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Reviewing and Ranking Kingdom’s Final Singles (ATEEZ, BTOB, iKON, SF9, The Boyz, Stray Kids)

Kingdom - Who Is The KingIn addition to my weekly recaps of each Kingdom episode, I like to write a special post dedicated to the music itself. Since we’ve yet to see these songs performed, it’s a great chance to discuss them on their own merits — free from set pieces and visuals and stunts.

With that in mind, here’s my pre-finale ranking of the six original songs Kingdom has been building up to all these weeks.

Past Kingdom Recaps: Episode OneEpisode Two / Episode Three / Episode Four / Episode Five / Episode Six / Episode Seven // Episode Eight // Episode Nine (coming soon)


6. iKON – At Ease

I’ve come to appreciate iKON’s freewheeling energy within Kingdom‘s competitive context, but I haven’t been in love with most of the actual music they’ve created throughout the show. At Ease is no different. Its verses are pure iKON bombast, but the whole thing devolves into an awful beat-drop chorus that completely upends the song’s flow. It’s really jarring, and quite a headache. Then, the guys close the track with the cliched YG double-time chanted finale. This song feels like it’s on autopilot, which is a shame because the guys have a ton of charisma.


5. Stray Kids – Wolfgang

One of Stray Kids’ greatest assets is their creativity, and I can hear some of that poke through during Wolfgang. But, creativity can sometimes tiptoe into indulgence. This track seems to be more concerned with its dramatic arrangement than crafting a decent hook. I love the guitar and choir-like background, and the verses have a satisfying intensity. But, that chorus? No, thank you. Shouting a nursery rhyme hook over blustering percussion is not my idea of a good time. Ultimately, Wolfgang‘s better instincts are overshadowed by this over-aggressive performance, and it comes off feeling quite silly.


4. SF9 – Believer

SF9 opt for a lower-energy track than their competitors, showcasing their smooth, sexy sound. Believer is still a dance song, but feels more mid-tempo than expected. It has its moments, but I’m not a big fan of the trap-heavy instrumental. The seesawing synths are hooky and fun, and the melodic, layered chorus goes down easy. However, this sounds more like b-side material to me. It lacks the kind of knockout punch I’d expect from a Kingdom track. Given a more unique instrumental, I think Believer could have really soared.


3. ATEEZ – The Real

ATEEZ’s recent material has been very hit-or-miss for me, and The Real crams both of these extremes into one song. I’m glad they stuck with their usual producers, making this feel like an extension of their pre-Kingdom work rather than a strange one-off. The Real‘s central beat drop is decent, even if it feels like a retread of past glories. And, it’s nice to hear Mingi back on the track! As is often the case with ATEEZ songs, The Real‘s melodic pre-chorus is its strongest asset. I would have loved to hear a more memorable chorus, but the track builds to a nice guitar-infused finale that brings things home.


2. The Boyz – Kingdom Come

I’m very excited to see The Boyz reunite with producer Albi Albertsson, who has been a longtime favorite of mine. Kingdom Come sounds like a bigger take on last year’s Checkmate. That song ended up growing on me a lot, but this one’s more instant. The chorus has a satisfying orchestral arrangement, giving it the dramatic heft a stage like Kingdom demands without devolving into a style-over-substance mess. The bridge is fantastic, building energy as we climb to a theatrical power note. And while the melody may grow a bit repetitive as the song wears on, I’m happy that there is an actual melody! This is the first song of this ranking that I’d gladly return to.


1. BTOB – Finale (Show And Prove)

I wasn’t sure if BTOB would choose a ballad for their single, but I’m happy they opted for something more dramatic. Finale manages to show off their vocals, but in a really dynamic way. After a blustering rap verse, the track blossoms into a gorgeous (near operatic) chorus. I love the melody here. It’s pure bombastic cheese — at once serious and ridiculously over-the-top. The instrumental is the same, switching energy and arrangement as the track moves through its various segments. I love all the orchestration. The guys truly turned it up to eleven with this one — a luxury afforded by Kingdom‘s grandiose concept. I wouldn’t put this song above ONF’s excellent New World from last year’s Road to Kingdom, but it’s definitely my favorite offering this year.

39 thoughts on “Reviewing and Ranking Kingdom’s Final Singles (ATEEZ, BTOB, iKON, SF9, The Boyz, Stray Kids)

  1. I don’t have much to see as these were my exact thoughts.

    The only two songs I actually enjoyed were kingdom come and finale and a bit of believer though it felt generic at times.

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  2. I listened to these through once this morning, and the ranking feels about what I would do. To be honest though, some I am not going to listen to twice, they feel like filler.

    I think BTOB are the breakout stars of this Kingdom. Their song here sounds like they are throwing it down to the younger gen saying oh you can do theatrical bombastic, yeah we can do it too. It isn’t a perfect song, but it does have merit.

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  3. This is the exact same ranking as mine lol. Tbh i liked all songs to some extent except ikons, but i doubt ill listen to a lot of them regularly aside from ateez/btobs

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  4. I have been following your Kingdom blog since the start, and have noticed how BTOB’s rankings have been slowly but surely creeping up your personal preference. #1 wow. Thank you for reviewing the songs without the performance elements – we know there’s a different league for that: I heard groups are bringing their best choreographies, fireworks, large animatronics and puppeteering etc. a spectacular budget being splurged $$$ and I doubt that would be BTOB who’s budget is a little more modest…

    But also can we please talk about how BTOB’s musical range is so diverse?! Always doing something new and different, they are not afraid – I guess that comes with confidence; dreamers don’t die after all. With 10 years of experience, BTOB knows exactly where their strengths lie. Vocals for sure, dancing, rapping, self composing etc. Yes but rather, it’s actually their clear, distinctive colour that separates them from the rest of the competitors. When a BTOB song comes on – you just know “Oh this is such a BTOB type of song”. Eunkwang once said “There is a genre called BTOB”. They perform and sing on a more personal level – less factory produced and more genuine. It is difficult to explain but they truly are one of a kind. No other group can replace or replicate what BTOB does. I hope they always do what they always do and never change.

    I think everyone can agree BTOB entering Kingdom has been a true blessing. I’m not sure why but I know that many people questioned BTOB entering the show. I hope now they realise what they can truly do: make good music, be great performers and being the best kind of people (a senior, mentor, friend, brother & mood maker for others). Despite their already immense popularity, I think they are the real ‘underdogs’ of this season and I have thoroughly enjoyed every little moment and segment of BTOB’s.

    Anyways this song, Finale (show and prove) get ready for the waterworks melodies. I can definitely tell they were inspired by The Greatest Showman. Amazing!! Lengthy, but here is just my melody heart expressing my 2-cents.

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  5. Surprised to hear myself say this, but I loved all the songs. With the exception of SF9’s, which was a bit too one note for me, I had a great time playing all the songs on repeat. Really pleased with the material they put out.

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  6. My ranking is: BTOB > SF9 > TBZ > IKON > ATEEZ > SKZ

    BTOB brought a whole performance in just the audio.
    I’m not the greatest fan of SF9 (didn’t need the trap) or TBZ (pleasant but reminds me too much of Checkmate) tracks but they do the job they are meant to do.
    IKON is fine, very YG-esque standard.
    ATEEZ sounds like a mix of SF9’s Roar and Wanna One’s Boomerang, neither of which I enjoy.
    SKZ sounds like if you took the pre chorus of God’s Menu and then proceed to obliterate it in the worst way possible with too much aggression and barking.

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  7. The only songs I enjoyed were finale, kingdom come and believer, the others are just not my style though I’m sure the fans will love them. That said the only one I’m truly am looking forward to seeing performed in the final is finale, I don’t think I’m going to go out of my way to listen to any of the others again.

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  8. It might be the review matching the most what I think about the songs since I read your blog. I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said, from the SF9 song only sounding like a nice b side to The Boyz and BTOB being the only ones I can see myself coming back to.

    I’d just add that I don’t really see any live performance elevate any of the weaker songs. I hope I will be wrong but I’m not very optimistic for this final round

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  9. I’m probably in such a minority for skz 🤣 The chorus doesn’t do well without the performance I admit that, but I really like everything else about the song. The haunting nature of it really drawls me in. I would put them at number 3 for me.

    BTOB I would agree as number 1. 10/10 they know how to write a great song

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    • Wow, after reading through the rest of the comments, I really am one of the only ones loving the skz song 🤣 different tastes for different ppl I suppose.

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  10. I’m a SF9 fan and agree that Believer sounds like a b side (having said that I think a lot of their b sides are pretty solid). When I first heard the teasers I wasn’t sure about it but Believer was much better than I thought it would be

    (P.S. long time lurker but I wanted to say thanks to you and your blog – introduced me to SF9 in the first place with easy love and got me back into listening to sexy zone)

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  11. I haven’t really paid much attention to Kingdom beyond checking your rankings to see what’s going on. I genuinely enjoy the top three songs here. I know zilch about BTOB and I guess I’ll need to fix that. They sound amazing.

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  12. absolutely unrelated but, nick, are u going to review songs from shax, sparkling or tea party? 😂 tea party performed officially on music bank and i find that hilarious since they’re a fictional group haha

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    • Not planning to. I did already review the Shax song, but I found Imitation to be so boring and couldn’t make it through the first episode, so I’ve kind of lost interest in the whole thing unfortunately…

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      • Imitation get’s better. Still not exactly A-list material, but better than the first episode. Seems strangely low budget though.

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        • It’s funny.. after giving up on Imitation I started watching this Chinese drama Airbenders that’s also about an idol group. I’m kind of obsessed with it, even as everyone else is watching and talking about Imitation haha

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  13. i guessed wrong, i thought stray kidz would also be 6th for you. 🤣

    for me, it’s btob > tbz > sf9 > ateez > ikon > skz.

    skz was just… what was that hook? i don’t think i’ve heard anything as cringy or as messy in quite a while. the whole wolfgang and background awoo and woof woof or whatever genuinely made me want to grip 3racha by the shoulders and shake them nonstop. and here i thought the beginning of the song wasn’t too bad and that maybe i misjudged them…

    ikon starts on the Okay territory. not good, not bad. really YG style, what with the shout chant ending type. but (if i recall correctly) the transition from the song to the shout chant ending stuff felt kinda disconnected to me? and they’re not really offering anything that new, nor that enjoyable either.

    ateez was also okay. i’m only familiar with very few ateez past tracks but i do know mingi and mingi being back is the best thing in the song for me. i think my main grip was that i thought there would’ve been a more melodious chorus, but we got a hook instead. forgive me if my terminologies are wrong, i’m clearly not an expert.

    sf9 is a bit one note, i honestly think the song would be a lot better if it had a climax somewhere. but the chorus’ melody was enjoyable and there was this thing used in the instrumentals that i really liked. the main attraction for me would be the instrumentals, again, and it’s almost a shame that it was a bit too one note as the song progresses. i think that could also be the reason why it sounds like a b-side, with its lack of buildup.

    the boyz was good! at some point the chorus’ melody becomes a bit repetitive, but the part where they title drop and sing ‘kingdom come’ is oddly catchy. and it has enough ups and downs to be enjoyable and i agree with you that the arrangement really fits the show’s tendencies for drama. i don’t think it’s my favorite track from tbz like ever, but it’s a pretty good job done all in all.

    btob has been consistently in my top 3 throughout the show and while there certainly is an element of bias at play (i personally like them and ikon best, because i’m a sucker for groups around their age), this song is just the best out of the selection in terms of building up on itself with enough drama but without overdoing it or being cringy whatsoever. the lyrics also make me feel Things whatwith peniel saying 10 years going strong and all. and of course, eunkwang and changsub’s vocals (the low start of the song was woah!) are great as always. i agree too with a commenter who mentioned they can hear the greatest show influences in it.

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  14. After having high expectations from Stray Kids, I’m honestly really disappointed with ‘Wolfgang’. I also didn’t like ‘At Ease’, but the rest of the songs were great. I see some really amazing potential in SF9’s ‘Believer’ – the final chorus gave me shivers. I really love the additional synth layers and the emotional vocals. I just wish they didn’t go for the mid-tempo feel and rather went down the electronic house route.

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  15. All I’m going to say is don’t listen to At Ease or The Real with a headache, I think my brain is bleeding. I’ll have to come back to this list another day to appreciate any of these properly.
    I hope all 6 groups find success after everything they’ve been through on this show!

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  16. I really can’t stomach the BTOB track, but I was not really familiar with their stuff before watching this season, and I think it might just be that their music is generally not for me. A comparison to “The Greatest Showman,” in my own opinion, would not be a good thing… This song mostly comes off as overblown to me, like that movie.

    For me, The Boyz’ offering is far and away the standout here. It is the only one among these singles that I see myself returning to, with the possible exception of the ATEEZ song which I think is a grower despite its lack of a real chorus– I can just picture how cool the choreo is going to be. And this is me being as objective as I can, because my favorite of the six groups is absolutely Stray Kids, their track just doesn’t gel with me….

    It’s a shame that I feel none of these songs really measures up to something like ONF’s New World, which was epic without seeming silly to me like the BTOB song.

    Liked by 1 person

    • SKZ is also my favorite of the six groups by a good bit and I didn’t like Wolfgang either, so it’s not just you! Everyone has an off day, even 3Ratcha. They’ve still got (*checks*) 69 songs on my playlist, not counting the 2020 remakes, so I think we’ll all be okay for content. I really love The Real though – it’s my kind of damage-your-eardrums, this-is-why-I-invested-in-good-headphones kind of banger.

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      • Yes, yes, agreed re: The REAL! The banging EDM chorus reminds me of my favorite skz songs actually, like Side Effects and Miroh. Also, I’m beginning to realize I’m a sucker for a sassy little spoken-word moment before a drop chorus. it reminds me of Yoongi’s “It’s burning up” in BTS’s “FIRE” which is one of their most fun tracks imo.

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        • Side Effects and God’s Menu are my favorite SKZ title tracks and Fire is really high on my list of favorite BTS tracks, so it seems like we’ve got similar taste. Out of curiosity, how do you feel about ATEEZ Wonderland and A.C.E Favorite Boys?

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          • A.C.E. Favorite Boys is one of my favorite tracks of last year and maybe of all time!!! Steve Aoki should be locked up because he eviscerated it for that remix….

            And to be honest ATEEZ and their music took a long time to grow on me but it might just be because of the fandom lol. I really loved the version of Wonderland that they did for kingdom and it is now my favorite song from them for sure. I wish they’d release that version on Apple Music/etc because imo it’s way better than the original instrumental. I still like it though. Part of the reason I’m glad I watched Kingdom is because it allowed me to appreciate ATEEZ in a way I hadn’t before. They actually won me over in the finale with their sportsmanlike showing of the other teams’ banners, I thought it was really sweet and I love the idea of a group using the concept of humility in a competition that’s been all about showboating!

            And I love God’s Menu of course so yes, I think we might be brain twins 🙂

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            • Okay, that’s hilarious because 1) Favorite Boys is also one of my favorite tracks of last year and maybe all time, and 2) KINGDOM has also been my “getting to appreciate ATEEZ” time. I loved Wonderland, but their other releases hadn’t quite grabbed me, and I found all the lore stuff kind of off-putting – I’m here for the music first and performances second, not to try and figure out why there are two green lights in the upper right hand of an MV pre-release video or whatever. They won me over with their round one performance and reactions because yeah, that arrangement was amazing, that tentacle was just my kind of ridiculously over the top, and because I realized that I’d be happy to watch Seonghwa react to literally anything.

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            • Oh, and Wonderland was definitely my favorite ATEEZ song until I found their cover of The Black Cat Nero, which for me blows everything else they’ve done before and since out of the water. I’m deeply irritated that it’s not available streaming.

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      • And I agree of course re: 3racha, I just wish they didn’t have their “off day” at a crucial moment in a very popular competition show, but oh well. Stays will be staying, as usual ❤

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        • Eh, I feel like this was a much better place to drop the ball than last round (looking at you ATEEZ!) – Stay would have streamed Chan screaming into a bag for five minutes to get that final win. Now why do I want to listen to Maze of Memories all of the sudden?

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          • God it’s true, that was my thought exactly: “Wow, the power of the Stay Fan Bus is not to be underestimated.”

            It’s funny when you consider all the drama of this competition amounts to the prize of like, a shitty little reality show. Like, the other fandoms are going to be so so so mad about this for years and the prize is basically nothing anyway. Oh well… I think it’d be cool if the show amounted to less of a popularity contest in the end, but it’s not like it matters, so.

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  17. This rank is just based on everyone preference,I was shocked when I saw the ranking,and ikon at ease was 6th,after going through everyone’s comment,it made me realize it’s based on personal preference,I liked all groups songs,but I’d totally vibe to ikon at ease most,I feel like I’ll want to listen to this song anywhere at anytime, I’m excited for the last episode, fighting to all groups on the show

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  18. The Real was by far my favorite of the six, with Finale and Kingdom Come second and the other three unlikely to get another listen. I totally agree with your points on The Real about having a consistent production team and how nice it was to hear Mingi on the track. I feel like kpop fans can get a little overwrought when a member leaves or goes on hiatus, but the play between Mingi and HJ’s different rap styles is a great part of the ATEEZ sound and I’ll be sorry if he decides continuing with the group isn’t the right thing for him.

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