Warning: This recap is not spoiler-free. Proceed at your own risk!
LAST WEEK’S DANCE UNIT RESULTS
After watching both dance performances, I ranked the “It’s One” team over “Mayfly,” but they were essentially tied in my eyes. In the end, the judges voted for Team Mayfly. With their large configuration, I guess “more” really is “more” in the context of a show like this!
“NO LIMIT” ROUND THREE: VOCAL MATCH-UPS
Unit “It’s One” – Inseong x Jaeyoon x Jay x Ju-ne x Sangyeon x New – Spark
It’s nice to see this team invite more members this time. I think their configuration’s smallness was part of the reason they lost the first two matches. Still, is a vocal match-up the best place to have too many cooks in the kitchen?
For some reason, The Boyz’ New had a graphic put over his face during the recording process of their guide track, which of course just made me super curious. Was it a bad pimple? An unfortunate hair day? Inquiring (and restless) minds want to know…
Regardless, all the guys seem to be quite impressed with him, doting on his voice and urging him to add harmony to the track.
Taeyeon’s Spark is an odd song choice for this kind of mission, but I’m glad they opted for a more rhythmic sound. Sometimes, I think idol groups forget that you can show off your vocals on dance tracks just as well as ballads. And me being me, I tend to prefer the upbeat stuff.
Of course, the guys end up slowing down most of the track in the end. I thought this was a fine performance, with all the requisite drama I’d expect. There are some great voices here, and most got some time to shine. I would have probably brought in the percussion a little earlier, as the introduction went on a bit long.
The song’s climactic moments saw the guys come together, both vocally and physically (ie: they stood in a circle). This part was quite good, but lacked power. And though I appreciate Inseong’s ambition with his high note, it’s a shame he flubbed it. It made the ending super awkward. But, we all make mistakes. I hope he doesn’t dwell on it too long.
(Of course you know he will, especially after Mnet makes a big fuss and replays it several times even after the unit competition is over. Gotta keep that drama going…)
Unit “Mayfly” – Eunkwang x Seungmin x Jongho – Love Poem
This may be a smaller grouping than the prior team, but they pack a punch. Seriously, I would not want to be going against this trio if I were a vocalist.
These three also seemed to have a more natural chemistry than team “It’s One.” Maybe it’s because there are fewer personalities, or maybe it’s because they have an older member who can clearly take a leadership role. Honestly, at times this looked like a teacher/student relationship! I think Eunkwang needs to consider starting a vocal coach themed variety show. He’s got a knack for it.
I don’t know that I’ve ever written about it on the blog, but I adore IU’s Love Poem. It’s such a gorgeous ballad, and perfect for emotional showcases like this. The guys absolutely killed it.
There have been a lot of bombastic stages on Kingdom, but this was the first one that really made me feel something. Great vocal units have a connection, where the sum is greater than the parts. That really came through, here. The harmony, the expression, the power… everything was perfect. No gimmicks or elaborate set pieces — just a stone cold knockout that outclassed anything we’ve seen in the past seven episodes.
My vote goes to: Mayfly, and it’s not even close
The judges voted for: Mayfly
That’s a clean sweep for Mayfly, and well deserved on that last round. But, I would’ve flipped the votes on the first two.
“NO LIMIT” ROUND
Before we move onto those original songs we’re all curious about, we have part two of this third round. For this “No Limit” theme, the groups can do anything they want. In other words, the producers have officially run out of ideas.
Just kidding (I think).
Also, for some reason Stray Kids’ Han is wearing the most ridiculous hat I’ve ever seen. I need an explanation…
iKON – Pretty Savage (ft. Lisa from BLACKPINK)
If anything, Kingdom has revealed that I really enjoy watching iKON be iKON. There’s a looseness to their interplay that’s really refreshing compared to some of the more serious-minded groups.
As part of this behind the scenes footage, the edit cuts to old clips of G-Dragon performing Crooked, and I’m just reminded how much I miss his presence in K-pop. When is he making a comeback?? None of us are getting any younger, GD!
Speaking of the YG stable of artists, iKON decide to cover a track by label-mates BLACKPINK. In the process of choosing, they also toy with the idea of performing Brave Girls’ Rollin, which I would’ve been absolutely giddy about. Instead, they go for the b-side track Pretty Savage, which isn’t too far from their own sound. But, it gives them the opportunity to bring in BLACKPINK’s Lisa and garner all sorts of internet buzz from the collaboration. Even so, I’m not sure this was the most inspired choice for iKON.
The intro of this performance had so much unnecessary explanation from the peanut gallery. I know MNET likes to edit commentary into these performances, but I really didn’t need the other groups explaining every single thing that was happening as if I wasn’t watching it with my own eyes. Especially Han in that damn hat.
Speaking of items on people’s heads, Bobby rapped with a literal sack over his head during part of this performance. That was… a choice.
Costuming aside, I actually liked this mix of the song. I’ll admit I’m not super familiar with the original, having listened to it only a couple of times when the album was released last year. But, the beat had a great bounce.
I’m more than a little concerned with them tying the word “savage” to a jungle theme, which seems all sorts of problematic. But, simply looking at this as a series of set pieces, the staging was kind of cool. Lisa‘s introduction was suitably dramatic, with the camera zooming in to give a real cinematic effect. But, the guys missed an opportunity by placing her in her own room where she couldn’t interact with them. It was almost as if these two pieces were filmed separately, especially since she had disappeared when they finally entered her tomb-like lair. But, then she popped up again as they were leaving the stage after the performance. I’m very confused by the choices here…
Anyway, the fact that I spent more time wondering about the staging than gushing about the performance kind of says it all. This was fine, and entertaining and fits and spurts. But, they lost me somewhere in the middle. The best Kingdom stages tell a clear story, with building momentum and a memorable climax. I’m not sure this quite lived up to that tall order.
Stray Kids – Ddu-Du Ddu-Du x God’s Menu
Oh great, we’re covering all the annoying BLACKPINK songs now? Can’t we cover some of the good ones?
And to provide even more “du’s,” Stray Kids will be mashing up the song with their own God’s Menu. This seems like a recipe for a migraine. Maybe that’s why Han is wearing that comically large hat? Insulation against the surplus of du’s that’ll soon be swirling around him?
We join the group in the JYP practice room as they’re sorting out the choreography. They want to bring some wit to the dance, but seem to get stuck on gunplay as a theme. Please, no. We’ve seen it all before, guys.
At a certain point, the subtitles describe Changbin as a “pig rabbit.” I don’t know what that is, but I think that needs to be the theme for their next performance.
The behind-the-scenes footage is quite short this week. I thought MNET might be up to their old tricks and save the actual performance until next week. But, we rush through the fluff and get to the stage before the episode ends.
The concept turns out to be a little bit more interesting (witty?) than it first seemed. It involves a giant rice cooker, a subway car, a tank and Deadpool cosplay. Your guess is as good as mine.
And, after a shouty start, the mix of this track is actually okay. I love its more rock-inspired moments. I’m less enthused by the God’s Menu breakdown, and really turned off by the “dancing while brandishing guns” motif. I know Korea has a much different relationship with firearms than we do in the States, but the glamorization just doesn’t sit well with me.
I don’t know… this performance had its moments. But, it also felt like they were just vomiting up ideas. One set piece after another created a messy collage of visual madness. I think it would’ve been more striking to target one or two central ideas and give them time to breathe. A stage loses impact when there’s so much going on. I mean, think about that vocal performance from earlier. Simplicity can be powerful as hell.
Whatever. All anybody will probably be talking about after this is Felix’s abs, anyway.
I’ll do a full ranking next week after we see the rest of the performances. Neither of the ones this week blew me away, but I’d probably put iKON’s on top for now.