Warning: This recap is not spoiler-free. Proceed at your own risk!
It’s time to finish the first round of Queendom performances. There’s only four of them this week, but the show still stretched for two uninterrupted hours. That’s a lot of backstage filler, folks.
Watching the first few minutes of this episode, it’s clear how desperate MNET is for all-out war. Zooming in on explosive moments, manufacturing drama, placing words like “battle” front and center… it’s all so obvious at this point. This has become one of the K-pop industry’s most regrettable selling points. Whether directly or not, this messaging plays into (and exacerbates) existing fan wars and the competitive nature of fandom. It’s the gamification of music, and those who enjoy the actual songs tend to lose out.
Anyways, rant over. I didn’t mean to start this recap on such a dramatic note! At any rate, I can’t wait for these groups to totally undercut the narrative and become the supportive peers we all know they are.
SIGNATURE SONG BATTLE
As noted earlier, we finish this round today. I’m combining last week’s performances with this week’s for a final ranking. LOONA didn’t participate, but their performance was shown so I included it in my own ranking.
Disclaimer: I’m watching the full show, not just clips on YouTube. So, the editing of each performances may inadvertently factor into my rankings. But, I’ll be embedding the full YouTube performances in these posts.
6. Kep1er – Wa Da Da
It’s crazy that this is the group’s first performance in front of a live audience! It must be hard debuting during the pandemic — such a shift from what they’d envisioned as trainees. Kep1er’s behind-the-scenes edit worked hard to convince us they weren’t cast for Queendom solely due to their relationship with MNET. I don’t buy it for a second, but it doesn’t really matter. This is an MNET show. They have the right to promote their own artists. Now, whether Kep1er can convincingly compete with their seniors is another question…
With that in mind, I’m not quite on board yet. It’s probably because I don’t find Wa Da Da to be all that great itself. The girls gave it their all, but the mix kept switching and changing with no overarching vision — only to circle back to a hook as uninspired as… “wa da da da.” It all feels a little throwaway. This isn’t a knock on Kep1er’s talent or performance. We’ve just seen this style of performance so many times.
5. LOONA – PTT (Paint The Town)
As you can tell, so much of my feelings about a performance rest on the song itself. You can throw tons of cool effects and interesting concepts into the mix, but if the foundation isn’t strong, it’s hard to create a true standout. I don’t really care for PTT, but I thought LOONA gave it a cool makeover with a traditional approach. This worked especially well in the verses and resulted in a cool dance break. The chorus didn’t feel nearly as complimentary to this style. And honestly, the fact that the performance was presented as an afterthought toward the end of the episode made it much less of a moment.
4. WJSN – As You Wish
WJSN lament over the fact they don’t have one big smash hit everyone knows. I guess that’s true, but I’d take their excellent discography over “one big hit” any day. I love As You Wish, even if I don’t consider it their signature song (that would probably be Secret or Save Me, Save You).
I also wanted to love this performance. In fact, I was prepared to!
I liked it just fine, and there were parts that were almost spectacular. But, the remix missed the opportunity to build and build to the point where its bombastic finale felt earned. Still, WJSN are a force to be reckoned with and I’m really pulling for them.
(Apparently, the girls’ hourglass prop broke and made the stage very slippery due to all the sand that scattered everywhere. This is unfortunate, and may explain some of the hesitancy I felt during the performance. Of course, MNET wrung all the drama they could from this incident…)
3. VIVIZ – Time For The Moon Night + Rough
2. Brave Girls – Chi Mat Ba Ram + Rollin’
I can already tell Brave Girls are going to be my underdog queens this season. They’re all about “power” this round, trying to show the public a new side of themselves. This doesn’t always work well in the context of Queendom (thinking of you, Lovelyz), and I’d hate for Brave Girls to lose what makes them unique and special.
They performed two absolute bangers this week, switching up Chi Mat Ba Ram just enough to give it a Queendom-appropriate makeover. The staging was striking and the vocals were great, but the highlight was definitely the quick transition into Rollin. I loved the added sax. It felt like a real celebration – the feel-good energy I expect from Brave Girls. I’m glad they didn’t opt for a “dark” reinvention. They don’t need gimmicks. They’ve got the songs and they’ve got the talent.
1. Hyolyn – Touch My Body
As I mentioned last week, I don’t plan on writing too much about the non-performance parts of the series — mostly because I find them boring. The teams each voted for acts that were “below” and “above” them. This involved equal parts strategy and dramatic editing. I found Hyolyn’s honest evaluation pretty refreshing. I also felt awful for VIVIZ. This format is soooo awkward.
And just in case you were wondering, we have a…
- Brave Girls
(I have a feeling I’m going to have to sing Brave Girls’ praises even more than I already do because they clearly need the hype.)
Overall Ranking (Global + Onsite votes)
- Brave Girls
(Yep. Definitely joining that Brave Girls street team.)