Episode 9 closes out the third round with the last half of the FANtastic Queendom performances.
The show gets to it right away, calling LOONA to the stage for their update of fan favorite, “Butterfly“. We flashback to LOONA reminiscing in front of wall adorned with photos, fan art, and messages from their fans. They then view a video montage of various Orbits from all over the world wishing them success and giving support. They want to return the favor, so of course “Butterfly” is the natural choice for the fan song.
LOONA is a funny case when it comes to their fans. Orbits seem to prefer the early material, especially the ‘Girl Of The Month’ solo tracks and sub-units. But empirically, it’s the newer, Lee Soo Man-tinged material that has been more successful. Do LOONA lean on their new success? Or do they risk it and make their base happy?
Yves takes charge of the production, channeling her inner Monika and pushing the rest of the group through the expanded choreography.
I … don’t think this hits at all. By straddling the fence, trying to make the die-hard Orbits and the new, Queendom crowd both happy, they’ve effectively pleased neither. If you’ve been following LOONA a long time, I don’t think you could call this a top five performance of “Butterfly”. And as far as Queendom dazzle goes, this stage is average at best.
If they wanted a powerful dance break, they probably should’ve just let the four who went through Monika Death Camp do it instead of dumbing it down for the entire team. And who was the Orbit who said “costumes are too flashy”? You should probably delete your account, beige-on-beige will never win first place. The web concept was a nice idea, but lacked both the production quality and the execution to really make it worth the time.
“Butterfly” is a really important song to Orbits, but if you watched this stage you’d have no idea why.
Brave Girls are all but resigned to their fate, talking how they expect this to be their last stage on the show and how they should take the opportunity to tell their story. After collecting fans’ opinions on what song to pick for their next stage, the girls are surprised to see 2016’s “High Heels“ so high on the list. Yuna has some PTSD about that time in her life, and they quickly move on. They consider last year’s “Red Sun” which tells their story in part and never has had a real live stage to go along with it.
To make the final decision, they have a online live with their fans, singing all the songs that their fans suggested, no matter how goofy. After what seems like hours, they settle on “Red Sun”. Sorry Park Wan Kyu, maybe next time.
The stage begins with Yuna’s infamous clip of her saying she has no schedule and no future. Interspersed are clips of stage mishaps, sparse audiences, and other lowlights from the nugu grind. Using a pair of glass slippers as the metaphor for their dreams, they throw the coming-of-age party they never got. They don the slippers as the footage of them winning at the MAMAs is played. Many of the other idols participating shed tears while watching, but honestly the saddest thing is that it’s taken Brave Girls so long to have an objectively great stage.
The key to this stage, and the main difference between this stage and previous BG rounds, is that it really highlights the personality and interpersonality of the members. Yes, some groups should be using Queendom 2 to showcase something new, WJSN and LOONA for example do their best when they play against expectations. But Brave Girls showcasing the talent and the charm that earned them their long-term fans to begin with, that’s what we were waiting for all along.
Mnet has basically been setting up this stage all season. As I’ve noted previously, the Brave Girls Sympathy Train has been chugging along at a rapid pace, and this stage shows them pulling into the final station for high emotional payoff. It’s cheap, but it works, and cheap-but-effective is what Mnet does best.
It’s a wonderful performance, and the girls are worthy of the eruption of applause from the crowd.
Hyolyn can’t decide between “See Sea” or “Bae” for her 3rd round performance. Her team is also split 50/50, so she goes out busking for the first time in four years to get the fans’ opinions. She gives a live performance of both songs, but even her fans seem to be evenly split. An old man passing by serves as tiebreaker, saying he prefers “See Sea”.
For her concept, Hyolyn wants to put the FAN in FANtastic. To this end, she invites Park Hyerim, aka Street Dance Girls Fighter‘s HARIMU, to share the stage with her. Hyerim is a Hyolyn superfan, and credits her own pursuit of a dance career to meeting Hyolyn at a busking event she attended years ago. Even after practicing with her, Hyerim still can’t believe she’s sharing the stage with her inspiration.
I thought the beach/subway concept was well-executed, and I think her being in sneakers helped Hyolyn give a more confident, easy performance that felt as good as her first round. Rather than do something big or daring or new, she just wanted to do a thing for her solo fans, which she has the panache to make compelling. A typically great performance for her.
After the audience logs their votes, we head back to the studio to see the final results of the entire 3rd round. Back in the studio, the teams all gather to hear the results. Taeyeon and Lee Yongjin review the point tallies from the first portion of the round, which puts WJSN and Brave Girls on top and Kep1er at the bottom. But even at the top, Brave Girls are still wary, as it’s the popular vote in which they’ve struggled.
Next is the self evaluation. Brave Girls choose Hyolyn as a better performance, and Kep1er as a worse one. Kep1er take it in stride, and vote Brave Girls as a superior stage, trying their best to help them avoid disqualification. Kep1er votes LOONA as a team below. Hyolyn refrains from picking a superior team, but picks her former meat-friends VIVIZ as an inferior team. Eunha takes even being mentioned by her as an honor. WJSN also did not pick a superior team. They also pick LOONA as a worse team. LOONA does not gift points to anyone, but takes points away from VIVIZ. VIVIZ returns the favor, voting LOONA as worst. They give Brave Girls a vote in the positive category.
The time comes for the global vote to be revealed, and without much more dallying, Taeyeon announces that Brave Girls have taken the top marks. They get a huge round of applause from the rest of the cast, and then finally start crying tears of relief.
They reveal the rest of the votes all at once, and WJSN come in a very close 2nd place. Hyolyn comes in dead last, more than 1000 points behind Kep1er. She says it’s because she might have been stretched thin between all three stages. Others theorize that the fans who once voted for her voted for Brave Girls this time around.
The final vote counts are revealed. Brave Girls take top marks, ruining Hyolyn’s perfect game and surprising everyone, including themselves. WJSN comes in at a close second place, less than 1000 points behind. LOONA is third, Hyolyn is fourth (!!!), VIVIZ is 5th, and Kep1er is 6th place. They vow to do better in the finale.
The final episode is this week. Queendom released the Finale songs ahead of schedule, and to sate the fans I will give no less and no more than 3 sentences of comment per song.
Hyolyn (Feat. Lee Young Ji) – “Waka Boom”
There are at least three sets of drums being used in this track. I’m just sad this means there’s no SISTAR cameos, which means I lost my bet from the Episode 1 recap. Has Lee Young Ji finished her transformation into budget Jessi?
LOONA – “POSE”
I actually like this well enough, as the beat actually goes hard, though it’s about 15 BPM too slow to be a jam with longevity. I’m pretty sure we get rappin’ Chuu, I am always for more rappin’ Chuu. The chorus is goofy, but no goofier than anything NCT has put out in the last 2 years.
VIVIZ – “Red Sun!”
How are you gonna go name your song “Red Sun!” after Brave Girls just won the last round with “Red Sun”? Never mind that though, I’d like this song better if Gain‘s “Carnival“ didn’t already exist and wasn’t an infinitely better version. The stage sounds like it could be very cool though.
Kep1er – “THE GIRLS”
This song sounds so C-pop, like this should be a BonBon Girls 303 single. I don’t have enough words to accurately describe what I mean by C-pop in this context, but basically you can sub it out for “gamer music” if that helps. Real Raid: Shadow Legends ad break hours here.
Brave Girls – “Whistle”
It’s one of the better tracks of the six, but as a Brave Girls track, both “Rollin’” and “Chi Mat Ba Ram” do the same thing but get to the point a lot quicker. The drums are so cheap, but Yuna gets a high note. I wanna see some sort of hula skirt wearing jazz flautist bouncing around the stage to seal the deal here.
WJSN – “AURA”
The weirdest of the six, WJSN tries something new, and I think I like this from them. Has kind of a LABOUM‘s “Turn It On“ impact, which I know is not a good comparison from a career standpoint, but could lead to a big payoff if the stage performance is right. Just, please, no frilly dresses.
- Personal ranking of FANtastic Queendom: Brave Girls, Hyolyn, WJSN, VIVIZ, Kep1er, LOONA
- I loved that when Umji was talking about LOONA’s great teamwork, Mnet clips a shot of them dancing out of sync.
- “They looked like they had good teamwork” = “That performance was garbage”
- Weekly Idol once spoke of “a cuteness that makes you ball up your fist“. Eunha speaking of 5th place sounding “cute” approached that level of cuteness.
- Yeah, LOONA’s stage kind of sucked but I’m glad they’re pushing Yves to the forefront, can see her make some big strides this year in popularity.
- Why do Brave Girls sound like a robot when they sing “Next Level“?
- Interpolating “Pachelbel’s Canon” into “Red Sun” but adding Mario coin sounds and a dubstep drop is fun and good.
- Brave Girls sounds great when their mics work. If it’s lip-sync they should do it more.
- I’m afraid the Face renaissance might be over, barely a mug worth nominating this week. Maybe facepalm SinB?