Warning: This recap is not spoiler-free. Proceed at your own risk!
This week, we finish up the FANtastic Queendom round, made up of songs chosen by the fans. This is the last competition before the finale.
FANtastic Queendom Round
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 – The Boys
5. LOONA – Butterfly
I’ll admit, I’m not as sold on Butterfly as most people seem to be. The song has grown on me over the years, but I still find the chorus a little underwhelming. And while I’m wearing my curmudgeon hat and admitting things, I’ve gotta say this performance didn’t do much for me either. The dancing was slick and the staging was simple and effective, but I think they missed an opportunity by not doing more with the track.
As a casual LOONA listener, this just sounded like the original mix of Butterfly with a few more symphonic elements weaved in. Not every song needs to be reinvented for Queendom (and some really shouldn’t), but the pureness of this stage felt a bit underwhelming compared to its more bombastic competition.
With that said, LOONA still have my favorite performance of the series with Shake It, and I don’t see that changing.
4. VIVIZ – Bop Bop
3. Brave Girls – Red Sun
At this point, I’m convinced we’re never going to see a proper performance of After We Ride, despite it being a title track. That’s a damn shame, and it should have been the choice this round. Inexplicably, the fans chose a crappy CF track. Are we just trying to sabotage Brave Girls at this point?
For the performance, they’ve targeted audience sympathy, retelling their unlikely rise to fame after years of toil and diminishing returns. The arrangement brought extra drama with a tried-and-true trick: lacing Red Sun with a well-known classical sample. As the only stage to attempt a fleshed-out narrative, I have to give the performance extra points. But if I’m honest, Red Sun is such a nothingburger that the emotion kind of collapsed in on itself, heartfelt and earnest as it may have been. Just think how powerful this stage could have been with a more evocative song at its heart!
2. WJSN – Pantomime
1. Hyolyn – See Sea – Bae
Okay, I love See Sea. Call me basic if you want, but I wouldn’t mind if Hyolyn gave us variations of this same sound for the next ten years. It’s so breezy and hypnotic and fits her voice to a tee. A mash-up of See Sea and Bae sounds like heaven. Throw in a Sistar track or two and you’ll find me passed out from pop bliss.
I know Queendom is supposed to be about the stages, but a great song goes a long way. I mean, it’s the most vital ingredient in the recipe. Hyolyn looked like she was having a ball, which is such an undervalued facet of live K-pop performances. I want to watch performers enjoying themselves and pulling us in with their magnetism. That’s the magic of a popstar. Hyolyn has *it*, more so than anyone else in this competition. And, that’s more dynamic than a thousand visual tricks or dance breakdowns.
(But speaking of breakdowns, the dance break here was killer. It was a good choice to bring in Street Woman Fighter’s Hyerim as a guest)
Going into the finale, it’s time to see how the voters felt about this round. After a lot of hemming and hawing on the producer’s part, we have our ranking:
1. Brave Girls
Hmmm… I guess the sympathy thing worked. It often does on shows like this. It’s funny because I’ve been sympathetic to Brave Girls this whole season (I mention it pretty much every week), yet I found the stage to be just okay. More than anything, I’m surprised at Hyolyn’s low showing. I guess I’m just biased toward her and her music. But hey, the spoiler of this blog is right there in its title!
Obviously, I don’t agree with this ranking. But, I’m glad to see Brave Girls get first place. I’m really rooting for them.
I’ll be back tomorrow with a personal ranking of this year’s original finale songs, which were also teased at the end of this episode.
Spoiler alert: they ain’t great…