Apologies for getting to this release late as I put it aside for late so that it could be highlighted and then forgot about it, but KINGDOM made their comeback with “Ascension” about a month ago now.
The reason I wanted to give them their own post is because they’ve consistently delivered with their high concept from the start, and their music videos have always been interesting, with “Ascension” being a prime example of what I mean.
Thematically, KINGDOM basically go from member to member, each of whom are a ruler. Thus they’re able to travel all over the world and through time with their concepts, with the constant being that they are always all-in on it, and for this one they return to ancient Korea with wonderful results.
The wider lore of KINGDOM could end up being interesting, telling the story of seven rulers currently in the midst of finding themselves, with each being in charge of different kingdoms relating to things like change, rain, aesthetic, and what not. Dann‘s in particular is relevant since the music video and song lyrics of “Ascension” tell the story of basically Korean history, always threatened and stricken with agony due to outside forces, but poignantly ending on a note of hope that things will be rebuilt and return stronger than ever. Should sound familiar.
To be honest though, what initially and still draws me in is their execution of concepts, and as a sucker for weaving traditional Asian elements into modern packages, “Ascension” may be their best yet. From start to finish the sheen on this is more cinematic, historical K-drama than anything else.
While Dann fights to protect his kingdom from invasion, he does so stylishly, with perhaps their best choreography notes of their careers so far.
Unfortunately, this is only really teased in the music video, but the performance version showcases the ribbon dancing much better, and it reminded me of Taemin‘s utilization of the prop, which is high praise indeed.
Aesthetically, just about everything works. Instead of opting to try and use effects, they seemingly sprung for on location sets that make everything look authentic. Obviously the hanbok and traditional stylings are gorgeous, and there’s multiple iterations of outfits at play, but it’s not just for them as the entire cast of backup dancers gets similar treatment, which helps contribute to the projection of this epic scale that is rare in K-pop music videos.
Even the way it’s filmed is well executed, from making everything look older in the serene village shots to the intensity depicted during the chorus, and even the gratuitous “idols smolder into the camera” shots are cinematic as hell.
Personally, their music has been more of a mixed bag, ranging from fringe average to quite good. But where KINGDOM always deliver is effort, so if their songs hit the right spot for you, this is definitely a group worth following.
It’s rare for me to get struck by a sense of awe from a music video, but KINGDOM have consistently done that with their efforts, and “Ascension” is no exception. Quite frankly, I do hope they get more fans just so they continue on with the concept and themes, as they clearly have great ambitions with this (which I respect in itself) and I’m interested in where they take it.