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.