We have all been well and truly inducted into Mnet’s idol boy group competition show ‘Kingdom: Legendary War’ by now, with episode three being aired yesterday. This draws to an end the first stages of each of the competing idol groups, and wow…. what an impressive introductory and first stage from all of them, with some unexpected happenings along the way *ahem*.
For me, the six competing groups all belong to my ‘actively stan’ category of boy groups (as in, I love the groups enough to be extremely familiar with all of the members, know their discographies in detail, and own a number of albums from every one of these groups), so my experience watching this show is different to people who might be rooting for one particular group. Genuinely, I’m just happy to be here witnessing this and am supporting everyone equal amounts (even if my heart beats slightly differently for the senior groups). Being a happy multi-fan made me consider the perspective of people who are meeting some of these groups for the first time and wanting to know a little more…. so ‘Kingdom Corner‘ is going to be a weekly series that looks deeper into some of my personal favourite songs from the discographies of each of these groups, starting from the rookies and ending with the seniors.
To that end, the first group on the list are none other than Kingdom’s rookie group ATEEZ, who debuted in October 2018. To me, it seems kind of impossible that this group are even still rookies – they’ve been on my radar since before debut (KQ Fellaz) so it feels like they have been around for far longer, and their music just confers an incredibly polished and mature sound that feels like it couldn’t possibly be at rookie level. They are a group who shot straight into my personal favourites from their very first song, and have found a firm position as one of my Top 10 boy groups of this time (wow – strong praise here). I feel like they launched onto the KPop scene with such a big impact, pioneering the pirate movement, and have a truly impressive back catalogue, so I’m excited to share some of my top picks with you in today’s post! Welcome to my top ATEEZ picks.
ATEEZ Full Recommendation List
Below you will find just a choice few recommended songs, but I have actually done a full recommendation list which you can access by clicking the button below. There you will find a list of recommended songs for each ATEEZ album, so it will include more songs than this list here if you want to delve deeper.
Normally when I do these kinds of posts I put the songs in chronological order of release date because the older songs are the ones I get the most excited over – whilst I do have some of that same feeling with ATEEZ, the first song I have gone for is one from right in the middle of their discography. ‘Wonderland’ is the title track to their fourth release (first studio album), and to me, this is the song that signified the start of the turning point in their career. They went from a group that only people in my immediate spheres were talking about, to suddenly being mentioned all over the KPop community and I think part of it is credit to the instantaneous and overwhelming impact of this single (as well as just their sheer talent and impressive charisma). ‘Wonderland’ and its pirate precision has me yelling down the house every single time as if I’m in some weird trance, and whenever I watch their MAMA 2019 mashup (above right – a performance that seems to have won them a lot of fans), I can’t help but marvel at Jongho’s dedication to belting out those notes [frighteningly amazing]. If these two videos don’t rouse you – then…. I have my work cut out for me.
This has got to be, by far, my favourite ATEEZ title track to date. It surprised even me by how much this song became a mainstay for me through the past year, even charting in my personal top 10 songs for 2020 – the song is far more restrained than prior ATEEZ tracks and I think that evolution in sound struck a chord with me. This is dramatic, atmospheric and moving in all the right places – this time prioritising powerful, poignant vocals over the rap and hip-hop energy that they had become known for, delivering us the only single that is worthy of closing ATEEZ’s ‘TREASURE’ era (an epic era consisting of 4 mini albums and one studio album, plus two Japanese albums). Mingi and Hongjoong still get the same amount of space to shine with their rap, but truly this track belongs to the vocalists in the group, particularly Jongho and Seonghwa – STUNNING. ‘Answer’ is an anthem that still sends a shiver down my spine whenever I hear it, has me wailing the lyrics at full volume and still has me raising my imaginary glass in the chorus (the lyrics tell us to, I’m not just being super weird) – this will forever be a firm favourite for me.
Going back a bit to a B-side from ATEEZ’s third mini album. ‘Aurora’ genuinely has to be one of my favourite songs that they have made to date (not even because Hongjoong was part of the production team). A lot of people see ATEEZ for their punchy or dramatic title tracks but rarely delve deep enough into their albums to appreciate their softer side too. ‘Aurora’ is one of many examples of how the group maintain impact at the same time as demonstrating a gentler sound. Everything about this song is comforting, even building in softer rap sequences from our usually exuberant rappers, but the instrumental and members’ contributions explode into a striking pre-chorus revealing those memorable ATEEZ colours even through the fluff. This is an auditory treat but if you listen along with their performance video, you surely will be entranced (although I love the official performance video on the left, their New York street performance video hits differently for some reason so sharing both).
Pirate King (해적왕) (2018)
Now we go right back to the debut. ATEEZ debuted with double title tracks – ‘Pirate King’ and ‘Treasure‘, and although I love both pretty much the same amount, it was ‘Pirate King’ that really made me think “Wait hold on, is this a DEBUT?” Considering that, for many, ATEEZ were seemingly popping out of nowhere, they really decided to emerge with a bang. I distinctly recall watching this MV and feeling supremely excited – this is bold and ambitious, and is truly the kind of statement sound that every rookie group strives to obtain – ATEEZ nailed it on first go. The fact that it shows off the group’s broad range of skills right from the first second is true testament to a magnificent arrangement – making space for clean rap sequences, impressive vocals and powerful choreography. Even listening to it two and a half years later, I still feel that excitement that I felt on day one – you can just sense the group’s dedication and commitment to success in this one song. This is the adventurous group that I fell in love with and will continue to root for.
Say My Name (2019)
The group’s first ever comeback was with the ICONIC single ‘ Say My Name’ – truly there are so many hooks and lines in here that no doubt at least one will be in your head even if you aren’t an ATINY (ATEEZ’s fandom). Hongjoong’s opener really lays the groundwork for an epic start and every time they have performed this song live, it ‘s that ‘ATEEZ Present’ line that gets the crowd going. The thing that I love about ‘Say My Name’ is that the group didn’t try to follow up with another start-to-finish explosion like ‘Pirate King’, instead delivering a mid-tempo track that starts relatively low-key, only building in strength in power as the song progresses. Even where some group’s sometimes lost momentum on the second verse – Mingi and Hongjoong’s rap flows in the second verse actually take on a different pattern making the second verse more memorable and rousing than the first! A lot of people will chalk up ‘HALA HALA‘ as being the more statement track from their second album (which is actually mostly true… the reason why it was hard for me to choose between these two songs) but, to me, ‘Say My Name’ wins the competition purely for just how much of an unforgettable crowd pleaser it is, and also for bringing me those Latin vibes (which were emphasised in the Flavor of Latin version with Juwon Park).
A B-side off the debut album! A rarity. I can’t help but love what I love…… and I love ‘Stay’, even though my other ATINY friends puzzle at my almost intense appreciation for it. When I was getting into ATEEZ at the very beginning, this was one of the songs that I would frequently have on repeat and I cannot explain what it is about it that I love so much. I think that at that time, ATEEZ were only seen as a group with quite a fierce image, but ‘Stay’ is just the sweetest song with beautiful easy melodies (and a subtle calypso, tropical undertone) and truly adorable lyrics – it just moves my heart differently and never fails to put a smile on my face. I almost associate ‘Stay’ with a baby ATEEZ era even though it was only two and a half years ago – it just gives me the warm and fuzzy feelings that a younger group exude, and I kind of want to hear them do something like this again.
The way that I feel about ‘Stay’ can also be translated to ‘Promise’ – it’s the same warm, fuzzy feeling. ‘Promise’ is pretty much the second album’s version of ‘Stay’ but just… EVEN BETTER. The song starts off reserved and understated and, in true ATEEZ style, builds and bursts through Seonghwa’s pre-chorus into this absolute festival of sound, characterised by San and Jongho’s unbelievably impressive vocals in the chorus. Let’s not even forget to mention Jongho’s high note in the final chorus – just spectacular. It never fails to impress me even after the hundreds of listens that I’ve surely given ‘Promise’ by now. Once again, it gives off that sweet impression that immediately softens the preconceived image that outsiders might have of the group and is a side to their sound profile that needs to see more of the light of day – I mean, you can just see from this performance video how much light and bright joy they bring to this song. ‘Promise’ will live on forever in my heart (and continuously on my speakers).
Now to round the entire list off with a song from the current era – the ‘ZERO: FEVER’ era. Although the new era has been a departure in sound from the ‘TREASURE’ era, experimenting with new styles aplenty, ‘THANXX’ stands out to me as having that trademark ATEEZ exuberance, whilst feeling like the bridge between old and new. As with all the best ATEEZ songs, we have memorable hooks in abundance, bombastic rap sequences and faultless vocals – it is energetic and high-impact and almost has this nursery rhyme-like chorus melody that will worm its way into your head in no time. For this last spot, I had to choose between this song and their latest single ‘Fireworks (I’m The One)‘ which has grown on me more over the last month despite my initial review, but ‘THANXX’ just feels extremely ATEEZ in every sense, without any compromises, and shows just how much fun they can have with a song – it’s exciting!. Plus this was Wooyoung’s time to shine.
What are your favourite ATEEZ songs? Are there any on here that you would have substituted for other ones? [I can already predict ‘WAVE‘ cropping up *laughs nervously*]. Or have you picked up a song you hadn’t heard before by reading this? I’d love to hear!