In the last few decades, K-Pop has become widely popular around the world, and new groups are debuting left and right. Every group comes up with its own concept and message they want to share with their audience, but some groups go the extra mile to create really unique concepts that make them really stand out from the rest. Aespa takes their audience into a sci-fi world where the members have AI (artificial intelligence) counterparts. Red Velvet shows duality in their music with ‘red’ representing their bright and cheerful atmosphere, and ‘velvet’ their more sensual side. Dreamcatcher appeals to a more niche audience with their darker ‘nightmare/dystopia’ concept, infused with social commentary. However, the group that went ahead and positioned themselves, quite literally, on a throne is KINGDOM, a group of seven kings that have come to rule over the world of K-Pop.
KINGDOM is a boy group that debuted on February 18, 2021, under GF Entertainment with seven members: Dann (oldest member, vocalist, and leader), Arthur (vocalist and dancer), Mujin (vocalist and rapper), Louis (vocalist), Ivan (vocalist), Jahan (vocalist, rapper, and maknae), and Chiwoo (rapper). The group has set up a storyline in which each member is supposed to represent a historical king, and they each rule over their own fictional kingdom. With their debut, they set up a path of storytelling the lives of each king, from being lost to finding themselves, maturing, and ascending to their thrones. From there, the story is set to expand, and become grander and more epic.
In this first part of the story, which they call season 1, each album has one of the members as its protagonist, with the title track serving as the given king’s introduction and backstory. But their original story concept is not all that is captivating about the group. Their music style, stage performance and costumes have all the elegance and grandeur of kings, giving their music videos an epic, fantasy-like atmosphere. Additionally, each comeback has the unique aesthetic and vibe of the member who is at its centre, showing the fans all the different sides of KINGDOM.
So far, they have released five albums, each hinting at the story of which member will be told in the next. Their journey starts with:
History of Kingdom 1: Arthur
Their debut album tells the story of Arthur, from the Kingdom of Rain. Even though they have never explicitly stated which historical kings their characters are inspired by, there has been quite a lot of speculation in the fandom, and in some cases, such as this one, it seems fairly obvious. So, here the inspiration is King Arthur of Britain, who is said to have been a knight, with a legendary sword whose name serves as the name of the title track, ‘Excalibur’. In the music video, the members are presented both with their own aesthetic, and as knights, serving as a first general introduction of all the kings, as well as support to the protagonist, Arthur. The video shows some Anglo-Saxon imagery, and weaves mediaeval sounds into the music to give depth and colour to the story of the king that is being represented.
History of Kingdom 2: Chiwoo
Their first comeback tells the story of Chiwoo, from the Kingdom of Clouds. He is most likely inspired by King Chiyou from China, the leader of the Nine Li tribe, who was said to be able to breathe a thick fog that could block the sun and create a storm during battle. The title track of this album is called ‘Karma’, and it incorporates beautiful Chinese tunes and imagery. The exquisite and sophisticated clothing, the harmony of the decoration, and the delicate fan movements performed by the backup dancers makes this the most stunning and captivating of KINGDOM’s songs.
Unfortunately, member Chiwoo left the group for personal reasons at the beginning of 2022, after the release of their 4th album. Towards the end of that same year, a new member, Hwon, joined the group, and it is likely he will substitute Chiwoo’s part in KINGDOM’s history, but he will do so representing a different king.
History of Kingdom 3: Ivan
Their third album brings us the story of Ivan, from the Kingdom of Snow. Even though this member has a cheerful and bubbly personality, he represents Ivan the Terrible, the infamous Russian Tsar that was known for his violence and ruthlessness. In the title track, ‘Black Crown’, we see two Ivans: one who is good, and another that has been corrupted by the evil powers of the crown. The video combines the aesthetics of a Russian ballet, and the aggressiveness of a pack of feral beasts. The result is a very impactful performance, once again showing a very different side of KINGDOM.
History of Kingdom 4: Dann
Their next comeback centres around Dann, from the Kingdom of Change. In his case, there is less consensus as to which king he is supposed to represent, but many things indicate that he is most likely based on King Dan-gun, founder of the first Korean kingdom, who after his long reign was rumoured to have transformed into a mountain spirit. The title track, ‘Ascension’, has possibly the most traditional sound of all of KINGDOM’s songs so far, as it is set in historic Korea and features a lot of traditional instrumentation. The song intertwines a sweet dramatic melody with the war-like vibes that come in during the chorus. The used imagery of old Korean architecture and traditional clothing make this a very evocative song.
History of Kingdom 5: Louis
Changing the style quite radically, their fifth album narrates the story of Louis, from the Kingdom of Aesthetics/Beauty. There is no doubt that he is supposed to be based on King Louis XIV of France, who is one of the longest-reigning monarchs, and a great admirer of art. The music video for the title track, ‘Long Live the King’, has a true fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast vibe. The extravagant outfits and palace spaces featured are very reminiscent of French aristocracy, and give this comeback a very regal ambience.
History of Kingdom 6: Mujin, and future comebacks
As hinted at the end of the last comeback, KINGDOM’s next release will be about Mujin, from the Kingdom of Cherry Blossoms. He is most likely based on Emperor Jimmu, the legendary first emperor of Japan, rumoured to be a descendant of the moon goddess and the storm god in Japanese mythology. As for the two remaining members, Jahan, from the Kingdom of the Sun, and Hwon, from the Kingdom of Storm, most of what is known is speculation. The former could possibly represent one of two Mughal Emperors: either Shah Jahan, or Jahangir. On the latter, we know that he represents King Gyeon Hwon, founder of one of the Later Three Kingdoms of Korea. We will probably have to wait for the releases of these albums to know more about what they have in store for us.
Despite having debuted just a year ago, KINGDOM has already won the hearts of many fans with its unique concept, talent and dedication. They have shown a lot of promise, and they definitely deserve more attention. So, if their concept seems intriguing to you, be sure to check them out and look out for their next comeback!
Written by: Anna Franco Ucar
Reviewed by: Luisa Quintero
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