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Ranking the Best Performances from the 2019 MMA and MAMA Awards

It was an odd year for award shows. With MNET embroiled in its vote-rigging controversy, the MAMA awards felt like an afterthought, broadcast only one night rather than its usual multi-day spread. The Melon awards weren’t even telecast, opting for streaming instead. Even so, their staging and production felt incredibly grand. In comparison, the MAMAs seemed as if they were filmed in some dark warehouse. Despite the size of the venue, most of the broadcast lacked the sense of drama we’ve come to expect.

With that said, these two awards shows did manage to bear some fruit. Here are my six favorite performances of the week, culminating in one epic spectacle that may just be my favorite K-pop performance of the year.


6. ITZY (MMA)

Many acts opted for remixed versions of their tracks at the MMAs. ITZY’s marching band mix only worked in fits and starts, but I appreciate the bombast. The girls blitzed their way through Want It, Dalla Dalla and Icy with charisma to spare.


5. The Boyz (MMA)

Opening the MMAs with their summer hit D.D.D, The Boyz had one of the best remixes of the night. I love when acts add symphonic elements to their songs, and the orchestration fit surprisingly well here. Added dance breaks took advantage of the group’s large configuration, and upped the drama with a galvanizing introduction.


4. ONEUS + ATEEZ (MAMA)


I’m putting these together, because they essentially played out the same way, back-to-back. ONEUS and ATEEZ seemed to be paired often, and it’s a pretty good match. I love how each act covered existing K-pop hits in a mash-up with their most recent singles. Mash-ups can sometimes be messy, but everything here was very well-arranged. ATEEZ’s choices of covers were especially inspired.


3. JYP + Mamamoo (MAMA)


(start top video at 5:02)

Part of the fun of the MAMA awards used to be the unexpected artist pairings. We’ve lost a bit of that over the past few years, but JYP and Mamamoo brought it back in 2019. I wouldn’t have expected these two to perform together, but the collaboration worked. Both have a cheekiness to their style that resulted in a comfortable back-and-forth medley. I loved Hwasa’s rock remix of Twit. I didn’t think the rearranged version of Hip was quite as successful. But, whenever JYP and the girls shared the stage, it was hard to look away.


2. TXT (MMA)

TXT were a big presence in both of these awards shows, but their Melon performance was definitely more ambitious and exciting. New Rules is always a blast, and Run Away works so well in a live setting. But, the highlight of this performance was definitely the extended shadow-puppet dance break that led into Run Away’s climax. I love how this segment tied together all of the lore that TXT has been developing since debut. I only wish the occasional morse code teasers would have resulted in a performance of Crown. Even just the chorus would have been nice!


1. BTS (MMA)

There’s really no contest here. This performance is what months of preparation and an unlimited budget can do. To say that BTS’s thirty-seven minute Melon performance was a spectacle is to undersell it. This greatest-hits-medley/welcome-to-the-thunderdome showstopper was one of the most over-the-top extravaganza’s K-pop has ever seen. It started relatively subdued, with performances of Persona, Boy In Luv, Boy With Luv and personal favorite Mikrokosmos. But as we revved up to performance-closer Dionysus, all hell broke loose. In a segment that lasted over twelve minutes, BTS built up anticipation with individual member introductions, a veritable army of supporting dancers/extras/horses (!) and some of the most chill-inducing build-up you can imagine. It seemed impossible that any song could live up to such an introduction, but Dionysus roared with unbridled energy and incredible staging. This went beyond the throwing of a gauntlet or the dropping of a mic. BTS basically destroyed the entire Sky Dome.

The video above is not short, but clear some time in your day to watch it in full. I promise you won’t regret the experience.

8 thoughts on “Ranking the Best Performances from the 2019 MMA and MAMA Awards

  1. While I personally feel that taking in all of the material in this post is a worthy excuse for taking an extra long lunch, I’m going to wuss out and tell my boss that my car broke down.. ..in AWESOME TOWN.

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      • I think it’s because of the fact that Nick prefers remixes over the same song. It was a view that why watch the award performance when you can just watch the music bank. Though I agree that Seventeen killed it with HIT, I liked their Music Bank of Fear more and wished that they remixed that track.

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  2. It was no contest. BTS destroyed MMA and JYP and Mamamoo turned MAMA 2019 into MAMA-MOO (Mootown Park?). One thing I was very surprised with overall was the extremely lackluster stage setup for MAMA. The outdoor concerts for music shows have the same, if not better, stage layouts that MAMA did this year. One giant background screen and the typical center walkway to a smaller stage and that’s it? Really? Even the props brought by artists were kept to an absolute minimum. After downsizing from their massive 3 part ceremony, I thought we would get back to the usual uniquely appointed MAMA stages of old but how wrong I was.

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  3. I was so amazed by the BTS performance. I thought MAMA used to be more grand. Basically all i remember of MNET were the performances of the BTS members. The dances – Jimin’s esp was ethereal. Then Bulletproof 2 was so dramatic my heart was in my mouth when i saw the jumps made.

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  4. Even if I got really impressed by the whole BTS performance as well, I found their vocals quite unstable (in particular when singing Boy With Luv, if you listen to the MR removed version). Compared to them, TXT, Seventeen and Ateez – incredibly powerful in all the high notes – did much better.
    I perfectly know that BTS means first of all awesome spectacle and astonishing entertainment, but maybe I would expect the same incredible precision they prove in the staging also in live vocals, which tend to remain their one and only weakness.

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  5. If there is one thing that really holds back kpop acceptance in the west it is the emphasis of the visual and dance over the live vocal. SuperM got called out by a cranky local reporter for just that in Texas recently. And he was right.

    When it is dialed back, such a in BTS “Mikrocosmos”, the seams become readily apparent. Sure, the planets mirage was really cool. But the vocals were not so cool, and barely audible above the backing track. For me, to be frank, no amount of art school solo dancing or big bombastic production with an unlimited budget makes up for it.

    The biggest touring acts in the west have an equal if not more visual holy cow show, except they actually sing live. Pink even sings live while doing circus acts hanging upside down from a rope. (One notable exception- superbowl half-time, where the practicalities of live microphones on such a scale and the dangers of artists potential ad libs rule out live.)

    mho JYP had the best live vocal of the whole night. Even Mamamoo and Hwasa were visibly lip synching or not even bothering most of the time. Mamamoo, known for their vocals.

    As far as Mama and Mnet as a whole, this is my opinion. The BTS baritones and rap line did an OK job at full-throated shouting their lines. The rest of the smaller Mnet and Mama acts were OK, on par with expectations and what I would expect to see at a Kcon except with far more dancers annd a bit more re-mix. And yes, heavily backed up with a backing vocal track, but hey if the biggest kpop act today can do it and get away with it, why can’t the smaller ones.

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