Pop 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.