[Review] Wind and Wish – BTOB

BTOB made their long awaited comeback earlier this week with their 12th mini-album and their newest single, both sharing the same title Wind And Wish. For BTOB, this is their first release since The Song and Be Together in February 2022. For certain members, they had more recent releases, such as HUTA’s (otherwise known as Lee Minhyuk) BOOM and Lee Changsub’s SURRENDER (which I have yet to review – apologies).

For the most part, Wind And Wish is designed to be a pleasant track. And that is exactly the impression I get from Wind And Wish. It is a mid-tempo pop ballad track that is nicely instrumented with tropical touches and a breezy atmosphere that feels appropriate for the Spring season that Korea is currently in. I liked that the mid-tempo side of the instrumental gives the members a chance to show something other than a ballad, which is ultimately what they are known for. Per the standard with BTOB’s track and given Wind And Wish has some balladry roots, the song does manage to incorporate the usual well-known vocals of the group. We get a few really nice high notes throughout the song and strong vocals across the board. The harmony between Eunkwang, Sungjae and Hyunsik in the bridge was super well done. However, nothing is riveting as it could have been, given that pleasant effect of Wind and Wish. Similar comments can be said about the rapping in Wind And Wish. They feel pretty much toned down and don’t have much of a bite to them. We all know what Peniel and Minhyuk can bring to the table. And whilst this create balance, it does feel lacking. If the raps had a bit more of a punch to them, this would have made Wind And Wish a bit trendier. There were some promising hooks and I did like how the song took it up a notch with the chanty and lively choruses. This felt this was pretty refreshing, and a nice breather from the pleasanter side of the song, without overdoing it and disrupting the song. Overall, I feel that Wind And Wish plays it safe. In some parts of the song, this worked, while it lacked substance in other areas.

The music video for Wind And Wish pretty much has a similar Spring time and breezy atmosphere, going hand-in-hand with what the song sounded like. The flowery field scenes, the warmer lighting and the looser casual outfits feels ideal for the concept that they were going for. Even the rising sun and the red glow from this was an indication that the weather is heating up – but not to the extent of a Summer release. A nicely done video.

The mid-tempo pop nature of the song allows for some light choreography, which works really well with the song, to occur. It is enjoyable to watch, and allows a bit more for an expressive style to show (rather than melancholy vibe, which BTOB has excelled with through their more balladry releases). The latter means BTOB can show a bit more of a playful nature, which they also delivered.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8/10

[Album Review] BOOM (2nd Studio Album) – HUTA (Lee Min Hyuk – BTOB)

The next album to on the reviewing block of this blog is HUTA’s (who is otherwise known as Lee Min Hyuk from BTOB) second studio album, BOOM. This album, alongside the title track of the same name, was released at the end of June of this year and features another eleven tracks. This is HUTA’s first major Korean release since completing his military enlistment, participating on the Kingdom: Legendary War and making a few comebacks with his fellow BTOB members through the singles Show Your Love, Outsider and (most recently) The Song.

All the songs on BOOM (the album) basically were all strong showing from the soloist, with the album receiving a 8.2/10 rating and most songs earned a 8/10 from me. This is quite consistent for the wide range of songs that HUTA had put on the album. I commend HUTA for doing this, as it proves to me (and all his fans and the listeners of BOOM) that he is more than just a rapper (not that he needed to as I am totally aware of his potential through BTOB’s works and his first studio album). Just through this album, we can easily see that he is capable of releasing an intense and powerful number that aligns with his rapper image, or flipping the switch to release some thing more delicate and peaceful.

BOOM Album Cover

1. I’m Rare – Kicking BOOM (the album) off is the short track I’m Rare, which packs a punch with its super energetic electronic instrumentation. I quite enjoyed how the song developed as it progressed, moving from a mid-tempo pace to a fast-paced track. This helped hyped the track and the album’s opening, which in turn got me excited for what is to come. HUTA’s rapping was quite dynamic and heightens the energy of the song, rounding out a very strong start to the album. (8/10)

2. BOOM (Title Track)Click here for the full review for BOOM. (9/10)

3. Shadow – Third track into the album and I think we are treated to the album’s standout track. Shadow focuses on HUTA’s vocals, moving away from the rapping that dominated or stood out in the preceding two tracks. His vocals took a lowkey approach. They never really went further than how he started. While this might be something I raise as an issue usually, it worked well with the 80s synth-based instrumentation. That itself had the right amount of momentum to propel the song forward, but at the same time not feel too filling or intense. The melodies that HUTA brought to life with his vocals were quite chill and easy on the ears. I enjoyed everything from Shadow. (10/10)

4. Dear My Spring (넌 나의 봄이야)Dear My Spring follows up Shadow and the two songs sounded quite similar in some regards. But the main difference between the two songs is that Dear My Spring is a lot sweeter sounding, and this basically came down to two aspects. Firstly, HUTA’s vocals brought a smile to my face and was quite soothing throughout the song. This works well with the topic of spring, which is what the song is based on. Secondly, the instrumental features a more acoustic feel which is synonymous with the Spring season, rather than an 80s synth instrumental. (8/10)

5. Secretly (그대가 모르게)Secretly is a lovely track to follow the sweetness of the preceding track. HUTA sounds very charming and romantic in Secretly. I quite liked the bounce to the instrumental, and how it developed from just a simple piano instrumental piece into a livelier piece thanks to the addition of other instruments. All of this helped make Secretly more appealing to listen to. (8.5/10)

6. Is It Love? (사랑일까요)Is It Love? is another romantic song on the album. It also doubles as a duet with fellow BTOB member, Lee Chang Sub. HUTA starts off the song with deep vocals, and subsequently reverts to his lovely vocals. Lee Chang Sub serenades with his vocals. I particularly liked it when Lee Chang Sub’s vocals peaks in the chorus, provides a high note and ad-libs to the end of the song. It was also nice to hear some rapping from HUTA in this song, especially since that has not been much rapping throughout this romantic side of the album. I wished there was a more memorable melody to the song, however. (7.5/10)

7. Firework (위험해)Firework begins with a rather sinister yet moody atmosphere. Once Firework reached the chorus, it changed itself up by going with an upbeat and slightly groovy house based instrumental. I really liked how engaging HUTA was in the chorus. There was a lot of personality and energy that he himself puts into the chorus, which made it stand out for me. Firework also features a really cool bridge, where HUTA was given an opportunity to intensify his rapping and delivery in a more natural manner. This gave Firework a bit of edge and definitely helped the song finish on an enticing manner. (9/10)

8. Real Game (Like Messi)Real Game brings a more consistent and dynamic energy to the album. It is a short number, spanning only just over 2 minutes. But I quite liked how it gets straight to the point, launching right into the chorus and the aforementioned energy. And I liked how it doesn’t let up. HUTA follows through with a consistent delivery of his lines, yet his rapping just intensifies everything to just be so alluring. I know we were constricted by time, but I would have liked the ending just to have a bit more oomph to close out the song appropriately. (8/10)

9. Us Together (우리 함께 걸어요) – We revisit the likes of the first half of the album with another sweet song. I find Us Together to be nicely instrumented with the pop instrumental it went for. A bit plain, but it works well with the rest of the song. HUTA showcases soft vocals throughout, which sounded very soothing. A different instrumental would have easily overpowered the vocals. There is also rapping in the song, which might make you think would have done the overpowering instead. But HUTA was careful in approaching the rapping in a suitable manner for Us Together and the sweeter pop sound of the song. (8/10)

10. Red Wine – When I first saw the title of this song, I was expecting a more mature track. While the R&B genre that Red Wine did go for is typically mature, Red Wine was more so upbeat and bright. The synths gave the song a subtle disco tinge, which ended up being quite fun to listen to. The brass detailing was also a highlight in this song. HUTA’s delivery also adds to this, and this helped make Red Wine a fine song to listen to. If anything, I wished there was stronger hooks in Red Wine, as I felt the hooks we got in Red Wine were lacking. (7.5/10)

11. Stay (기다리고 있어)Stay was previously released in Japan, as the lead single from his solo debut mini-album in Japan. For this album and its release in Korea, it was rewritten with Korean lyrics. Everything in this song can be described as nice and pleasant, which is all very much different to the likes of BOOM (the title track). But aside from that, there wasn’t really much else to comment in the song. (7/10)

12. Hello and Bye (끝 눈) – Completing the 12-song length studio album is Hello and Bye. It is another pleasant number, this time tapping into the balladry side of music. I liked the dreamy nature of the instrumentation, which is made up of piano, a bit of percussion and a light sprinkling of synths. HUTA’s vocals a very soft and fitting for the ballad genre in this song, particularly when they get breathy. Overall, it closes the album on a very soothing and calming note. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.2/10

BOOM Teaser Image

[Review] BOOM – HUTA (Lee Minhyuk (BTOB))

Also making his comeback today is HUTA (a.k.a Lee Minhyuk from BTOB) who returns as a solo artist after three years with the title track and his second studio length album, both titled BOOM. HUTA did make a small comeback in 2021 with the single, Good Night, but that flew under most people’s radar and wasn’t reviewable due to a lack of promotive material. So I won’t consider that a full fledged comeback, and so BOOM follows HUTA’s 2019 solo debut release, YA, and his first studio length album, HUTAZONE. HUTA also recently promoted as part of BTOB, who made their grand return earlier this year with The Song.

BOOM lives up to its name, as it is explosive and packs a punch. This is thanks to two elements – the instrumental and HUTA himself. BOOM is described to be a ‘hybrid wonk trap style song with an elaborate bass line’ (taken from SOOMPI). The percussive and trap elements combined with the bass brought a dramatic flair to the song that gets your blood flowing. The wonky sub-genre, which I personally have not heard of before today (or I may have, but never had it described to me as ‘wonk’) or experience in KPOP before, doesn’t really help bring out the explosive side of the song. But it comes through the most during the choruses, and adds a background centrepiece to BOOM‘s centrepiece. Combining the two, you have a pretty powerfully unique track that doesn’t hold back. HUTA himself brings aggression into the song, with his iron solid rapping extremely bolstered and passionate at the same time. This aligns with the instrumental strongly, creating a dynamic piece. But interestingly, it isn’t the instrumental or rapping that takes the cake for me in BOOM. It is HUTA’s vocals that somehow managed to steal the show, especially the ‘aight‘, ‘high‘ or ‘hi‘ we get in the lyrics. He goes high pitch with these words, which contrasts really well with the deeper and harder sounds. The rest of his vocals are smooth, yet maintains a raspiness to them. The chorus was catchy and memorable, thanks to the ‘Boom Shaka Laka‘ line. Overall, HUTA kills it with BOOM and impresses me with his versatility, once again.

Three music videos into HUTA’s solo career (YA, Tonight (With Melody) and now BOOM), and HUTA shown his abs once again. I sense a theme and a connection with fellow soloist WONHO. Anyhow, the music video for BOOM is dark and edgy, as one would expect. The video also uses a lot of red or orangey-red lighting, which I persume is to highlight and emphasise the aggression that HUTA brings to the song. All of this feels very appropriate for BOOM. I liked the forest background for some of the shots, as it felt a bit more freeing than the closed sets we got and managed to still work in tandem with the rest of the shots. I also liked it when he punched the camera. And of course, HUTA looks great throughout the video (abs or clothed)!

BOOM also shows off HUTA’s performance skills with a cool choreography. Based on what I saw in the video, it isn’t exactly groundbreaking. But it had aggression, it had smoothness, it had sensual moves. It practically had everything! What does freak me out are the masked dancers. It takes the idea of masks to a whole new level, as there are no eyes holes on the mask. Instead, the front of the mask is decorated with shiny stones that reflect the light. Sounds cool in theory, but very dark in practicality. The floating throne (made up of the dancers) at the start was a pretty cool idea.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8.5/10

[Album Review] Be Together (3rd Studio Album) – BTOB

It has been almost a month since my last album review. But I am finally getting back to writing them and posting them on weekends. But be aware as I am quite back up with a very long list of many great albums I want to review, so please bare with me. The first album I want to visit is BTOB’s third studio length album, Be Together, which was released back in February of this year. Featured on this album is the title track The Song, nine side tracks, an intro, an interlude and an outro track. So it is definitely jammed packed. This album, for those who may not recall, was also BTOB’s grand comeback as a full group since 2018 and follows the military enlistment of all members (aside from Peniel).

As a quick summary. I find myself to be a fan of every song on this album in one way or another. That is the greatest outcome for any album. Knowing BTOB’s background and successful songs, there are obviously ballads on this album. But some of the album’s standouts are not ballads and are more so hidden gems on this album (as they are placed in the midst of the many ballads on this album). But obviously, more on those songs as I get to them. So without any more delays (or else this might get delayed), let’s me get straight into the first album review after a while, BTOB’s Be Together.

Be Together Album Cover

1. Intro: The Trace (Intro: 발자취) – The album starts off with a fairly simple introductory track. Over a really nice piano melody that sets a balladry tone for the album, we can hear someone walking through the snow. It is piece I can vividly imagine and see myself in.

2. The Song (노래) (Title Track) Click here to read the full review for The Song. (9/10)

3. Blooming Day (봄이 피어나) – My favourite aspects of Blooming Day are the presence of the raps in the verses. Minhyuk really pushed the song to the next level with his sequence, while Peniel brought a nice flow. They also brought whole lot of intensity to the ballad, which peaked my interest in the song and made it so captivating. I also liked that the chorus follows the momentum of the raps creating a powerful centrepiece. The ad-libs in the final chorus also builds the intensity and gives off a similar effect. (10/10)

4. Be Together (우리) Be Together, the namesake for this album, continues the album’s ballad focus. Be Together is a beautiful one with a swayable atmosphere and melody that you will know I would like. I really like the rock elements in the instrumental of this ballad, which throws out the idea that a ballad has to be classically instrumented in order to beautiful. The vocals stand out in this one, showcasing strong and powerful vocals. The rappers held themselves back with small and slighter sequences, but I liked how their parts still had intensity. (9/10)

5. My Way My Way changes the momentum of the album up with a more upbeat track, delving into a R&B and hip-hop mix. It sounds quite urban, and is a song that I wouldn’t mind listening to whilst walking through a hip neighbourhood. I like how everyone brought their A-game for this track. Unlike the preceding track, both vocalists and rappers’ factions of the group were on par with each other and brought great energy to the song. I particularly like the echoing effect of the post-chorus hook. (9/10)

6. WhiskeyWhiskey follows My Way’s more urban feel, but opts for a R&B instrumental that feels groovier while the lyrics are a lot sexier. There is also a sleekness to the song’s instrumental that I totally digging. I really like the character and personality that the members put behind their vocals. It just adds depth and energy to the song that would have felt plain had more standard vocals/raps been used. It also demonstrates BTOB’s vocal versatility between members, but their ability to also remain cohesive. For example, Peniel’s more hip-hop aligned breakdown in the second verse was a surprising presence, but fits into the bigger picture that is Whiskey. (8/10)

7. Interlude: Re – The album features an interlude track, Re, which is a minute and a half of a soothing piano melody. It brings down the energy of the album following some upbeat tracks, enabling the next track to be placed.

8. LonelyLonely is another ballad on this album. But rather than being your typical slow or flowy ballad, Lonely is a fairly intense ballad thanks to the presence of the strings throughout the track. Not in the dramatic sense, but more so in a captivating sense. In addition to the strings, the members’ vocals also build up the intensity of the song and adds to that captivation. It isn’t a smashing ballad like the others earlier on this album, but Lonely is still a strong one nonetheless. (8/10)

9. Dance With Me (춤)Dance With Me bring up the album’s energy levels with another dynamic track. The energy is quite refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable. And for that, I deem it as one of my favourite side tracks on this album. Dance With Me features some really cool and intriguing guitar work at the start. But that is not only where we get the guitar work. I liked how the guitar makes a presence throughout the song, pulling the different segments together. The powerful vocals are a highlight in this song, while the upbeat nature enables the rappers to dive into their parts. (10/10)

10. Higher – Thanks to its rock influences, Higher is definitely the odd one out on this album. But instead of me questioning its presence on the album, Higher steals my attention and carries me away. Before I know it, the song is over and I am left wanting more. I remember it leaving me floored when I listened to the album back in February. And after four months, Higher still leaves me on the edge of my seat and gets me head banging! I quite liked the snowballing effect the energy has, which is thanks to both the rock instrumentation and the members’ powerful energy they channeled through the song. (10/10)

11. Thank YouThank You is the type of song to bring a smile to your face. At least, it did for me. Thank You had a tall order in following the likes of Higher, but I think it handled it pretty well. The song is much sweeter (to match the lyrics) and less energy driven, but it wasn’t as an extreme step down in terms of upbeatness. I like the jazzy notes within the instrumental, the more loving vocals the members provide to the song and the random burst of brass we get consistently in the backing. (8.5/10)

12. It’s All Good (흘려보내) – The second last song on the album remains in upbeat territory with its pop rock instrumentation, but you can tell that the group is slowly tuning down the energy to help ease us off the album. It isn’t as a riveting piece as it could be, but it has its charms. I really like the soaring and floaty melodies that It’s All Good has. My only critical note about the song is Minhyuk’s powerful and strong entrance in the bridge, which contrasts practically everything in the track and it feels a bit unexpected. I am not entirely sure what to think of this. It works with the idea of a pop rock instrumental, but it doesn’t work in harmony as with the rest of the song. (7/10)

13. Outro: Encore – Ending the album is an outro track, titled Encore. Usually, when the title includes the ‘Outro’ tag, it is something brief, and not a full-fledged 4-minute-long track like how Encore was. It is fitting that the album closes out with a ballad, just like how it started. I enjoyed how stunning this one was, from start to end, vocals to raps. I really liked the high notes in this as well, giving the track a breathtaking element. Encore is classically and acoustically instrumented and was quite riveting. An amazing end to the album. (10/10)

Overall Album Rating – 9/10

Be Together Teaser Image

[Review] The Song – BTOB

Just like last week, we start off this week with another another long awaited comeback. After almost four years, BTOB has made their first comeback as a full group with the single The Song and their third studio album, Be Together. Their last full group comeback was through the release of Only One For Me back in 2018. Since then, the group members have completed their military enlistment. Elsewhere, the active members (as they returned from the military or just prior to their enlistment) released the special album Hour Moment and the single Beautiful Pain, kicked off their own solo careers, formed a subunit (BTOB 4U, consisting of Eunkwang, Minhyuk, Peniel and Changsub, and debuting with Show Your Love), participated in Kingdom: Legendary War and released a special mini-album as quartet under the BTOB name with Outsider. BTOB also lost a member, Illhoon, who left the group in 2020 due to his drug use controversy. Needless to say, we have been well fed in terms of BTOB releated activities despite have no full group comebacks.

BTOB returns with a ballad, the genre that skyrocketed them to success and was the genre of some of their biggest releases since debut. So there is a familiarity and nostalgic feeling from The Song that reminds me of the good old days for the group. Aside from that, The Song is quite a beautiful piece. I liked that The Song didn’t fall into the trap of having a typical instrumental of classical instruments. We have had a few pieces in the past from BTOB, so it was great to get something a bit different this time around. It is still relatively typical and plain, but I appreciate the different yet familiar direction the band elements (drums, electric guitar etc.) of the instrumental steers this song towards. Other than the backing, the main focus point of The Song (and any ballad) would have to be the vocals though. And BTOB sounds amazing in this song. That nostalgia that I mentioned initially comes through via the vocals and rapping, and I liked how the rappers (i.e. Minhyuk and Peniel) incorporated their parts into the song without breaking the song. That is what I love about BTOB’s ballads – they are just experts at blending rap sequences into their ballads, especially when you think they won’t be able to do so this time around. The harmonies in The Song also make it spectacular. I am bit a disappointed with the lack of memorable melody though. I feel that their previous ballad hits that they promoted always had a melody that everyone got into and made the song appealing. While their voices captivating, the melody we got in The Song didn’t really evoke thought out of me, nor did it repeat in my head after the song. Maybe a few more listens could help develop the melody for me, but I just don’t think it is there to begin win. Overall, another great ballad under BTOB’s belt.

The song is all about wanting to be with their fans once again, with the lyrics name dropping a number of their past tracks. With that in mind, the music video brings together the different members who are all alone and in different locations, so that the members can deliver that message to their fans, as we see by the performance on stage at the end of the video. It is the reality of the last few years, as they had to split up for their military enlistment and do solo or unit work rather than a full group comeback. I like how as they come together, they return to Eunkwang’s residence, who for those who don’t know is the leader of the group. I presume the letters that we see throughout the video is a representation of the fans, given that the Melodies (BTOB’s fandom name) fanclub colour is ‘Slow Blue’ and the stamps (and letterbox) were of this colour. It is a touching video, with a beautiful landscape in the background, as well.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9/10

[Review] Outsider – BTOB

One of the comebacks kickstarting this week is BTOB’s comeback, Outsider, which is featured on the special mini-album, 4U: Outside. This is BTOB’s first ‘”official” comeback since the 2018 release of Beautiful Pain. I put ‘official’ in quotation marks, as the current lineup of BTOB (Eunkwang, Changsub, Minhyuk & Peniel) did return with as a subunit (BTOB 4U) last year with Show Your Love. But it seems like the four-member lineup took on the entire BTOB name as part of their participation on Kingdom: Legendary War earlier this year and now promotions for Outsider and their latest mini-album release.

Personally, I am of the opinion that Outsider could have used a bit more ‘meat’ to it. Part of me wanted the song to break away from how it started, stray away from its overly consistent instrumentation and develop into a song with more oomph. They definitely showed us they were capable with Show & Prove (which was their final Kingdom: Legendary War single and is also featured on their latest mini-album). However, I felt this was the only issue with Outsider. And to be honest, it wasn’t a major issue that broke the song for me. Outsider manages to do just enough to captivate, and I attribute that mainly towards their vocals and rapping. They definitely proved themselves to be a well-respected group in the industry (aside from the fact they have been around for a while) thanks to their powerful vocals and rapping abilities shown throughout their time on Kingdom: Legendary War. BTOB manages to reflect their skillset in a way that fits Outsider. The vocals from Eunkwang and Changsub added so much smoothness and a velvety effect to the song (particularly during the choruses), while Peniel and Minhyuk’s rapping just had enough intensity to keep the song interesting. I also felt the rapping gave the song a great deal of contrast, which also helped Outsider become more interesting. The over-consistency is due to the instrumentation. Its brassy instrumentation does chug the song along, but it is pretty repetitive and doesn’t really offer much room for the song to develop. The dance break gave the song a break from repetition that Outsider needed, by adding a bit of dramatic effects to the instrumental. This was great and helped end the song decently (and not with a repetitive groan from the listener), though a bit late into the song unfortunately. Overall, Outsider was definitely a decent song to listen to. I just wished BTOB did more to really take it to the next level.

I felt the music video for Outsider was well-done. When I think of funky brass tunes like this, I also think of movie sets for some reason (can’t really work out why my mind makes such a connection). Seeing the opening sequence of the music video was meeting my expectation, I was quite happy. The entire music video shows the members becoming outsiders to the repetitive nature of the world around them. Changsub is a standard office worker who dreams of a luxurious lifestyle. Eunkwang is a zombie actor who doesn’t wanted to be casted in the role anymore. For Peniel and Minhyuk, I am not sure what they are trying to portray to be different from everyone else. But I am guessing Peniel wants to be someone who takes more risks, while Minhyuk wants to be someone who is a bit more adventurous. I really like the bit of humour they added to the end, with Eunkwang blowing up buildings behind them and the rest of the members were caught being surprise. It earned a chuckle from me.

For the choreography for this comeback, it seems to be on the more simple side of the spectrum, in terms of complexity. But I think they did a good job of showcasing the funky and elegant side of the music in the choreography. I liked the intensity they brought in during the rap sequences and the smoothness of the moves during the chorus. The dance break was also quite cool, with a bit of MJ influences.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8/10

[Special] Kingdom: Legendary War Review – WHO IS THE KING (Final Round)

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.

Final Round – WHO IS THE KING?

After two months of performances, we have finally reached the final round. WHO IS THE KING? started a week prior to the episode airing, with the final songs released to see which group would garner more attention on the music charts. This attention (and their ranking on the music charts) would determine the first set of points the group’s would get, thus contributing to their final score.

When the episode starting airing, fans were given the opportunity to live vote for their favourite groups, thus creating a second set of points the groups were able to get in the final round.

At the conclusion of the performances, the live votes were tallied and added to all the points which the groups have accumulated throughout the competition. The group with the most points would be crowned the King!

For this review/rundown, I will be having a deeper listen to the songs released by each of the groups and a closer watch of the performances. I will also be giving a final rating based on these aspects, allowing me to determine a rank for the final round.

Then I will look at all my rankings I have done since the start of the show to determine who I thin should have been crowned the King! See you at the end.

The Real (멋) – ATEEZ

Going first up in the final round is always a daunting task and that task was assigned to ATEEZ. But knowing ATEEZ’s style, this task was going to be a piece of cake for the group. The Real taps into the hip-hop genre, combining it with a really dynamic and upbeat instrumentation filled with abrasive synths that has a sense of familiarity for me. I am sure somewhere on the blog, I have heard these same synths somewhere. But despite that, I really like that ATEEZ took those synths and really made it their own hype song. ATEEZ’s rappers kept the song dynamic, especially in the verses, and helped moved the song along. The vocalists really help give The Real some definition, and kept the song grounded and still for a brief moment. I think this was needed to prevent the song from being too overwhelming with the synths and energy. It also made the chorus that followed become more impactful. But what really sold me with this song is the energy that comes off it. I love the relentless energy that just doesn’t stop coming at you. And I also really liked how the energy just kept on piling up, especially towards the end. It was an exciting and stimulating opener to the round. It even got the crowd (i.e. other participants) hyped up. Definitely a style I would like ATEEZ to continue with in the future.

I feel the stage for this performance was a bit weak. While the choreography and energy was undeniable, I felt the performance could have had more of a wow factor to it. It might have been a stylistic choice to not include a wowing moment in the performance, but I felt that is where this performance fell short. I really like how the markings on the locker and the way the microphones were positioned to make the hangul of the song’s title appear at the right angles. That would have taken a while to set up and to ensure the camera work was on point (we all know how sometimes camera people like to not capture the right moments). I also feel the other stage props and setups had a fun vibe to them, which also matches the song (i.e. the puppet box and the chickens). As for the choreography, it definitely had that hype energy that felt on par with the song. I also felt their stage presence and personality made the choreography more energetic.

Final Rating – 7.9/10

WOLFGANG – Stray Kids

With WOLFGANG, Stray Kids relies heavily on momentum and intensity to get through their performance. There is also a showcase display of vocals and rapping from the members throughout the song. But I feel that comes second in WOLFGANG. I feels the members could have been a bit more angsty at certain parts (like in some of their other performances), which would have made for a more intense and thrilling performance. This would have made the dynamic performance even more dynamic and powerful, and give them more room to experiment with performance strategies on stage. I also find it interesting that none of the members really stood out to me in this WOLFGANG. Each member brought their individual style to the song, but the limelight was shared between members. Instrumentally, I liked the choir-like background to this song. It gives of a suspenseful atmosphere and does a good job of contrasting with the vocal/rapping delivery that we did get in the song. It also felt like something was simmering away in the background, concentrating as the song progressed along. Glad to hear in the end that energy was released in a relentless and concentrated manner that makes for a really thrilling ender to the performance. It started with the EDM instrumental break before leading into a dramatic increase in strings for the final sequence. It definitely showed Stray Kid’s powerful potential and it gave what I thought the performance definitely needed.

I really like the idea of the members turning into werewolves for this performance. The members started out as humans, before they start donning fur to show their transition from human to werewolf. But I think they are new to this transition, with some of dance moves starting off small (i.e. when they jump off the dancers back the first time). But as we get towards the end, the members become used to this change and exert more dominance, leading them to leaping off the dancers’ back the second time around. The choreography for the ending sequence also looked really powerful, matching the energy they exuded in the song. The show-stopping moment of the performance has to be Bangchan putting on the wolf attire showing some skin in the process, which I assume has thrown the STAY fandom into disarray.

Final Ranking – 8.1/10


The Boyz rounded out their Kingdom journey (Road To Kingdom & Kingdom: Legendary War) with KINGDOM COME. I liked that their song reminded me of their winning song from Road To Kingdom (CHECKMATE). This one sounds more intense, especially thanks to the powerful orchestral influence the producers of the song infused into the chorus. To compliment the chorus, KINGDOM COME teases us with less intense strings in the verses. Their vocals and rapping also fits in really neatly. The second half of the second verse brings in a really stylish and cool electronic-based instrumental break to facilitate a dance break on stage (more on that in a bit). It led to Juyeon’s dance break, which retained the dynamic thumping but opted for strings rather than EDM. The chorus returns, before transitioning with a really cool rough textured electronic sequence to the bridge song, which showcased nice vocals from New, a bit of deep rapping from Sunwoo and a spectacular elongated high note from Sangyeon. This marked an entrance to the final chorus, which I am sure had the same energy levels as the previous chorus. But until this point, KINGDOM COME has been snowballing all its energy to release it during the final chorus to give off an ‘edge of your seat’ vibe. I really like the autotuned ‘Until Kingdom Come‘ line that repeats. I didn’t notice it at first, but I think it added to the suspense that contributed to a really strong ender from The Boyz.

What I really liked about this stage is the pre-recorded footages featured in the performance. As mentioned at the start, this performance wraps up their time on the Kingdom series. In the first pre-recorded footage, we see each individual member wearing a different stage outfit from each of their RTK and Kingdom performances. The second pre-recorded footage we see features Younghoon, who couldn’t physically dance in this performance due to an injury. And the third pre-recorded footage features the members dance in white shirts and black pants while it is raining in the background. These pre-recorded footages were interlaced throughout the stage performance, allowing for different visuals to be in play, similar to how a music video switches between solo shots and choreography scenes. A unique concept and idea. On stage, The Boyz pulled off really both intense and graceful dance breaks (the latter being in a shallow pool of water) and powerful choreography that was captivating to watch. I liked fiery red colour of the stage at the end that showed us their passion.

Final Ranking – 8.7/10

Show And Prove (피날레) – BTOB

What I really like about Show and Prove is how uplifting it sounds. And because of this, it has a very different sound to all the songs by the other participants of Kingdom: Legendary War. I really like the dramatic rock-influence instrumental sequence that kicked off the song, which lead into Peniel’s opening narration to enjoy their stage, Changsub and Eunkwang’s vocal pairing and Minhyuk’s rap sequence. Up until this point, it appears that BTOB had opted for a rock styled instrumental for the song. But what keeps Show and Prove exciting is that they changed up the style for the chorus, opting for a much brighter and warmer melody. The rock influence remains, but it clear the vocals do most of the speaking during the song’s central parts. And while we are on the topic of vocals, the members’ smoothness really sell me this song. You can also feel the passion and energy through their vocals, which makes a really great song to finish their journey on Kingdom with. I particularly commend Changsub, who seems to employ a bit of a musical flair with his vocals in this song. The same structure of rock-dominance in the verses and the warm melodies for the chorus repeats again, repeating the same level of captivation from the first time they did it. The entire bridge and final chorus sequence, consisting of Minhyuk’s vocals, high notes from the members, harmonies between the members in a choir like manner and more of Peniel’s speech, gave me goosebumps and was a really polished finish Show and Prove.

For the final stage, the members of BTOB keep true to themselves and focus on what they know best. They don’t dance or participate in the accompanying choreography. Instead, they showcase their vocals. Despite opting this arrangement in terms of the stage performance, it doesn’t mean it is any less dynamic or impactful. I am sure I have mentioned this somewhere on my blog, but their vocals speak volumes. That being said, the dancers did a lot to give a bit of a wow factor to the stage and I liked how BTOB used the stage for this performance. If I were to nitpick at one aspect, it has to be how the stage was set up for the final sequence. I think some of the dancers should have been in front of the members (who were already on high blocks). I think the stage would have looked better and potentially warmer, as a result to fit the song’s vibes. But overall, a really strong performance by BTOB, who were clever and played with their strengths.

Final Ranking – 9.1/10

At Ease (열중쉬어) – iKON

There was no surprise when I heard At Ease for the first time. It taps into hip-hop, which is iKON’s preferred genre of music whenever they release something. Like most of their songs, the rap is dominant in At Ease, which definitely plays towards their strengths. But based on what I heard, the rapping in At Ease was pretty standard for iKON. Nothing special in that department. Similar comments can be said about the vocals that make up the pre-chorus, though I was glad for some melodic flair in the song. It the last few seconds of the chorus when the song gears up for the chorus drop that starts pulling my attention towards the song. The repetition of the ‘Play Play Play‘, paired with the drumming instrumentation, was a really cool and intense buildup. Then came the chorus, which brought all the energy down. While I do wonder where all that energy those last few seconds had brought to the song, the militaristic vibes and bombastic creates a very powerful atmosphere that I feel iKON could only create. I do think it pairs well with the rapping we get in the verses, even though I did mention they felt standard. Their anthem ending sequence was expected, as it tends to appear in all iKON songs (and have been appearing in their Kingdom stages). And while I do groan at the unoriginality of how they approached the ending, I do find the energy that comes off this sequence to be fitting for this song. It felt like a last hurrah, following all the seriousness that the chorus felt, infusing a bit of freestyle and fun into the song. Personally, At Ease isn’t my preferred song of the bunch. But they definitely infused their roots into the song.

As for the stage, I did like the way they used the fences. From the mini ‘rooms’ created by the fences (like how the cameraman was trapped in at the end of the performance), to how the cameraman shot through the fence to create an edgy effect. I did think they could have taken the stage a step further and made it more interesting. Aside from the fences, there wasn’t much to really talk about. As for the choreography, it was good. Though like the stage, I think more could have been done. I do find their outfits interesting. I would have thought they would have gone something to compliment the militaristic style of the song. But I guess that would have been cliché.

Final Rating – 7/10

Believer (숨) – SF9

SF9 finishes up the final round with Believer. The song comes off as smooth and showcases the charm that SF9 was most successful with during the earlier rounds of Kingdom: Legendary War (i.e. sensual). What I find interesting about Believer is that it is the least bold song out of the bunch. But that might be a good thing on one hand. All the other performances rely on dramatic flair and powerful instrumentation. Believer differentiated itself as a result from the pack, allowing it to become an ‘easy on the ears’ listen, which is definitely appreciable after so many powerful and intense sounds. But on the flip side, it might not be able to standout and become forgotten within the mix of powerful songs. For me, I feel the former (it being a good thing) to be the case here. Though, I do think there is room for the song to be bolder with its instrumentation. The synths in this song are quite stylish and sound like they have never been done before in KPOP. It is almost trippy and hypnotic in a way (combined with the percussion we get in the instrumentation). I find the vocal work to be quite sleek, while the rapping infuse a bit of edge to the song. As for the chorus, the melodies were memorable and catchy. The ‘Tuk Tuk Tuk‘ at the end of each line in the chorus was very addictive.

Of all the six stages, I think SF9’s was the stylish. And that is thanks to that hexagonal mirror structure present, which reflects the stage’s lighting and imagery from the screen. As a result it gives off a really cool effect that takes me back to a few music videos from KPOP’s past. I also like how it wasn’t just a tube, but rather segments that SF9 used really well to reveal members and have them quickly disappear. As for the choreography, SF9’s stage was also pretty cool. I really like the idea of mirroring that was employed in the routine (seen during the start with Hwiyoung and Yoo Taeyang and then again between Chani and Youngbin after first chorus). I am not entirely sure what the story behind the choreography, but it seems like there is a struggle between light and darkness based on the imagery we see on stage. I did wish they brought more of a sensual vibe to the choreography, though. The best part of the stage has be Zuho’s stage presence during his rap sequence, where we saw the light and dark come together in a moment of peace. His outfit was split between the two sides and the contacts he was wearing was quite scary, but at the same time, very memorable.

Final Rating – 8.6/10

And the winner of this round is…

Formal results for the final performances were not provided, with the crowning of the king taking precedence once the performances wrapped up. We did get to see digital results for the final round, but these are based on their rankings on music charts since the release of the songs a week prior to the final episode. The ranking for the digital music points were The Boyz (1st), Stray Kids (2nd), BTOB (3rd), ATEEZ (4th), iKON (5th) and SF9 (6th).

As a result, I have decided to ranking the final performances amongst each other. The table below shows the ranking for the final round only. Keep on scrolling down if you want to find out how I ranked each group’s performance throughout the entire Kingdom: Legendary War series.

Do you agree with my ranking of this round? Comment below if you agree/disagree. Plus include what you think the ranking would have been like!

RankKPOPREVIEWED’s Final Round Ranking
2ndThe Boyz
4thStray Kids

And the winner of Kingdom: Legendary War is…

And it is the moment you have been waiting for! I will be sure not to going into dramatic pauses, like what Changmin did on Thursday. I did laugh at how quick MNET decided to flash the final results on our screen on Thursday at the very end.

For the most part, I agree with the crowned winner, which was ultimately Stray Kids! But it the rest of the rankings which I for the most part did not agree with, considering how I ranked the performances and stages from all the rounds. You can see the results below!

Do you agree with the shows’ ranking? Or do you agree with mine? Or do you disagree with both and have a different ranking in mind? Let me know in the comments section below!

RankingFinal Kingdom: Legendary War ResultsFinal KPOPREVIEWED Ranking
1stStray KidsStray Kids
2ndThe BoyzBTOB
4thBTOBThe Boyz

And that’s it! Thank you once again for sticking around for my review and thoughts for Kingdom: Legendary War! While I do have negative thoughts on how MNET operates, I do hope that we get to see more Queendom and Kingdom seasons in the future. Congratulations to all the groups for their amazing performances. Mad respect to all of them and I can’t wait to see all of their future comebacks and works! (Now to get back on track with the reviews…)

Preliminary Round – 100 Second Rundown/Review
1st Round – To The World
2nd Round – RE-BORN
3rd Round – Part A – Collaboration
3rd Round – Part B – NO LIMIT
Final Round – WHO IS THE KING?

[Special] Kingdom: Legendary War Review – NO LIMIT (EP 8 & 9)

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)

The most surprising stage of the round was SF9’s take on Move. It is sexy sounding song and I feel that SF9 really encapsulated this, whilst also creating a sound of their own in this performance. Chani’s deep voice begins the performance with a brief yet sharp instrumental piece. Dawon and Jaeyoon then brings sultry vocals to the mix, before we are taken to the chorus which is lead by Yoo Taeyang and Inseong. The slow but sensual pace of Taemin’s original version of Move features here. The rappers (Hwiyoung, Youngbin and Zuho) of the group start bringing more upbeat and metrosexual vibes in their sections through the instrumentation and delivery, whilst also maintaining the sensual atmosphere that the other members had created. After Zuho’s part (which was also my favourite), an electronic based instrumental interlude gave the performance/version some intensity that can only be passed through a dance break, before we are provided an upbeat version of the Move‘s chorus that fits into what SF9’s version has built towards. I really enjoyed SF9’s take on such an iconic KPOP song, so much that I have returned to listen and rewatch the stage so many times after the show’s broadcast.

For the concept of this performance, I believe the setting is a factory that produced robots that wore white and very generic. But the SF9 members were incorrectly made, wearing black and were completely different to the robots the factory originally manufacturing. I also like how the settings were bland and monotone. But with SF9 present, colour started to come through. It was gradual, but made for a really great stage. I really like the rain of coloured confetti during the final dance sequence, and the rain room they had created off the stage to further highlight the group’s sexiness. This was a really unique performance and one that shows off a different charm of the members.

We all know Move for its sexy moves, but I feel that SF9 took it further with their outfits and sensual moves on those steps. It was definitely a breathtaking performance to watch. Chani’s entrance was so smooth. I would have liked to see more references to Taemin’s original choreography, but I think they did fantastic with creating their own, especially to match the upbeat moments of the final chorus. And when they are not dancing, the members are strutting their stuff on the stage as you could see during Hwiyoung and Zuho’s parts.

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.

RankingKingdom: Legendary War Ranking from Expert PanelRankingKingdom: Legendary War Ranking from Self-EvaluationRankingKPOPREVIEWED’s Ranking
1stStray Kids1st (TIE)SF91stSF9
2ndSF91st (TIE)BTOB2ndStray Kids
3rdThe Boyz2nd (TIE)iKON3rdATEEZ
4thBTOB2nd (TIE)Stray Kids4thThe Boyz
5th (TIE)iKON2nd (TIE)The Boyz5thiKON

Previously: Kingdom: Legendary War Review – Round 3A – Collaboration
Next up: Kingdom: Legendary War Review – FINALE – Who Is The King?

[Special] Kingdom: Legendary War – Round 3A – Collaboration – EP 7 & 8

Apologies regarding how long this post has taken. The second part of the next round’s rundown should be out tomorrow!

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 3A – Collaboration

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 Collaboration segment of Round 3.

In Round 3A, three groups were pitted against the other three groups in various battles such as rap, dance and vocals. The teams of groups as follows:

  • Stray Kids, BTOB, ATEEZ (named themselves Mayfly)
  • The Boyz, iKON, SF9 (named themselves It’s One)

For this particular post, things will be a little different. I won’t focusing on the six performance individually. Instead, I will be comparing each performance in their respective battles, as there are only two performances (i.e. Mayflys vs. Its One). As a result, this post will be shorter than usual.

I will also summarise the final rankings for each battle decided by the experts who watch the performances, whilst also give out my own personal ranking to who should have won each battle in my opinion.

Rap Battle

Colours (물감놀이) – Mayfly

Members: Han Jisung, Changbin, Bangchan (Stray Kids), Minhyuk (BTOB), Hongjoong (ATEEZ)

Full DaSH – It’s One

Members: Sunwoo (The Boyz), Bobby (iKON), Hwiyoung (SF9)

Going into this round, I had a hard time predict who would succeed. On one hand, you had Bobby. For those who don’t know Bobby, he is probably the most well known rapper out of the bunch. Then, we have 3RACHA from Stray Kids, who have put out really strong and powerful rap songs as a unit before. And then, we have Minhyuk, who is an all-rounder but started off as a powerful rapper in BTOB. For Sunwoo, Hwiyoung and Hongjoong, I am not familar with their solo work to really influence my prediciton.

For the performances, both was quite lively. Colours was vibrant and colourful, while Full DaSH was edgy and stylish. Colours felt like a performance, based on their ending pose, stage set ups and the presence of choreography. I like the inclusion of the traditional instrumentation in the background. There was a bit of a free spirit to the performance, but it wasn’t as prevalent as Full DaSH. On the other hand, Full DaSH was relied on a heap of freestyling. There was some choreography and stage set up, but all was minimal in comparison to the other performance. I really like the paint gun sequence at the end of the Full DaSH performance. It was an element of fun and really showed how unconstrained the performance was. In terms of execution, I feel both are on par with each other. The five members in Colours helped give the track a catchy ring. I also find Minhyuk’s exclamation “We all bleed the same colour” to be very deep. For Full DaSH, I felt the energy behind the trio’s delivery to be very powerful and memorable.

In the end, I lean towards Colours as my favourite performance out of the two. It is more aligned to what I like and enjoy in general. That being said, Full DaSH was terrific in its own way.

RankKingdom RankingKPOPREVIEWED’s Ranking
1stColours – Mayfly Colours – Mayfly
2ndFull DaSH – It’s One Full DaSH – It’s One

Dance Battle

Wolf – Mayfly

Members: Lee Know, I.N, Felix (Stray Kids), Peniel (BTOB), San, Seonghwa, Yeosang, Wooyoung, Yunho

King and Queen – It’s One

Members: Juyeon (The Boyz), Donghyuk (iKON), Yoo Taeyang (SF9)

Wolf was an unexpected surprise. I thought that the members of ATEEZ, BTOB and Stray Kids would come together to form their own routine to a unique song for themselves. I would have appreciated the innovation and creativity a lot more, but Wolf was still an amazing performance. I really like how they took to EXO’s version of Wolf and made it even more animinalistic and wilder. It show cases the edgy and dangerous side of the members. It was also great to see stunts reappear in the competition. There hasn’t been many so far. When Felix did the run up and jumped onto San, I was floored by how he kept his exposure despite the landing being slightly rocky and committed to the part. I also really like Peniel’s solo part, showcasing some of his dance skills – something we don’t see too much of.

King and Queen was an instrumental piece, and as far as I am concerned, it was made for this performance. I liked the innovation and creativity of this performance. It starts off as the three members on their chairs, before jumping off and giving us a solo performance each over some electrifying guitar instrumentals. We then see a really graceful performance from the trio together, before we see in the distance the queen is assasinated. Throughout the performance, you could see the emotions in their moves or on their faces. If you know me, emotions make up a very large part of the stage presence. And while each of the three members had a different way of showcasing emotions, they all made sure it was there. Yoo Taeyang had a really cool sword fight solo scene, but I personally could not get over how we caught the sword without any dramas. Juyeon’s table flip was very impressive as well. Donghyuk also had an awesome solo scene, though nothing memorable pinged from it. I also liked how they used stage tricks to reintroduce the other two members to end the performance.

I liked both performances. But I felt that It’s One had the edge in this battle. They showed many sides of themselves and a wider range of moves, such as from powerful to graceful. Wolf was great in itself, but I felt like more could have been done to captivate us, as did King and Queen.

RankKingdom RankingKPOPREVIEWED’s Ranking
1stWolf – MayflyKing & Queen – It’s One
2ndKing & Queen – It’s One Wolf – Mayfly

Dance Battle

Love Poem – Mayfly
Original Artist: IU

Members: Seungmin (Stray Kids), Eunkwang (BTOB), Jongho (ATEEZ)

Spark – It’s One
Original Artist: Taeyeon

Members: New, Sangyeon (The Boyz), Ju-ne, Jinhwan (iKON), Inseong, Jaeyoon (SF9)

Spark (by It’s One) was a good cover of Taeyeon’s song. Personally, I feel like Spark was an unexpected choice for a cover, especially for this battle. I can’t really pinpoint an exact reason to why I feel this way. It just felt odd. Song choice aside, I really like it when the members came together to sing together for its climax. It made the cover more captivating. Per usual, I wanted more of that. And harmonies, as well. If the harmonies were more prevalent and present, then I feel like Its One cover of Spark would have been more memorable. There was also a good amount of huskiness and raspiness behind some of their vocals. While we got to hear their voices very clearly (especially since none of the members have really had a solo platform yet) and they all sounded great as a team, no one really stood out for me. That might be a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it. Good in the sense that no one member took over the song and outshone in the rest. Bad in the sense that it felt too neutral. In this case, I feel like the latter seems to be the case. It is a pity that Inseong couldn’t pull off his high note. I feel like it would have lifted the performance to a whole new level if it was successful.

The Love Poem cover was stunning and grand, featuring the balance of the three groups that make up of Mayfly (with the exception of Changsub, who sat out due to being unwell). I don’t have much to say about this cover, aside from expressing how good it was. While I can’t really comment on show-stopping melodies of IU’s Love Poem (as the original had already them), what made this cover so great is that it had the harmonies that I wanted to hear. Those harmonies and high notes just made the entire performance captivating and blissful to listen to. I felt as if I was floating while listening to the song, which is an impressive feat to achieve, especially since I really enjoys my ballads. If I were to be critical, I would have liked to see Jongho shine a bit more. We know he has an impressive set of lungs based on the performances on the show thus far. I just felt he didn’t really have his moment to really shine in this cover, compared to Seungmin and Eunkwang.

Based on the language I had used to describe each of the performances, I think it is clear that I lean towards Mayfly’s cover of Love Poem.

RankKingdom RankingKPOPREVIEWED’s Ranking
1stLove Poem – MayflyLove Poem – Mayfly
2ndSpark – It’s OneSpark – It’s One

Previously: Kingdom: Legendary War Review – Round 2 – To The World
Next up: Kingdom: Legendary War Review – Round 3B – NO LIMIT

[Special] Kingdom: Legendary War Review – RE-BORN (EP 4 and 5)

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!

RankingKingdom: Legendary War Final Ranking for Round 2KPOPREVIEWED’s Ranking
3rdSF9The Boyz
4thStray KidsStray Kids
6thThe BoyziKON

Previously: Kingdom: Legendary War Review – Round 1 – To The World
Next up: Kingdom: Legendary War Review – Round 3A – Collaboration

[Special] Kingdom: Legendary War Review – To The World (EP 2 and 3)

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
Song: Wonderland

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.

RankingExpert EvalutionSelf EvaulationVideo ViewsGlobal VotingKPOPREVIEWED’s FINAL Ranking
1ATEEZATEEZ Stray Kids Stray Kids Stray Kids
3The BoyzStray KidsATEEZiKONBTOB
6iKONSF9SF9The BoyzSF9

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

[Special] Kingdom: Legendary War Review – 100 Seconds Performances

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.

Preliminary Round – 100 Seconds Performances

The preliminary round was performed way back in February by each of the groups and was live streamed to the global audience in preparation for the actual season. The reason for this was to allows fans to live vote and pick their favourite stage, which would subsequently give the winning group an advantage in the first official round.

The preliminary round had a number of rules. Firstly, the performance could only last 100 seconds (hence the name of the round). Secondly, the song chosen for the preliminary round had to be a song that received first place before. Thirdly, the performance order was chosen based on who the participants perceived to win this preliminary round. Who was expected to win performed last. They then chose the group who would perform first. The group who was selected to perform first chose who went second, and so forth until the performance order was decided.

I will be reviewing the performances based on who went first, and will be looking at song arrangement and choreography for this preliminary round.

Wave: Overture – ATEEZ

My guess regarding ATEEZ’s concept was that they just washed ashore. The start of the performance saw the members struggling, as if they were injured. The screens showed their ship being capsized (for whatever reason), which explained their “injuries”. ATEEZ then officially began their performance with dramatic flair thanks to the violins and Hongjoong spewing fake blood on the stage, surprising all viewers (including fellow participants). Wooyoung, Jongho and San literally comes at the camera with their aggressive choreography, before the camera switching to Yunho (and Yeonsang and Seonghwa as well) starting us with the pre-chorus of Wave. When we get to the ‘chorus’ of the song, Wave opts for the return of the dramatic flair with synthesized violins employed to intensify the performance, allowing ATEEZ to show off a more powerful routine fitting for Kingdom. I liked that choice. Aside from the fake blood, San delivers the performances most impressive move of all (i.e. the backflip). Unfortunately, it isn’t much compared to the other performances on this list. ATEEZ finishes their 100 seconds with San running up and climbing on top of the rest of the group, whilst carrying a flaming torch and officially signifying the start of the performance. ATEEZ’s performance was great and provided us with a taster to their performance skills. But I don’t think they lived up to the expectation that I had for them personally going into the competition.

Beautiful Pain (Choir version) – BTOB

Out of all the male groups participating on the show, BTOB is the outlier. While they started off as a dance group, the group has found success with their more vocal-centric songs, such as ballads like Beautiful Pain. So it will be interesting to see what BTOB brings to the competition. But if their 100 seconds stage is anything to go by, BTOB will be bringing a lot of competitive heat by sweeping their competitors off their feet with amazing and jawdropping vocals (as they did with this stage). Obviously, BTOB cannot continually play this card for all stages, so it will be what BTOB will do next. The stage starts off with Eunkwang, Changsub and Minhyuk harmonising (beautifully, I should add) with one another, bringing the choir component to the song. It then cuts to Peniel rapping his part of the song, before he joins the other three members at the microphone stands to bring out Beautiful Pain‘s signature melodies and harmonise with one another to bring their stage to a close. The best part has to be the flawless high notes that they incorporated into the stage. It is a beautiful stage and showed off BTOB’s strongest asset, similar to how the other groups do so with choreography. If BTOB can implement powerful choreography to their stages (which they will have to, given the repertoire of songs from the fellow competitors), they will become a force to watch out for.

Good Guy (The Glory) – SF9

Given the criteria set for the preliminary round, SF9 was limited to only one song – Good Guy, which clinched their first win on music shows in early 2020. Notably absent is Rowoon, who was watching from the sidelines due to an injury. The group kicks off their 100 seconds performance with a model walk, intimidating us (and the competitors) with their serious looks and the echoing of the Good Guy hook from the song. After their walk, the camera focuses on Chani and Youngbin (I think) who starts aggressively dancing to the EDM dance break, before the other members joining in. The performance then ends with SF9 going into the final chorus of Good Guy, but with a modified routine to match the altered instrumental that also has been intensified. Unfortunately, nothing stood out for me. I think it was a solid routine and stage to watch, but I wanted more. I do like this side of the group as their more electrifying songs and performances are what I stray towards, but I wished they retained more of the sensual moves from the original choreography, which would have made this performance more memorable. There was some grinding, but what is the harm of asking for more?

Miroh – Stray Kids

Stray Kids is the only group who did not specify that this stage involves an alternate version of their original song in the title. But this 100 seconds version of Miroh is very different to standard Miroh we heard back in 2019. The animalistic and aggressive vibes of this performance shows whoever is watching who is boss. The stage opens up with Hyunjin alone. But with some easy camera distraction, the entire group appears in front of you in a second. In the background, you hear Felix’s iconic deep tone repeating the anthem that dominates Miroh. A few spins and jumps later, the group then performs with knives over some intense electronic music. This adds a thrilling and cool element to the performance. While I am sure they are not the real deal, the knives held in their mouths and their glares really intimidates, engages, captivates and take this performance to the next level. Felix and Han then brings us back to back Miroh, which is then followed up by Changbin who raps his part of the song whilst holding a stick that sends sparks flying out. This was the performance’s highlight. The choreography for Miroh‘s chorus’s beat drop is replicated (with Chan throwing in a backflip), before the group’s vocalists brings back dramatic and animalistic (respectively) vibes. This is all done whilst the other members are craving their symbol onto the stage, which is the final image we see before the performance comes to a close. Overall, the performance makes a statement from the very first second.

The Stealer (Epic Version) – The Boyz

The Boyz have the advantage that they are familiar with what is expected of them. However, they only had one song to choose from for this opening performance. Dubbing their performance the ‘epic version’ of The Stealer, The Boyz really does live up to that name. The performance starts off with Juyeon and Hakyeon, in what seems to be the competition’s creepiest start yet. The opening line ‘Is it an addiction‘ is probably going to stay in my mind for some time. The rest of the members come running in, before the song is warped and we are lead into the second part of the performance. This section is more electrifying, opting for electronic dance elements in the background. It is also this part where Sunwoo delivers some lines and shows an upgraded version of himself as we have never heard him like this before. We also see some cool camera work whilst Sunwoo raps away, with two of the members lending their arms for some arm choreography. The Boyz then all return to the stage, with some of the members sliding effortlessly back into the performance. This is also the only part of the performance that resembles the original song (i.e. the utterance of ‘I’m The Stealer‘). Interestingly, The Boyz changes up the performance with a third part, changing to a classical arrangement, showing off graceful ballet moves before capping the performance with flying Juyeon. With an final stunt like that, it is clear that The Boyz are willing to do whatever stunt it takes to win the competition, raising the expectation for future stages.

Rhythm Ta (Kingdom Version) – iKON

To me, iKON’s presence on this show is a bit of a wild card. But it seems like everyone is expecting greatness from them, given that they selected iKON the group likely to win this preliminary round. I am not too sure what to expect, given that their performances are not really as iconic as the actual songs themselves. But that being said, I am looking forward to what they are bringing to Kingdom. They kick off their 100 seconds of Rhythm Ta with the line ‘iKON is back‘, before progressing to some bold choreography that exudes confidence to me. I really like how iKON stayed true to their roots with their elements. Sure, they brought in EDM like the other groups. But they infused it with hip-hop influences and energy, which pretty much sums up iKON’s music in a nutshell. They kick the energy to a higher notch with DK and Jihwan’s duo moment, before the rest of the members come together to continue the same momentum. All the while, the addictive repetition of Rhythm Ta plays in the background. The performance then incorporates some of Bobby’s rapping who enters the centre of the performance with a really high jump. This is then followed up with iKON’s favourite vocal sequence – anthem. I really like how comfortable and fun Bobby looks like he is having throughout the performance, which really reflects on the audience, as we see some of the reactions of the other competitors. It was a fun performance that shows of iKON’s skillset.

And the ranking is…

At the end of each round, the show will rank the groups according to a set criteria. For this round, the criteria was simply global fan voting.

On the left hand side of the table below, you will find the show’s announced ranking, which was announced over the the first two episodes. On the right hand side, you will find my personal ranking of each of the performances. As you can see, I agree with the first two rankings but have a slightly different opinion regarding the 3rd to 6th ranks.

Do you agree with me? Or do you agree with the show’s ranking? Or do you have a different order in mind? Let me know in the comments!

RankKingdom: Legendary War Official RankingKPOPREVIEWED’s Personal Ranking
1Stray KidsStray Kids
2The BoyzThe Boyz

Next up: Kingdom: Legendary War Review – Round 1 – To The World

[Album Review] Inside (1st Mini Album) – BTOB 4U

BTOB 4U is nominated for Best Subunit in the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Click here to support BTOB 4U and your other favourite artists of the year. Remember to vote before the 31st December as the poll closes on that day at 11:59 PM AEST.

BTOB recently returned in the form of the subunit BTOB 4U, which consist of members who have left the military (i.e. Eunkwang, Minhyuk, Changsub) and Peniel who didn’t enlist as he is not a Korean citizen. The unit made their debut a little over a month ago on the 16th of November with the single Show Your Love and the mini-album, Inside. And while the military tends to be a period of uncertainty for many male idols, BTOB 4U showed that they still have the love of Melodies (their fanclub) by winning their first award on SBS The Show. Let’s see what BTOB 4U has to offer on Inside, aside from the title track that we all know of.

Inside Album Cover

1. Show Your Love (Title Track)Click here for the full review of Show Your Love. (8.5/10)

2. TensionTension showcases a whole new sound for BTOB, something that BTOB has never attempted before. It is so sleek and classy sounding, and I also detect some sensual vibes throughout the upbeat nature of the song. Tension starts off with some plucking of acoustic guitars, before moving to a funky instrumentation. I found the song to be catchy, both lyrically and the way the word ‘Tension’ just roll from their mouths. Peniel’s rap also brings a bit of a flair to the song that works really well with the rest. (10/10)

3. Bull’s Eye – I am standing while writing this album review and I just cannot help but dance to Bull’s Eye. The energy that comes from this song is quite infectious. Bull’s Eye takes on board an alternative rock sound that is filled with very catchy moments. I liked how each member shined in this song. The vocal delivery of the two vocalists in the pre-choruses and bridge left me stunned. The rappers each brought a unique edge to the song. I also like it how the song doesn’t stay in one lane, but strays in different directions to give it a bit of a chaotic, yet interesting vibe. (10/10)

4. Mirage – To me, Mirage brings us back to a version of BTOB that we are familiar with. But remember, this is a BTOB 4U song and there are some differences. Mirage is vocally centric and melodic. The vocal work is smooth, with both Minhyuk and Peniel joining the vocal lineup for the song on top of their duties as rappers. All of this is done over an upbeat but moody dance instrumental. The overall balance is definitely something to commend the song for. (9/10)

5. Alone – The way Changsub starts off the song with just a deep and husky voice was amazing. Once again, we amazing vocals from Changsub, Eunkwang (example: the start of the second verse) and Minhyuk (example: the end of the song). This indie ballad was beautiful to listen to and the way they harmonized was so soothing to listen to. Peniel joins in as a rapper per his usual position. He has a real knack of incorporating his raps into these songs. I thought a rap sequence wouldn’t work in this song, but Peniel proved me wrong in this instance. Overall, Alone was a beautifully conceptualized song to end the album with. (10/10)

Overall Album Rating – 9.5/10

Inside Teaser Image

[Review] Show Your Love – BTOB 4U

It has been a while since we heard from BTOB. All the members (with the exception of Peniel) over the last two years enlisted in the military. Some members have completed their enlistment while other are close to finishing. For those who have completed their enlistment (Eunkwang, Minhyuk and Changsub), they have regrouped (with Peniel) for unit promotions under the new name BTOB 4U with the new single, Show Your Love. The new single is also the title track off the unit’s first mini-album, INSIDE.

Show Your Love is a moombahton dance track that (fun fact!!) fellow member Hyunsik wrote prior to his enlistment. I have to admit the backing of Show Your Love is a typical for this era of music. But it was still refreshing and enjoyable to listen to. And it also gives us a BTOB fix. It is a nice change up to BTOB’s usual works, which have focused primarily on vocal centric tracks and ballads pre-military. Obviously, a subunit is able to explore and experiment with different sounds and genres. But this doesn’t feel like a unit release. Show Your Love feels very BTOB to me. I am instantly taken back to Only One For You thanks to the song’s melody. Show Your Love is just a more energetic and upbeat version of the mentioned title track, with an instrumental that really knows how to amplify the vocals and melodies. Eunkwang and Changsub handle this department with ease and the combination of the vocals and instrumentations makes the song sound explosive. Peniel and Minhyuk focus more on the rapping. Their rhythm was really good and they add some intensity to the song. If I were to pick a singular member who shined the most in Show Your Love, my pick would be Peniel because he has more opportunity to shine and his rapping was probably the most memorable in the midst of the other three members. But that doesn’t mean the others didn’t shine, given that Show Your Love comes together really well and fulfils that BTOB craving that I am sure we have all experienced over the last two years.

Based on the comments section of the music video, the members portray the different forms of love that can exist. Other fans have also noted that each member is portraying a character who experiences love in some form in their movie (given that Minhyuk’s is clearly representing the very infamous story of Romeo and Juliet). I do prefer the former option as I cannot pinpoint what the original movies Eunkwang, Changsub and Peniel are showing. Changsub is showing a toxic relationship, Peniel is showing self-love, Minhyuk tells us the story about willingness to die for a lover and Eunkwang portrays a same-sex love story. Each of these stories have ‘love’ as the running theme, fitting in with the song’s call to ‘Show Your Love‘. The end of the video shows the four member reuniting thanks to a simple card. They walk to an old warehouse and we are left with the image of the four members smiling over a glowing golden light. We aren’t shown exactly what they see. But my guess is we might be seeing the remaining members, who might be forming their own subunit when they return and they would reunite with BTOB 4U at the end of their video. Who knows…

The added bonus of an upbeat song is that BTOB 4U is able to show off more dance moves. I really like the start of the performance with the three lines of dancers/members. I feel like that is made to be an optical illusion as I could only see Peniel move to the middle line and when Minhyuk/Eunkwang appeared, my mind was blow. I also liked the part when Minhyuk suddenly kneels (it had an epic feel) and the cute little ‘LOVE’ letters they made with their hands at the end of the video.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8.6/10

[Review] No One Knows – Seo Eunkwang (BTOB)

It is time for another review for another Monday release. I believe this is the final Monday release that I will be reviewing and I shall move onto reviews for other days that I may have missed over the weekend. The star of this review is Seo Eunkwang, who is the leader and main vocalist of BTOB. Seo Eunkwang recently returned from his military enlistment earlier this year and marks his return with his first solo mini-album, FoRest: Entrance and the title track, No One Knows. In other related news, the majority of BTOB are currently fulfilling their enlistment, so it might be some time until we hear from the group again.

As mentioned earlier in the week and multiple review posts in the past, main vocalists tend to go down the ballad route as this style allows for their vocals to be shown off. I know I sound like a broken record as I mention it every time I write a review for a solo release by a group’s main vocalist. When it comes to Seo Eunkwang, however, ballad is the way to go. While the work that BTOB have released in the past have been upbeat (take Beep Beep, as an example) and a little crazy at times (referring to some of their side tracks), I just don’t see BTOB’s main vocalist releasing a dance track as a main promotional track. Maybe a slow R&B track, at best. Why? Well, No One Knows is probably a good indication of that. He nails ballads perfectly. Over the 3 and a half minutes or so, I was captivated to the point where I couldn’t write my review while concurrently listening to song. I had to stop typing as I was in awe. Definitely a sign of a good ballad. While the ballad does follow standard backbone with its classical instrumental, there was a nice buildup throughout the song that made it sound so grand and heavy towards the end. I liked the electrical guitar that peeped through at the end, as well. It wasn’t much, but you can still feel its presence in the song. But the real captivating element of the song is Seo Eunkwang’s voice, which we already know is amazing through past solo tracks and his BTOB work. But we hear it in its full glory, which is probably the best thing about this track. Not only does his voice soar, but it powers through the heaviest instrumented parts to be the main element of the song. I really liked how he dragged out the final word, before repeating it 3 more times in short and sharp delivery. Its kind of a ‘Thank you, move along’ type of vibe that suits the song’s lyrics and meaning so well. The other melodies are just so good, it is hard to find a fault in the song. After all, I do like a good ballad and this one is as good as it gets.

The music video opens up with Seo Eun Kwang singing the song to himself. We get a sense in this scene alone that he is very lonely. After all, the song is about being alone, yet pretending that everything is okay. I thought it was a really good video, emphasising loneliness is the recurring theme in all the scenes. And in all these scenes, we see his facial expressions. You can tell that he is very stuck in his thoughts and lonely (yep, that recurring word). He interestingly does not show sadness on his face, though he does carry himself in what seems to be a depressed manner. I liked the cinematography of the music videos and like not all of Eunkwang is the shot. It makes the video artistic and aesthetic in a way.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 10/10
Overall Rating – 10/10

[Review] Dear Love – Lim Hyunsik (BTOB)

With Eunkwang, Changsub and Minhyuk currently in the military, BTOB has been very absent from the music scene. From what I know, Peniel has released a couple of singles recently. But none of them was really catered to a Korean audience. Other than that, the rest of BTOB have been M.I.A in the music front. That was until Monday, when Hyunsik made his official solo debut with Dear Love and his mini-album, Rendez-Vous.

As part of the vocal line up of BTOB, he makes his solo debut with a power ballad track. So there isn’t any surprise there. But I think Hyunsik did a lot in this track that really differentiate it from the rest of his team’s vocal line’s solo work and from similar solo artists. Firstly, the slow rock nature of this track was amazing. It does start off sluggish and slow,\. But once you listen to the entire track, you would understand why it started off and kept that same momentum coming at us. It actually lets the song develop as it progresses, similar to a cup of tea. The longer the tea brews, the deeper the flavour. I think the next element that has to be mentioned is his vocals. He is often overlooked when it comes to BTOB releases. But Dear Love proves to us that he has a lot of skills when it comes to singing. I really liked the chorus of the song, which one of the sections that really showcased his powerful vocals and technique. Interestingly, the ‘peak’ of the track is featured in the middle of the song (as opposed towards the end like other tracks), where he manages to showcase that amazing high note. I also enjoyed the ending of the track, which sounded like a western slow rock/ballad track. It is a great track overall.

Watching the video, it felt like the potential for the next romantic movie, particularly since space-themed movies have been on the rise recently in Hollywood. When I saw the astronaut gear in the concept teasers, I took them as a grain of salt, mainly because they tend to trick us. So I didn’t expect this intergalactic mini-movie. Hyunsik plays a lonely astronaut who has a very boring life in space. One day, he comes across another person in space, who is in a similar boat (or ship hahaha…). Despite being in two different spaceships, the two bond with each other and this develops as the video goes. When the two decide to finally decide to meet in person, tragedy strikes. His female companion gets sucked into space, while he is blown back into his ship. He loses her, as a result. Sometime later, he lands on a planet and recognises a familiar shape, which at the end was confirmed (via his smile) to be his friend who was sucked into space. The ending shows two planets coming together, showing that the two finally met despite the evens in between. I thought it was a nicely thought out video and the sets were very intricate, which I really liked.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 10/10
Overall Rating – 9.4/10