Warning: This recap is not spoiler-free. Proceed at your own risk!
This week’s episode took quite awhile to get to its performances. First, we had reaction and fallout from last week’s voting results. Then, we moved into a lengthy series of mini games where the groups could win chances to see spoilers of their competitors’ rehearsals (choreo, song choice, wardrobe, etc). None of this amounted to much beyond behind-the-scenes fluff, but it filled the first thirty minutes of the episode.
ROUND TWO: COVER SONG BATTLE
Round two involves the contestants pairing up and covering each others’ songs. Obviously, some acts have a much deeper catalog to pull from than others, making the pairings themselves pretty important. As usual, this round will be split between episodes, so I’ll rank the three we saw this week and combine them with next week’s for a final verdict.
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.
3. Brave Girls – MVSK
Brave Girls drew the short end of the stick… not that they had any choice in the matter. While other groups had years of songs to choose from, they were stuck with the newly-debuted Kep1er’s handful of tracks. Luckily, they opted for b-side MVSK, the group’s strongest song yet. Still, it sucks that their competition got to deliver these big, instantly-recognizable hits and Brave Girls were dealt a b-side that many viewers have never even heard before. On the positive side, I guess this gives them the chance to make it their own?
Poor Minyoung’s post-Covid symptoms seemed to be the star of the behind-the-scenes package this week. You better believe MNET amplified and lingered on every single cough. It was honestly uncomfortable to watch. I just wanted to reach through the screen and tell her it’s okay to rest. Please, take care of your health!
Brave Girls were working under a lot of constraints for this performance, and I think it showed. MVSK just didn’t match the ambition of tonight’s other stages, and I don’t think that’s their fault at all. I’d happily watch them perform anything, and this was a very slick effort. I loved the dance break, but I wish they did more with the song during the rest of the performance.
2. WJSN – Navillera
WJSN wisely choose a GFriend song rather than the lone single VIVIZ have released as a trio. And, they picked my absolute favorite GFriend song! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Navillera covered before, and this can end up being a tricky proposition. Even before WJSN’s performance began, I knew I’d picky about any changes they made to the arrangement. Navillera runs on pure propulsion, and it’s hard to improve upon that.
With those expectations, I wasn’t crazy about this version of the song. The staging was very on-brand for WJSN and I think it’s cool when artists totally switch up a well-known track, but this was all over the place. However, WJSN’s performance was solid and they nailed the power notes. Even when the track itself meandered (that post-chorus instrumental break was not for me), they filled the stage with energy and kept things engaging. It was a mixed bag, but it should have been a knockout.
1. LOONA – Shake It
LOONA are ready to throw down the gauntlet after being sidelined last round. They had a lot of great songs to choose from – both Sistar’s hits and Hyolyn’s solo work. They ended up going with one of my favorite Sistar songs: the summer classic Shake It. This is definitely not the sound I’d expect from LOONA, though of course they’re ready to reinvent the track to fit their own style and Queendom’s “bigger is better” sentiment.
They received a choreography lesson from Hyolyn herself, which seems like an odd advantage in this competitive atmosphere. But, Hyolyn is quickly proving herself the ‘cool unnie’ that everyone loves. Her confidence is infectious.
As for the performance? I loved everything about it. It was so much fun to watch, filled with smart stagecraft and great dancing and engaging energy. The brassy, movie musical arrangement took the song in a completely unexpected direction, yet never strayed from the elements that make the original version so great. This is such a hard balance to pull off, but LOONA did it with flair. For as many ideas as they moved through, the performance never felt fragmented. I loved the momentum of the storytelling, I loved the costuming, and I loved the positive vibe. I’m very impressed. This is going to be a difficult stage to beat.