When Kingdom debuted last year, I couldn’t help but be impressed by their ambition. Not only did they have a unique concept, but their rollout promised seven albums – each centered around the lore of a different member. Coming from a small agency, I questioned whether they’d have the resources to see this plan through. But a year later, we’re already four albums in – more than halfway finished with this extended series.
As laudable as Kingdom’s ambition is, the songs themselves haven’t been all that great. Their albums tend to feature a killer b-side or two, but the title tracks feel swallowed up by their concept. Without the cool music videos or live performances to bolster their appeal, the songwriting doesn’t land as fully as it could. In this regard, Ascension (승천) feels like a small step forward. This time around, the theme is historical Korea, which means the track is stuffed with traditional instrumentation. It’s not the first time K-pop has dipped its toes in the past. At times, this production reminds me of something we’d hear on a special remixed end-of-the-year stage, complete with raucous climax driven by percussion. But, this style is always appreciated.
As usual, my hesitancy comes down to the song itself. There’s just not much to sink your teeth into. Verse one opens Ascension on a strong note, offering a dramatic melody that blends well with the instrumental. From here, the track stumbles into a dull chorus. It’s catchy and repetitive, yet trudges along without much energy. The cool production definitely carries these moments, but I’m not sure that’s a sustainable approach. Couple this with a few outstanding refrains and we could be looking at a very exciting prospect.