Ever since it was announced, I have been looking forward to watching Mnet’s “Road to Kingdom”. The show is the prequel to the show “Kingdom”, which is the sequel and the male version of “Queendom”, which aired last year. “Queendom” was a competitive reality show in which six girl groups battled against each other. For “Road to Kingdom”, what they did was they got seven boy groups, and the winner will be able to move on to the main show, “Kingdom”. Now, despite its competitive nature, one of the things that I enjoyed about “Queendom”, aside from the fact that the groups did benefit a lot from it PR wise (especially Oh My Girl), were the interactions between the girls, and as they formed friendships as well. So aside from the boy groups having the opportunity to showcase more of themselves as a group, I was very much looking forward to their interactions, especially as I know almost all of the groups on the show, and as most of them are part of my bias groups list.
So, it is not surprising that I decided to write about the show. Now, I know that I’m a bit late as it is, but my plan was to write about the show by analyzing and evaluating it per round instead of per episode. So, for this post, I will be condensing the first three episodes, as I’ll be mostly focusing on Round 1, which was the official start of the competitive performances.
Before I move on, I have to mention that Pentagon, ONF, Golden Child and The Boyz are some of my top ten favorite kpop groups of all time. I’m also both a fan of Verivery and Oneus as well. I’ve followed Verivery ever since they debuted last year. With Oneus, I knew them since they debuted, but I got more into them last year after they released “가자 (LIT)”. I didn’t know TOO at first, but I do like their music, and during these three episodes, I’ve basically decided to adopt them. So, I was both excited for the interactions and performances, but I also knew that it was going to be pretty stressful for me as a fan as well. So, as I do have a background in theater, I did try to approach evaluating the performances from a technical standpoint, and, of course, the emotional impact it had on me as well.
Before the 90 second challenge, which had no actual weight on the scores, the new rules of the show were announced. Apparently this will be different from “Queendom” as two groups will be eliminated in the halfway point. One group with the lowest scores combined will get eliminated after the second round, while another will get eliminated after the third round. Also, there will be two teams out of the remaining six who will have a chance to move on to “Kingdom”- the one with the highest scores, and the team that receives the highest score for their performance during the final broadcast, regardless of the final accumulated score.
While I did like the groups interacting with each other by trying to guess who they were (props to TOO for correctly guessing ONF; and Golden Child for making The Boyz put their guard down , which made them guess them correctly), I did not like the fact that it seemed like Verivery and Oneus didn’t have as much screentime as the others. And in the practice videos that were released after the episode, it seemed like TOO and Oneus weren’t given extra time to talk, etc, unlike the other groups.
Before we move on to Episodes 2 and 3, I just wanted to talk about the 90 second challenge briefly. I called this a bonus round, as the self-ranking that they did here had no weight on the actual scores. They were asked to come up with a 90 second performance which describes who the group is.
I thought that each group prepared well for this challenge, and TOO, although they are a rookie group had a strong performance as well. However, among all the performances, the ones that I think fulfilled this criteria were The Boyz, Pentagon, Verivery and ONF.
1. The Boyz
4. Golden Child
Episodes 2-3 The 1st Round: Song of King
For this round, as there was no live audience present unlike in Queendom, they decided to have the members of the groups vote to decide the ranking. For this, six members from each group voted and ranked the groups’ performances from one to six, excluding their own performance.
During these two episodes, the groups only interacted with each other when the ranking was revealed, but I loved how supportive all the groups were with each other, and I loved the reactions they gave as well during the performances of the other groups.
The theme of the round was “Song of King”, which meant that each group had to choose a song to cover from an older group, or who they felt was the “King” of Kpop. As The Boyz ranked first in the first episode, they chose the order of the performances, and that’s the order in which I’ll be talking about them. I also felt that the songs that they chose were all great and iconic songs, and I liked seeing the process of them choosing those particular songs.
1.Oneus- Warrior’s Descendant by H.O.T.
This performance was great from start to finish! The boys really wanted to really spread the old message that bullying and school violence should never be tolerated, and they were able to do just that. I love how they really thought of the meaning with each member playing a character, and they even switched up the lines depending on the character. For example, Keonhee and Xion were more of bystanders while Seoho and RAVN were friends of Hwanwoong, the main character who was being bullied. I also loved how Keonhee was lifted up during one part and Seoho’s flip. The slo-mo effect fight scene was really good, and as seen in their performance in Episode 1, they are great at controlling their bodies’ movements. It was an old song, with a relevant meaning, and they pulled off a great performance.
2.TOO- Rising Sun by TVXQ
Wow. I can’t believe that these are rookies. They pulled off such a legendary song, and were so in sync with each other! They really did this performance with the intention of proving that they really deserve to be in this competition. I loved the beginning dance where they were almost lying down, and the solar dance. They brought such a big energy to the stage and proved that they are rookies with limitless potential.
3.Verivery-Mansae by Seventeen
I love Verivery and I love Seventeen, so I was thrilled to hear they were covering them. The re-arrangement was interesting, and different; and the dancing was in sync and very them. However, I felt that there was something missing, maybe a disconnect between their concept and the original song, or maybe they should have gone all out with it with the manly and navy concept instead of adding Kangmin’s really cute “Do you wanna walk with me?” part. I can’t quite put my finger on it. But something was off, although they performed well.
However, they are good performers and I did like the fact that they didn’t choose the obvious choice to cover- a VIXX song. (Although I would have LOVED to have seen them cover another VIXX song aside from Shangri-La which they’ve already done and pulled off well. Eternity? Fantasy?)
4.Golden Child- T.O.P. by Shinhwa
Personally, I ranked them pretty low in the 90 second challenge, even if they were able to show a different side of them and performed really powerful choreo because I felt that there was something missing. This performance was the whole package, from the vocals, to the dance, to the concept. It was a beautiful and perfect stage right from the get go with Y doing a short solo intro in the beginning.
Each member got to shine. I loved how Donghyun’s and Y’s voices blended with each other, and TAG got to do contemporary dance, which he was trained in. It reminded me of why I love them so much- they are a versatile group that can handle both powerful choreography and more elegant ones as well. .Also, this performance hit me the most emotionally.
5.ONF-Everybody by SHINee
A smooth performance! I liked their concept of evil spirits being awakened, how they incorporated the “king” theme, and how the iconic song was re-arranged to showcase that story and meaning. Everything was on point- from the vocals, to the dancing (they do have good control over their bodies when it comes to dancing), all the way to Wyatt’s krumping. I was also really surprised that Wyatt showed a lot of skin here, but it looks like after watching Pentagon’s performance, he doesn’t want to expose himself like that again.
What was also great about this performance was that it kept you guessing from start to end, and continually surprised you. First off, with the arrangement of the song, the other contestants didn’t get the song until they started saying the lines “Everybody” and the way that the song would switch from scary to the uptempo original version of the song was interesting. Secondly, just like the switching of the music, while majority of the dance was on the scarier side, there were moments when it changed to the original dance. And then, at the very end, when you thought it was all over, they sing the “Everybody” lines again, with Hyojin seemingly getting a crown from the members and putting it on his head.
6.Pentagon-Very Good by Block B
Pentagon really does know how to put on a performance, and it’s really shown here. Plus, the other contestants are right- their facial expressions are definitely no joke! It was a really fun stage, and the arrangement literally left you with no time to take a break at all. It was a perfect song for them to showcase the group’s particular charm, and I loved the fact that they fully utilized Hongseok with him being completely shirtless in the beginning.
Also, that dance break was really fun, and I felt that they just simply had a lot of fun on stage. However, while I did enjoy the performance, it didn’t leave as much as an impression as the other performances.
7.The Boyz- Danger by Taemin
I was completely mind blown by The Boyz’s performance. I love that they fully utilize the fact that they are a large group to pull of really creative concepts, but what’s even more amazing is that they pull it off seamlessly. Firstly, it’s hard to take a soloist’s song and make it a performance for eleven boys. Secondly, among all the performers, they really had out of the box concepts that they were able to pull off, especially because each creative idea was risky. If they failed, the whole performance could have failed. (I’m talking about Jacob transforming into Q, Sangyeon on the table, Sunwoo walking on his members’ backs, sliding under the table and running on the table to get to the crown that they were going to steal, etc.) The Boyz’s performance are very theatrical, but that also didn’t detract from the fact that they are really good dancers as well. (Also, I think that Hwall would have looked so good with this concept.)
Show’s Ranking + Their Points:
1.The Boyz (10,000 points)
5.Golden Child (4,033)
As you can see, my ranking and the show’s ranking are VERY different. With the show’s ranking though, I did feel that Golden Child and Oneus deserved higher ranks than that.
In Episode 3, they also showed the first performance for the next round, but I’ll save that for the next “Road to Kingdom” post.
Have you seen “Road to Kingdom”? Do you agree with the rankings? How did you like the performances and how would you rank them? Let me know in the comments below!
Video Source: Mnet Official Youtube
Image Source: Mnet Facebook Page