Things are getting quite heated now as Round 1 progresses and the last three groups gave their performances. The fandom communities are getting quite heated as well, what with 50% of the criteria being based around YouTube/Naver views and voting.
Thankfully, I managed to find a way to enjoy the actual performances without getting too stressed about things- I watched all of the full performance videos first (I did this twice so I could figure out who I would be voting for so I could vote already), and then I started watching the actual episode itself.
Before I move on and give my customary spoiler warning, I’d like to put a little disclaimer here. I will be putting some of my opinions about what I thought about the performances here, as I do put my own personal ranking in these recaps. I am not, however, going to talk too much about which group might have been favored by Mnet, etc, as I just want to concentrate on the performances only. I also encourage you guys to leave comments about you thought about the performances, but let’s all respect each other, as I do encourage healthy discussions and discourse on this blog.
So, without further ado, let’s get into the actual episode itself!
The episode began where it left off, with the MC’s introducing Stray Kids as the next performers. After Stray Kids was Ateez, and they were followed by the last performers of the night, SF9. Afterwards, the groups were asked to give their rankings as a group for the self-evaluation; while the show’s panel of experts had their own voting as well. Before the episode ended, the rankings for the self-evaluation and the panel of experts were shown.
Stray Kids- Side Effects + God’s Menu
Stray Kids’ behind the scenes segment began with them brainstorming with other JYP employees on what song to use for this particular theme. Everyone’s opinions were taken into consideration, and they decided to go with a mashup of Side Effects and God’s Menu. During their practice sessions, they took into consideration their acting and facial expressions a lot, and they (and I) got quite the surprise as 2PM’s Wooyoung dropped by to give them some advice and to cheer them on. Bang Chan mentioned how Side Effects has a similar feeling to their iconic Heartbeat song, and asked how they immersed themselves in that feeling, to which Wooyoung answered that back then they had no money and were starving. They also showed producer Bang Chan, with him explaining some things in that quick clip he had while rearranging the songs together.
To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised at how well Side Effects sounded together with God’s Menu. I also liked the story line that they went with, as I was able to get it right away. The Side Effects part showed them being controlled, becoming lost; and then they overcame it, realized who they were, which is what God’s Menu is about. I also liked that they included imagery in their own lore as well. They performed well, with the standout performers being Lee Know and Han, for me. However, I felt that the set overpowered their performance.
ATEEZ- Symphony No. 9 “From the Wonderland”
Before anything else, I’m low key in love with Ateez right now; and I’ve more than slightly fallen quite hard for San. Moving on, their behind the scenes clip showed Hong Joong trying to get some inspiration for their upcoming performance by watching “Pirates of the Carribean”, since Ateez’s concept is pirates. It also showed him and their main music producer, Eden, talking about what they could add to Wonderland for this round, and they settled on mixing it with Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 From the New World. They decided that this would be a good fit as it would make the song sound more grand. Then they met up as a group to discuss ideas on the actual performance, and they also split up into the choreographing team and music team as well to discuss their ideas with their choreographer and music producer. They also showed us the fact that they prepared for this round while promoting their latest album “Fever: Part 2” which had the title track Fireworks, which meant that they really went through this round being very exhausted from performing in music shows then rehearsing for Kingdom right after.
I absolutely loved this performance. I loved how it felt like you were in the middle of a pirate movie from the get-go, with a wonderful set up of the main members of the crew, to the battle with the Kraken (I really think that they used something like an air filled balloon for that), to them defeating the Kraken, then celebrating their victory with everyone; although this victory is just one part of many battles that they will face. Despite the set and the Kraken tentacle, and their dancers, it never overpowered the performance of the Ateez members at all. (I literally fell for San after he turned the ship’s steering wheel). Some key moments in the performance included Jongho’s four notes that he pulled of flawlessly, that slide turning thing in front of that sea LED screen, and Seonghwa’s entrace with that gun before killing the Kraken. Ateez literally crushed this performance.
At this point, I think SF9 are the clear underdogs in this competition. Their behind the scenes showed them choosing the song that they’d use. I was surprised that they went with Now or Never, although I do love the song; but was pleasantly surprised at how wonderful this new orchestral rearrangement of the song was! I like that they are very consistent in their theme of being classy, fancy and elegant. They also showed us how the group had to prepare for the performance at the same time as all the members having their own individual schedules, such as Inseong’s musical, Dawon’s and Hwiyoung’s drama. Chani had his own schedule at a broadcasting station where he bumped into two of his good friends- Golden Child’s Bomin (whom he asked advice from), and iKON’s Chanwoo. Youngbin and Taeyang were the ones who were consistently in the practice room, and led everyone when the members were able to find time to join them in the practice room. They also had very interesting ideas that centered around the song’s theme of being jealous of someone’s beauty to the point of stealing it from someone, such as the idea of using ordinary and the concept of interrogation mirrors that you can see what’s going on behind closed doors. They also really played up their strength of acting, since most of the members have been in musicals or have done dramas at one point.
However, I really didn’t like how Mnet handled Jaeyoon’s knee situation. He got injured during rehearsals as one of his moves included him jumping and landing, and he was clearly limping around and was in pain. However, he decided to push through with it, despite everything. Of course, Youngbin noticed this, and always asked if he was okay and comfortable to do it, and when Jaeyoon said yes, Youngbin tried fixing things so that it would be easier for Jaeyoon. What I wasn’t comfortable with was that Mnet sort of glamorized the whole situation.
Despite the injury, the fact that I didn’t like the costumes (apparently TVXQ’s Changmin did), and the fact that Mnet’s red lighting didn’t really look nice on stage, I really loved the performance. The orchestral version of Now or Never gave was very elegant, although the subject matter was dark, which did remind everyone of the movie “Perfume”. I liked that they used a red scarf to symbolize that beauty that they were chasing after; Chani’s dance break with the female dancer was great; that dance break part was elegant and cruel, the way that they had Zuho’s beauty and were dancing with Zuho looking pained in the middle; that drop of the perfume by Hwiyoung all leading up to him walking to the mirror throne and the dancers dropping to the floor in the end, with them looking like they’ve achieved their goal like Dorian Gray, was just amazing.
Afterwards, the expert evaluation and group rankings were shown, basically 50% of the score for now.
2: Stray Kids
3: The Boyz
Combined Expert & Group Rankings:
2: Stray Kids
3: The Boyz
I won’t post my own rankings until the next episode when they reveal 100% of the rankings. However, all I can say is that I think that Ateez deserved that number one slot. The Boyz looks like they are really under pressure, stemming from the fact that they did win Road to Kingdom. I also think that group evaluations are a mixture of which group really impressed you, plus group strategy, so I don’t really bank much on that as compared to the expert evaluations.
However, I was heartbroken when I saw how disappointed SF9 looked. Youngbin covered his face with his hands, and Inseong really looked heartbroken (which broke my heart even more).
I really do hope that SF9 and iKON don’t let their low rankings get to them because I know they deserve more than whatever ranking will say.
I’m pretty excited, however, about them switching songs, and the fact that Rowoon was in the preview for the next episode.
What did you think of the combined group and expert rankings? What did you think of all six performances? Let me know in the comments below!