Riot Games, known for developing League of Legends and creating mesmerizing cinematics and musical arrangements for its games, tries to outdo itself every year. Notable projects include “Welcome to League of Legends,” “The Curse of the Sad Mummy” and “Overdrive.” And in 2018, when K-pop was at the peak of popularity in the United States, Riot Games took the opportunity to design and drop virtual idol group K/DA, whose members are each based on League of Legends characters.
Champions, or in-game characters, Ahri (The Nine-tailed Fox), Akali (The Rogue Assassin), Evelynn (Agony’s Embrace) and Kai’sa (The Daughter of the Void) serve as the main members and are voiced by Miyeon and Soyeon of (G)-IDLE, Madison Beer and Jaira Burns, respectively. With their single debut “POP/STARS,” which shook the nation with its eye-catching visuals and vocals, K/DA became a worldwide sensation. On par with their first unveiling, Riot Games released their in-game POP/STAR skin designs in the client shop for players to purchase.
After K/DA’s debut single made its way around the globe and conjured about 13 million views in under two days, Riot Games took the opportunity to push the group even further.
ALL OUT: K/DA’s First Mini-Album
It has been two years since K/DA’s fabulous entrance into the music world. Within that time, many fans speculated if Riot Games would first produce another single for them or possibly debut a male group to match their female counterparts. However, the company went above and beyond expectations: They dropped an EP with five different songs, featuring collaborations with several female idols — including one with one of K-pop’s hottest girl groups, TWICE. The record, “All Out,” came out in early November.
“THE BADDEST,” the first song of the album, was first released in late August as an animated lyric video, signaling the long-awaited return of K/DA. However, to the surprise of many fans, the voices for Evelynn and Kai’sa were switched from Madison Beer and Jaira Burns to Bea Miller and Wolftyla. Although fans were introduced to a set of new voices, the distinct, powerful vibes of these two characters were executed perfectly, much to their audience’s appreciation.
To appease the few who did not like the temporary changes, at least two voices remained the same. (G)-IDLE’s Miyeon and Soyeon, who voice Ahri and Akali, re-establish their positions of importance and return for K/DA’s second album; some fans go as far as to say they flawlessly embody their characters.
Just like “POP/STARS” and many other Korean tracks, “THE BADDEST” features both English and Korean lyrics. However, to spice things up, the second song, “MORE,” featuring the most-recently released champion, Seraphine (The Starry-eyed Songstress), adds in another language: Chinese.
Voiced by Lexie Liu, a Chinese idol who participated in a South Korean reality TV competition series, Seraphine introduces a new sound and vibe to K/DA’s original line. While all the other members embody a strong and seductive appearance, she tackles a softer, dreamier look, reinforced by her calming vocals. When her one and only part arrives in the bridge, the song breaks away from its fiery passion and slips into a quiet space, further shining the spotlight on Liu’s gentle voice.
To please Evelynn and Kai’sa fans, the third and fourth song, “VILLAIN” and “DRUM GO DUM,” re-introduce Madison Beer and Wolftyla as their main voices. However, instead of performing with the entirety of K/DA, these two songs showcase only those characters, respectively, and feature collaborations with other female artists.
“VILLAIN,” starring Evelynn, was sung by Madison Beer and Kim Petras, and recently had an official concept video released on YouTube. Similar to Evelynn’s ability to charm, this video captivated the hearts of millions, capturing the character concept down to the tiniest detail. The majority of the video displayed her dark silhouette amid dimmed lights, referencing her ability to go invisible within the game when out of combat. In addition, her iconic claws and twin tails frequently appear in close-up shots, which serve as her obvious trademarks. To celebrate the song’s release, Evelynn makes an appearance on K/DA’s official Twitter account telling her fans to “never stop being exactly who you are.” Out of all the songs on the album, “VILLAIN” secures the spot for number one on my list.
To my divas, misfits and deviants;
— K/DA (@KDA_MUSIC) November 14, 2020
Similarly, “DRUM GO DUM,” starring Kai’sa, reinforces the idea of stepping out of your comfort zone and discovering what it means to be “you.” Sung by Wolftyla, Aluna and Bekuh BOOM, this song offers another upbeat rhythm, which coincides with the other musical features of this album. Like Evelynn’s appearance on K/DA’s official Twitter, Kai’sa follows suit and posts her own photos — dedicating her solo track to fellow K/DA member Akali, and thanking her for helping her embrace confidence and freedom.
When Akali first joined K/DA, she had never danced before. We started doing late night lessons, just her and I.
— K/DA (@KDA_MUSIC) November 17, 2020
The last song in the album, “I’LL SHOW YOU,” features a collaboration of Jihyo, Nayeon, Sana and Chaeyoung from TWICE, Annika Wells and Bekuh BOOM. As the title implies, this K/DA song is all about the group conquering every bit of self-doubt and fear to show the world what they are made of.
As quoted from Ahri via Spotify, “With this EP, we really wanted to share a bit of who each of us are. In my head, I thought ‘I’LL SHOW YOU’ would be this traditionally happy song, but as I sat in my room, staring at the window, the first words poured out. There’s so much that I’m so grateful for, but it’s easy to end up feeling trapped in a room of your own making. In life, there will always be voices from within and without telling you what you can’t do. They’re often loudest right before you need to take a leap.”
K/DA’s first mini-album only reignites the fierce passion fans have for the girls — and assures them that they are far from disbanding.
Virtual Idols like K/DA Bring People Together
By giving virtual characters individual personalities and backstories, it gives them more human-like qualities, which some people may prefer in an idol. Thanks to collaboration and teamwork between many talented graphic artists, animators, musicians, songwriters, producers, etc, the final results will make other people smile and will leave the creators knowing they accomplished something great.
In this time when many things remain solely online because of COVID-19, bringing colorful entertainment through the screen can assist those tired from online classes. Knowing that many people collaborated to make K/DA a success, including those from a foreign country, reassures fans that staying positive and going “ALL OUT” is still possible.
K/DA’s EP “ALL OUT” is available on Spotify and YouTube.