For their first truly original Japanese single, B.A.P have opted for a sort of hybrid of their Young, Wild & Free from last year and 2013’s excellent One Shot. Even the music video features shades of both. This is a wise move, as the sound is one hundred percent theirs and skillfully paints a clear picture of what the band does best.
Japanese singles can be a bit of a crap shoot, but switch the language and Kingdom could have easily been released in Korea. Its dark, mature sound with heavy symphonic elements feels tailor made for kpop tastes. Throughout the first rap verse, it’s that soaring production and chugging guitar that stands out most. Once the melody kicks in, it feels poppier than expected, which acts as a pleasant juxtaposition with the song’s more solemn turns. After all, too much darkness and you get a track like Badman, which I’ve always had mixed feelings about. Here, the group strikes a nice balance between foreboding and hooky that we haven’t heard to this extent since 2012’s Power.
While the chorus could hit just a bit harder, the bridge provides an excellent build, highlighted by a brief — but gorgeous — harmonic hook at the 0:57 mark that gives added character. It’s funny how such a small melodic turn ends up being the first thing that sticks with you after listening to a song. But this is important. Without those little surprises, a song loses its staying power. In some ways, Kingdom feels like the track B.A.P should have come back with last November. It presents roughly the same image as Young, Wild & Free (which I also liked), but feels slightly more cohesive as a whole.