I don’t think it’s really that much of a spoiler to reveal that God Emperor Hyolyn has, yet again, taken the top slot in this round’s rankings. In Episode 4, she continues the trend of making her doubters look foolish, easily out-concepting and out-performing her hoobae cast-mates. And while her stage for LOONA‘s “So What” is far from perfect, she remains in a completely different league than the rest.
Picking up right where we left off from Episode 3 the Cover Battle round continues as VIVIZ is set to perform. Back at their agency, the members consider a handful of singles from WJSN‘s ample library before settling on 2021’s “Unnatural“. Not only is the song a music show winner, but the darker aesthetic allows the group to present a stage markedly different than the more innocent look they went with in the first round.
To that end, they’ve redressed “Unnatural” in a Latin ballgown, incorporating elements of flamenco, bossa nova, and tango into the performance. Their training montage gives extra notice to Eunha‘s efforts, who herself admits that her dancing skills still need a lot of work.
The concept is a natural fit, providing enough contrast to the original to be interesting without becoming awkward. Umji‘s glow up as a performer since the split has been a sight to see; out of the three members, she captures the intended look the best. The dancing is good, and even though Eunha didn’t ten-point her little leg flare I don’t think that was the make-or-break point of the performance.
What I do think hindered them is a lack of a power vocal in VIVIZ. Or more accurately, the inescapable knowledge that they used to have one, in GFRIEND‘s Yuju. When Eunha hit that Yeonjung high note during the break, it’s just so very thin, and all the energy of the stage dries up. I immediately thought “Yuju would’ve killed this” and that’s kind of the running thread in all their performances so far. They haven’t been able to square up on key points because VIVIZ is still a work in progress.
Queendom 2 is a chance to prove the VIVIZ concept is functional (I like “Bop Bop” a lot but “Bop Bop” doesn’t need a power vocal), but by choosing songs from more complete entities, VIVIZ keeps revealing their weaknesses.
Kep1er is the fifth group to perform. They go with a light and fun concept, selecting Brave Girls‘ “Pool Party” as their cover subject. Chaehyun comes up with the cursed idea of mashing “Rollin’” into the chorus, and will find God’s wrath for doing so. Hikaru works on her rap, and Shen Xiaoting assures everyone that living in Korea is going a-OK.
Even disregarding the mistakes, this stage is an absolute mess. The new arrangement trades the nu-disco synths for a lead guitar, but then shifts atonally into a greatest hits of The Most Annoying Pop Tropes You’ve Ever Heard, like a nightmare version of SNSD‘s “I Got A Boy“. Not only does the “Rollin'” mashup/interpolation not work, it’s aggressively dissonant, almost artistically so. A part of me is impressed.
There’s a vague Little Mermaid/”Under The Sea” theme that merits importing marimbas, steel drums, and pan flutes into the composition. But then they channel some squeaky EDM for the rap break, afterwards immediately returning to tropical pop sugar. But then the second chorus features some hilariously bad percussion hits during the second chorus that just make it more dissonant. Aaaaand then a guitar solo? Then half-time orchestra hits? My brain hurts.
I laughed when Yujin was crying about the slippery stage, because I’m thinking like “lady, this is your soap”. Dayeon falling down was scary but she handled it well, and I’m actually super impressed that she got back into formation so cleanly. Honestly it’s the best thing Kep1er’s done on stage all season. Hikaru’s rap is fine, but I’ve been seeing this exact same performance from her since … uhhh, the first episode of Girls Planet 999. Is this really all she’s got?
And again, this feels like something that Kep1er was told to do versus something they wanted to do. Queendom 2 is a scripted show, but I’m begging Mnet to at least make some attempt to convince me that Kep1er has any autonomy at all. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe the chaotic mish-mash of discordant references is their style. Maybe that’s what the people want. (Spoiler alert: the people do not want this.)
The ibuprofen kicks in as Hyolyn finally takes her turn. She has a teleconference with her team as she quickly chooses “So What” for her choice of cover song. I actually love her interactions with her staff, it’s obvious they love working for her. I’m sure they’re enjoying Queendom 2 as much as she is, perhaps even more so. Hyolyn chooses Catwoman and the moon as the framing devices for her performance, and puts a lot of effort into training for the death-defying intro.
The effort pays off with a breathtaking entrance executed flawlessly. The rearranged harmonies fit her register perfectly and provide a nice textural contrast from the original. The segue into “Paint The Town” during the chorus is natural and on theme. The stage isn’t prop heavy, and all the dancers hit their spots perfectly. It’s just … everything that the other stages aren’t.
But I will also say I think it’s a lesser performance than “Touch My Body“. I think the major flaw is a self-inflicted one: Hyolyn looks a bit unsteady at times in her stiletto boots. Compared to how freely she moved around in the first round, and how impactful her dance break was, watching her tenderly navigate her stage blocking was a bit of a let down. Shout out to her dance team, though, who go extra hard to make up for her obvious lack of mobility. Being less concerned about the choreo also allows her to hit her vocal marks with precision and style, so it’s really just a trade-off.
And with that, the Cover Battle ends on a high note.
Before the rest of the results are revealed, it’s time for the peer evaluations.
WJSN goes first. Bucking trends, they select Hyolyn as a performance above them. They select LOONA’s musical performance as the stage that’s one step behind, saying there wasn’t anything memorable about it. JinSoul gives that comment the brow.
Next is LOONA’s turn, their first chance to participate in this type of voting. Strategically, they don’t pick anyone as being better than them, and they choose Kep1er’s performance as lacking, as it was somewhat similar to their own but less clear story-wise. Kep1er also pass on picking a better team. They choose WJSN as the inferior stage, saying their reimaging of the song didn’t fit.
Brave Girls girls keep their point totals in mind as they also refrain from picking a team to give points to. They choose WJSN as the lesser team. Hyolyn picks Brave Girls as the lesser team, which Yujeong takes graciously, no doubt happy that they’re just being mentioned this round. Finally VIVIZ reveal their choice, marking Brave Girls as a lesser team.
Hyolyn, again, is on top. VIVIZ come through the peer evaluation unscathed, while LOONA and Kep1er tie for 3rd and WJSN and Brave Girls bring up the rear.
The Global Judge vote is then revealed, but not before the polyglot members of Kep1er get to thank the participating judges. The other groups wonder where their foreign members are, while LOONA’s ViVi fades from everyone’s collective memory. Hyolyn wins the global vote, a surprise to absolutely nobody. LOONA gets 2nd place, followed by WJSN, VIVIZ, then Kep1er, and finally Brave Girls.
The Cover Battle round’s final results are then revealed. At this point it’s not even a question whether Hyolyn will win 1st place or not. More like, will she do it with a perfect score again?
Yes, yes she does. LOONA rides strong live voting scores to a 2nd place finish. WJSN beat out VIVIZ for 3rd. Kep1er is in striking distance of VIVIZ at 5th place, but Brave Girls place a distant 6th place.
These results start to wear on Brave Girls, as they don’t believe the quality of their stage merited such drastic results. Tears are shed as the Cover Battle round, and the episode, ends.
- I don’t think it’s a hot take to say that Brave Girls don’t deserve 6th place; at worst I think they’re 4th and I’d hear arguments for 2nd place. But this was always going to be their narrative, finding general acceptance and acknowledgement of their skills as they’ve ridden the meme-rocket to success. Their arrangement of “MVSK” went every which way, but their stage concept was at least coherent and fun, which is way more than Kep1er can say.
- Brave Girls are also at a huge disadvantage because of top 2 voting. I’d say it’s accurate to think they have less hardcore fans participating in the voting than most of the other teams. So when you say, pick two, most fans are going to toss a vote to the best overall (which is always Hyolyn) and then toss a vote to their fan favorite. Ranked choice voting all the way down, or even just voting for three out of the six teams would most assuredly toss more votes to Brave Girls.
- But also these vote counts are manipulated for drama so who actually knows?
- My ranking: Hyolyn, LOONA, Brave Girls, VIVIZ, WJSN, Kep1er.
- Yujin and Hikaru with regards to the soapy stage:
- Two whole segments about foreign idols and ViVi is being put in the corner. She’s about to werewolf and go wild or something, I swear.
- Kep1er: not Mnet’s daughter. Also Kep1er: receives a scene from Mnet allowing them to talk directly to the Global Judges.
- Kep1er’s biggest mistake is that they should’ve gone for this classic.
- Exy seems so smart and so dumb at the same time. Her intuition is great, and then she does absolutely nothing to avoid these pitfalls she predicts.
- Love the part on Kep1er’s stage where Bahiyyih just stands still for like 30 seconds.
- Of course, Street Fighter Woman shows up next episode. It’s free real estate!
- Paid more attention to the stage credits this episode, as all the ponytail spinning from Hyolyn’s stage gave me some LACHICA vibes. Actually, she worked with 1MILLION Dance Studio for that one. Lots of interesting names involved in the production actually.
- Why do you gotta play Taeyeon‘s “Ending Credits” during the ending credits?