Welcome back to my navel-gazing Queendom 2 coverage. I promise to keep it under 2000 words this time.
The second episode begins with a montage of each team reflecting on their reasons for being on Queendom 2, fitting snugly with the narratives I described in my review of the first episode. All of which could be fixed by a big dose of viral popularity, which Queendom 2 offers in spades.
Well, except Kep1er. You are, indeed, Mnet‘s baby; that’s not a bug, it’s a feature. It’s ironic that it’s Kim Dayeon, who was main character-ed on Girls Planet 999 harder than anyone in existence, saying this. Furthermore, broadcasting the scene with the Q2 crew reassuring Kep1er that they’re there for the right reasons and not because they’re Mnet’s baby is so patronizing to the viewers. Personally, I think Mnet can do whatever they want with making their intellectual properties kiss or whatever, but showing me five minutes of this and then relegating Hyolyn working in the studio to b-side content? Not a fan.
They’re right to think that simply being good won’t be good enough. Unfortunately, ‘simply good’ is exactly what I’d call their performance.
Kep1er’s stage for “WA DA DA” has a lot of moving parts and is executed fairly well. I liked the custom visual touches, like the tire treads that trail Yeseo‘s leg as she sweeps it around during the dance break. The theme is vaguely racing adjacent? Flags! But also with like a red sun and a blue sun colliding? Who the fuck knows. And the song’s rearrangement is only minimally different.
It’s basically an above average Inkigayo stage, not even MAMA level. Nothing special, and Kep1er hasn’t been around long enough to invoke the pathos that the other groups can lean on to get by. Being on Queendom 2 is basically a free pass to do whatever crazy concept you have been thinking of and guaranteeing an audience for it. Kep1er’s stage is something their handlers at Mnet instructed them to perform, and it shows.
Brave Girls … oh Brave Girls. On one hand, it is cool to see the ex-nugu group get the chance to try all the concepts and configurations they’ve always wanted to do. On the other hand, Queendom 2 might just quickly expose the limits of their viral popularity. It’s easy to forget that prior to going viral last year, Brave Girls were like, actively unpopular. Eunji‘s turn on the original Queendom was met with a lot of ‘???’, and even on nugu-dumpster shows like The Unit they’d rank lower then members of, say, Melody Day or … uh, ACEMAX-RED. But, at least they’re actively designing the performance, which in my mind already puts them above last place. Minyoung in this respect is kind of a boss.
Brave Girls chose to feature a combo of “Chi Mat Ba Ram” and “Rollin’” as their signature song, which is a fine and logical choice, since they’re the two songs they have wins for. The performance is jam-packed full of props and concepts that unfortunately don’t flow together all that cleanly. Even the visuals are kind of jumbled: city scenes, fire, nanta drumming, light sabers? The beach, finally? “Rollin” but just the sax solo? This is why Hyolyn has such a leg-up on the rest of the contestants; she just has so much experience now as a creative director, she knows what works and what doesn’t. A good director needs a good editor.
The live vocals were noticeably rough, besides Minyoung, whose extended, full-throated belting is mad impressive from just a stamina standpoint. At least they’re having a blast.
WJSN‘s performance has all the hallmarks of a classic Queendom performance: overwrought concept, memorable key moves, and a competent execution. “As You Wish” isn’t my favorite single from the group, but I really really enjoyed this rearrangement. Shifting the vibe of the song to something more somber, and not letting the drums come in until the chorus is a much more interesting color than what was offered in the original song. And leaning on the chugging, electro synth bass versus the tropical house touches is the kick in the pants the song needed.
Though there weren’t a lot of extra props, I thought the formations and blocking were the best of the first round. It kind of felt like a Street Woman Fighter stage. They handled the hourglass mishap well enough, I didn’t even notice that they were rolling ankles all over the place.
WJSN’s signature stage highlighted exactly why I’m happy they’re on Q2: the group has so many great songs in their catalogue that are marred by one or two details. Q2 provides them the opportunity to take a mulligan on a handful of them. Now, if only Bona was around…
Back in the (slightly reconfigured) studio, the five non-COVID-dy teams await the results of Round 1. This is Eunseo‘s first time to the studio, and we get a taste of her and SinB‘s long-established friendly rivalry.
But before the votes are tabulated, the self-assessment comes first. Each unit was asked to name the opponent who did better than they did, as well as naming a team they thought they performed better than they did. Teams can pick ‘no one’ for a team that was better, but not for a team that was worse. Shades of the ‘who can I beat in a dance battle’ survey in SWF.
Most of the teams opt out of picking a team better than them (obviously), since that just awards their rivals with points. Only Kep1er picks Hyolyn, which wins them some brownie points with their sunbaes. Or is this yet another Mnet psyop?!?!?!
VIVIZ picks WJSN as a team below, which immediately prompts Eunseo to put SinB in a headlock. The reasoning is fair, VIVIZ wants the team to place above the team they think they’re neck-and-neck with. WJSN picks Kep1er in a kind of honest admission that they were simply not impressed with the stage. The mood turns when it’s revealed that Hyolyn, Brave Girls, AND Kep1er all picked VIVIZ as a team below them. Each team’s bullshit reasoning for voting VIVIZ pisses off SinB even further.
The self-evaluation effectively leaves VIVIZ in last place.
The global judges’ votes are then revealed. Hyolyn comes in first, but WJSN and VIVIZ are right behind her at #2 and #3. Kep1er comes in at 4th and Brave Girls are in 5th place.
Finally the live judges’ score is revealed. Hyolyn gets an all-kill for the first round, winning all three voting categories and taking the entire round with a perfect score. WJSN ends up in 2nd place with a strong voting turnout. VIVIZ, Kep1er, and Brave Girls go 3rd, 4th and 5th, respectively.
As stated in the previous episode, since LOONA was unable to perform due to catching COVID-19, they were by default relegated to last place. All is not lost, as Mnet is giving LOONA time to broadcast their stage, even though it’s not eligible for consideration.
This is actually a really great Queendom stage, in the vein of Oh My Girl‘s performance of “Destiny” last year. Throwing a traditional Korean aesthetic on your song is a guaranteed good move in this format, and LOONA does it with aplomb. The arrangement is great, some cool, simple prop work, great costumes. It’s also the best use of those giant LED screens in the entire round, with the top part of the temple hanging over the stage, giving it an imposing sense of size. I’d probably rank this 2nd overall, if it were eligible for competition. Gowon/ViVi fans, probably not so much.
The next round is introduced: cover song battle.
As the winner of the 1st round, Hyolyn gets to pick her cover rival first. After some musing, she wanders over to the empty seats, picking LOONA as her rival. This proves to be a popular choice, sending the rest of the teams scrambling for their plan B. WJSN picks VIVIZ, who sigh in relief. Thus, Brave Girls and Kep1er are paired up as the last two remaining.
Episode 2 ends before Hyolyn’s cue sheet for the next round can be revealed.
- SinB in her sweats telling Eunseo to “get the fuck over here” is the content I crave.
- Mnet’s really trying to force feed the general public the idea of Kep1er as some sort of protagonist in all this, but it feels about as natural as a whole grain tuna sandwich at McDonald’s. I don’t expect it to stop.
- As I mentioned above, Mnet’s put out some b-side content, as in footage that didn’t make the main show. And it addresses a few of the concerns I mentioned in the last article. Taeyeon gets more interaction time, there’s more behind-the-scenes footage of the groups working on their stages. Seeing this good stuff relegated to a DVD extra makes all the zzz-inducing Kep1er time all that more infuriating.
- Everyone is right, SinB is running this show so far. Will bitch face be the new trend of 2022 in Korea?
- There’s a part during LOONA’s performance where Jinsoul walks through a catwalk that parts the audience. Was that configuration not available to the rest of the teams?
- Thinking about it, and seeing the preview, I think LOONA performed their first stage during the second stage’s performances, which is why there’s no live reaction shots from the rest of the teams.
- What Brave Girls lack in stage charisma they make up for in variety charisma.
- It’s so funny how such a big deal is made about Eunseo’s value to the team, and yet Bona and Dawon are mentioned 0 times. I understand it’s for dramatic effect mostly, but it just sounds like Bona/Dawon aren’t necessary.
- Eunha‘s non-stop aegyo-optimism is only tolerable because of the yin SinB presents to her yang.
- I have a winning strategy for Brave Girls: Go get your boys from the military to go on stage with you. Unleash the power of the Millboard.
Only 1700 words this time! See you next week.