Warning: This recap is not spoiler-free. Proceed at your own risk!
This episode opened with Pentagon’s Hui recounting advice he heard from an elder — that you can tell if an idol group will be successful or not within three years of their debut. That got me wondering how true this is. There are notable exceptions (Nu’est, EXID), but by-and-large, if a group has not built a steady fan base by that point, the road is certainly difficult. K-pop is such a fast-moving industry, and military enlistment is a particularly difficult hurdle for male idol groups to overcome. I hope that every group on Road to Kingdom experiences a boost from this show. After suffering Mnet’s indignities, they certainly deserve it!
A couple of quick observations before we get into the rankings for this round:
* Golden Child’s Jangjun did a spot-on impersonation of host Lee Dahee on an episode of Video Star the other week. Now it’s all I can think about when I see her.
* The over-reactions by contestants during their competitors’ performances continue to get to me. I like ONF’s Wyatt, but his are particularly over the top and just come across as insincere.
‘YOUR SONG’ ROUND Pt. 2
Tonight, we saw the last three performances of this round. Below is my personal ranking, though I’m less certain about it than usual. It’s hard when the rounds are split between two weeks.
6. TOO – Hard Carry (original by GOT7)
5. Pentagon – Follow (original by Monsta X)
Is it just me, or was their behind-the-scenes clip much longer than the other groups? Mnet certainly seems to be pushing the drama when it comes to Pentagon, treating them like failures in need of career resuscitation. I don’t think that’s the actual reality, and the sob story RTK is trying to paint around them feels especially disingenuous when you consider that they literally ranked at first place last round.
In 2017, I featured Hui on my top producers of the year list. I mention that because I’m probably going to get some flak for this next opinion.
I really think his skills as an arranger are suffering a slump. He’s probably overworked, and exhausted. But lately, all his arrangements seem to be doing is regurgitating trends. I’m not a huge fan of Follow in the first place, and I liked this remix even less. I mean, I was never going to like it. The focus on hard-hitting EDM and trap beats over melody is not a winning formula for me. I’ll give them extra props for the sets and… well… props. The performance aspect was on point, and puts them just above TOO. The dance break towards the end was also pretty cool.
4. ONF – It’s Raining (original by Rain)
Fourth place for the whole package, but this was the best song arrangement by far. It’s a total jam.
3. The Boyz – Shangri-La (original by VIXX)
I think I’m the only one who doesn’t particularly care for Shangri-La. In fact, it’s probably my least favorite VIXX title track. Oddly, that kind of mirrors my thoughts about The Boyz. They’re immensely talented, but outside the confines of this series, they’re too often let down by the material they’re given.
These Boyz, though! They’re just always flipping and twirling and jumping on things. Look! He’s on a door! Over there! He’s walking a tightrope!
I don’t mean to be glib. The spectacle is highly entertaining to watch, and they always pull it off. They’re an incredible dance unit, and RTK really shows that off. The staging here was beautiful. Simple, clear and very effective. I also liked the symphonic arrangement. It greatly enhanced the original song, and the performance was a real stunner. Just perfect.
But what I hate about Korea’s idol industry is that its focus on perfection causes these performers to be unnecessarily harsh on themselves if they bungle even the slightest aspect of their stage. This not only seems dangerous from a mental health perspective, but it actually pulls me out of the performance. I like to hear a little strain in the voice, or a spontaneous bit of unexpected character. It’s almost as if, the more perfect an idol group is, the less personally engaged I become. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but that’s where I’m at, and that explains my low-ish ranking of The Boyz this week.
2. ONEUS – Be Mine (original by Infinite)
1. VERIVERY – Gogobebe (original by Mamamoo)
I don’t know a lot about the insider world of K-pop choreography, but looking at the credits of that Young Joon guy was like a sampler platter of every iconic dance move of the past few years. VERIVERY were lucky to have him as a consultant.
I can take or leave Gogobebe, but I’m a fan of boy groups covering girl group songs, and vice versa. Aladdin seemed like a really odd and cheesy theme for this stage, but I think it paid off. This was so fun and lively and such a contrast from all of the other groups. It was just really creatively staged, and a blast to watch from start to finish. I thought it was odd that the other competitors were surprised that this was a “one-take.” I mean, aren’t all these stages one-takes? They’re supposed to be “live,” right? I mean, I know a lot of it is pre-recorded, but I’d like to think that what we’re seeing is the actual performance — not just separate cuts strung together.
It was a shame that Hoyoung dropped his staff at a critical moment, but it sucked to see them all so morose immediately after giving such a joyful performance. That’s the K-pop industry for you. And that’s RTK in a nutshell. You can’t even fully enjoy the good stuff without regrets.
Anyways, this stage lands on top for me just for its sheer ambition. There were better re-arrangements and more technically stunning performances, but this was the most “let’s put on a show!” enjoyable.
Actual Results (after all was said and done):
2. The Boyz
So, that’s TOO eliminated, then. They had to see it coming, but it still stings. I’m kind of shocked that ONF ranked so high. I liked their performance (and loved their remix), but I didn’t think it stood out all that much. The other competing groups really seem to like them. Maybe it’s all those Wyatt over-reactions? Just kidding. They’re super talented, and I’ve been a big fan since debut.