MBC brings us the last end-of-year festival of 2018, and K-pop’s final music show before the new year. Even when it’s not the best of the three gayos, I’ve always enjoyed MBC’s format. It has a more intimate feel to it, with the audience close to the performances and fellow idols looking on in the wings. Plus, the excitement of the new year countdown brings an added sense of anticipation to the night.
With that said, the Daejejun this year was solid if unspectacular. A great line-up certainly helped things, but the special stages didn’t quite match the impact of SBS’s Christmas day festival.
That being said, there were still plenty of highlights to parse through.
I’m going to do these a little differently this time and just pull out some random highlights:
* Twice’s killer dance break between Yes Or Yes and Dance the Night Away
* (G)I-DLE’s cool house remix of Latata
* Hong Jinyoug’s effortless charisma and willingness to appear on this show every year
* VIXX’s commitment to always dressing up like they’re going to a costume party
* Momoland realizing that Bboom Bboom and BAAM are essentially the same song and combining them into one (messy) mix
* The idea of putting NCT Dream right before Monsta X for one hell of a concept contrast
* Wanna One deciding that the best song for their final on-air performance is undoubtedly Energetic
* The brave decision to schedule nine minutes of filler before the clock struck midnight (they were really scrambling to find “golden pigs” to interview…)
10. Red Velvet
The lethal dance performance that preceded Really Bad Boy earns Red Velvet a place on this list, and the added back-up dancers during the song itself were the icing on the cake. I never give Red Velvet’s end-of-year performances enough love, and that’s because they rarely mix up or reinterpret the instrumentals of their tracks. They always deliver a solid show, though.
Woollim Entertainment comes through with superb stage mixes time and time again. This version of Lost N Found wasn’t a drastic change from the original, but it teased out the orchestral elements and upped the tempo to create one of the song’s best performances. I loved the piano intro, too.
Apink have been killing it with these remixes. This wasn’t quite as nice as KBS’s mix, but the future bass elements brought a real coolness to an already cool track. They’ve certainly closed out the year in a strong way, and positioned themselves well for their upcoming comeback.
7. Warrior’s Descendant (The Boyz + Stray Kids)
I always love when rookie groups pay tribute to the classics, and this was a great version of the groundbreaking H.O.T. track. I especially liked the formations, which played with the contrasting black and white costumes.
Unlike many of the performances on my list, this wasn’t a vastly remixed or rearranged version of the song. However, the camera work and lighting were just spot-on and really captured Sunmi’s fierce performance in new and interesting ways. The little bit of Gashina at the end was a nice touch, though not all of the idols seemed to want to join in!
5. Queen Medley (Hwasa + Norazo)
I will never get enough of Queen songs, and I continue to love the fact that Korea has embraced the band’s music this year. Unlike the earnest SBS tribute several days ago, this felt more in line with the campier side of Queen’s legacy. Hwasa did an admirable job (though I would’ve preferred the full Bohemian Rhapsody over just the opening verses) and I loved how the yet-to-debut Onewe acted as her band, but Norazo were perfectly suited for this kind of music and performance. They were hard to beat.
This was a brilliantly structured medley that really showed off the girls’ vocals and natural stage presence. It’s a shame that Wheein was restricted to a chair, and that definitely impacted the look of the performance, but the tight arrangement helped make up for that physical limitation. The super-dramatic Paint Me introduction was an early highlight.
3. Wanna One – Rising Sun
I was hesitant about Wanna One covering Rising Sun, as I consider it to be one of K-pop’s untouchable songs, but they did an awesome job and stayed faithful to the original. I would’ve loved a full performance, honestly.
2. Golden Child / The Boyz / Stray Kids
I considered separating these out as I’d usually do, but this trio of performances worked so well as a unit. These are three of my favorite rookies, and each one delivered one of the night’s standouts.
You all know how I feel about Golden Child, but I was worried how they would sound without main vocal Joochan (he’s currently recovering from a knee injury). I definitely missed his vocals, but loved the mix of Let Me and Genie (which I’m now considering 2018’s most underrated track, since no end-of-year list but mine seems to give a damn about it).
The Boyz delivered a dynamite remix of No Air (their best of the Gayo season), but it’s criminal that we never got to hear an equally dynamic mix of Right Here on any of the three music festivals. I would’ve preferred Stray Kid’s District 9 to close the set in an energetic way, but the version of I Am YOU they gave us was almost as satisfying.
From start to finish, this was just sheer finesse and showmanship, and really displayed why these guys are rightfully considered legends. As soon as Yunho entered the stage, flanked by an army of dancers, the entire vibe of the night changed. I may not have been a massive fan of most of their 2018 work, but damn do these guys still have it. Even the younger idols looked a bit awestruck. I wish TVXQ had closed part two of the show, as this really felt like a climactic performance and a great ushering in of the new year.