Apologies regarding how long this post has taken. The finale rundown should be published by Sunday!
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 3B – NO LIMIT
Round 3 was broadcast over three episodes (Episodes 7, 8 and 9). It was also spilt into two sections. For this post, I will be focusing on the NO LIMIT segment of Round 3. You can see the performance rundown, comparison and results for Round 3A ‘Collaboration’ here.
In this part of the round, each individual group was given the freedom to cover any song they wish. As we are back with six individual performances for each group, I will revert back to the original format of this Special segment.
For this rundown/review of each stage, I will be looking at their song arrangement, concept and overall performance.
Classy Savage – iKON
Original Song/Artist: Pretty Savage – BLACKPINK
There were some slight modifications to the start of iKON’s version of Pretty Savage. You will notice that the instrumentation in iKON’s version has a deeper tone. And some of the lyrics and delivery of lines were changed to fit in with each member’s abilities. I really liked it how they sneakily slipped a swear word into the pre-chorus (in case you didn’t noticed). Expect iKON to do that! The chorus is where the song changes up. I really like the robustness and dynamic percussion alongside the ‘BUM BUM BUM‘ and the new-found intensity the members brought to the ‘You better run run run‘ line in the chorus. The jungle sound inserts (at the start of the song), tribal drumming and cult-like choir we get leading up to the epic featuring of Lisa herself actually worked well with the concept and stage design. I also liked it for the fact it gave a bit of an interesting colour to their version. They maintained their version’s deeper tone when Lisa started her rap sequence, and it made me think that this should have been the tone of BLACKPINK’s version of Pretty Savage to begin with. I think I would have enjoyed the original song more if they had this deep tone to the instrumentation. Following Lisa’s featuring, everything becomes very lively and energetic. I really like the hype feel from the final bit of their stage, which really exuded a lot of energy and made the entire stage more appealing in a last minute pitch.
For the concept, I am not exactly sure how to describe it in one word, so I will split it up. The performance starts with the members watching previous YG performances. (In addition to Winner, BLACKPINK and iKON themselves, we also get some Big Bang – just another hint that these KPOP Kings are working in the background for an upcoming and long awaited comeback). A portal opens up, leading them to this foreign jungle land, before being captured by the people who live there. During the performance, we see the people call upon their Goddess (i.e. Lisa) and the members convert to following this Goddess (hence why their outfits change from casual to golden). I liked the concept and thought it was fun. It is nice to have a less serious concept once in a while.
For the choreography, I didn’t really see anything that new or unfamiliar. They took a number of moves from BLACKPINK’s version and made it look more intense, which fits in with the music. To me, the best bit of the performance has to be Ju-ne’s kick at the end. Other than that, the members relied heavily on stage design and Lisa’s featuring.
God’s DDU-DU DDU-DU – Stray Kids
Original Song/Artist: DDU-DU DDU-DU – BLACKPINK / God’s Menu – Stray Kids
Another BLACKPINK cover, this time Stray Kids is covering BLACKPINK’s debut single, DDU-DU DDU-DU with a surprise. More on that in a bit. Following Felix’s narration and BLACKPINK’s song’s chorus, Changbin comes swinging with his lines. It was an impressive display of his rapping skillset that really sets the bar high for the rest of the performance. The rest of the performance falls into line and continues the momentum that Changbin and the first chorus had set up. I really like the edgy rock feel of the instrumentation that fits so well with BLACKPINK, Stray Kids and the song(s). The next chorus comes along, with a bit of God’s Menu infused into the chorus. How did this occur? Well, God’s Menu has ‘DU DU DU‘ in its chorus, so it was an easy fit. I am glad they didn’t overuse this technique, obviously to preserve BLACKPINK’s song. In addition to the just mentioned, we also get really powerful and dramatic drums, which makes it the cover’s most iconic sequence. I shamelessly rewatch the performance to hear this exact chorus again as it had it all. Felix also brings in some more God’s Menu in his rap sequence, however indirectly, as he
threatens mentions Gordan Ramsay who happens to be a Michelin Star Chef (and this latter term is referred to God’s Menu). For the cover’s final sequence, Stray Kids take it to the next level, coming at you with all of this intense and powerful energy that we have yet to see in the competition. They also managed to integrate their tag line ‘Stray Kids all around the world‘, ending a performance that cleverly reminds you of the group and BLACKPINK as well.
For Stray Kids’ stage, I really like the idea of Deadpool and breaking the fourth wall, which Deadpool is notorious for doing in his movies. Felix starts off the performance by narrating the introduction, while Bangchan introduces the final segment of the performance (really like the humour in Bangchan’s segment, pushing down the JYP speech bubble). Not entirely sure of the massive rice cooker that Felix sits on at the start, but I guess that is reference to God’s Menu. I also really like the use of the camera angles to unveil the van, which Felix had stole the smaller version of earlier in the performance.
Breaking the fourth wall also made it into the performance, with Lee Know smiling in a cute fashion whilst all the guns were pointed at him. As for the rest of the performance, it was a powerful routine combining the likes of DDU-DU DDU-DU and God’s Menu. There were also a bunch of other cool moments, such as Felix’s navigating his way through the red laser lines and the ending sequence which saw the members stomping their way to leave a lasting impression.
Blue Moon (Cinema Ver.) – BTOB
Original Song/Artist: Blue Moon – BTOB
Based on commentary from the MC, BTOB would be competing in this round with their own song and it would be a song that has never been performed on stage before. The song in question is Blue Moon, a single written by Minhyuk from their 11th mini-album, This Is Us. When I compare the two versions, it doesn’t seem like much as changed. The jazzy instrumental was retained. If anything, it does sound like it was amplified for the stage. But I think there was a bit a vocal rearrangement to accommodate for the stage performance and the fact that BTOB has been reduced to four members for the competition. I know for a fact that the raps have been changed, while some of the vocal bits have been altered to allow for harmonies and high notes to come through. To me, standout members for this performance was Minhyuk and Eunkwang. Minhyuk’s rapping in this version has a lot of emotional heft, which reflect well with the story they are telling on stage. His singing was so good, as well. As for Eunkwang, his high notes in the final chorus and ending made me go wow and I shared similar reaction to the other participants of the show. It was a solid performance from the group, with a strong showing of skills from each of the members.
For the concept of the performance, it appears BTOB’s stage is influenced by La La Land. Minhyuk, who is only a staff member on the production, is in love with Miyeon (from (G)I-DLE), who has been enlisted to play the actress in this stage. While the feeling is mutual, I think Minhyuk believes that Miyeon has moved on from him and no longer wants to be with him. Changsub plays the actor in this performance and I loved how his character added a bit of comedic relief to the stage based on the way he looks. Peniel is the director, who is extremely passionate, while Eunkwang is a singer in the production. Fast-forwarding through the stage, Minhyuk makes his thoughts apparent, while Miyeon assures him that she still loves him. They make up and hug (for a moment there, they looked like they were going to kiss) to end the performance. A happy ending for the main characters.
As for the performance aspect, I thought the performance was quite pleasant. Nothing that amazing in terms of choreography, but it was still worth watching. BTOB allowed their vocals and rapping to be the main star, once again emphasising that different dynamic the group was bringing along to the competition from the very start. I liked how the ending came together to be a big song and dance. It is a bit cliché, but it was a nice way to end the performance and bring everything together.
Answer: Ode To Joy – ATEEZ
Original Song/Artist: Answer – ATEEZ
Out of all the stages we saw in this episode, I have to admit that ATEEZ was the most epic and powerful. The energy they brought to the stage in just the music alone for this version of Answer blew me away. They also really knew how to amplify Answer and upgrade it a whole new level. The logical answer to this was a rock instrumentation, given that we all had the feeling that Answer was the perfect vessel for this sound. The post-chorus hook was definitely the original’s best bit and I was grateful that while also intensifying it, they retained the appeal of this section. What was really interesting about this version of Answer was despite the thrilling momentum of the rock sound, they cut it completely to make way for a bit of classical opera. La Poem was featured to deliver this opera. It was a brief interlude before an intense drumming to bring back and rock influences with the opera together. It was the best bit of the performance. Like all the performances of ATEEZ we have seen thus far, Jongho brings in a really cool high note. Not to put pressure on him, however, but I felt it should have been followed up with another high note as the music felt somewhat empty afterwards. I think that would have been this performance’s ‘icing on the cake’ if it had happened. Hongjoong’s rap sequence while blindfolded was the next iconic part of this performance. This performance of Answer hit the mark and showed us that there was no limits in creating this version of this song.
I think the concept was the weakest point of the performance. I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. My best guess, based from the start, is that the white-masked dancers captured one of the members, so ATEEZ and the hat-wearing counterparts went to rescue him from these white-masked bandits. Fighting ensues, but the rescue was successful and the enemies were defeated. I really like how the opera singers were unveiled on stage.
The epicness carried over into their performance. It was super intense, especially in the rock instrumented sequences. I also like the choreographed fight scene in the final moments. I did think it could have been a bit more convincing. I also wished the performance did end on bland feel. We had all this amazing energy preceding it, just to see the member walk up the steps and stare back all serious into the camera.
Move – SF9
Original Song/Artist: Move – Taemin (SHINee)
Monster (Stormborn) – The Boyz
Original Song/Artist: Monster – EXO
The final performance was The Boyz’s take on EXO’s Monster. While the melodies for the vocals parts remained the same between version, the instrumentals for The Boyz’s version was remixed to enable the 11-member male group to perform the song to the calibre of the Kingdom’s stage. And while I do like the performance, I am not a major fan of the shrilly-like synth they had in the chorus. It wasn’t off-putting, but it just didn’t sit right for me. But everything else in their version was good. I really like the rapping, which gave the song a more edgy and powerful touch (which I felt was needed – more on this in a bit). The EDM used for the dance break really showed performance flair and their ability to intensify an pre-existing intense track. I really like the guitar and the melodic drumming (at the end of the instrumental piece) they used in the dance break, which gave the instrumental break an interesting centre-piece. I think if I were to nitpick at one thing, it would be the intensification. I felt the producers of this version could have taken it a step further and made the music bolder and more defined. This would have brought it up to the same energy levels as other performances in this round and would have made The Boyz sound and look more powerful on stage.
Once again, the performance references an episode from Games Of Throne. Once again, I am not entirely sure what Game of Thrones reference I am seeing in the performance (as I have yet to see it). It is probably an obvious reference, like the massive serpent that they brought to life. But even not knowing the Games of Throne reference, I have to commend The Boyz for another performance that can still be appreciated by itself. Like how amazing was the second dance break of the performance, with the members dancing in front of that projected imagery, which is followed by the massive serpent on stage. Definitely a memorable performance.
The choreography also had a memorable feel. Even while I think the performance could have been intensified on the music front, you could tell the members put their all into the choreography to ensure that they make up for that additional intensity. Each dance break we saw in this performance saw the members go above and beyond, showcasing their performance abilities (without the dearly missed stunts) that stole our attention back during the Road To Kingdom days.
And the winner for this round is…
This was a really hard episode to rank because each stage was amazing in their own right. If I had the ability to, I would have given each stage the top rank. But as there are six groups, I had to rank them from 1st to 6th (hey, I don’t make the rules :P), based on what I saw. This is shown on the right hand side of the table below.
As the show have yet to finalise the official rankings of the round (as global voting and YouTube views were still being determined), the show has only released the rankings per the expert (left hand side of the table) and the self-evaluation (middle columns).
Do you agree with my ranking, the participants’ ranking of the performances or the expert panel’s ranking of the performances? Let me know in the comments below.
|Ranking||Kingdom: Legendary War Ranking from Expert Panel||Ranking||Kingdom: Legendary War Ranking from Self-Evaluation||Ranking||KPOPREVIEWED’s Ranking|
|1st||Stray Kids||1st (TIE)||SF9||1st||SF9|
|2nd||SF9||1st (TIE)||BTOB||2nd||Stray Kids|
|3rd||The Boyz||2nd (TIE)||iKON||3rd||ATEEZ|
|4th||BTOB||2nd (TIE)||Stray Kids||4th||The Boyz|
|5th (TIE)||iKON||2nd (TIE)||The Boyz||5th||iKON|
Previously: Kingdom: Legendary War Review – Round 3A – Collaboration
Next up: Kingdom: Legendary War Review – FINALE – Who Is The King?