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Road to Kingdom: Episode Five Recap and Ranking

Warning: This recap is not spoiler-free. Proceed at your own risk!


For once, I’m actually thankful for internet rumors. Knowing two weeks ago about how tonight’s elimination would play out allowed me to watch this episode without going absolutely catatonic. Instead, I’ve been fuming for weeks. I came into tonight’s episode angry, just hoping that it wouldn’t be too cruel.

As it turns out, it was pretty damn cruel. And pointless. And frustrating.

Elimination might be easier to stomach if viewers felt like they had any say in the matter. Golden Child’s performances were consistently in the top half of Youtube and Naver views. I believe they came in second place on the pre-show voting, too. Yet, none of that seemed to matter, even if we were told it would. Instead, eliminations came down to votes from the other acts (which may or may not have been strategic) and small groups of fans who apparently watched the performances online.

If I’m understanding it correctly, this “online vote” consisted of 120 people, accounting for 70% of the total points.

120 people!

That’s one hell of a small sample size. I mean, to put that in perspective, 120 is a tiny, tiny fraction of the fans that read my recaps each week, and I’m hardly a big name internet presence! I’m certainly no MNET (thank god). You’re telling me that a company of their standing can’t find a way to let everyone participate in this “public vote?” I mean, what was the Youtube and Naver streaming supposed to be for?

Plus, (correct me if I’m wrong) these mystery fans were only allowed to pick their top three acts, which meant if an act was everyone’s fourth pick but never made the top three, they’d get no points. This seems needlessly complicated and potentially unrepresentative of actual opinion. I don’t understand why they couldn’t have had a simple weighted vote. I mean, it’s not difficult, especially when the pride of existing groups is on the line.

I can’t help but feel like the rug was pulled underneath Golden Child, along with viewers. Neither the ranking nor the elimination seemed to match public opinion. It feels very arbitrary, but I guess I’m a fool for expecting anything else when it comes to the dubious pairing of “MNET” and “voting.”

I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve realized that the reason Road to Kingdom is turning me off (beyond its purposeless and poorly managed elimination system) is that it’s forcing these groups to compete within a narrow framework, when their strength lies in their diversity. Not every group thrives on stunt-based, high-concept stages, and that’s okay. For example, VERIVERY are great because their songs are dynamite and they have an earnest and goofy group personality. They’re never going to be like The Boyz, nor should they be. But, each act seems to be evaluated on who can give the most MNET-esque performance.

Rather than the celebration and showcase I was hoping it would be, RTK has turned into another tiresome exercise in ranking – not unlike Produce 101. Even though Queendom’s shtick of having its artists publicly list “one act that performed better than you, and one act who performed worse” was all kinds of awkward, at least it led to some fun interactions between the groups. RTK feels so damn serious.

With this in mind, the aspect of RTK I was looking most forward to was fun group interaction. So far, we’ve seen precious little of that. Even as we enter the collaboration round, it’s been a continual cycle of preparation, performance, preparation, performance. There was a bit more behind the scenes bonding tonight, even though most of it felt pretty stilted. Where’s Jangjun when you need him?

Oh… right.

That’s the thing that makes me most upset. Now that my bias group has been unceremoniously kicked out, there’s no hope of seeing them enjoy any of the upcoming collaboration stages. I’m just sad that the general public didn’t get much of a chance to know their personalities, which I’ve always considered one of their biggest strengths.

On the plus side, I think Golcha came across extremely well within the narrow confines of this series and (hopefully) gained some new fans  just in time for their upcoming June comeback.

Allow me to indulge myself by leaving this video here. It’s still my favorite performance of the series so far, by a wide margin:


RANKING

If I averaged my personal two-week rankings, I’d get something like this:

7. Pentagon
6. ONEUS
5. TOO
4. VERIVERY
3. ONF
2. The Boyz
1. Golden Child

Of course, the way things actually broke down was:

7. Golden Child
6. TOO
5. VERIVERY
4. ONEUS
3. Pentagon
2. ONF
1. The Boyz

And… I died a little inside.


COLLABORATION ROUND

After padding time by endlessly pulling balls out of a box (in true survival series fashion), the teams for the collaboration round were revealed. The order would be:

1. VERIVERY & TOO
2. ONF & Pentagon
3. The Boyz & ONEUS

In line with RTK’s fractured structure, we only got to see one of these performances tonight, so it’s hard to make any comparisons. I feel like a whole third of the episode was spent discussing points and rankings and convoluted voting systems, anyway.


VERIVERY & TOO – On (original by BTS)

I think VERIVERY are coming across well whenever they get some airtime, but it was a waste to spend almost the entire behind-the-scenes clip focusing on the two groups trying to execute that overdone gun-shooting choreography that opens this performance. Beyond its clichéd nature, I just don’t need to see these young, fresh groups brandishing guns and acting all tough.

Honestly, I found this to be one of the most forgettable performances of the series so far. I mean, I’m no big fan of On in its original form, and this arrangement didn’t do much to reinterpret it. The rap was actually less jarring than in the original version, and the two teams worked well together, but the military/flag theme felt too obvious. It just seems like VERIVERY and TOO were trying to do what they thought the voters wanted, rather than playing to their own strengths. I can hardly blame them, but it makes for a pretty uninspired performance.


Jeez, I’m spent. Thanks for sticking through this entire, extra-long rant. As always, leave your thoughts in the comments!

43 thoughts on “Road to Kingdom: Episode Five Recap and Ranking

  1. The voting system sucks. Less than 150 random people get to decide everything… what? And I absolutely agree that RTK is unnecesarily serious. If Kingdom happens, I really REALLY want it to be more like Queendom.

    Also, not exactly related to the topic, but could you please tag your spoilers in the future? I’ve been avoiding rumors during weeks only to find out in your website that Golden Child was (supposedly) eliminated (you didn’t mention it directly but you hinted it in a very obvious way). I really like reading your articles so it’ll be shame if I have to avoid everything related to these shows here too. Thank you.

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  2. I disagree with a lot of your opinions on music but this time I came here specifically to commiserate. In Round 2, I enjoyed Golcha’s performance the most – the introduction of the violin & the moulding of the dance around it was a magnificent touch, and the arrangement of Wannabe was fun. Also super disappointed with how little inter-group interactions we’re getting. What a shame.

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  3. I didn’t get spoiled beforehand, so I slammed my laptop and threw it on the ground when I watched Golcha get eliminated (quite a confusing sight for the people in the room for me haha). Both of their first round performances were absolutely spectacular, and while their Wannabe stage was amazing but not my favorite, it definitely shouldn’t have put them in last place. I mean with the way that things were going in previous episodes, I kind of expected it but had hope that the voters and contestants would somehow come to their senses. Well, obviously that didn’t happen and now I can’t really enjoy the show anymore.

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    • Ugh, I’m sorry you had to find out about it “live.” I probably would’ve broken something if that had been the case! Even knowing what was going to happen, my fists were clenched. It sucks, because it’s really affected my enjoyment of the show as well.

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  4. if you happened to read my other comments on your recaps, you’d know that i agree wholeheartedly with your views on Golden Child. i became a fan through RTK because i felt like they were the most talented (and harmonious/hilarious), so im bummed that they had to bow out so early. i was looking forward to their antics in the collaboration stage, but…

    anyway, like you, im glad that we had two weeks to prepare for this. i was positively FURIOUS in the first week ever since the unjustifiably low 5th place ranking, but i think im in the final stage of grief now. im now glad that they graduated early because:
    – if RTK is anything like queendom, companies are footing most of the stage production costs. according to insiders quoted on other sites, this could add up to hundreds of thousands for costumes, props, choreography, arrangement, etc. particularly for smaller groups like these, it’s going to take some time before they recoup their losses.
    – Golden Child has already performed 3 out of 5 fantastic stages, and the public has been able to judge their talent for themselves. if anything, the injustice GC suffered has brought more fans to them (including yours truly) and aroused the sympathies of existing fans. it was an amazing PR move on woollim’s part to release their comeback news the day after the graduation announcement. the woollim family album is coming out tomorrow too – coupled with the boys’ magazine pictorials, vlives, appearances on Idol Radio, Jangstar, etc, i think they will rise in no time.
    – on the other hand, ratings for RTK have since fallen from 0.5% to 0.3%. the petty fan in me is laughing at mnet’s misfortune, although i still wish the other groups the best.

    my personal cumulative rankings are:

    7. PENTAGON: i really wanted to like them more because i LOVE their songs, but i just don’t think they’ve been showcasing their full potential in this show. there’s a big gap between them and the other groups both arrangement and performance-wise, and that’s even when i treat all the groups as equals. if i were to take PTG’s seniority into account, they would’ve fallen far below my expectations. to me, Very Good was just an extremely noisy remake and their mashup was neither cohesive nor impressive.

    6. VERIVERY: their Manse performance was meh. they definitely did much better in their horror performance, but i think they need a better link between the songs they pick and their concepts. right now it just seems like random concepts superimposed on random songs.

    5. ONEUS: i liked the story in the first round, and the second round’s performance was undeniably LIT. they’ve performed decent thus far, but perhaps need more creativity/differentiation to stand out.

    4. TOO: i loved Rising Sun!! super impressive for rookies and i was hooked from beginning to end. i was quite disappointed by Magnolia however, the stage was overall a bit messy and disjointed. until today i only remember the guy with scales.

    3. ONF: like Very Good, Everybody was just a noisy remake for me. but i really loved their We Must Love performance – from the arrangement to the execution. but i would say their concepts have not been as on-point for me as my top two groups.

    2 / 1. THE BOYZ / GOLDEN CHILD:
    i don’t even need to explain TBZ – they’re made for this show. their flashy performances are captivating and successfully convey a story. their props, costumes, use of the stage, etc. are all wonderful. what they fell short of in Danger, they made up for in Reveal. i can absolutely understand why they’ve only ranked first thus far, the sword performance and Reveal were some of my favourites. however, they are sliiiiightly more of style than substance to me.
    on the other hand, GC is more of substance than style. i think they did the best in matching their stages/concepts to the themes given, but their Wannabe stage unfortunately lacked the “flashy” factor. kudos to them for holding my attention without backup dancers, but i think they could have illustrated the story better. on the other hand, their T.O.P. stage was my favourite performance out of all – thank you for linking it here – because it was quite equally balanced in style and substance. nonetheless, i think they’re one of the most well-rounded groups of this generation. they also brought lots of entertainment value to the show, which was why i put them in first place with TBZ.

    also, i watched the VRVR-TOO stage out of curiosity and i was unfortunately quite disappointed. they weren’t synchronised enough for their moves to be impactful, and everything about the stage was expected and not very exciting. nothing really stood out or left an impression, only the flag-sticking bit because i thought “erm… that’s it?” some of them also didn’t have the requisite facial expressions/moves/charisma to carry the mood. not even an ARMY but i thought BTS did better with just 7 people…

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    • I’m very happy to hear that they successfully brought you into the fold!

      Last year was a rough one for the group, with a 13-month hiatus that stalled most of the momentum they’d been building up to that point. It frustrates me when I see new groups who happen to have the benefit of a popular Produce-alum sell three or four times the amount as Golcha right off the bat, on the back of much weaker, more faceless material.

      As a longtime fan, it was hard for me to judge just how much of their charm might be coming through to RTK viewers who weren’t already familiar with them. I’m happy to hear that you were able to get a sense for what makes them special, even though their time on the series was limited. I’m hoping for nothing but the best with their next comeback, and I agree that Woollim finally did something right by announcing (or leaking news of) the cb right after their elimination.

      Strike while the iron is hot!

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  5. This time you said almost everything I’ve been thinking since Thursday.

    Golcha’s elimination was a double slap for me. Last week I was told about the elimination rumor and at first it shocked me, but then I rationalized it and said “nah, that won’t happen. They were 2nd in streams. Golcha are definitely slated for the show’s top 3.” All this time I was rather more likely to fume at the unfair advantage Goldenness organization represented for them (I knew nothing about the system. I thought streams=points 🤷🏻‍♂️). And then come Thursday I saw what actually happened. So, a double slap.

    Then I’ve been thinking about the fact that people were so enthusiastic about the interaction and dynamics in Queendom (I didn’t watch it myself) and were expecting to see it again with the boys, but then I don’t see any of that happening here. Everyone’s just secluded in their anterooms doing excessive reactions shown an excessive amount of times. (A tribute to social distancing, perhaps? 🤨)
    “Is it too early in the show for that?,” I thought, but then the collab round comes and the little Verivery/TOO interaction we’re allowed to see was kind of stiff, as you say. Oh, and then immediately after you see them practicing together, they’re already analyzing the scoreboard in their rooms, thinking about how their PARTNERS are gonna be their closest rivals. *facepalm*
    I mean, it tickles my cynical, overanalyzing side, but the softer side that has acquired a certain empathy for all groups (specially the aforementioned two) is mightily disappointed. And that spirit of cutthroat competition is of course all the fault of the unnecessary elimination system.

    My hope is that at least in the actual Kingdom, potentially having larger acts with larger companies and fandoms and all will mean Mnet will tread more carefully. Meaning, first and foremost, doing away with the eliminations. I don’t think NU’EST or Monsta X or Astro (with Cha Eunwoo) or anyone of the potential rumored contestants and their agencies are game for being treated like Produce trainees.

    Also what you say about the format shoehorning all groups into the same performance template. I notice every group has its strengths and a different temperament, let’s call it, and yet now they all seem to have noticed that being like either The Boyz or Pentagon is what pays and have probably been scared away from the “classier”, subtler performances Golcha attempted. It doesn’t suit everyone. Like, Verivery are strong dancers and perhaps, as with the 2nd round, able to do a great concept with some help (like Ravi) but they don’t seem naturally given to the stunts TBZ favors. Same with TOO, which seems, in my ignorant opinion, to be more about stronger vocals than dances. Both of those groups then suffer because of what the public has come to expect. And even The Boyz themselves! What can they possibly bring to the table that’s grander and more extravagant than their ep 4 presentation?! Or ONEUS, for that matter.

    And finally, this program has wasted Jangjun. That is unforgivable.

    P.S. Sorry for writing an essay again. 😬

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  6. I guess RTK’s concept and roster are somehow similar to The Uni+, so it’s no shame or surprise to me that eliminations are part of the game. In showbiz, competitions are used to be much more useful than exhibitions to (re)launch someone, and I guess that’s the reason why The Boyz are gaining lots of attention they probably have never had before: not because they’re *very good* (we already knew it, and it didn’t work that well so far), but because they’re *better*.
    In these terms, I understand your point and your frustration to see you bias dropped off at the first round, but from a competitive point of view Golden Child proved once more to be a boy group without any valuable (market) preferability: they have no *better* visuals, they have no *better* vocals, they have no *better* performance skills than other boy groups in RTK. They’re just *very good* at doing their tasks.
    Each RTK act is showing something *more* than it usually did before (even Verivery, whom I’ve never exactly loved at all); Golden Child checked their *well done!* box and that’s it.

    And I’m not sure Woollim Entertainment will ever be able to give them that something *more*, even now they’re out from RTK.

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    • Well, obviously I’m going to have to respectfully disagree.

      I don’t think it’s about being the “best” in something. I don’t think there’s any idol group that’s the best at any one aspect, especially as concepts change so often. It’s more about music and personalities that connect with you. There’s no sense in arguing because this is so subjective, but here are the things that (for me) set Golcha apart from other groups.

      1. Vocals – I don’t want to get into ‘which group has better vocalists’ nonsense, because it’s not really possible to define what makes a better vocalist. For me, they have the tightest, most engaging vocal line of this new generation of idol acts. They’ve got several members who could be considered “main vocals,” and I find members like Joochan and Y to have distinct, highly appealing tones that really match my preferences.
      2. Personality / Character – So many boy groups these days feel interchangeable. Golcha’s personality-rich members help make their variety a must-see, and Woollim has largely done a great job harnessing that in their music, too. Even when “going dark,” their songs feel unique to them. No carbon copy trap bops.
      3. Discography – For me, their discography runs circles around almost any act of their generation, including the others that were on RTK. It’s just so consistently strong and brings the kind of classic touch I’ve always appreciated in Woollim artists.

      Of course, not much of this helps within the narrow confines of a competition series, so I see your point as it relates to RTK. Though, I would argue that their performance of T.O.P was definitely “something more” for them. At the very least, it shocked this longtime fan!

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    • Saying that Golden Child isnt “better” at anything and using The Boyz as an example of being “better” is just so nonsense to me.
      If anything, if I had to pick a group’s that’s comes off just bland, it would be The Boyz. Probably cause I have this bad experience with them looking exactly the same and sounding exactly the same with no single individuality showcased in their songs and performances but that’s another topic.
      Going back to this competition, I don’t think their performances are “better” either. They’re good and visually appealing but there’s no substance in it. They have shock value and they’re playing it safe in a way that they’ll know they’ll catch people’s attention with all the tricks pulled but there’s nothing more to it.
      Groups like Veryveri, ONF and Golden Child showed variety and substance something the other groups have yet to show.
      Certainly, this was not a competition for a group like Golden Child whose strength lies in their talents and skills and not flashy stages.

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    • Dear Antonio ,
      I just really want you to know that Golden Child is more than very good or how you assume they are. Golden Child honestly have the best vocals in this generation. Most groups focus on choreo while that is important , Golden Child have already mastered choreo to an extent where they’re vocals are way better. They have Y and Joochan are amazing and even Jangjun is an amazing rapper.
      They didn’t go needlessly hard unlike other groups and focused on their vocals more than anything.
      Also , If this site didn’t focus on that everybody should be respectful , I would have spewed curse words on you , throughout.
      Visuals are also not important , what matters when it comes to competitively Golden Child rocks better than other groups , even The Boyz or VeriVery or Oneus.

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  7. I guess it’s Woollim’s misfortune in competitive things: Infinite never won a Daesang due to … circumtances, they missed the 1st Production show for boy, on the next one they managed to get a boy in the final group then the whole thing got cancelled, and now Golcha got kicked out before RtK even airs… that’s not even counting the girl groups. (also I rooted for Woollim since Epik High and Nell era then they got a bitter depart lol, at least they got eyes for talent)

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    • But Infinite has won an accolades of awards including the coveted Best Boy Group at the MAMA awards 2013. They had all-kills and triple crowns at music shows. They won many bonsangs just not the daesang but how many groups has ever won the daesang? They didn’t need to be on any competition/survival type shows. I wouldn’t have mentioned them at all here to make your point about Woollim groups misfortune. Infinite was the it group during their peak.

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  8. Ouch. That’s quite harsh, but it’s certainly a thought I’ve been entertaining. (Psst, it’s not kosher for Nick though. 🤫) Except for synchronized dancing, I don’t see anything Golden Child really *excelled* at, and that’s a trick they shared with Verivery.
    Now, I think they’re strong variety idols, but if their current lack of popularity goes on I doubt they’ll be able to harness that and get the chance to become the next Super Junior or something. Even more considering their bid is more pitching Bomin’s looks alla Astro instead of, say, the funny JangTAG duo.

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    • More like harsh, it’ss nonsense. I highly doubt a group that *excells* at something even exists in kpop. And certainly, the boyz are far from being a group that excells at something. Without the help of a creative team doing everything for them to stand out, what else is there to offer? Vocally and sonically average. Dancing in sync is a must for new boygroups so I think that’s out of the question.

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      • For one, that was an idea I entertained instead of a firm opinion. Second, I didn’t precisely mention The Boyz, unlike the other poster.

        The elimination aspect puts all contestants on a strait jacket that doesn’t allow experimentation nor permits their individuality to shine, instead urging all towards minmaxing performances.

        Within the “narrow confines of the competition”, as Nick says, I don’t think Golcha showed anything to set them apart from the rest because, as I’m painfully aware, RtK is a game of creative/production/whatever teams for the generation of fans breastfed on acts like EXO, NCT and latter-day BTS, so the extravagance and visual showiness of TBZ pay off. And in that game Golcha came across as rather *weak* in their concepts compared to some of the others (though not their performances, which were very competent, if I may say.) So I have to applaud TBZ’s production team for knowing what the public wants while I chide Golcha’s one, instead of blaming the idols themselves.

        Do I think they deserved to be eliminated? No. But I can see where it comes from.
        Had it been allowed to pan out, I do think Golcha would have excelled in the variety aspect of RtK, by dint of sheer likeability as compared to some of the other groups like the timid TOO boys or in this case, yes, The Boyz, who are a mixed bag of funny, uninteresting and sometimes borderline rude. But sadly it wasn’t to be.

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        • You changed your argument here. I replied to your comment saying Golden Child don’t excel at anything hence why they were eliminated and like I said there’s no really a group that actually “excels” at anything on this show or kpop – which is a silly argument to begin with.

          Now reading this reply of yours, it makes even less sense than before. They should have made this an “art directors competition” instead.
          “have to applaud TBZ’s production team for knowing what the public wants while I chide Golcha’s one”. That is another way of ridiculous thinking, these people work on the field, all of them know what the public wants, they know that the average viewer would be impressed by the dark and tough concepts, eighty thousands dancers and stage stunts. That’s just playing it safe. This show wasn’t a show for Woollim, that’s for sure, but the reason why they don’t do well is because they just don’t play it safe, not because their groups don’t excell at anything.

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  9. I admit i was sad when golden child got eliminated, and ends up laughing thinking “Man, Thebiaslist gonna nuke the site after this.”. And i have a feeling the “ON” performance gonna be the worst out of the three considering the lack of originality to it, although it’s impossible not to get slightly hyped seeing that many people doing synchronized dances.

    My overall rankings:

    1. The Boyz
    2. Oneus
    3. ONF
    4. Verivery
    5. Golden Child
    6. Pentagon
    7. TOO

    I was dead sure TOO gonna lose first but while getting acknowledgement about their skills as a rookie. Looks like Mnet don’t want their babies to lose yet.

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  10. .

    1) THEY WUZ ROBBED!
    2) 0.3% you say, lol, heh, schadenfreude for Mnet.

    3) “On” performance. I realize my comment is from someone very far from Korea, and this was created weeks and weeks ago, but I just can’t champion that performance at all, that concept.

    Its the camo, the military theme, the confluence with too many things this month.

    In my state there are white guys dressed up like Rambo’s in full open carry parading around the neighborhoods every weekend loudly declaring their rights. Because they aren’t allowed on the state capitol grounds itself dressed like that, they maraud through neighborhoods. Meanwhile elsewhere in the country, the police continue to treat people like shit. (… and they arrest the CNN reporter?!!?)

    And then the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, followed by Memorial Day last weekend. My mom was born shortly before D-day; my grandfather with his battalion landing on the beaches, somehow only losing 1 man. (Grandpa did come home, as did most of his men.)

    My book club picked a book this month about the Vietnam War. One scene has the author’s buddy getting sucked into the mud in the middle of a storm at night and dying choked by mud, They have to search for him the next morning, and then dig him out.

    To come full circle, The average age of the Vietnam soldier was 19. Simon Fuller started the pop idol TV competition shows a couple decades ago that continues to inspire these derivative pop idol competitions. Fuller named his company “19” after his first production hit song which was also called “19”. Released in 1985, the song is a war protest song wrapped up in a pop dance mix. It topped the charts around the world. The lyrics consist of a recording of a news reporter saying “The average age of the Vietnam soldier was 19”. People may think of 80’s pop music as all sex, drugs, rock n roll, which they were, but half were a protest songs about war, nuclear war, AIDS, poverty, famine. These kids here on the stage, they are probably about 19.

    These stylists and choreographers have no clue. Hey, camo, military, gun fight, sounds cool. No, no its not.

    (Also I always found “On” to be “meh”, and this doesn’t change that in any direction.)

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    • “These stylists and choreographers have no clue. Hey, camo, military, gun fight, sounds cool. No, no its not.”

      These stylists and choreographers, if male, had/ will have to do their compulsory military service, if female, have family members and friends who have to do so. Heck, Pentagon’s last stage was a send-off of their groupmate to the military. I’d bet my money they have some sort of clue.

      You can’t just impose your historical memory of war, as (based on your references) an American, and think that it somehow should also apply to SK’s narrative and experience. Or think you understand the atrocities of war better than the people who live in a society that still has to deal with the ramifications of occupation, their country being torn apart, and an ongoing conflict with their “other half”.

      So they didn’t come to the same conclusions that seem so natural to you, doesn’t mean they “don’t have a clue”, or that they just think it’s cool or whatever.

      I don’t like how Kpop employs militaristic themes and images either; nor how it so often uses gun-related effects as part of its soundscape, it makes me uncomfortable. And that’s due to my own background, and experiences. However, it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that Kpop, SK’s most powerful soft power, takes on the aesthetics of hard power. For a society that was stripped of its ability/ right to defend itself for decades, it makes a lot of sense for these types of sentiments to be expressed/ find an outlet through mainstream pop culture–especially now, when they can flex it to the whole world.

      And just to be clear, I share the same feeling as you about the performance, it’s just a particular disagreement with your framing, and the quoted line I am referring to.

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      • The opening to the frame was: “I realize my comment is from someone very far from Korea, and this was created weeks and weeks ago, but I just can’t champion that performance at all, that concept.”

        This is the first time I believe I have seen combat camo military with guns on a kpop stage. (Outside of the entertainment shows within the military itself – there are bootlegs videos of Eunhyuk, Shindong, Taeyang, Chanhyuk, and others all in camo uniform doing their thing.)

        Maybe the intent was more first person shooter games, but I deplore those as well. Kpop also uses a lot of gun firing and loading / unloading sounds.

        There are lots of dress military, or campy glitzy military-inspired costumes around kpop, including BTS for the former and lots of SHINee for the latter. There are many times on the variety singing shows when men show up in the day working “service” uniform due to their active service. I just came across old video of Bae Doo Hoon (of Forestella) doing his audition for The Voice in his navy service uniform.

        It’s the camo with guns. Is it triggering? Literally, viscerally. Yes. Absolutely. Even moreso after this weekend when every window in downtown that could be broken was broken. When my employee’s husband with the National Guard gets mobilized to serve several states away.

        For mandatory military service itself, there is a common misperception on kpop sites that it is only or mostly South Korea. Maybe not you yourself, but it is common comment. Now, I am old, and I have a degree in a multinational area and have worked for a lot of multinational companies, mostly European. Until recently most of Europe had, and the male half of my foreign friends and colleagues did mandatory military service, phasing out country by country over the 90’s and 00’s, including my own brother-in-law who served. The Finns and the Swiss still go for weeks at a time – one day someone on a project will announce that he is off for a month. Our Jewish friends with dual citizenship, their kids go do theirs in Israel right after graduating high school.

        As far as knowing the atrocities of war, it is challenging and perhaps inappropriate in a comment section to demand and to provide a list of bona fides to demonstrate this, for something that is conveyed not just through words. Uncles, cousins, friends, friend’s families, neighbors. Limps. Limbs. Sight. Hearing. Tattoos. Burials.

        I am human, and being human I can understand and can have empathy.

        From what I can see from abroad, I haven’t seen the “soft power as hard power” as overt as this performance before. I have read about the kpop blasting from speakers over the demilitarized zone, which might be considered such. Red Velvet’s visit, possibly as well. From what I see over here, South Korea is usually more circumspect, precise, and surgical when deploying soft power as hard power.

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        • I never demanded you to provide a bona fides list proving you know the atrocities of war. But it came across from your original comment like you don’t believe that Koreans understand it. You literally said it yourself “they have no clue”. My point still stands – they have a lot of clues, and they use these images, these aesthetics, for their own reasons.

          I’m Israeli, I did my military service. I don’t think I’m as old as you, but I’m old enough to remember the first gulf war and having to go into shelters and wearing gas masks. I know well what it’s like to live through a long history of violence. And I’m not on the side of the political map that denies my county’s accountability in our own ongoing conflict.

          I also happen to have, unrelated to my interest in Korean pop culture–that came later–a degree in East-Asian studies, so I have a fairly good grasp of Japanese and a fairly reasonable grasp of Korean (though I’m still working on improving both). Currently doing my masters in Transcultural studies (sort of like the hip new thing in academia right now).

          If I had the time and energy I would have made a comprehensive account of all (well maybe not all, because that would be exhausting) the militaresque allusions–sonic or visual–found in Kpop, their context, how they are used, etc.

          I love Taemin with every fiber of my being, but I can’t stand how his solo career and the early stage of his image as a solo artist were shaped through extensive usage of gun imagery (in photoshoots, MVs and in stage performances), he has a song titled Soldier, that he wrote himself. I find it hard to believe it was just some random choice made by stylists and art directors who don’t get it, and who just thought it was cool. It was so obviously deployed in order to make his image more masculine. Militarism, guns, chauvinism, those go hand in hand. That phase lasted till around 2016. Hopefully, we’re past that. He seems more into religious imagery and fluid sexuality lately.

          The overt militarism has been quite obvious to me for some time. I think the craziest example of this soft-hard power that I can think of right now has to do with military-musical productions, ROKA has produced 2 such shows in the past 2 years, both about the “historical heroic accounts of Korean youth” and things like that. SHINee’s Onew, Jo Kwon, Exo’s Xiumin, and other idols were cast in the main roles. Articles from Korean newspapers proudly point to the fact that so many international fans came from abroad to watch these plays. I’ve read tweets from Japanese (!!!) fans talking about how emotional they felt watching a musical about Koreans fighting the Japanese imperialist army.

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          • Ah, yes the ROKA. I had read a few articles at the time, but hadn’t seen any bootlegs on my youtube feed, so I had not remembered. (I am more ELF than Shawol, SuJu being far more schmaltzy.) OK, I can see your point but I would call the ROKA musical more government laser focused propaganda. Surgical.

            A few years and jobs ago, I had a colleague who sat a couple cubes over from me who was Israeli, and still served in some sort of reserve capacity. We called him The Colonel, because of his domineering personality, but I don’t remember his actual rank. In 2012 timeframe he had to do a few trips for family reasons back and forth, and every time at the airport he would be handed a sidearm with a Welcome Back “colonel”. That was a very vershimmelt year for him, and for the region.

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  11. I’m not surprised that golden child got eliminated, their performance for round two definitely was lacklustre by my standards, but I’m honestly surprised that Too wasn’t the one eliminated. Except for Rising Sun, Too’s performance’s have been decent at most. Maybe it’s because they don’t have many songs to use, but I’m still disappointed.

    In terms of Verivery’s x Too’s collab stage I have to praise Dongheon. He is quite strict but you can tell that he cares for the members in his own group and for Too.

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  12. I have been following the site for a while now and yet, this is my first comment. Am still trying to come to terms with what happened, clearly knowing the rumors didn’t make it any easier at all, and agree with everything you’ve said about Mnet and the show. Nevertheless, I appreciate RtK for introducing me to all these groups (I kind of knew most of them but just as a casual listener, except for Pentagon maybe). Now I can understand why you love Golden Child so much, and am gonna miss them a lot, specially Jangjun (super bias). Excited for the comeback already!

    PD: I forced a friend to watch the show (she doesn’t like this kind of shows for obvious reasons) and now she has become a fan of Golcha too! She liked Bomin since the Melting me… thing, but Jangjun have won her over 😂

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  13. I am very angry, and not energetic to write a full comment. I just want to offer my support to the Gocha stans. 😦
    F

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  14. In my opinion the absolute worst thing about this show is the affect it has on the idols themselves. This show is basically demanding that every group squeeze themselves into a very narrow box in order to gain success, and in so many ways that kind of mentality is downright harmful. Watching JooChan (who preformed wonderfully with the rest of Golcha) basically call himself inadequate after their elimination was utterly heartbreaking. The mindset this show elicits is damaging and cruel in every way. I get that it is supposed to be a competition but as they have before mnet is doing this all wrong. Literally half of episode 5 was spent dragging out the rankings and convoluted rules. It was mind numbing and infuriating just to watch it, and I cannot imagine how they must have felt sitting through it.
    All of these idols, both as individuals and as whole groups have astounded me every time I have watched them both on and off stage. Even if I was not a fan of a particular performance or group, every single time I watched them I was in awe of the sheer effort and talent they displayed. Every individual and group on this show has poured their hearts out for these stages, and no matter who you support or what stage you preferred this fact should be obvious to everyone. Regardless of how technically successful each stage was, NO ONE slacked off here. So, nothing on this show angers me more than watching the interviews afterwards where these amazing humans say things that basically sum up to “we/I need to work harder” or “we weren’t good enough.” I want to scream at my screen from halfway around the world, as if they could hear me and say, “you did well, please don’t let this god forsaken show make you doubt yourself.”
    At this point I really think mnet really has confused the definition of torture with drama. They are not just infuriating, I legitimately think what they are doing to these people is dangerous, both physically and especially mentally. I remember watching the produce X 101 finale, and I remember looking at some of those trainees and literally thinking they were about to drop dead on that stage. That is how miserable they looked, and I hope we never see another produce show again. Survival shows were always cruel, and I always hated them but mnet really does have a talent for enhancing misery.
    Personally, I do have a heavy bias on this show (Oneus is my one of my top three groups), but with every fiber of my being I do not want them to win. I want them to escape mnet as soon as humanly possible and I would wish the same for all of them if that were possible. Never in my life have I watched a competition show and actively hoped that my favorites wouldn’t win, that is what mnet has brought me to with this show.
    All of that rant being said, Mnet I hate you and so does everyone else.
    Golden Child, I hope you can leave this show far behind you and wreck us all with your amazing comeback. I look forward to it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I really hope Golden Child feel better when their comeback comes around and it would be nice if their album sales would boost

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    • I understand why Golden Child was eliminated. It is not because they are not good but because they dont seem to fit this kind of shows which needed more flare. It is a plus point if they are good at singing and dancing. But this show is a total production competition…who can entertain well…with visuals, story telling and all. This is not a singng competion or a dance competition per se,

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  15. I’m truly confused as to why these two eliminations need to happen at all. At the end of the show, two groups will go to Kingdom, which means that the other groups would not have made it anyways. However, it would’ve at least given them all a chance to perform at every single stage. I really can’t wrap my head around why Mnet would add these arbitrary eliminations other than that they are a cruel company (which I guess I knew already) and for ratings (but I don’t know if it really affected the ratings at all). I do think that some of these comments are funny though because kpop stages are meant to entertain and wow, not all the time, but certainly in Road to Kingdom they are. The amount of people bashing on The Boyz for having showy stages is hilarious. Like what are they supposed to do? Stand around and not go all out? Either way, every single group in this competition is amazing in their own way. I hope everyone watching can come out of this show with an appreciation with what each of these groups brings to the kpop world instead of disliking certain groups because they got a higher rank than another one.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I watch the performances for fun and I have no investment in any of these groups, I might be developing a slight bias towards ONF but that’s about it, I don’t expect them to continue to KINGDOM, and I don’t expect to be particularly upset about it.

    Looking at this show, not as a competition that has to be won, but rather as a part of a marketing strategy–If I were an entertainment label I too might have wanted my group to be out of it as soon as possible, especially if I had a comeback ready to go. Why exhaust my resources on a TV stint? Instead, they can now take advantage of the buzz and drama. At the end of the day, sending and keeping your group on this show is a financial decision and a marketing decision.

    And if YouTube and Naver views are more representative of public opinion, Golden Child are about to have their best comeback yet, wouldn’t you say?

    This might be tine foil hat territory but didn’t Whoollim also have a part of the whole P101 controversy? This show’s ranking and voting system are convoluted and stupid, and it’s probably for a reason. I doubt neither MNET, nor the labels had changed their ways, and they probably strike deals way in advance.

    From a TV production perspective, if TOO were the one to go first (this would probably be the fairest result) no one would care. It wouldn’t be good television, because it would be boring and predictable. And no one would be writing angry and frustrated blogs about them. Also, going forward the group wouldn’t have a good story to follow up with.

    I didn’t expect Golden Child to be the first to go tbh, I thought it would be between TOO (if somehow MNET choose to take the fair rout) and VERYVERY (their Mansae performance left a pretty bad impression on me, and I don’t even remember what they did for their other stages)

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