There is something to be said for art that is truly immersive, that transports people to another reality inside itself, even if just for a moment. Even more special, still, is an artist that consistently does this transporting through their mediums. One such artist that holds an entire universe to be explored within their existence is K-pop group Kingdom.
K-pop, at its core, has always been highly conceptual. It is a world in which listeners and watchers can find a wide array of musical styles and various visual mediums to engage with. Atop a throne of captivating conceptual work sits Kingdom. Their concept is the base for their artistic identity, something that they will build upon as they grow upward and outward, throughout their blossoming career. However, even if the group only just passed their second anniversary, they have shown themselves as something to keep an eye on from their very start.
The seven members of Kingdom – Dann, Arthur, Mujin, Louis, Ivan, Hwon and Jahan – are royalty in their own right, each representing a different historical king, overseeing a different realm. “Our music is unique, I should say, because we are the only ones who have (this) kings concept,” Says Dann, leader of the group, and the day’s resident translator. “We take cultures from all around the world, and make (them) into K-pop.” This portion, especially, is something he calls, “A very enormous feat.”
To have an artistic extension of oneself tied to such a grand concept, there is a certain level of transformation that has to occur. Louis explains, “When we perform onstage, it really gives us more connection to our concept. Plus, the outfits that we wear are all different, so when we wear those clothes, and the cameras are there, we suddenly get inside that concept.”
“When we shoot, our photographer or our video director, they call us king, too,” Dann adds. “It’s kind of funny, and at the same time, we kind of enjoy that.”
As Clash meets with the members over a video call from Seoul, the seven kings are drawing near the close of the promotion cycle for the latest album in their History of Kingdom series. History of Kingdom: Pt VI. Mujin focuses on Mujin’s Kingdom of Cherry Blossoms, leaning into inspiration from Japanese culture. In Mujin’s own words, title track ‘Dystopia’, encapsulates his noble act of sealing all of the evil inside of him to protect the Kingdom of Cherry Blossoms. Through his devotion to his land, the cherry blossoms bloom once again.
‘History of Kingdom: Pt VI. Mujin’ threads new scenery into the intricately-woven tapestry that is their discography. “I think our music has our own color – Kingdom’s color,” Dann says. “The first time you hear it, starting from the intro, it’s quite catchy. We use instruments (from) all over the world, too.”
Additionally, two of the album’s tracks are imbued with both Dann and Mujin’s own creative colors. ‘Elements’ is a pouncy, playful bop written by Dann, who mentions that the song “Basically just means that we’re dope.”. The effervescent ‘My Wave’, composed and written by Mujin, is summer sun on your skin – Fitting, being that it was inspired by The Little Mermaid. These two are no strangers to creatively contributing to Kingdom’s albums, their names often found in the credits for their songs.
For Dann, the creation process is something he has incorporated into his everyday life. “Let’s say I’m out walking, and I see some cherry blossoms falling. If I have some melodies inside me, I just record it in my phone.” He aims to create music that people can relate to, and give comfort to those who are having a hard time.
Mujin explains that tries his best to be creative by delving deeply into a topic once he is given one, and developing a melody and lyrics from there. He earnestly cites his MBTI type – ENFP – as the source for his artistic fuel. “That ‘F’, it means I’m a very emotional person…so I take out the emotions (for writing) from that part.”
Joining Kingdom’s creator line through a different medium is Arthur. The main dancer is known for making choreography, calling it a form of stress relief. “When the dance and the beat go (together) perfectly, it gives me some kind of satisfaction.” He then notes that he has just finished choreography for ‘Elements’, and the group is ready to begin practicing it.
With each comeback come new high points to celebrate. For this era, Louis mentions the time they were able to spend with their fans, known as Kingmaker. “They actually came inside the broadcast studio, and they were singing the fanchants for us. It was really beautiful.” Switching tracks to discuss difficulties of the comeback, he says the seven of them were faced with a new challenge: This time, they were not joined by any other dancers during promotions. They had to prove they could fill the stage by themselves.
And prove it, they surely have. At the hands of these powerhouses, each individual ‘Dystopia’ performance stands strong, a whirlwind of crisp movements, carrying choreography that is every bit as elegant as it is fierce. Though they view filling the stage in this way as a new challenge, it appears effortless for this cohesive team.
“Everyone has different attractiveness, and what we lack, the other people cover that,” says Louis.
Dann adds in that each of the members have very different vocal color, making it easy for any Kingmaker to tell them apart. “And I think each of us has different talents.” He goes on to detail the building blocks that make up Kingdom. Arthur’s choreographic talents; Ivan’s high notes; Louis’s onstage presence and gestures; Jahan’s deep voice and hard-working nature; Hwon “Has this voice.”; Mujin’s emotion-driven song making; “And me… Yeah. I’m just the oldest brother.”
As cherry blossoms bloom in the wake of King Mujin’s act of selflessness, another king stands ready to take the spotlight in the next comeback: Jahan. When asked what can be expected from his Kingdom of Sun, the maknae smiles brightly, and states, “(My) body.”
Dann cheers, “His ripped body. Kill it! Woo!” At this point, most of the members are wearing what can only be described as mischievous grins, as he inquires, “Do you like buff guys?” With Mujin and Ivan laughing on either side of him, Dann adds that Jahan can often be found working out, these days.
When the members are tasked with answering what, if anything, they would like to be the king of, Hwon gives things a solid start. He chooses to be the King of Fire, because it sounds as though it would be the strongest of all kingdoms. “And I want to become a warm person,” He adds.
Mujin, charming as he is, says that he would be the King of Romance.
As Louis follows that he would be, “King of the kong, King Kong,” The group dissolves into laughter once more, something that continues on throughout the rest of the answers provided.
Ivan and Arthur counter that they would be the Kings of Water and Oxygen, respectively, because you can’t live without either, leading Dann to state that, “This is getting weird.”
Before moving on, Louis chimes in one more time with, “I want to be the King of Money.”
Looking further out on the horizon, toward Kingdom’s ideal future, Louis is quick to speak, firmly and hopefully. “I would like to change the music industry. And I would like to do a world tour, where we actually go all around the world.” His wish is for Kingdom to become a group that can be a good influence and great inspiration, through their music, their energy, and their stages.
The conversation heads in the direction of the aforementioned world tour. When Dann speaks about their beloved Kingmaker, it is done so with palpable warmth. The support that they are receiving, he explains, means the world to them. They long to visit fans across the globe, to return their love face-to-face, and to provide them happiness.
In something of a last words segment, Dann expresses that he feels Kingdom is rather hidden inside of their concept. “We really love our concept, but because of (it), we couldn’t do anything that is refreshing, fresh, cute. We’re always the kings, destroying things and fighting, but we also want to try some other topics and genres in K-pop. Something less serious.”
Despite Dann’s feelings that they are hidden by their concept, Kingdom’s aforementioned color is far more than one shade, more than a powerful burgundy, or a royal blue: It is a rainbow, stretching big and bright across the skies of each of the seven kingdoms.
And for both Kingdom, and their vast, conceptual universe, this is only the beginning.
Words: Ciara Glagola
Photo Credit: GF Entertainment