compilation review: Queendom 2 “FINAL”

I’m back!

After some false promises, and a bout with the COVID herself, I am back to give the children what they want! And I bet you have been waiting patiently for what I’ve been thinking about what’s going on in the South Korean pop music scene, with its insane amount of debuts and comebacks in the first half of 2022. There’s a lot to unpack!

So, speaking of comebacks, remember Queendom? You know, that Mnet program that had esteemed girl groups pit it out in a comeback war that had them pumping out amazing fan content all while trying to prove which one of them was worthy of being the “queen of all queens”? Well, if you were under a rock, Queendom had finally wrapped up its follow-up season, officially declaring a final winner – and let me tell you, it was a surprise, and one that I personally didn’t want, but it’s an Mnet program so… *cue shady backtrack*

With that said, I present to you my take on the final six tracks from the six girl groups of the program: “FINAL“. Perhaps there’s a slight ~*~bias~*~ but I’ll be as objective as possible; each group has brought a level worthy of the crown, but which of these six songs can Run the World?


효린, 우주소녀, Kep1er (케플러),
VIVIZ (비비지), 이달의 소녀, 브레이브걸스
<퀸덤2> FINAL 신곡대결
Released: 2022/05/27

Waka Boom (My Way) (feat. Lee Young Ji)
AURA
THE GIRLS (Can’t turn me down)
Red Sun!
POSE
Whistle


Waka Boom (My Way) (feat. 이영지)

Waka Boom (My Way) (feat. Lee Young Ji)

Sung by: HYOLYN

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Kicking things off is SISTAR’s main vocalist herself, HYOLYN, with a collaborative effort for her final track of the show: “Waka Boom (My Way) (feat. Lee Young Ji)“.

I’ll be reviewing both the song and its performance; but let’s get real: both the song and the performance deliver. HYOLYN had really kept her fierce momentum going, serving us with every performance, and it’s at her final moment that she goes especially hard.

Taking on a moombahton hip-hop sound, filled to the brim with drums, beats, and a Middle Eastern instrumental, HYOLYN’s comeback track is everything you want and more from the soloist. It’s fire from start to finish, and with Lee Young Ji’s rap, you’re likely to have burnt to a crisp from how hot this is.

Much like the song, HYOLYN gives it her all in the final performance, pulling all the stops with its fiery Egyptian queen-like stage, its bevy of dancing followers, and a tight choreography that will have you dancing along. She even has Young Ji in the performance! HYOLYN’s engagement with the camera, as well as her major stage presence and incredible fall, shows you that she, even if she didn’t officially win, is likely the one to rule the world.

Waka waka boom.


AURA

Sung by: WJSN

Rating: 3 out of 5.

How do you follow HYOLYN? WJSN try to keep the momentum going with “AURA“.

Sadly, this is a poor follow-up, and one that I feel doesn’t quite measure up to any of the other acts to come, either. Would you be surprised that this was the act to win?

The song itself is not terrible; it’s an effort that had all the members put input towards, so it’s a formidable track, especially for a final track that is meant to represent them. With its whistles and also windy Middle Eastern feel, it is an ethereal effort that I find myself coming back to. There’s far better comebacks (and WJSN songs, let’s be real), but it isn’t a complete throwaway.

This performance, however, is not the one. Maybe it’s because the song itself is so downplayed that it never maintains the momentum that HYOLYN left with her track, or maybe it just has way too many dancers? It just feels like a music show performance of a B-side track. *cue shady backtrack*

There’s an aura here, but it’s faint.


THE GIRLS (Can’t turn me down)

Sung by: Kep1er

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Up next is the girls themselves, Kep1er! Can they pick up the pace following WJSN? Kep1er takes the stand with “THE GIRLS (Can’t turn me down)“.

And it is fierce! It’s certainly a song and performance that I think is very much them, very much the power that I had been missing from them throughout the entire competition, especially since I’ve kept my eyes on them since Girls Planet 999.

The song itself is fabulous; it definitely has that girl crush vibe that is tired, but Kep1er’s girl crush take feels fresh and powerful, which certainly suits their overall style. I don’t think it’s one that I’ll be listening to on the daily, but it is a fun track that has a nice mesh of drumline, hip-hop, beats, etc. Its instrumental melodies are a little all over the place, but I can forgive it, as it’s not grating to the ears.

The performance itself is full-on Kep1er, and there’s a lot of stops pulled that I really like, from its awesome dance-break section that highlights the intense performance level that Hikaru displays to Youngeun’s fiery attitude throughout (glad we finally got to see ‘Kick It’ Youngeun back in action). Chaehyun was noticeably absent for parts due to her health, which is understandable. I did think that having too many dancers was a stretch. Regardless, the girls put on a show!

We certainly can’t hold Kep1er down; they can only go “Up!” from here.


환상 (Red Sun!)

Hwansang (Red Sun!)
Translation: Fantasy (Red Sun!)

Sung by: VIVIZ

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Can VIVIZ follow up the energy displayed by Kep1er? VIVIZ decide to take that energy and take us on a fantasy journey with “Hwansang (Red Sun!)“.

And a journey they sure take us on. GFRIEND, is that you? The three ladies from VIVIZ opt to really switch gears on us during the finale, and it’s actually quite nice, though it really downplays the energy once again (and I guess, maybe that’s good?).

The song is just completely a rehashed GFRIEND song, which they actually refer to in the episode, if I’m not mistaken. It’s a very pretty song, with its jazzy melody that will have also have you snapping and jiving along throughout. Tinges of GFRIEND’s signature magical elements are sprinkled all over the song; you can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia in the song. It isn’t an amazing song, but it is certainly one I can go back to if I’m feeling in a jovial sort of way.

The performance itself matches the song’s pretty vibe, and what’s especially nice is that it portrays the story of the girls themselves, as told in a sort of fantasy element that reflects the song’s title. It’s much like a theater show, though considering this is a comeback war of sorts, I don’t think it really holds much. I do see the necessity for the amount of dancers, but again, it just feels like a lot. I also think maybe this was too cute for a final performance? It was fun, nonetheless.

I’ll take Brave Girls’ “Red Sun” over this, though, sorry.


POSE

Sung by: LOONA

Rating: 3 out of 5.

VIVIZ took us on a journey through fantasy, but LOONA wants to take us from that fantasy into model territory with “POSE“. Does it work?

Kind of… the energy here is a lot more, so we’ve really just gone topsy-turvy from concept to concept. That said, LOONA gives us an OK final run on their journey to the crown.

The song… just OK. I sort of get the vibe they’re going for with the song, but you’d think with a title like “POSE”, that you’d get something that would be really vogue-like? Instead, we’re just given “Paint The Town” 2.0? Like, OK? I guess people really like what they had from that song? I would have preferred “Why Not?” 2.0, let’s be frank. The song is just hard on the beats, and after two songs having Middle Eastern influences, it just kind of gets tired. There’s no real hook to the song either.

The performance… again, it’s just OK. Each member has their highlighted moment, which I really like, and there’s a dance sequence that has them all without any back-dancers (thank goodness). But then, the incorporation of the overall stage sort of just has everything all over the place, and I don’t really get the performance concept to match the song… are they against typical celebrity life? Or do they want it for their unique style? I’m not entirely sure, and I don’t really like asking questions watching a performance.

I think I’ll strike a different pose for this one.


Whistle

Sung by: Brave Girls

Rating: 5 out of 5.

We’ve reached the last of the comebacks, and lo and behold, it’s Brave Girls with “Whistle“! I’ll do my best as a Fearless to avoid any ~*~bias~*~, but…

I can’t help but think of this as the best of the comebacks. HYOLYN is up there, but it’s Brave Girls who really serve at the final round, giving us exactly the right song and performance for the incoming summer season, as well as giving us a concept they can truly pull off.

The song is a more subdued version of the type of tropical-house infusion of summer songs that the girls have in their discography, but it is still an absolute treat, with its awesome catchy hook and the joining whistles as the girls tell us to do just that. Mr. Brave Brothers incorporates the whistle into a melody that will flutter in the wind as you listen to this. Nestled with a groovy but breezy synth, the summer air has never felt so good.

And that performance! Sure, one can say it is much like a music show performance, but from Minyoung’s elevated beginning stage, to the clear distinction of the girls from the background dancers (those gorgeous outfits), to that one spicy dance break (that is not on the official song, mind you). It’s a show-stopping performance, and the girls were giving all kinds of sexy in the choreography that I had been wishing from them for a while.

The perfect ender to the finale, Brave Girls, *whistles*, that was awesome.


OVERVIEW

I’ll be honest, this was a fairly underwhelming “FINAL“. The only three performances worthy of any real repeat viewing were HYOLYN, Kep1er, and Brave Girls, while the other three failed to really deliver anything new or remarkable to the table. What’s surprising is those latter three ended up being the top three of the entire season, so the show did end up becoming above all a “popularity contest”.

With that said, I still think each group put on their best efforts.

I don’t think this season’s finale holds a candle to the finale that was season one, but each comeback is still worth a place in each group’s discography. I do recommend listening to HYOLYN and Brave Girls off of the compilation, especially with summer approaching.

It’s clear that my pick for the group to Run the World is Brave Girls, and boy, did they have quite the run (last in every round before reaching the highest in round three and then placing dead last in the finale), and as a Fearless, I continue to believe they’re the Queens. WJSN was heralded as the Queen of all Queens this season, though there’s been a bit of controversy behind that that I won’t get into.

That said, I’ll give this compilation a soft recommend, but only to check out the performances for HYOLYN, Kep1er, and Brave Girls, and then to check out the songs for HYOLYN and Brave Girls. They truly were the ones to beat (and were beaten, sadly).

Rating: 4 out of 5.

MUST-LISTEN: Whistle, Waka Boom (My Way) (feat. 이영지)

For more “Queendom 2” release reviews, visit the archive! (Still to come!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s