Road to Kingdom: Episode Two Recap and Ranking

After sharing my thoughts on the Queendom finale songs last year, I regretted not writing more about the show as it was going on – especially since I enjoyed it so much. That regret didn’t quite spur me to cover Road to Kingdom’s premiere episode, but now that we’re in full performance mode, I plan to share my thoughts more frequently.

Road to Kingdom features so many of my favorite groups, so it’s really a buffet of musical greatness. I wish this buffet didn’t end in eliminations (damn you, MNET!), but I’ll take what I can get.

This week’s episode brought us five of the seven performances in Kingdom’s first round. The task was to pick a song by a “K-pop king” and reinterpret it. The groups picked some incredible songs, and every one of them exceeded expectations. If 2020’s K-pop releases were delivering songs and performances this great, we’d be in a much better place.

5. VERIVERY – Mansae (original by Seventeen)

I love VERIVERY, and thought they did a great job on last week’s initial dance performance. They were super polished here too, but the performance felt a little all over the place. I’m not sure I got the connection between Mansae and “nautical,” and although their “sailing to an island” concept was clear, I don’t think they did all that much with it. The remix, while exciting and energetic, didn’t really compliment the song. Too much of Mansae’s original charm was lost in the club beats and dance breaks. But even if this was my least favorite performance of the night, it was still an awesome showcase for the group’s dancing.

4. ONEUS – Warrior’s Descendant (original by H.O.T)

ONEUS started the night off strong, covering a bonafide K-pop classic and injecting it with some welcome theatricality. As much as I love Warrior’s Descendant, it’s a difficult song to perform in this environment. It hails from a simpler time, without all the showy breakdowns and diversions that MNET performances thrive upon. ONEUS succeeded thanks to their clear sense of storytelling. The remix was solid, but the slow-mo fight choreography was the true standout.

3. ONF – Everybody (original by SHINee)

I don’t think I’m as sold on this arrangement as the bulk of fans seem to be, but there’s no denying ONF’s commitment to the performance. There were a ton of ideas thrown together here, from the haunting introduction to the slavish recreation of the original choreography at the climax. For me, the performance really started to hit its mark about halfway through, as the tempo ramped up and the song settled into its groove.

2. TOO – Rising Sun (original by TVXQ)

I was one of those salty viewers who bemoaned TOO’s participation in Road to Kingdom. All of these other groups had paid their dues and needed the attention, while TOO had literally just debuted. But, all bias aside I can’t deny how powerful this performance was. Rising Sun is one of the best K-pop songs of all time, so you’re already going to score points there. But, it also requires a level of energy that not every group can pull off. I absolutely adore this remix (courtesy of producer-extraordinaire TAK). It retains almost everything that makes the original such a classic, but brings just enough twists to stand out. And that guitar at the climax! Wow.

1. Golden Child – T.O.P (original by Shinhwa)

Now, full disclosure. I’ve been supporting Golden Child since the beginning, and they’ll continue to be the group who gets my streams/votes. But, they still have to earn the top spot in any ranking I post here. And, boy did they earn it this time. I like T.O.P quite a bit, but I was worried because the original is easily the least-impactful of the songs covered tonight. But, this was a performance that perfectly understood dynamics, growing slowly so that its dramatic peaks had maximum effect. It allowed the guys to showcase their suite of incredible vocalists, and managed to give spotlight to each member. The arrangement was pure perfection, opening with an ethereal grace and slowly transforming to an all-out rocker. We got power notes, modern dance, hard-hitting rap/rock and a breathless, double-tempo finale. This was a stunner, through and though, and sets the bar very high for the entire series.

Link to Episode Three Recap


13 thoughts on “Road to Kingdom: Episode Two Recap and Ranking

  1. Looks like AJ ain’t gonna cover this show, so…..gonna be counting on this place to contain my thoughts. Anyway, here’s the rank:

    5. Verivery – Mansae

    The sailing concept aren’t utilized that well (only the wave part fits with it), downgrade from the song since their dance break and whispery pre-chorus kills the tempo.

    4. ONF – Everybody

    Very dissapointed they didn’t do the ankle breaking jump, horror remix adds just the right spice.

    3. TOO – Rising Sun

    One of the coolest song in existence, they did it with just the right energy.

    2. Golden Child – TOP

    Improved the song heavily with it’s ascending build-up, the contemporary dance made them stands out from the rest more hip-hop dance breaks.

    1. Oneus – Warrior’s descendant

    The topic of the song are heavy in itself, but they definitely did an amazing job at it. They used the school concept excellently with props recalling to it (The table lifting, the grafitti), and that slo-mo fight scene…..expressing how there could be no sole perpetrator on it and also the laughing bystanders. I’m a sucker for the acting part of performance.


  2. Yes..like one of the reasons I loved Queendom was because it hasn’t the needle of immediate elimination hanging over the contestants.
    As for my favourite performance… TOO takes the cake but I may be biased because Rising Sun is one of my all-time favourites and the boys delivered a solid performance..so it can be the nostalgia affecting my rankings.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have some complaints about TAK truly uses one set of sound design over and over again in all his production now, when the song reaches the “mega switchup” part of the SMP it really fells good, but the rest feels like the complextro sound is not epic enough for a modern re-imagination of Rising Sun


  4. Five excellent performances! ONF’s probably stood out for me the most – I’ve never really loved ‘Everybody’, but it fits well within their established sound.


  5. I had no bias about Rising Sun, since I’ve not heard it more than twice, but oh boy the TOO performance was huge. Imo the strongest of the 5, with an amazing choreography, and perfect rythm and momento in the instru’

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yasss! Nick covering RtK!

    My opinions, for once, are almost Nick’s to a tee, and so I agree with the ranking except for #1 and 2, which I think should be switched. Golden Child was great but the song does lack punch and so I shall have to give it to TOO. When they recreated the high note I was sold.
    Now I’m kind of sad that they’ll probably be thrown under the bus first, which is a shame because 3 large groups would benefit the program on the whole showiness aspect too.

    What I do appreciate about Golcha is how incredibly in synch their dancing is. They put even The Boyz to shame. Oh, and Jangjun’s rap break.

    I’m still not as keen on ONF’s performance as most people seem to be, and even less on ONEUS’, but they were competent and the slow-mo was really a nice touch.

    Now, as much as I like Verivery I couldn’t help but squint hard during most of their performance. It seems a competent cover of Manse (although I don’t listen to SVT that much so I can’t really tell) but the concept seems to me to be all over the place. With the uniforms and Russian sailors as background dancers, I’d have thought they were doing Everybody, at least.


  7. So, wow, we all have very different thoughts here. (In my case it doesn’t matter at all because I have no way of voting for this thing.)

    5) Verivery took all the joy out of “Mansae”. (maybe they were trying military nautical as in Daehan Minguk Manse! patriotic with that navy ship on the screens?)

    Tied in the middle in some order are the next three:
    ONF “Everybody” – I thought they could have even got more dark and menacing. Like robot zombies in a line coming at us. The music sounded like that to me, the visual didn’t match. I kept thinking what VIXX would have done with style and choreography with this arrangement of the music. Yeah, I was thinking about VIXX for all of ONF’s performance.
    TOO “Rising Sun”. A song that requires knobs on 11 and vocals out of this world, blistering, seering. TOO’s rendition was competent. And as more of a preference than a demerit: I also missed the lyrical hip hop movements that the tvxq guys can do. TOO was too sharp. Yeah, I was thinking about Yunho and Changmin the whole time, the way they can _move_.
    Golcha “Swan Lake in kpop”. Look, I’m a swan. Look we all are swans. 4 minutes in, still swans. I had high hopes with the fans at the beginning thinking they were going to pull an Oh My Girl Queendom traditional – modern hybrid, but that was not to be. It was standard kpop song delivery, with feathers. The costume dept gets props for sewing them all in extra well as I did not see many floating off. Yeah, I was that bored that I was thinking about the costume seamstresses.

    1) ONEUS took an old song and made it more contemporary. I don’t know the original very well, so to these fresh ears it sounded like a BTS-imitation. OK, yes, school boy theme, used so many times, it seemed to work here, perhaps keeping that style easy freed up their time to concentrate on all the solo street fighting coordination. I really liked that the choreography only used the stereotypical boy band moves and form towards the end, the rest of it was more free form.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, nationalism, islands and ships. That makes sense…

      And regarding ONEUS, you’re spot on. My gut up to now tells me they’re second in line for the exit door.


    • Actually international fans can “vote” by streaming their favorite performance. Views from YT and Naver will count. Mnet posted a bunch of different versions and such, but I believe the versions that Nick posted are the ones whose views will be counted.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. please please give me more songs like these!!! All group did well and I’m glad there are diversity styles.

    I’m in it for Goldcha but at first Oneus’ Warrior Descendant gave more impact on me. Goldcha’s perfect execution came close to a second and Too’s energy came third (hard to beat the original’s scream, but they did pull the swag dance effortlessly). Afterward I keep coming back to Goldcha’s T.O.P, the beauty and classy is so my style so it gradually grew to no1 in me. It didn’t stray far from the original so I can understand why others are not very impressed.


  9. I think Mansae would have worked well if they did a version that laid on the guitar riff more heavily, like pop rock? Or VeriVery could have worn colourful suits and done a retro party version of Mansae.


  10. Wow, I’m surprised how much my personal ranking matched with the rankings and reasonings in your post. My thoughts are that most groups on this show are going for “impact”, but it’s just playing out as all bark and no bite. Heavy, dramatic intros and concepts are fine and dandy, but when every group competing is doing the same AND have sharp synchronization to boot, you need to bring something else to the table.

    I loved that GolCha really took the opportunity to truly show another side of them; from the bright pop they debuted with, to the more recent dark “Reboot”, to this new side of, well, elegance! And while I think props can draw a fine line between enhancing a performance and being a crutch, I think the hand-fans elevated the elegance and belong in the first category. Maybe the raining feathers at the end were a little too on-the-nose for the swan concept, but whatever. GolCha was great, and I hope they either rank 1st or 2nd.

    I was/am also a bit of a nay-sayer of having TOO on the show. They’re obviously there because their another Mnet survival-program group. The scene of them going to the rooftop at dawn and “being inspired” by the sunrise to perform “Rising Sun” was hilarious. It was so cheesily scripted. However, I gotta admit that they did great on the performance! I even think having TAK do the arrangement is almost cheating :), as he’s one of my favorite all-time producers! The outfits were also top notch, I gotta add.

    I am still holding out for the last two performances. The Boyz have really upped my expectations for them from the first episode. My ears heard that they’re covering a Taemin song for their performance, and I’m quite excited to see how that will turn out.


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