Oh, good old reliable MBC. Yet again, they have the most consistently good Gayo of the year. There wasn’t any performance as flawless as Infinite’s KBS one last night, but there were also very few stinkers. They do have a leg up from the start, with a more complete line-up and the New Year’s celebrations buoying the energy of the night. But MBC was also smart in the fact that they didn’t hide their idols away. In fact, they gave them silly little light sticks and sat them on both sides of the stage so they could wave them around in excitement throughout the night. As cheesy as it is, it really lends the Gayo an important, almost familial energy that the past two broadcasts lacked.
The audience set-up was a smart move, too. One of the two stages felt a lot more isolated, but the main one interacted nicely with the crowd, allowing the performers to feed off the audience’s energy and vice versa. The set-up was similar to last year’s in this way. They’d be wise to stick with it.
One thing I wasn’t all that crazy about were the prerecorded, music-video-esque performances that popped up every once and awhile, especially for groups like Gfriend and Teen Top that didn’t do any additional performances. It just seemed kind of cheap and killed the energy. It’s a small complaint, and was probably necessary from a technical standpoint. After all, the night ran like clockwork, despite being almost four hours long.
I enjoyed most of the special stages. MBC did the throwback thing that seems to be so popular in Korea right now, but they (mostly) chose exciting, diverse songs. Plus, they rounded out the night with the rousing and celebratory For You by rock band N.EX.T, which is simply one of the best Korean songs of the genre.
So, it’s down to my top performances of the night:
- Wonder Girls – What a revelation to see the girls perform a band version of I Feel You! The mix suited the song beautifully, and they seemed so convincing and cool. I would download this version in a heartbeat. I hope they make it available at some point, because it really adds a new layer to an already flawless track.
- Seventeen – I was bummed that they didn’t perform Mansae when they were on SBS, but they made up for it here with an energetic stage that had so much going on at once, I could barely focus. With all that intricate choreography, it was amazing that they sounded as good as they did.
- Hong Jinyoung & Tae Jin Ah – Trot is such a fun genre, and perfect for a setting like this. Jin Ah’s red coat was ridiculously fabulous, and it was so fun to watch all the idols singing along.
- Girls’ Generation – It was all about the remixed Genie. Lion Heart, as a performance piece, does little for me, but for the first time in a long while I was riveted to a Girls’ Generation performance (it’s just a pity that it was for a song that’s years old!)
- Infinite – Of their three performances, this was the least focused, but there’s just no denying that they really ruled the Gayos in 2015. Bad isn’t even my favorite kpop track of the year, but they worked wonders with it time and again. It’s all down to their go-for-broke performance style.
- Mamamoo – I sometimes forget how talented these ladies are and end up taking them for granted. They’re consistently awesome performers, but their engagement with the audience (and the mash-up with Single Ladies) really let them shine tonight.
- BTS – It just feels so wrong without Rapmon. Even so, I want to give them props for their cover of Perfect Man, which was my favorite special stage of the night.
- Park Jinyoung – Say what you will about JYP (and many people do), but you’ve gotta admit that the guy’s a legendary performer. He ran through three songs — heavy choreography and all — and didn’t even seem to break a sweat.
I also want to give honorable mentions to GOT7, BTOB, BAP, Lovelyz and B1A4, who all tried different things with their respective songs, to various degrees of success.