Apologies regarding how long this post has taken. The first part of the next round’s rundown should be out shortly!
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 2 – RE-BORN
Round 2 was broadcast over episode 4 and 5 of the new season, occuring on the 22nd and 29th of April. The brief of Round 2 was titled ‘RE-BORN’, which each group got the opportunity to cover a song released by a fellow participant. Each group had the opportunity to not only recreate a fellow group’s song as their own, but also perform it on stage.
Per usual, live voting opened after the 5th episode to allows for fans to vote for their favourite stages. YouTube views, epert ranking and self-evaluation were taken into account for this round.
I will be reviewing the performances based on who went first, and will be looking at song arrangement, concept and choreography for this round.
The Stealer (The Scene) – SF9
Original artist: The Boyz
I really like how SF9 transformed The Stealer. The new instrumental is made of distinct sounding pieces that all piece together to bring you a suspenseful performance. The performance may be influencing my perception of this, however I think it was well executed. The new instrumentation starts off with Rowoon (welcome back to Rowoon, who has been absent from the performances due to an injury) and Dawon with a really slow and sensual introduction, brought to life with their smooth vocals. Jaeyoon, Youngbin, Yoo Taeyang and Inseong follows up with the first verse of the original song, over an instrumentation that feels like like subtly suspense moments before an unexpected action season in movies. The chorus comes into play and we get an R&B influenced dance instrumentation here. Zuho starts off the second verse, rapping in an angsty way to match his fight scene on stage. The instrumentation kicks up a notch here, becoming more upbeat. Chani follows up briefly, before an instrumental break comes into play featuring funky guitars. Inseong and Hwiyoung’s solo parts brings some stillness to the song and unnerving energy, which is ultimately followed up with an electrifying dance sequence and a final chorus sequence that brings everything together into one. All the vocal work and the rapping reflected well with the different sequences. And while SF9’s style was definitely featured throughout this performance, the original essence of The Stealer was not lost.
Concept-wise, SF9’s visual take on The Stealer was one of the best of the round. The members are all working together as part of a gang to steal the crown that was locked away at the start. And as part of the storyline of stealing that crown, fighting is invovled to get that crown in their hands. Regarding staging, you can tell that FNC Entertainment and SF9 are no longer bound by any financial constraints. You can tell that they really went all out with this performance. I really like the shipping container set-up they had in the background, giving the stage that edgy persona. Their outfits (and in the case of Daewon and Jaeyoon – lack thereof), the props and some of the special effects (tourching someone on fire and shooting at one of the stage structures to make it fall down) all created a really cool and intense atmosphere.
And you cannot talk about this stage without talking about the choreography. I really liked how they creatively choreographed the fight scenes into the routine, especially when it came to Zuho’s solo. That was an amazing sequence. So was the dance break, which saw flips from Chani, Youngbin and Yoo Taeyang. We also saw more cool fight scenes invovling Jaeyoon and Zuho afterwards, topping everything we saw previously in this performance.
O Sole Mio (The Red Wedding) – The Boyz
Original Artist: SF9
We all probably know O Sole Mio for being a Latin influenced song in SF9’s discography. So it was interesting to see how The Boyz would transform it. What I really liked about this version is that it didn’t stray away from its original style. Instead, it seems to concentrate it, tapping into the world of tango. This was a fresh take on the song without it going into any foreign territory or lose the aesthetic of the original version. While the first verse and chorus felt the same as the original, Sunwoo’s rapping is where this version started to have it own appeal. His rap sequence was so clean and well-executed, giving The Boyz’s version an edgy vibe. From then on, the song became The Boyz’s. I really like how they substituted the second chorus for an instrumental piece to fit in a dance break. This is followed by another dance break featuring Juyeon and the female dancer that brings together some tango and the theme of Games of Thrones. The final chorus comes soon after, bringing everything to a climatic ending. Personally, I wished each member got more lines. I noticed a lot of members had a one-liner in this performance. But obviously to fit everything in, some lines probably had to be sacrificed. But aside from that, it was a solid cover.
For the concept, obviously The Red Wedding was the main attraction. I don’t know if there were any Game of Throne references on stage, as I haven’t watched the series at all yet (and probably will never watch it, given my track record of starting TV shows that are big in mainstream pop culture). The emphasis on the colour red and the sun/fire made this a really cool stage to watch. I also really like the idea of the cage, which was a stunning setting for the many dance sequences we saw in this performance.
Performance wise, this is The Boyz’s best one so far on the Kingdom: Legendary War. There were so many cool moments. Firstly, Juyeon and the female dancer’s tango moments I found it so epic when he started to climb the cage. Secondly, the passing of the rod during what was supposed to be the second chorus. Thirdly, the final chorus, with all the members. I really liked how the closeness of the setssurrounding them, lighting and confetti all made the stage look and feel climatic, like the song. Hyunjae’s bow catching at the very end was very sleek as well.
Inception (iKON ver.) – iKON
Original artist: ATEEZ
It isn’t iKON if there wasn’t hip-hop infused into a song, regardless of it being their own or a cover. For iKON’s version of Inception, they really took the round’s rules and transformed Inception into something they would have released. I liked how they kept the first verse as the constant between the original and their version, along with the bridge of the song. Usually, it is the chorus or hook that you would keep intact if you were to make the song your own, as that is what fans and listeners would recongise. But based on how perform this version, you can tell they are confident that fans and listeners (especially ATINYs) would recognise it. For me, I am actually glad that they kept the bridge of the song intact, as it a memorable part of the original that I now recongise and it also builds really well towards the final chorus. Moving along, it is the final seconds of the pre-chorus that iKON’s style peeks through, hyping us towards a hypnotic and different style chorus that is fitting with their stage concept. It also twists the song into something that you would not expect. It doesn’t really capitalise on any of the iconic nature of the original’s chorus, but you must admit that it has its charm. As expected, the song ends with a hype style outro, which is very YG and iKON. It definitely ends the song on an upbeat note. I also like how the final chorus slows down completely at first, emphasising that hypnotic factor that they began with. My only peeve with the performance came during Bobby’s rap sequence. He was out of time and ended up skipping a few lines. I know he was very into the performance and looked like he was enjoying his time. But it is things like this that really stick out and could potentially make or break a performance.
iKON took the opportunity and went with it. Their stage was based on the movie Inception. Go figure! Wow was the reaction I gave when I watched this performance for the first time, especially as the buildings all moved and the road was raised, like in the movie. But if that wasn’t obvious, then spinning top at the end should have been the last clue to give it away. Aside from really cool stage design and technology, I really liked the trippy camera effect that appeared during Bobby’s verse.
Obviously with a new chorus and unique stage design, the original choreography just couldn’t seem to be brought over. It is slightly disappointing. But as soon as iKON inserted their influence into the song, it seemed right that they departed from the original choreography. What iKON ended up doing looked really cool, especially when it came to that complete slow down at the start of the final chorus.
Rhythm Ta (The Awakening of Summer) – ATEEZ
Original artist: iKON
Kicking off ATEEZ’s Rhythm Ta performance is Seonghwa and Wooyoung’s whispering. It was barely audible, but it got me interested in the performance. When it came to the verses, I really liked the exciting energy that you could feel was building up in the background. This is all thanks to ATEEZ’s version having this upbeat and energerised kick to it which I find really appealing. Yeosang’s ‘We’re gon get it, pop it‘ just before the chorus was quite addicting, especially when it layered over dramatic and suspenseful violins. For the chorus, I am not a major fan of the metallic/shrilling synth they used. Though, I acknowledge that it gave a platform for them to show a great performance. I liked how they maintained Rhythm Ta‘s one-liner hook for the chorus, which also allowed to showcase an even more impressive set of moves. The chorus if then followed up with a bit of an instrumental interlude, featuring latin styled brass. This was carried through to Hongjoong’s rap sequence, before rock influences peeked through the vocals parts of the second verse. To me, the odd ball in the performance is the presence of the brass. While I thought it add a nice touch, I think it could have been swapped out for something more electrifying to fit in with the rest of the performance and instrumentation. Both the violins and rock influences returned a little later to followup Hongjoong’s speech (which gave me goosebumps) and complimented the energy and power Jongho was inserting into the song through his vocals and dramatic first high note. For the final chorus, ATEEZ really amped up the instrumentation giving us a chance to witness a really thrilling sequence and Jongho’s second high note. We all know that I am a sucker for high notes, and Jongho’s always are top notch!
For me, I didn’t pick up that this was based on or influenced by Money Heist. Mainly because I haven’t watched the series. But even without knowing it was based on Money Heist, you can tell that ATEEZ clearly portrayed the idea of a heist at the start, stealing back all the art and instruments that were taken away from them. By the end of the video, the group was starting a revolution, opening the eyes of the dancers who were once against the group to be with the group in the final moments, creating a really cool ending for the performance with everyone on board.
Performance wise, charisma from the members came through. Notable mention has to go to San, for his part at the start of the performance and the centre during the final chorus. I also really liked the twists and turns they managed to pull off in the choruses, and how they quickly moved between cameras (evident in the first chorus sequence). The ending, while it was chaotic, was also quite organised, but yet it still actually complimented the intense energy we got. It was a great performance.
Back Door – BTOB
Original artist: Stray Kids
In BTOB’s version of Back Door, I really liked how they mixed four different styles into their version. The song starts off with Changsub, whose sequence brought a bit of rock to the mix. This is followed up by Minhyuk’s sequence which featured a very sensual R&B sequence. Peniel brings in a bit of upbeat and energetic hip-hop flair, before Eunkwang brings in his power vocals during his more pop-ballad like approach to the song. While I like that each member got to show off their own indivdual colours, the performance is at its best when it all four members of BTOB join forces with one another. This occurs when the bridge of Back Door comes into play, combining the pop and rock sequences above to finish the song in a thrilling and exciting manner that iterates to me why Back Door is such a good song. Eunkwang and Changsub’s high notes and harmonies really gave the performance the peak it needed, while I was glad to hear Peniel got more lines than usual!
BTOB’s stage was quite clever. The main concept of the performance is that the four are stars (as they are) getting ready for a great performance. The first half of the stage is a ‘back stage’ setting, as we visit each member preparing for their upcoming stage. I really like how they kept the Back Door knocks in this part, which really keeps that nostalgic factor of Stray Kids song within BTOB’s version. The second half of the stage is when the members are finished getting ready and make their way onto the stage, where a big crowd is awaiting their performance. They proceed to perform like the superstars they are.
The first half of the peroformance didn’t have much choreography. They were committed to the concept of being back stage, and any choreography would have been a little too ‘staged’. The second half was were BTOB showed off their performance skills, bringing some of Stray Kid’s iconic moments within their Back Door routine to their stage (i.e. Minhyuk knocking on the door while Peniel stands in front him, the arches formed by the dancers for BTOB to knock and walk through). And at the very end, we see Minhyuk rip off his singlet, giving the stage its iconic moment in itself. Everything from stage, concept and performance was amazing to watch and it is the main reason why I continually return to this performance each week.
Pray (I’ll Be Your Man) – Stray Kids
Original artist: BTOB
Pray was one track I was hoping would be performed on the show, by BTOB or any of the other participants. It is such a great song, showing off vocals, rapping and performance skills in one succinct 3 minute hit. Stray Kids brings a mashed up dance and orchestral touch to their version, more so than the original version by BTOB. It isn’t a mind-blowing or innovative combination, but managed to hit the brief with the song. The song starts off with Seungmin’s vocals, who successfully pulls off the first impressive set of vocals. Han Jisung follows up with more vocals, surprising everyone with his vocal ability despite being a rapper of the group. A geniune surprise for those who may not be all too familiar with the rest of the group. Changbin follows with a very emotionally charged rap sequence that really steals your attention. The chorus comes into play and is brought to life by Han Jisung and Lee Know. For the second verse, the rappers (Jisung and Changbin) return and they captialise on Felix’s deep voice for this performance, who happens to also voice the Devil in this performance (I believe). A literal smashing instrumental break came upon us before we return to the actual song. Pray’s highlight is the rapping and vocal layering peak, and I am so glad that Stray Kids kept that in its original form. Like how BTOB slayed us back then, Stray Kids does the exact same. It is a pity that I.N voice broke, otherwise I am sure it would have been an amazing high note to end the performance on. I feel that the weakest point of the song arrangement had to be the second verse. I didn’t know what was really happening when Felix voiced the Devil and it felt detached from the rest of the performance. Likewise, I would have liked to see something with a little more energy and intensity for the dance break. Aside from the actual smashing we got, it felt somewhat plain.
For the stage, we are given a story about a young boy. I would have liked a bit more context, as I felt there are gaps in the story. Why was Felix getting dragged my angels? Were they trying to show him becoming possessed by the Devil? But anyway, Felix retrieves a heart and they place it into the young boy’s statue hand to bring the young boy back to life, after he saved Changbin from dying in the past. For what reason they plan on bringing him back for is unclear and hence a bit more context would have been nice.
The choreography was quite good. I liked how they included more to the original choreography. The first half of the performance was more so about the story, while the second half was the actual choreography. I liked the set up of the first chorus. And I like how the members who were not singing and rapping during the bridge were dancing with the dancers, unlike in the original where the BTOB members who were not part of that sequence were just kneeling and praying. The dance break was nice and I really like how they broke the set in their choreography.
And the winner was….
Because I waited around for so long, all the points (mentioned above) were calculated and tallied to give definite rankings for the second round. Below is a table with two columns. The left hand side of the table shows the ranking from the show once it was finalised, while the right hand side of the table shows the my personal ranking of teams.
Do you agree with my rankings, or the shows rankings? Comment below and let me know! If you disagree, comment your ranking below as well!
|Ranking||Kingdom: Legendary War Final Ranking for Round 2||KPOPREVIEWED’s Ranking|
|4th||Stray Kids||Stray Kids|
Previously: Kingdom: Legendary War Review – Round 1 – To The World
Next up: Kingdom: Legendary War Review – Round 3A – Collaboration