Kingdom Episode 8 – The gods go Ddu Du Ddu Du

In this week’s episode Teams Mayfly and It’s One go up against each other for the last time with performances by the vocal sub-units, and Part II of the third and final round of Kingdom – No Limits! Kicks off. 

Rimi: YAY!!! Woohoo ~~ *waves pom poms*

Sadhana: Rimi! You were looking forward to team It’s One’s vocal performance and their cover of Spark. What did you think about the vocal round?

Rimi: You’re right. I was so excited about Spark! Taeyeon has a gorgeous voice, and it’s a bright, energetic song – pure pop perfection. Reminds you why pop is so popular. When done right, it’s such an addictive listen. But…I have to say that I was slightly disappointed in Team It’s One’s cover. They made it more of a ballad and toned down the sheer, confident energy (the “spark” so to speak) of the song. Honestly, Inseong need not have felt bad about his missed note – I don’t think that’s what made them lose. It was likely the arrangement, which simply failed the singers. What did you think of the cover of Spark?

Sadhana: I’d only heard Spark once before, so honestly, unlike you I wasn’t keen on the original, but I feel similarly. The arrangement itself made it so serious and weighty, like they were really throwing so much emotion into it, which I felt didn’t really suit the song itself? Inseong’s miss was a shame, but yeah, even if he hit that note perfectly, the performance was still super ~serious~ which I didn’t enjoy as much as I did Mayfly’s. 

Rimi: Such a good point, Sadhana! And before we move on to Mayfly, I have a comment also about the composition of the team. Six members may have been too much for a purely vocal performance. None of them had an individual chance to shine. Which is a shame – at the very least, iKON’s June has an incredible, raspy, sexy and wild vocal tone. It’s so suited to covering this song! I’m so sad his skills weren’t utilised as effectively as they could have been.

Sadhana: Yes, I was going to say the same thing but it slipped my mind but this episode’s (one of two) surprising discoveries was his voice! *heart eyes*

Rimi: Whoa! I’m so happy you’ve discovered his vocals! *heart eyes*!!

On the other hand, what I discovered was Seungmin’s vocals! I knew Eunkwang and Jong-ho are strong vocalists from previous rounds, but Stray Kids are so aggressive and rap heavy that Seungmi’s prowess never quite registered. And wow – his voice is a little nasally, but he can carry a note! Team Mayfly, all three of them let their notes linger in ways that unexpectedly moved my heart! What did you think of Team Mayfly’s cover of IU’s Love Poem? I know you were excited about this!

Sadhana: Hahaha we’re super “aligned” to continue my stupid joke from the previous post. My second discovery of this week was *no surprises* Seungmin! Okay, confession time, I’ve been super obsessed with God’s menu (a.k.a. Shin menu. Shin means “God” in Korean) ever since I heard it on Kingdom, especially over the last two weeks. If you see, in such an aggressive song, when Seungmin’s part comes in at 0:39 or so it’s SO GOOD and elevates it and gives the listeners a chance to warm up for the bombastic rap again. 

Rimi: So right! I went and re-watched all Stray Kids performances on Kingdom especially for Seungmin! And was surprised by what I’d previously missed!

Sadhana: Sorry, coming back to Mayfly, they didn’t disappoint! The cover was everything I hoped for. Actually, maybe more, because I honestly expected Eunkwang to dominate, given his vocal prowess, but he really sort of took a step back and let the kids shine while adding his special touch and that just made the performance for me! 

Rimi: Such a solid observation. Kind of like Bobby in Full Dash – I like this trend of seniors giving juniors a chance to shine. Speaking of Full Dash, it’s funny how it’s the opposite this time. Team Mayfly used fewer effects, like Team It’s One in the rap round, but this time their vocals and overall stronger display of vocals won over the grander effects displayed in Team It’s One vocal performance. Although admittedly, the effects in Mayfly’s Spark weren’t as well planned or executed as in Mayfly’s rap performance. Nonetheless, it makes me sad again that Full Dash/It’s One lost the rap round – because then at least the distribution of points would have been more even!

Sadhana: Yeah, it’s sad, really. And you know, given how reality shows go, I didn’t really think one team would have an all-kill, I thought It’s One would win at least one round. At least, that’s how it is in most other reality shows, so this one was definitely surprising. 

One other thing I forgot to mention about what I liked in Mayfly’s performance was – the controlled use of the high notes. I know high notes and octaves are commented on by K-pop fans like “my bias eats octaves for breakfast” or whatever, but in my opinion, not everyone can sound really good when hitting those high notes. Some folks just sound uncomfortable singing at such high pitches, including Jong-ho in that one ATEEZ performance with that high note (just my opinion). So, compared to that, I love how the composition and the ad-libs really give him a chance to belt while making it sound really really good (and comfortable!) 

Rimi: Very valid opinion!! I liked Jong-ho’s four notes, but agree he didn’t sound comfortable. After all, it’s not easy to hit those notes. 

Dare I say it, I do wonder if there’s some favoritism happening on MNET’s end again – but there may also not be. After all, like we discussed, technically, it’s understandable why Team It’s One lost the rap round, even if we personally liked it more.

AND with that, should we move on to the first two of the individual group performances?

Sadhana: Yup! Given previous weeks’ trends, I was fully expecting to like iKON’s performance more but the twist was that I LOVEDDD Shin Ddu Du Ddu Du SO MUCH that I watched the video every single day since the episode came out. *laughs* 

Rimi: If I may use your terminology, I am fully “aligned”!! Stray Kids’ performances haven’t been on my favorites list yet, but oh. my. god. Shin D4 slayed! One, I’m super impressed with how involved 3Racha are with Stray Kids’ music production. I knew it, but didn’t realise it until this show. And “Shin D4” – the mixing for the ddu dus in two separate songs, that fun, insane concept and finally, just the perfect amount of props! – was a fantastic, inspired performance! Cannot stop watching it, just like you!

Sadhana: Plus, they just had so much fun during the performance itself – including the mad aegyo when knives are pointed at you that yeah, couldn’t help but become a fan. ALSO, ALSO, ALSO, Felix’s part where he says “Choke on what you make/Spit that fire/Gordon Ramsay” I was like hello, what’s going on here~~ Okay, I think that’s enough fangirling but yes, I loved this performance overall! 

Rimi: I also loved Bang Chan’s whole “’re still here? …” monologue. It was so hilarious! No, to be honest, I can’t choose a favorite moment. Everything works so well – from the arrangement, to the use of Felix’s voice, to Changbin’s aggressive rap, to the chorus being different each time, to the many stand out moments in the performance. Okay, yes – enough fangirling!

Sadhana: You know, I feel bad for iKON again, because their take on Pretty Savage was good too! I liked how they made it their own and brought their flair, but it didn’t have a “lingering effect” on me like the other one did. 

Rimi: Agreed! And they even had a Lisa feature. I wish the behind the scenes portion of the episode had shown more about how the performance was designed and of the back story behind Lisa’s involvement. Because absolutely none of this was shown, I guess it was all handled by YG – the members and Lisa simply practiced, recorded and performed. Of course, they made it their own, but without being given any glimpse at all – even if it’s scripted or misleading – I feel like we, the audience, were left out of context that would have made the performance a whole better experience. (E.g. SF9 laid out the story to their Round 2 winning The Stealer performance, making it that much easier to follow, know what I mean?)

Sadhana: Yeah, the BTS (can I use this word haha) was not compelling enough. But then again, their performance didn’t have as complicated a concept as SF9’s take on Stealer. But you’re right, they didn’t even have a moment on stage with Lisa which did make me wonder as well that it’s like an agency-requirement and less of a “feature,” so not as exciting.  

Rimi: Well said. It felt very business-like, despite definitely having iKON’s signature energy. And again, nothing particularly stands out? Like, there are no stand out moments. I did like their acting at the start when they walked out into the jungle, but can’t recall anything other than Lisa’s feature from the actual performance (if I try to think back).

Sadhana: Yeah, same here. Thinking ahead to next week made me realise (with a start) that it’s the last week??? Only four more performances from the Third and then the final round left! :O 

Rimi: Second last week, yes! Which group are you most excited about? Based on everything we’ve seen so far? (although as we saw from Stray Kids this episode, our expectations have nothing to do with what actually goes down and how we feel about it after, haha)

Sadhana: From the previews, BtoB’s performance looks very exciting, but I’d have to say I’m looking forward to seeing The Boyz – because I’m expecting them to go all out as winners of RTK. From the overall rankings though, I’m expecting a close call for #1 between ATEEZ and Stray Kids. The first part of Round 3 leaves little to no hope for the It’s One teams to have a shot at winning the show. 

Rimi: One again, we are “aligned”! I do agree. A shame because I have high hopes from SF9 and The Boyz. 😀 Anyway, see you next week~~!

Sadhana: Hahah, see you! 

Author: Sadhana C

I'm interested in technology, culture, and the business of Hallyu. I currently work full time as a product manager and have previously reported on start-ups. In my free time I like to read fiction and learn languages.

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