For me, any end-of-year K-pop festival isn’t complete without a bit of trot. And though none of tonight’s trot performances made my list, I was happy to hear them sprinkled throughout the show. The opening artist intro was particularly fun.
I’m also glad that KBS moved out of their usual performance hall for this event. The bigger staging was a plus, although uncharacteristically horrible camera work rendered quashed most of the potential. Oftentimes, it felt like the camera directors were watching the performances for the very first time while filming them. They had no idea what to shoot, and occasionally drifted toward random parts of the stage or lingered on befuddled audience members.
Sadly, most of the special stages felt a bit phoned in. And for the majority of other performances, a brief choreographed introduction or breakdown took the place of rearrangements and remixes, causing tonight to feel more like a weekly music show than the year-end celebration it’s billed as.
This is a shame, because KBS scored the strongest line-up of the three Gayos this year. But nobody was feeling particularly experimental or daring tonight and the execution from the production side of things made even strong performances look sloppy. What a bummer.
No honorable mentions this time around. It was hard enough to find ten stages to spotlight!
10. Stray Kids – Double Knot
Teasing us with Side Effects during the intro was downright cruel. Double Knot was fine, but that showstopping mix of Side Effects they seemed to be working towards would have been awesome.
9. Cosmic Girls (WJSN) – As You Wish
I loved the subtle changes in the mix of this song, and the introduction choreography was very unique. Plus, As You Wish is just built for venues of this size.
8. GFriend – Fever, Sunrise
I’m not a huge fan of Fever, but its rearranged elements give it extra kick that helped Gfriend to stand out on a dull night. The staging for this whole performance was beautiful, especially during the transition to Sunrise.
7. Seventeen – Trauma, Second Life, Shhh, Good To Me
It’s hard to beat a Seventeen medley — except at every turn they chose different songs than I would’ve preferred. In a different world, this would have looked like: Back It Up, Second Life, Shhh and Hit. At least the instrumental for Good To Me seemed to be beefed up a bit.
6. TXT – Replay, Run Away
Is there a better fit for TXT than SHINee’s Replay? Whoever decided to have them cover this is brilliant, and they brought exactly the youthful energy needed to make the track a success. I wish they would have finished off with a cool remix of Run Away (or better yet, Crown!), but Big Hit rarely does remixes at the Gayos.
5. N.Flying – Rooftop, Leave It
I’m not sure I’ll ever love Rooftop the way so many seem to, but this was a nice, vaguely orchestral arrangement of it. I wish there had been an actual strings section behind them. The performance of Leave It had energy to spare, preceded by a killer guitar solo.
4. Golden Child – Wannabe
Now, you know my personal bias is going to get Golden Child on this list! Granted, this wasn’t much more than a standard music show performance, but we rarely get to see Golcha on this kind of stage. Their extended dance intro was great, highlighting the often-overlooked Jaehyun (who got even more time to shine in one of the night’s collaboration stages).
3. BTS – Go Go, Home, Boy With Luv, Mikrokosmos, Dionysus
Well, it’s not fair if you get a five-song set that basically amounts to a mini concert. I didn’t personally find any of these performances any better or worse than the group usually delivers, but it seems wrong to rank this any lower given its sheer length. With that said, there’s no way I’m embedding all five videos onto this page, so I’m just going to link to the one with the best staging.
Also, if you want to see a truly showstopping end-of-year BTS performance, go watch their already-legendary MMA stage.
2. The Jaehyuns – Call Me Baby
Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. Of all the cover stages tonight, this one had the best song and the funniest conceit. It felt like one of the only memorable moments of the night, even though it was sabotaged somewhat by awful camera work. Still, it was great to see N.Flying’s Jaehyun dance for a few moments, and Golden Child’s resident EXO fanboy Jaehyun get the chance to cover his own idols on such a high-profile broadcast.
1. Twice – Breakthrough, Feel Special
This was one of the few performances tonight that bothered to mix things up, delivering a potent first verse remix to Feel Special that acted as the perfect bridge coming out of Breakthrough. The girls also had the most dynamic dance break of the night, shining full spotlight on Momo’s incredible charisma.