser-known responsibilities of popular reality stars.

My Super Sweet 16 

Show Duration: 2005 – 2017

Your birthday was sure to be a dream if it was featured on My Super Sweet 16! Each episode followed a teenager on a mission to have a lavish, over the top Sweet 16 party. With no expense spared, parents gifted expensive cars, celebrity appearances, and entertaining venues in order to please their children. Drama would ensue around ostentatious demands, party crashers, or bad attitudes. Slightly adjacent to the Bridezillas franchise, friends, parents and classmates alike would suffer the wrath of the birthday person if their needs weren’t met. With the primary goal of showing a glimpse into lives of rich families, the show became a launch pad for young teens to show off their money, jewelry, clothes and cars. 

What better way to show off your ice than to ITZY’s “ICY” in the background? In the song (and accompanying music video), the women boast a confident attitude and take the time to show off their various riches to those around them. This bold mindset is demonstrated through lyrics like “It don’t matter, all you haters/Always blah blah” and “Bling bling bling it shines/Like starlights, icy.” It’s no secret that many people love to show out for their birthday parties, but it’s truly interesting to see how far people will go for a happy birthday.

Jersey Shore

Show Duration: 2009 – 2012

“Cabs are here!” Jersey Shore was an instant hit and shot into the pop culture zeitgeist with eight guidos and guidettes spending a summer under one roof together in New Jersey. The majority of the show centered around partying, the housemate’s relationships (both platonic and romantic), and the gym, tan, laundry lifestyle. The insults, public escapades and relatability of the party culture made this one of the most beloved reality shows of the early 2000s. Fans were constantly left wanting more as many fell in love with the relatability of the cast’s indulgence in party culture. The Jersey Shore party culture alone contributed to the show’s most dramatic altercations—including cast member Snooki getting her glasses broken in a bar.

BTS’s “HOME” is the perfect song to get the cast fist-pumping. With its upbeat melody and catchy chants, the song corresponds to the emotions of the castmates. This, along with spending time and dating one another made sticking to their respective responsibilities progressively harder, as raw fun was often prioritized above everything else. The cast’s Seaside Heights house was an equally important plot point, and fits the lyrics “Will you open the door for me /When the doorbell rings three times.” The house is where we saw the true progression of each relationship and heartfelt moments between the members were explored in each room of the house—bathroom included. “HOME” aligns with this idea as well, as the majority of the song explores the joys of being at home with a significant other.

Bad Girls Club

Show Duration: 2006 – 2017

It’s hard to talk about early 2000’s trash TV without mentioning one of the most memorable MTV reality shows of the decade. Bad Girls Club brings a group of young women into a large and lavish mansion with the goal of having them leave as better people. In the earlier seasons, a therapist was even incorporated into the show to have the contestants express the root of their problems. This show is iconic for the conflicts between the women, with fights often originating over usage of the house phone, the movement of personal property, and cleanliness preferences.

“Movie Star” by CIX draws on the show’s portrayal of a visible pecking order between the housemates. The recurring battle between OG’s and Newbies of the house introduced a social hierarchy, which deeply affected one’s treatment in the house. The lyrics “She’s a movie, movie star/The center of this place” tap into the confidence in the original cast masters, which they never failed to express in the house’s confessionals. The collective cost of the casts had a mind of its own, which produced many memorable moments during the intense confrontations. No show has entertained the idea of being “bad” quite like Bad Girls Club.

Fear Factor

Show Duration: 2001- 2006

In every episode, Fear Factor asked its audience “how much can you handle?” The contestants of this show were put into dangerous, scary, and near life-threatening situations in order to test their perseverance and endurance in unusual circumstances. These tests would include isolation with insects, being buried alive, and eating not-so-favorable body parts of animals. With a $50,000 prize, people of all ages tried their hand—and mouth—at attempting to endure a multitude of overwhelming challenges, tackling a variety of fears. Arachnophobia and claustrophobia, for example, were frequently explored in the show.

Here’s where “STRONGER” by NCT DREAM comes in. Although the lyrics seem to take on a more romantic scenario, there is a clear determination to uplift the listener. The word “stronger” is repeated throughout, which accompanies the intense baseline. Part of what motivated Fear Factor contestants was teamwork and gaining self-confidence, which are topics demonstrated in the song.

Charm School

Show Duration: 2007 – 2019

Charm School is another reality show that presents the intention of internal self-improvement. In this show, former contestants of The Flavor of Love franchise completed challenges in hopes of improving their etiquette and manners, indulging in the feminine aesthetic, and becoming kinder women. These challenges would include fashion shows, interacting with men, and public advertisements on busy streets. The show’s host, comedian and actress Mo’nique, guided the women to find their inner well-mannered role model, with fan-favorite Tiffany ‘New York’ Pollard returning to give the women an extra push. Instead of being recognized as eye-candy for viewers and participants in violent altercations, the contestants anticipated a chance to scrub their respective images squeaky clean. However, as is the common culture of early 2000s reality television, the episodes cataloged numerous arguments, disagreements, and broken friendships. Regardless, the girls were here to learn!

STAYC’s “(색안경)Stereotype” serves as the perfect theme song for this show. In the song, the singers make a plea to their partner to not approach them with stereotypes in mind. STAYC note their personal feelings by singing lyrics such as “I know what I look like/Maybe I look pretty/Maybe I am daring” and “I like to stand out/Digest anything…Sometimes even I really don’t know how I feel”, as they approach the topic of being approached based on stereotypes. Additionally, the request “Don’t look with your tinted glasses on” is repeated in the chorus, signifying that there may be completely different people behind their eyes. This signifies their hope to be seen and loved for their inner beauty, which fully encapsulates the theme of Charm School. The song (and Charm School) offer different mediums to establish whether or not a person should be judged based upon their external aesthetics and past. After finding that their various behaviors on The Flavor of Love were less than satisfactory, the women come to a whole new show in hopes of showing the world that they’ve acknowledged their flaws, plan to be better, and want to highlight their own inner charms. 

Total Drama Island 

Show Duration: 2007 -2008

Who says an animated show can’t make for great reality television? Total Drama Islandwas an animated reality show where teen contestants competed to win a large cash prize. The 22 teens were brought to a disgusting camp with deadly wildlife, insects, scarce food, and little to no plumbing—all adding to the difficulty of the completion. This was the first season to kick off the Total Drama franchise, and it has built a large fan following over the years. At Camp Wawanakwa alliances, friendships, love triangles, and betrayal permeated this Y2K gem. The first season of the show was especially memorable, as audiences were introduced to intense conflicts between characters such as Leshawna and Heather and Duncan and Courtney.

“Treasure” by ATEEZ is a song that speaks to the motivation of the contestants of the Total Drama Franchise. Lines such as “I’m desperate, give me some more” and “It calls to us, that treasure” conveys the characters’ unrelenting desire for the $100,000 prize. Just as the sadistic nature of the show’s house seemed to get stronger and stronger each episode, so did that of the players’ determination to achieve the show’s prize. No matter how unsafe, disgusting and (sometimes) lethal each challenge portrayed itself to be, it only pushed each contestant to fight harder to get off of the wretched camp and successfully find their own treasure.

This article is part of EnVi’s Gen Z issue. Get yourself a physical copy here!