In 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.
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.