I’ve spent the past few weeks poring over the performances of Road to Kingdom’s competing groups. But to be honest, I’ve always been much more infatuated with music – the actual songs – than all the trappings that go along with them. That’s why, even though ONF didn’t rank at the top for me this last round, their It’s Raining mix will have the greatest longevity on my playlist. Taken on its own — with the lame pauses deleted (thank you, audio-editing software!) — it’s just so satisfying.
With this in mind, we come to the prelude of RTK’s finale. Each of the remaining groups has released a “comeback” single, though I doubt many of these will be promoted outside the confines of this show. It’s an exciting prospect, though I was mostly underwhelmed with the songs that spawned from Queendom. RTK’s offerings are a mixed bag, too, with a couple of definite standouts.
5. ONEUS – Come Back Home
What an awful chorus! Like… way to take all the life out of your song, guys! The first forty-eight seconds of this point toward a Valkyrie-style banger (still their best song), but then the whole thing lurches into a messy mix of trap, dub-step and halfhearted melody. After an equally noisy second verse, there are moments of hope interspersed within the mix. The vocals are strong, but the entire thing feels so fractured. It’s clearly designed with a RTK-type stage in mind, and I absolutely hate that those constraints have infiltrated the song itself.
4. Pentagon – Basquiat
So, is this named after the famous artist? That’s certainly an interesting concept. The song itself feels like an extension of Dr. BeBe. I was overly harsh on that track when it was released, and I think Basquiat suffers from its same issues. Its chorus is just too shouty for me, as if singing it really loudly can compensate for the fact that there’s not a lot of actual melody to be found. This song is decent, though like ONEUS’s track, it’s clearly designed more for a stage show than listening on its own. You can practically see the dramatic entrance and lighting. The electric guitar at the end is nice, though.
3. The Boyz – Checkmate
In yesterday’s recap, I mentioned how I thought that The Boyz were an immensely talented group often let-down by their material. Checkmate feels like something from their latest album, and that’s not exactly a compliment. Its verses are unnecessarily murky and moody, including some irritating trap production. The chorus is better, hinging on a dramatic melody and airy, layered vocals. Stacked up against their best, most upbeat work (Right Here, Giddy Up, D.D.D), this doesn’t do much for me. But, I guess it’s relatively satisfying.
AND… WE HAVE A TIE!
1. VERIVERY – Beautiful-x
Working with the Full8loom production team (of WJSN fame), VERIVERY struck gold with this electro funk track. Of all of the songs, it feels the most like an actual single that they would promote outside of RTK. Its upbeat energy hearkens back to debut-era Seventeen, which has always been the route I’d hoped to see VERIVERY take. I’ll forgive the short trap-rap breakdown in the second verse. At least it doesn’t come right after the chorus, where every other boy group track likes to lodge it. Otherwise, this is a very solid dance track. The chorus is especially slick, with some great layered vocal moments.
1. ONF – New World
I’m very happy to see that ONF continue to work with Monotree’s Hwang Hyun. The guy is a production genius, and that’s on full display here. The instrumental is fantastic, driven by interesting synth textures and orchestral moments. It has a real sense of drama to it, obviously tailored directly to the RTK stage. But in this case, I think that works. ONF’s title tracks have always been a bit ambitious, and here they get to go full bore in that direction. I love the double-time, guitar-fueled conclusion, but really the whole thing is a tour-de-force. I don’t think I can choose between this and VERIVERY’s track. They’re so different from each other, yet both distill the essence and appeal of these groups in a compelling way.