What is "Road to Kingdom"?
Last year, Korean TV channel MNet debuted "Queendom," a friendly competition show between female groups/artists. This year, they're planning on doing a male version called "Kingdom."
"Road to Kingdom" is the preliminary round, where seven, lesser-known boy bands are battling for a shot at performing on "Kingdom." After three rounds of performing originals and covers, the top 5 groups will compete in a live finale this coming Thursday, and the top one to two groups will move onto "Kingdom."
Here they are, in the order of their current ranking - with my personal picks of their performances:
1. ONF (performing a mashup of their own songs "We Must Love" and "Moscow Moscow")
- ONF are a 6-member group from WM Entertainment, the same label as Oh My Girl (who placed 2nd on "Queendom"). They debuted in 2017
- They've had a tough journey - they took part in the hot mess competition show MixNine, and leader Hyojin and former member Laun were slated to debut in the final group... until producer/noted criminal Yang Hyun Suk (of "dungeoning 2NE1/BlackPink whilst protecting his criminal boy group members" fame) canceled their debut
- They ranked low in the preliminary round, but have consistently moved up in the rankings due to their fresh arrangements and incredible vocals
- Other performances: a goth version of SHINee's "Everybody" and a MJ-inspired cover of Rain's "It's Raining" (yes, we're side-eyeing the MJ influences)
2. The Boyz (performing their own song "Reveal")
- The Boyz are a 11-member group (former member Hwall left the group due to health reasons) from Cre.Ker Entertainment. They debuted in 2017
- They pulled off three #1 rankings in a row and were only recently dethroned by ONF
- They are known for their highly conceptual stages and crazy stunts (and have the most consistently impressive record, in OP's humble opinion)
- Other performances: a heist-filled version of SHINee Taemin's "Danger" and a contemporary reimagining of VIXX's iconic "Shangri-La"
3. Pentagon (performing a mashup of their own songs "Shine" and "Spring Snow")
- Pentagon is a 9? 8? member group from the hot mess that is Cube Entertainment (also home to "Queendom" participants (G)I-dle). They're the oldest group in the competition, having debuted in 2016
- They broke through in 2018 with viral hit "Shine," but Cube sabotaged their momentum by throwing out their rapper E'Dawn after it was discovered that he was dating fellow K-pop star/labelmate Hyuna
- Also their Chinese member Yanan (who publicly showed support for E'Dawn) has been effectively exiled to China and no one knows when he'll be able to take part in promotions again
- Their "Shine/Spring Snow" stage was the final performance with oldest member Jinho before he enlisted for his mandatory military service. The group wanted to gift him with their first ever #1 before he left
- Other performances: a Mad Max-inspired cover of Block B's "Very Good" and a problematic, "Egyptian" influenced cover of MONSTA X's "Follow"
4. VERIVERY (performing their own song "PHOTO")
- VERIVERY is a 7-member group from Jellyfish Entertainment (also home to VIXX). They debuted in 2019
- They've moved up and down during the competition, and after a disappointing result in Round 1, they were coached by VIXX's Ravi for their "nightmare" concept performance of "PHOTO" in Round 2
- Other performances: a navy-inspired cover of Seventeen's "Mansae" and another problematic reimagining of "Aladdin" for MAMAMOO's "Gogobebe"
5. ONEUS (performing their own song "LIT")
- ONEUS is a 6-member group from RBW (also home to "Queendom" winners MAMAMOO). They debuted in 2019
- Several of their members participated in Produce 101 and MixNine
- They've also had a turbulent journey throughout the competition, although their Round 2 performance of "Lit" (which took after historical Korean movies/dramas like "Jeon Woo-chi: The Taoist Wizard" and Netflix's "Kingdom" gave them a Top 2 ranking for that round
- Other performances: a cover of H.O.T.'s "Warrior's Descendant" that hammered in the song's themes of school violence and a "Romeo & Juliet" reimagining of Infinite's "Be Mine"
6. TOO (performing a cover of TVXQ!'s "Rising Sun")
- TOO is a brand new, 10-member group from MNet's own competition show "WORLD KLASS"
- They were barely a month into debut when they joined "Road to Kingdom" with all of four original songs to their name
- Their participation was criticized by some as a blatant effort by MNet/CJ Entertainment to gain publicity for their own group, but TOO managed to impress their fellow contestants with a cover of TVXQ!'s seminal classic "Rising Sun." They were eliminated in Round 3
- Other performances: a "battle between good versus evil" performance of their debut single "Magnolia" (which they had to perform TWICE on the show) and a heavily appropriative "street" cover of GOT7's "Hard Carry"
7. Golden Child (performing a cover of Shinhwa's "T.O.P.")
- Golden Child is a 10-member group from Woollim Entertainment (also home to Infinite and "Queendom" participants Lovelyz). They debuted in 2017, and former member Jaeseok departed in 2018
- Fun fact: Golden Child's leader Daeyeol is the younger brother of Infinite's Sungyeol
- After placing well during the preliminary round, they scored low on both their performances and unfortunately became the first eliminated group from the competition during Round 2
- I'm just going to say it, they were absolutely robbed on this competition. Their ballet-infused cover of Shinhwa's "T.O.P." was one of my favorites of the entire show
- Other performance: their title track "Wannabe" with a violin performance by member Joochan
The six groups in Round 3 were also randomly partnered for collaboration stages:
- VERIVERY x TOO's cover of BTS's "ON"
- ONF x Pentagon's cover of BlackPink's "Kill This Love"
- ONEUS x The Boyz's cover of Sunmi's "Heroine"
The final five groups have each released a new single, which they will perform during the finale. Streaming points for the singles will factor into the final score.
1. ONF - "New World"
2. The Boyz - "CHECKMATE"
3. Pentagon - "Basquiat"
4. VERIVERY - "Beautiful-x"
5. ONEUS - "COME BACK HOME"
How can I watch the show?
Episodes with English subtitles are available here.
When is the finale?
The last episode will air this Thursday 8pm KST (7am EST/4am PST). The final ranking will be determined by cumulative score from the previous three rounds + streaming points from their singles + views of their performances on Youtube and Naver TV (only the FULL ver. videos from their official channel count) + votes from domestic and international fans on the Whosfan app.
Both the group that wins the final round and the group with the highest cumulative points throughout the competition are eligible to advance to "Kingdom." But if the same group wins the final round AND has the highest cumulative points, then only that group will participate in "Kingdom."
This show has taken over my entire life in the past few weeks, it is both needlessly cruel to the contestants and utterly engrossing, and I'm rooting for everyone at this point. If anyone has questions, I'm here!
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