K/DA goes ‘All Out’ with their new EP

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Riot Games

K/DA’s new EP, All Out, debuted on Nov. 11 with five tracks featuring a variety of artists, including (G)I-DLE members Cho Mi-yeon and Jeon So-yeon, as well as LExie Liu as a guest vocalist.

Willem Lent, Staff Writer

League of Legends, played across the globe as a staple game of the 2000s, holds its Worlds tournament at the close of each year. At the Worlds 2018 opening ceremony in Incheon, Korea, K/DA made its explosive debut on YouTube and as a hologram performance with their first song, “Pop/Stars.” K/DA is a virtual K-pop girl band made up of some of League’s most iconic characters: Ahri, Evelynn, Akali and Kai’Sa.

Their first song has now surpassed 400 million views, featuring iconic artists Cho Mi-yeon, Madison Beer, Jeon So-yeon and Jaira Burns as the voices for each member respectively. After two years without a new song, K/DA made its much anticipated comeback at Worlds 2020 this year, releasing five songs in their new EP, All Out.

Riot Games started by releasing a lyric video for “The Baddest,” Akali’s song, on Aug. 27 as a teaser for the upcoming EP. 

The lyric video uses eclectic, intense, wild visuals to establish the aesthetic and energy for the next songs. The song also does a good job of maintaining the style of K/DA’s first song. While it does highlight So-yeon’s Korean rapping, it also takes the time to highlight each member of K/DA individually. While the energy of “the Baddest” matches that of “Pop/Stars,” the vibe of the song is different

The lyric video also serves to give fans a look at K/DA’s updated character models that would be used for the upcoming music video. As “Pop/Stars” featured a fully animated music video with impressive visuals and effects, All Out would also feature a new music video for “More,” the second song on the EP.

Leading up to the “More” music video, Riot Games set up a Twitter account for their newest character, Seraphine. Seraphine is a pop star in both the world of League of Legends and our own, and her Twitter account was meant to generate a following leading up to the release of All Out

After establishing Seraphine with some original music, Riot Revealed through her account that Seraphine would be part of “More” with Lexie Liu as her voice actress to introduce her to the playerbase. 

While the integration of a virtual character into the real world through social media has been done before, ultimately Seraphine’s Twitter account serves the end goal of making money in game. Riot has been critiqued for using relatable struggles like anxiety and stress for what is essentially a marketing campaign. 

“More” premiered on YouTube  on Oct. 28, a few days before the live performance at Worlds 2020. Opening with So-yeon rapping as Akali, the video reincorporates similar visuals from “Pop/Stars” like neon colors and smoke. While the opening verses are very strong, Akali does not have much spotlight for the rest of the video, while in the previous music video Akali is much more prominent. 

In place of spotlighting Akali, “More” tries its best to highlight each member of K/DA individually, something “Pop/Stars” did not prioritize. While Kai’Sa did not get much screentime in the first music video, she gets her own rap segment in “More,” fleshing out her identity as a member of K/DA more adequately. 

While the vocals and choreography of the video are impressive, the video seems to build towards Seraphine’s segment more than anything. Seraphine sings in Chinese and English, likely because Worlds 2020 was held in Shanghai; however, it also adds a new dimension to the music. 

Seraphine’s portion of the video shows her progression from a fan of K/DA to someone collaborating with them very smoothly. In contrast, her inclusion in the video also feels very intrusive coupled with her marketing campaign and the fact that she is a new character, not one with a reputation or fanbase.

The visuals presented in the music video are impressive, and the animators take full advantage of otherwise impossible transitions and camera positions. Impressively, the choreography is animated individually on each character to create a very slight, lifelike delay. Even more impressive is the ability of the songwriters and vocalists to seamlessly blend English, Korean and Chinese into the song without sacrificing intensity or energy.

“More” was a hit, currently standing at over 50 million views. All Out has three more songs, each one revolving around the other members of K/DA and their personalities.

“Villain” is Evelynn’s song, and it was the first of the three remaining songs to get a concept music video. Evelynn is a seductress in the world of League of Legends, luring her targets to their doom with her charming looks. Even as a member of K/DA, she retains that air of mystery, seduction, and danger. Her song perfectly encapsulates her essence as a character.

Evelynn is a character that lurks in the shadows, which is evident in her concept video. The video never fully shows her face, only giving glimpses of her, while also using compelling imagery like snakes to establish Evelynn as cold and lethal, yet also hauntingly beautiful.

With the release of All Out, Kai’Sa has become much more relevant to K/DA, where in “Pop/Stars” she was mostly there for show. “Drum Go Dum” is her song, with a very different vibe from “More” and “Villain.” 

“Drum Go Dum” is a lot like something that could play on the radio — it’s catchy, energetic and something that sounds like it should be blasting at a party. The sound effects and percussion used in the song are unique and fit well with the lyrics.

For many fans, however, the concept video failed to deliver as Evelynn’s did, lacking any animation and instead featuring a dancer. While this is possibly because of the pandemic still going on or because more of Riot’s budget went to the more popular members of K/DA, Kai’Sa’s music video still captures the energy of the song. 

In contrast, Ahri’s concept video for “I’ll Show You” does not line up with the song itself. In the world of K/DA, Ahri is the founder of K/DA and also its most popular member, so her song is meant to show her overcoming her struggles with imposter syndrome and feelings of inadequacy. Still, while the song is a triumphant arrangement, her concept video is much more melancholy, with slow, gloomy, lonely visuals.

Of all the songs on All Out, “I’ll Show You” least matches K/DA’s established style in both its sound and execution. In general, Ahri took more of a back seat in these songs in favor — mostly — of Seraphine.

All Out does just what its title promises — it’s a whole EP compared to a single song, each member puts their personality on display, and Riot also added Lexie Liu to the mix. While the EP delivers on a proper K/DA comeback, K/DA is still a marketing campaign to a certain extent. The concept videos cater more towards K/DA’s more popular members, and now that the EP is out, Seraphine’s and K/DA’s Twitter accounts will become inactive.

K/DA likely won’t release new music for a few years because of their nature as a virtual group owned by Riot, in addition to being composed of many different artists. The same is true for Seraphine, who is technically not a member of K/DA and will also likely be left on a back burner as League of Legends prepares to start its next season with the end of 2020.