I wasn’t sure what to expect for this set of full performances from the six teams of Kingdom, but I was delighted and amazed with the stages that were presented!! Come fangirl along with me as I talk about each group’s offering and ultimately which teams won my heart at the end of Round 1!!
First of all, can I just say that I LOVE how this show is giving us award-quality performances that we don’t have to wait until the end of the year to see?!!! I truly wish this could be a regular thing, but without the unnecessary stress of the competition. Because these groups are all insanely talented and wonderful and my heart is crushed whenever someone gets the news that they are now at the bottom of the leader board.
Okay, but I’m getting ahead of myself! Let’s talk about this week’s performances. There will be spoilers!
Stray Kids, having secured first place in the introduction round, were given the privilege of deciding the performance order for round one. Titled ‘TO THE WORLD’, the rules for this stage were simple: each group was to pick a song from their own discography and reimagine it a way to best showcase and present themselves to the world.
The Boyz, who snagged the number two spot on the leaderboard after the intro stage, were selected for the opening stage. They picked their song ‘No Air’ and added the theme “A Song of Ice and Fire” to portray a tragic story between two lovers. In a production meeting to brainstorm for this stage, the consensus among the members was to do better and go bigger! And once again they introduced new and exciting elements to their performance – most notably filming underwater scenes to use alongside the live stage!
Next up was iKon! After looking thru their massive discography and polling industry friends, they decided to combine their biggest hit, the up-beat ‘Love Scenario’, with the angst of ‘Killing Me’. This mash-up, simply titled “Kingdom ver.”, brought to the stage a two-song musical, portraying an intense and painful breakup. It was a simple stage with minimal props, allowing the viewer to focus on the storytelling through their heartfelt singing and dancing!
As the eldest group on Kingdom, and the only team with a history of strong ballads, BtoB seriously discussed which song should be the focus of their stage. Rather than trying to emulate the rivaling performance groups, they comfortably decided upon highlighting their stellar vocals with ‘Missing You’. This “Theatre Ver.” featured a fusion of traditional Korean music elements and a fairytale-like historical stage. Member Lee Minhyuk wowed with a beautifully choreographed sword dance break and their soaring 4-piece harmony at the conclusion was just gorgeous!
The week-long wait between episodes to see the remaining three teams perform felt like an eternity for this fangirl! Stray Kids strategically chose to perform in the middle of the round. With their pride on the line as the currently ranked leaders, they wanted to bring another strong performance to the stage. After reviewing ideas and suggestions from fellow JYP labelmates and staff, they decided to combine recent hit ‘God’s Menu’ with ‘Side Effects’. Their performance was titled “Becoming a Ghost” and portrayed the fight between good and evil inside one’s self. It was strong, albeit abstract stage, featuring darker imagery that related to the story they were conveying.
in a surprise turn of events, Stray Kids selected ATEEZ to take the stage directly following them. . . and the Kingdom maknaes magnificently rose to the occasion! Leader (aka Captain) Kim Hongjoong had a specific vision for this stage — with the support of their company’s production teams and his fellow ATEEZ members, the dream became reality. They chose to combine music from Dvorak’s ‘New World Symphony No. 9’ and their own song ‘Wonderland’ into a brilliant mash-up. Titled “From The Wonderland”, ATEEZ showcased their strong song styling, vocals, dance, and performance skills in a breathtaking pirate-themed stage!
And the final contenders of round one: SF9! After sitting through the previous 5 performances, they were eager yet anxious to take the stage. Many of their members currently have individual schedules in radio, theatre ,and drama-filming, so trying to find time to practice together was a struggle. However, they rallied through injuries and rehearsal setbacks to bring their dark, royal concept to the finale stage. Their performance of “Jealous” was a grand orchestral rearrangement of their song “Now or Never.”
Following these spectacular performances were the first evaluations! Scoring is broken down into four parts: a 30-judge professional panel, peer review/ranking, fan vote, and view count of the individual performance stages.
Professional panel results, plus peer voting, shockingly upended the introductory ranking, surprising the teams and viewers alike! Maknae ATEEZ succeeded in moving up from fifth to first place on the leaderboard. They are currently followed by Stray Kids, The Boyz, BtoB, iKon and SF9. I expect the rankings will once again shift after the fan votes and stream counts are added in — each week is bound to be an emotional roller coaster for all the fans watching!!
Fan Girl Commentary Time!
My fellow k-pop friends, I was silently screaming into the dark stillness of my living room at 2:30 am, when it was announced that ATEEZ had not only won the professional judges voting round but the peer voting round as well!!! It was wonderful to see their hard work, talent, and passion being rewarded by those in the industry. Their stage completely BLEW ME AWAY — it was powerful and triumphant and absolutely epic, and made me proud to be an ATINY!!!
The other two stages that really impressed me were those of iKon and BtoB — I absolutely loved the theatricality of both!! iKon’s mash-up felt like it was taken straight from the stage of a musical, engaging me with its uncomplicated storytelling. And BtoB’s beautiful performance felt like an elegant poem rolled up in a dream. I don’t know if it’s their experience or their relaxed attitudes, but these two senior groups have really won me over!
In a recent podcast, BtoB member Peniel shared that while filming, the six groups of Kingdom weren’t allowed to meet with one another directly. I just have to say, this really bummed me out! However, the teams managed to find a way around the restrictions to still support and encourage one another. It was heartwarming to see iKon’s Bobby leading a loud chant of “fighting” through the waiting room wall to fellow competitors SF9. And then ATEEZ’s Wooyoung and Seonghwa brought out their phones to display cheering slogans for Stray Kids and BtoB members too! When the stress of the competition gets to be too much, these are the positive moments I focus on!
For those who don’t have the time to check out the full Kingdom episodes on Viki, I have a playlist of performances + reactions from the other teams for you to check out here!
So, fellow Kingdom watchers, who were your favorites at the end of Round 1?? Share with me in the comments below!
Dramas with a Side of Kimchi