K-Pop: KBS Song Festival 2022 Aftermath

Professional shot of (from left) Son Dongju (Xion), Lee Seoho, Yeo Hwanwoong, Lee Keonhee, and Kim Geonhak (Leedo) at KBS. Copyright goes to KBS, ONEUS, and RBW.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I was going to write about something completely different today, but the ‘KBS Song Festival’ was yesterday and I specifically need to talk about the way that it affected two of my favorite groups. Particularly, I’m talking about ATEEZ and ONEUS. Both of these amazing groups were able to show what they had on stage and there were some pretty great milestones for both of these groups here. But at the same time, there were other things that cropped up that I want to address. Really, the ‘KBS Song Festival’ made the internet blow up for so many different reasons that it feels like a crime to not at least address most of them. At least with these two groups. If you’re going to take two of my favorite groups and throw them into the middle of news, I have to talk about it. So strap in! And also PLEASE note that this article will contain mentions of racist language due to a past controversy. No racist language will actually be featured, but it will be mentioned. Thank you.


‘Guerrilla’- Firstly, these have to be some of my favorite outfits that they’ve ever performed this song in. And that’s saying something because I’ve seen all of their public performances and was lucky enough to see them perform this live. Part of what sold these looks was literally just Seonghwa himself. His bleached blonde hair paired with the leather look and the fur hood pulled up at the beginning was absolutely stunning. It made the entire internet make the Jedi comparison again, which I am always thrilled for Seonghwa when he gets those Jedi comparisons because we all know for a fact that he loves them! But the leather, studs, and furs on everyone was amazing and I wish they didn’t have to use a public performance outfit only once. The performance was also themed, as they always are, and showed the boys actually fighting the corrupt government in the universe that they are now in. Particularly San started us out with some fight choreography. We need to talk about Hongjoong with the cane, because damn that was powerful. Hongjoong always does so well when they give him a prop, but this felt like straight up villain vibes. Mingi always looks completely confident in a suit look and especially with his bleached hair. The bleached hair almost feels like a new era for Mingi. My only qualms with this performance was that I wished that Jongho’s suit had been a little bit more in the style of everyone else’s outfits, but this was another amazing performance from them!

‘T.O.P’- This is where things start getting a little more complicated. Was this performance great? Yes! I loved the start out with ‘Swan Lake’. They really went all out in showing off some of the vocalists here in particular. Yeosang’s deeper voice was such a soothing contrast to the more high pitched music and he got the chorus pieces! Yeosang killed being given more and he just needs more lines overall! I also loved Wooyoung’s breathier style and Yunho actually got some belting notes here! I love when they give Yunho high notes! And Jongho’s note towards the end practically took me out! But besides those things, there were some issues here that had nothing to do with ATEEZ. The song is admittedly a bit more low energy than we get from ATEEZ, which I’ve seen some complaints about. ATEEZ always does the absolute most with what they have and I really think that they did that here. I don’t mind seeing some different themes from ATEEZ! Though I do agree that it was a little jarring to see this performance when they’re in such an intense phase in their regular releases; I don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing. In the end, it did feel as though the song and the choreography did not fit their powerful style. The biggest controversy to come from this though, was the song itself. For those of you who don’t know, this song originally had an incredibly racist term in it. The original K-Pop group who performed this song did not see a problem in using the term at the time because this was before most K-Pop idols were educated on any of this. That’s not really an excuse though. But the song itself has been controversial ever since because of that. Hongjoong did take the term out. I don’t think any of us ever doubted him; he’s one of the most educated K-Pop idols in the industry right now. But there was some backlash over the song being used at all. Hongjoong did explain that the second songs that most groups performed this year were all assigned to them. They did not choose the song. I do not understand why ATEEZ is receiving any of the blame for any of this. But I do want to express how incredibly proud I am of Hongjoong for addressing all of this calmly and for having taken the term out in the first place.


‘Same Scent’- I love ATEEZ, I absolutely do. Their stages always kill it and are often the best stages in any show that they perform at. But I can’t deny when an artist comes out and steals the entire show, and ONEUS stole ‘KBS’. They proved to everyone that they can more than survive controversy; they can absolutely obliterate it and still come out on top. I’ve already watched this version of ‘Same Scent’ way too many times and I want this reimagined version of the song to be downloadable. Everyone absolutely loves how gorgeous ‘LUNA’ is and the more traditional take in music and MV made it stand out even more when it came out. They changed ‘Same Scent’ so that it had that more traditional feel, complete with hanbok. The dancing is gorgeous as always and they also incorporated what felt like a full scale production with the changing backgrounds between cherry blossoms and traditional Korean architecture, and several dancers with fans. They spend most of the performance in white with blue fans and they briefly change it out for a look with red and red fans that seamlessly changes back into the blue color scheme. Each member also individually stole the show with this performance. Hwanwoong started it out with a gorgeous solo dance and premiered his amazing rap style, Seoho was lifted and had a graceful fall and disappearance in the choreography, Keonhee got his close up moment were he looked simultaneously confident and graceful and even winked at the camera, Xion premiered his long hair once more proving that he is the prettiest idol out there, and they gave Leedo an entire section with a samurai sword to add to the badassery that he’s usually associated with. The performance almost reminded me of BTS’s full fledged ‘Dionysus’ performance. They focused on each member individually and almost created a world within their performance. It felt immersive. I will be watching it over and over again for weeks!

‘SexyBack’- So it seems as though the song ONEUS was assigned was this one and it honestly surprised me. The performance didn’t involve all of the members either; it was only Leedo, Seoho, and Hwanwoong. And it was a dance cover rather than a full cover of the entire song. However, this is one of the moments of ‘KBS’ that went viral and that’s for good reason. The number involved revealing outfits, there was lots of thrusting in the choreography, and both Leedo and Seoho took off their shirts at the end. We didn’t see full bare chest because they showed us their jackets sliding down their bare backs, but it was enough. Leedo is known in the industry for taking off his shirt, but I was honestly surprised that Seoho did as well. Hwanwoong remained with his shirt on which is completely understandable and his outfit was a nice bridge between Leedo’s and Seoho’s. But I don’t think I’ll ever get over the image of all of them unbuttoning their jackets/vests before the final pose. Clips from this performance have been circulating everywhere and I feel like I need assistance breathing after every clip that I see. I’m just so glad that they’re getting the recognition they deserve. I am so proud of them for everything that they came out with for this show. It’s their first major television appearance since the controversy and the subsequent major change because they’ve been touring and they are still in the middle of touring. They have all talked about how difficult of a time this has been for all of them and to come out with these performances and steal the entire show is a testament to how strong the five members of this group are. Seriously, if you haven’t bought tickets for their tour yet, do that. I don’t understand how in the world they aren’t selling out every arena!

It was so nice to come out of ‘KBS’ and see so many people saying so many positive things about two of my favorite musical groups. Of course, there was some controversy involved as well, but most people seemed to understand that the negative opinions were entirely undeserved. Most of what I saw was how much both of these groups did an amazing job and I absolutely loved waking up this morning and watching all of the performances. I am so proud of both of these groups for everything involved with ‘KBS’ this year from their confidence, to their well thought out performances, to their calm demeanors in dealing with any negative press that they might have gotten for either past controversies or recent controversies. If you for some reason haven’t started stanning either one of these groups yet, this is your sign to do so. They are both groups with an amazing amount of talent who continue to prove themselves strong. Have I mentioned how proud of them I am???

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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