Review

Song Review: Kingdom – Black Crown

Kingdom - Black CrownPop music as fantasy can be a lot of fun, and I love some good old-fashioned artifice. That’s why Kingdom’s renaissance faire concept is so appealing. K-pop is uniquely positioned to take advantage of long-form musical storytelling. And even though the group’s debut wasn’t perfect, its embrace of theatricality was much appreciated. However, we can’t forget the music itself. You can truss up a boring song with all the orchestration and Gregorian chants you want, but at its core it’s still going to be a boring song. It’ll just be louder.

I happen to love orchestration and Gregorian chants, and their presence in Kingdom’s Black Crown elevates an otherwise dull melody. Make no mistake about it, this song is BIG. The producers never opt for a harp when they can have a choir, and this immenseness almost fooled me into thinking I was listening to an equally huge song. But strip away all that window dressing and you’re left with another example of tuneless K-pop bluster. The performance is stuck at “11” right from the start, which never gives the track any room to build. Black Crown could have done with a far more compelling sense of dynamics. There’s not much diversity of structure here – no meaningful ebb and flow.

Instead, the guys shout and shout and shout some more. Normally, I’d call this approach “cathartic,” but catharsis requires some repression. Otherwise, the eventual purge doesn’t feel fulfilling. Recently, fellow drama-kings E’Last returned with their own K-pop symphony. That song had its issues as well, but ended up being a huge grower because its individual pieces were distinct and exciting. Black Crown is enjoyable enough, but feels like another missed opportunity where concept trumps song.

 Hooks 7
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 7
 RATING 7.5

25 thoughts on “Song Review: Kingdom – Black Crown

  1. Coincidentally, just yesterday a hella fun and talented youtuber did another in his series of writing songs already written, in which one example was Hall of the Mountain King mashed up with Billie Eillish Bad Guy, called In the Hall of the Mountain Bad Guy, starts at 2:28. ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldmFHNJmw6w

    This one here, this is Kingdom’s audition reel for Road to Kingdom, Hall of The Mountain King style. Sure, if Ateez (and SNSD) can borrow liberally from Dvorak #9, what else is there in popular classical music to mine. This. Maybe Pines of Rome. Firebird is popular. Cherry Bullet did Fur Elise. Carmina Burana is every battle scene ever. Rite of Spring would be =awesome=. Who could pull off Rite of Spring – Stray Kids or NCT? SHINee?! I am waiting for Wagner to pop up in kpop, the most likely could would should be Parsifal with OnlyOneOf. They would do Wagner mighty fine. Heck, OnlyOneOf could pull off many others – Afternoon on a Fawn, La Mer, a four part suite of the Four Seasons.

    For this song and performance, for what it is, it is well done. Clever at times too. This is what the ELast crew were aiming for with their “Dark Dream” from last month and left under-polished. Somehow that song grew on me despite its flaws. This one will probably grow on me too, if only because it scratches this year’s edition of the over the top theatrical bombastic spectacle itch.

    Also, while I am here, the gregorian chant intro reminded me of Enigma’s early 90’s cds, which somehow sold 12 million copies, maybe because we all had a copy of it to study and do other things to. I heard the intro on this song and I start intoning fah – ti moi – ti moi. ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4F9DxYhqmKw

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think they need to switch producers. They’ve stuck with the same ones since their debut and similar problems keep appearing in all their songs. First of all, KINGDOM’s voices are weak. I’m not sure if this is the fault of the production or themselves but their voices need to be thicker(?) and stronger.

    Their concept is crazy good. But imagine this: if ATEEZ’s pirate concept did not come with equally compelling songcraft, would they be this popular? It’s frustrating because I see so much potential. BLSSD with his excellent choice of dark sounds would be perfect. Edenary and 13 too!

    Liked by 2 people

      • I hate to say it, but I don’t think songs are the most important part of the K-pop puzzle at the moment. I hope I’m wrong, but it feels like we never hear idols talk about their actual music anymore. It’s just concept, concept, concept.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Honestly, I feel the same way. It seems like the only groups who really talk about their music is ONF and ATEEZ (and maybe Stray Kids and BTS).
          And it’s not surprising that both rank as my favorite groups.

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          • Frick! Forgot about SEVENTEEN! They’re one of the current k-pop groups who put all their soul and emotion into a song.
            Speaking of which, “Rock With You” is fantastic!

            Liked by 1 person

          • Stray Kidz talks about their music pretty often, especially since they produce most of it. I feel like groups that are given the freedom to participate in their music seem to be more invested in the music as a whole I feel.

            Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t know how budgets for these things work but apparently the company their under used to a production company (like movies im guessing) so maybe they have access to certain things for lower prices than other companies

        Liked by 3 people

      • The voices themselves are OK, and competent from what I can tell. The problem is more structural: the whole vocal is delivered at the same intensity throughout; they are all tenors and its missing that low baritone or bass to ground it and give gravitas; the song isn’t very rangey with the verses hovering A to A, then the chorus up a bit and more shouty (though at the same volume as the verse); and its another song where you see so many guys but it really sounds like only two guys. And since I have now listened to the song a few more times, that main chorus vocal line sounds copy paste each time it comes around, the part that sounds like “We’re on the wall” (idk what the real lyrics are).

        The net result is that as the song progresses it sounds very samey samey for four minutes straight for something that is supposed to be theatrical with drama. As Nick says, its stuck on 11 from the start.

        TVXQ “Rising Sun” popped up on my ipod in a random shuffle play earlier this week*, and Rising Sun also starts at an 11, but there are significant portions where it pulls back or has instrumental drop outs, and with other timbres doing verses. (*Darling daughter asked “Whats this” to which I said “Child! Please!”)

        I play Ateez “Wonderland” a lot more than I will ever admit to. The soundscaping is visceral. The build up from end of verse at full throttle, then the drop out with what sounds like radar blips, a shout and into a low low chorus. There is so much tension created through that passage, through the contrasts of high – low – loud – soft. Its only 10 seconds long but it hits harder than this song hits for four full minutes.

        Liked by 5 people

    • I feel this way about GHOST9. Not only are they overworked but on top of that, their company provides them with sh*tty songs. They could have easily just spread the goods of their choruses onto the song evenly….but nah, just give them a bunch of noise…that will certainly do the trick.

      As ATEEZ are one of my favorite k-pop artists of all time, I’d say that these groups should take their example. Don’t follow their sound or whatever but don’t make obvious mistakes which can certainly be seen in your songs.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can see the comparison with title tracks, but I think the real difference comes in the b-sides. GHOST9’s first three EPs in particular are incredibly solid beginning to end or mixed into other playlists, and I think that helps the titles grow on me (although I don’t mind shouty as much as many so that helps I’m sure). KINGDOM’s titles haven’t grabbed me quite as much, though I appreciate what they’re reaching for, and their EPs have never left any real impression either, so the weaknesses in the titles are left flapping in the wind.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah Kingdom thus far seems oddly trapped by their concept which is unfortunate given how great it is. But they haven’t figured out how to implement their concept into their music without being…not good. But yeah I like Ghost9’s sound. Ironically my least favorite title by them is the one that defers from that aka Up All Night.

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  3. I know I just told that KINGDOM had flaws in their songs…but I love this too much. It sounds exhilarating, towering and larger-than-life. I love how dark it sounds and love the theatrical flourishes. granted, there are problems here but the story I conjure up in my head from this song is marvelous. Cathartic and one of my favorite songs of the year.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I actually did find the song progression quite interesting. It has the strong Western touch like Excalibur but this time it has more melody in it. The part in the pre-chorus leading to the chorus especially struck me as quite an unexpected but nice move. And the chorus is hella catchy… it was right from the teaser. Also I loved the LOTR vibes throughout the song 😂 As a huge fan of LOTR, this was extremely fun!And the instrumental is lit!

    I can perfectly understand how Kingdom’s music isn’t really to your taste though 😅 The only thing I respectfully disagree with is the “they shout and shout some more”. 😅 I would have kinda agreed with the comment with respect to Excalibur but personally I don’t think it applies too well with Black Crown.

    Actually I prefer that they are sticking so strong to their concept. I remember you mentioning somewhere how it is what restricts them sometimes (do correct me if I’m mistaken though). But I feel it would be very awkward if they switched styles in between. They more than make up for it with completely different styles in their b-sides.

    I do love that you find Dark Dream a grower! 😄 It’s one of my top songs of last month! But again I feel the comparison is a bit wild because Dark Dream had a more melodramatic vibe (like maybe Oneus TBONTB) but Black Crown is more of a horror-fantasy vibe 🙂 It’s like comparing the climax of an epic saga to a standalone action-fantasy movie 😋

    Sorry for the long comment and these were just my opinions. 😅I really love reading your reviews and your thoughts about kpop and jpop!🤗

    Liked by 2 people

      • Aaagh!!I never thought I would find others who believe in its supremacy!!! Honestly it’s my fave song of last year and even now every time I listen to it I just get swept away! ❤️❤️❤️ It also was what introduced me to Oneus and there’s been no looking back since! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Title track aside i’ve really been enjoying the b-sides on this album. Fallen star, We are, and Burn are all quite good in my opinion. While I enjoy the kings concept I apreciate that there is a decent amount of variation in the b-sides.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I liked the album, especially Hurt, and this title track is growing on me. It’s not so much a groove as it is a mood piece. Extra points for crop top fur coats.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree that this song with more dramatic dynamics would be amazing and really bring the song together. I will say though, that pop music as a whole lacks in this area and it is no where unique to the songs Kingdom has put out. I also feel as if their debut song did a better job at dynamics then half the popular songs you hear todayl The beginning of the song goes back to this gregorian chant song that then sounds like a choir singing. It then switches to pop vocals (that is expected but still nice) that are quite dry and fill up the center of the song. The chorus then is where you hear this “shouting” like singing that implements this choir feel again and goes back and forth. The bridge also dips back quite back and the build up in the prechorus is pleasing to the ear. It’s as if everyone in the comments wants Mozart to come out of the grave and produce the next song when that isn’t the exact style this group is going for. I like the criticisms but also feel some sound like complaints about exaggerations people have made about the composition of the song. I do agree that they should play with using another producer but who knows if they have that option available to them. (if they do it was a good suggestion). Idk I’ve just seen a lot of people hating on Kingdom’s songs but I wanted to point out that some ears do hear dynamics and a great song especially when looking for certain elements in a genre that lacks it quite a bit.

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