Apologies regarding how long this post has taken. The next round’s rundown should be out this week!
Earlier this month, Kingdom: Legendary War began its run, pitting six well known and high performing male groups against one another for the throne. The Boyz, winner of the prequel season Road To Kingdom last year, is featured as one of these male groups. During the 2020 MAMA Awards, it was confirmed that Stray Kids and ATEEZ will be participating. And in January 2021, it was also confirmed that iKON, BTOB and SF9 will be joining the lineup. It was also confirmed that TVXQ (a name in the industry worthy of the Kingdom title without a doubt) will be hosting, but this was later reduced to just Max Changmin, as Yunho was involved in a scandal and was edited out as much as possible (and will not make an appearance in future rounds).
As I have reviewed part of Queendom and all of Road To Kingdom, I will also be reviewing the stages of Kingdom: Legendary War, recapping the high caliber performances from each round and also putting forward my thoughts on what the ranking should have been for that round.
Round 1 – To The World
Round 1 was broadcast over episode 2 and 3 of the new season, occuring on the 8th and 15th April. Round 1 is titled ‘To The World‘. In this round, the groups are able to performed a revamped version of one or two of their past hits. Included alongside the revamped version, the groups also had the opportunity to bring them to life with never seen before stages.
After the broadcast of episode 3, live voting opened allowing fans to vote for their favourite performance. The official results of that will be shown at the end of this post, along with my personal ranking from this round.
Round 1 was unfortuate quite problematic thanks to a communication error between MNET and the indivdual companies. Only three of the six companies were notified that the budget for the round was increased. Watching the performances below, you can see three of the performances utilising the extra cash, while the other three performances did not (as they were not aware). Obviously, this raised concerned regarding bias behind the scenes, which MNET has denied and apologised for. Rules were altered for subsequent rounds. While I will try to consider this issue in my ranking, I will admit it will be hard given how bold and high calibre the advantaged performances were. But I will try my best.
I will be reviewing the performances based on who went first, and will be looking at song arrangement, concept and choreography for this round.
No Air (A Song of Fire and Ice) – The Boyz
First up, I am so happy that The Boyz (or someone in the competition) chose to perform No Air. It is one of my favourites. I really enjoyed the dramatic and theatric side of the arrangement, thanks to the use of the classical instrumentation. It is very different from their electronic synths they used in the original version. I also like how different the song sounded on the vocal front, with the changes also affecting the member’s delivery of their vocal and rapping line. For the most part, I really liked the softer moments of the arrangement and few growls. But I am disappointed by the lack of the impactful ‘No Air‘ hook. It was altered to fit in with the song, but briefly. But it just doesn’t have the same effect. I wished that was retained that resembles the highlight version, keeping to this more dramatic flair the arrangement had opted for.
As for the concept, I am not exactly sure what they are going with. My best guess, and this comes after their Round 2 performance, is that they are going with a Games of Throne concept. I never watched the series (I know, feel free to gasp), so I can’t really make much of an association between show and stage. I really enjoyed the ice and snow side of the performance, represented by the snow and the blue on the screen behind them, while fire was represented by the flaming props and orange red colour we see on screen. I also really enjoyed how the members interacted with said props.
As for the choreography, I thought it was good but not best of the bunch. There really wasn’t much in the performance that stood out for me, when I compare this performance to the other performances. But there were some memorable moments including the gracefulness and elegance of the first chorus, the lineup of members that appeared in the second verse with the female jewelled hand, and Juyeon’s performance with the white sheet. Noticeably absent were the stunts that The Boyz commonly does.
Love Scenario & Killing Me (Kingdom Version) – iKON
IKON is one of the two groups in the competition to blend two of their own songs for this round. The first half was Love Scenario, which started off as a passionate performance. But when the iconic chorus comes into play, iKON takes an unexpected turn towards a really happy and upbeat version of their infamous song. I am very used to seeing iKON in hip-hop mode and not musical mode. The second half of the performance, after some thunder and sirens, takes a turn. Gone are the happy tunes and hello serious and moody tunes. iKON brings in Killing Me, which already has me excited as that is my favourite title track from them. While the second half had dynamism, I wished they did more on the music front. Like their remix of the song and the parts picked from the original were all great. I just wished they had upgraded Killing Me‘s killing parts and also find a way to tie the elements of this part together in a neater fashion.
Their concept is pretty straight forward. Musical influenced at the start and grungy boy band in the second half. While iKON was on the performances that got the short end of the stick, they made good use of the props to really showcase those two profiles.
Another great performance. We got to see really upbeat moves that fit that musical profile that Love Scenario opted for. We got to see really dynamic moves for the second half, fitting for Killing Me and its remix. I did wish they didn’t opt for the anthem style approach for the latter part of Killing Me. I know they did it in the original, but I think it could have been upgraded, as well.
Missing You (Threatre Version) – BTOB
Expectations were high for BTOB’s performance. And I think they really hit those expectations. BTOB also went for a theatrical version of Missing You, but also maintains the balladry side of the song. Interestingly, they didn’t do a whole lot to the song to give it a new face lift. There were still some new and different aspects to this version, compared to the original. But what I loved about this performance was how it still gave off that same warm and soothing impression, just like the original did. I liked how they incorporated various additional instruments into the song’s instrumental (I think there was a mix of contemporary and folksy instrumentation add to the song). I also liked how they gave each a member a distinct part. Eunkwang and Changsub showing off their vocals. Minhyuk and Peniel adding their passionate rapping to the mix. The harmonies between the members helped make this stunning performance.
Concept wise, I think the group brought in a mix of traditional Korean imagery and added that theatrical aspect to the performance. It really isn’t anything special, but the stage still looks quite aesthetic. From the trees to the screens, BTOB made good use of what they had to make it look beautiful. I also really like their traditional styled outfits.
There wasn’t much choreography for this performance. BTOB opted to focus on vocals, which was the main point of the original song though. However, Missing You‘s sign language choreography made it into this performance and Minhyuk had a really strong showing of his performance skills when it came to that sword-fighting scene.
Jasin (Oneself ‘Ja’, Ghost ‘Sin’) – Stray Kids
Songs: Side Effects & God’s Menu
Stray Kids was the second and final group to combine two songs into the one performance. The first half of the performance was dedicated to Side Effects, which was a rearranged into a really eerie and haunting sequence. I wished it was longer as this was a whole different energy to the original version of Side Effects. The whipsery vocals and rapping of the original version were brought into this version untouched, showing how fitting their delivery is for this new side. In particular, Felix’s deep voice was made for this! Side Effects was brief, however. The main spectacle of this performance was God’s Menu, which they really intensifed in this arrangement, especially when we were first thrown into it. I liked how the rest of the performance, the amplified instrumentation kept us on the edge of our seat (or on out toes), adding a thrilling element to what already was a striking song to begin with. Side Effects returned briefly before the performance wrapped up, bringing in its killing part alongside God’s Menu, which makes this powerful and energetic performance to watch.
I really like the controlling concept. The first half of the performance, we see the dancers controlling the members. We see the dancers control Lee Know’s moves, hypnotize Jisung and act as puppet masters. However, Felix fiinds a bell that breaks whatever spell they are under. The playing field switches with the members controlling the dancers in the second half. I also like how they designed the sets to really keep us captivated.
The dancers played a very big part in this choreography. Not only do they have a role in the concept, they also make the performance whole. Without them, the members would not have been able to pull off that epic entrance for God’s Menu, which the dancers popping up under that massive white sheet. Bangchan’s solo part was also very iconic, with that dancer upside down and mimicking Bangchan’s moves as if there were two seperate parallel worlds.
Symphony No.9 (From the Wonderland) – ATEEZ
When it came to ATEEZ’s stage, I really liked the theatrical aspect of their arrangement. It just felt so fitting for Wonderland and made the stage quite memorable just from the song itself. It also gave the performance a more impactful level of nostalgia. I also liked that they didn’t change too much with the performance. It didn’t feel over-engineered or over-produced, which could be the case when you try to recreate another version of the song. They maintained the various effects and vibes that came off the 2019 version, but they did add some new parts and pauses to enable a story to be told on stage. I also liked the party remix towards the end. But what made this stage of Wonderland explosive were the vocals and raps from each member. The rapping start of the song courtesy of Hongjoong was so powerful and energetic. The rest of the members were extremely clear and crisp in this live performance. But the standout member has to be Jongho, who blew us all away with a surprising high note that even shocked the other contestants of the show.
ATEEZ’s concept for this stage was definitely the pirates and the Seven Seas. Defintive clues of this was the pirate ship they used as the main backdrop to their stage, the treasure map at the start of the performance and the massive octupus tentacle that surprised and wowed everyone. I also find the start of the performance quite mysterious, and liked how they used one of their previous concepts from their TREASURE era. It seems like these pirates are trying to find something that they have been contracted to do.
As mentioned earlier, I really liked how they weaved the story in the choreography as well. It definitely made for an interesting stage. The first verse and chorus was mainly to set the scene and also incorporated the original choreography, before the second verse and onwards changed things up a bit to make the story progress and provide that ‘new’ element to the performance (i.e. an alternate choreography for the remixed sequence at the end). I iwshed they changed it up sooner, as the start was kind of meh for me. The most impressive part of the routine was Jongho and Yunho’s spin.
Jealous – SF9
The final performance of the night was SF9’s Jealous (otherwise known as Now or Never). I am so glad they picked this song to be their stage, as it is too my favourite release from the group. Unfortuately, I think this version of Now or Never was the weakest arrangement of the bunch, and it doesn’t do the original version justice. It attempted to be thrilling and alluring with its subtle instrumentation mix at the start, the use of violins in the second verse and then its intense electronic sequence at the end. But the resulting product felt pretty bland. I didn’t get the same captivating or ‘edge of my seat’ experience as I did with the other performances. The vocal work was good, and the rapping had a promising factor to it. But I think the arrangement could have been better executed. Something electrifying would have been nice especially towards the end could have reinvented the energy, done justice to the original and given the arrangement that zing it needed.
Concept wise, this performance was also the weakest of the bunch. I wasn’t sure what the concept was, aside from the fact that mirrors played a massive part. It is quite unfortuate that SF9 got the shortest end of the short stick, given how shockingly poor the entire performance looked (and it is not SF9’s fault). From their lack of props to cheap looking outfits to the poor camera work, the performance did not hit the aesthetic standard. I did like the use of the two-way mirrors, which gave the performance that element of wow.
The choreography was good. Not the best, but it was the best element of their stage performance. Chani’s solo part with the female dancer gave the routine a sensual touch. I also liked that they brought over some of the original choreography, which made the routine feel familiar.
And the winner is…
We don’t know who the real winners of this round are. We are still awaiting official final rankings, though I suspect MNET might hold off on that. MNET has, however, released the results of each category that would make up the final ranking. Below are these results that have been officially announced, and the fifith column is what I think the final ranking should be like based on my own thoughts.
|Ranking||Expert Evalution||Self Evaulation||Video Views||Global Voting||KPOPREVIEWED’s FINAL Ranking|
|1||ATEEZ||ATEEZ||Stray Kids||Stray Kids||Stray Kids|
|3||The Boyz||Stray Kids||ATEEZ||iKON||BTOB|
|5||BTOB||iKON||The Boyz||ATEEZ||The Boyz|
Do you agree with me? Or do you agree with the show’s interim category ranking? Or do you have a different order in mind? Let me know in the comments!
Previously: Kingdom: Legendary War Review – 100 Seconds Performances
Next up: Kingdom: Legendary War Review – Round 2 – RE:BORN