Honestly, I came into tonight’s festival feeling pretty pessimistic. KBS’s Gayo was largely forgettable, and tonight’s line-up was missing some of my favorite acts. But, MBC ended up balking expectations and being the most enjoyable of the three gayos overall.
When I think about it, this isn’t too surprising. I’ve always loved MBC’s more intimate staging, and the broadcast benefits immensely from the New Year’s Eve energy. Still, this is not enough to make a truly standout show. What made tonight especially fun was the “chemistry” concept. Pairing artists and groups together for special collaborations is just what I hope to see during end-of-year festivals like this, and the results and interactions were a blast.
In contrast to KBS, I’ve got lots of honorable mentions tonight!
Kim Jaehwan x Kei x Yeonjeong – This is a powerhouse trio of vocalists, covering one of the year’s most memorable ballads. The spinning set was a bit much (and very odd for the tone of the track), and the instrumental went into some weird ear-piercing whistle toward the end, but I’d listen to these three sing anything.
Chungha x Jang Woohyuk – This was a cool pairing, even if I’m not sure that it lived up to the hype. It makes my honorable mentions for the dancing and the rare, remixed performance of K-pop classic Warrior’s Descendant, but I just don’t like Snapping. Seriously, I’ve come to actively hate that song as the months have gone on. It’s like my kryptonite.
Celeb Five x AOA – I didn’t think the individual performances were anything to write home about, but that in-between dance break was pretty epic. I just wish they would have fully broken into I Wanna Be A Celeb!
Guckkasten – Not too familiar with this band beyond one or two songs, but it was nice to hear some rock tonight. I just wish their cover of Lazenca, Save Us would’ve lasted longer. In fact, I wish their whole set had been a N.EX.T tribute.
Norazo x Hong Jinyoung – Norazo aren’t my thing, no matter how well they perform. But, Hong Jinyoung was a smart pairing for them, and the performance improved by leaps and bounds once she came onstage.
Kim Jaehwan – Though he didn’t make my list, I’ve gotta give extra props to Kim Jaehwan, who rolled with the punches like a pro despite some unfortunate technical difficulties. That look on his face when the wrong music played will be one for the ages!
10. GOT7 x Monsta X x Nu’est
Just A Feeling was a nice, breezy cover with a great atmosphere and lovely harmonies. I’ll always be a fan of boy groups covering girl group tracks, and vice versa.
9. NCT Dream x Stray Kids – History Of K-Pop
It’s funny how these two keep getting paired up! Anyway, I love this kind of stuff – concise, nostalgic medleys that remind us of awesome songs of K-pop years gone by. They picked some great ones for this performance, though I wish that each were given more time to breathe. Host Jang Sungkyu coming out to join them during the finale was super fun.
8. Lovelyz – Beautiful Days
This was a striking mix of Beautiful Days, successful because of its restraint and long, gradual build. The first part was particularly compelling. Lovelyz just do this lyrical, orchestral sound so well, and I’m glad that Woollim gave them the chance to re-imagine this track for their only Gayo performance of the year.
7. Nu’est – Love Me
This really felt like the definitive performance of this song. The staging was perfect, and I loved the extra dance breaks (and bridge) that they added. It wasn’t a full-on remix, but a fun extended version that took advantage of the track’s already potent hooks.
6. ITZY x (G)I-DLE
(ITZY’s stage here)
This was a great pairing, with the introduction and cover performance of Diva a great way to harness both groups’ charisma. I thought that the intro to Dalla Dalla was really fun and clever, but it was (G)I-DLE’s theatrical performance of Lion that really sealed the deal.
5. Seventeen x Mamamoo
(additional covers here and here)
This was kind of a mixed bag, but when it was good, it was great. Despite being down a couple of members, Seventeen delivered an especially fiery performance of their best 2019 single Hit. The covers weren’t as amazing (why, oh why, did Mamamoo remove the most iconic parts of Very Nice?!?), but the climactic mash-up was tons of fun.
4. Momo x Jihyo x Taemin – Goodbye
This was another incredibly unexpected collaboration, but one that worked very well. I’m not sure I’m as obsessed with Goodbye as most seem to be, but there’s no denying the magnetism of its live performance. Dancing with Taemin only invites unfavorable comparisons, but Twice’s Momo and Jihyo more than held their own. It was especially nice to hear their voices within a more unguarded arrangement during the song’s first verse.
3. Stray Kids – Side Effects
Stray Kids have really owned the Gayos this year. It helps that they have some dynamite songs to perform, but they’ve also gone the extra mile and remixed these tracks into something that feels special and unique. Tonight delivered on the potential they hinted at last week when they teased Side Effects at KBS. I loved the mix here, and the added choreo was fantastic. It’s an intense live performance even under normal circumstances, and this was the perfect way to push that to another level.
2. HyunA x Dawn
This was the “pairing” that most were probably looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. They both looked fantastic, and they’re just magnetic together. I imagine that their choreography pushed a few buttons in Korea’s more conservative circles, but that’s what makes this duo so great. They need to be releasing more material – preferably some duets.
1. Astro x Oh My Girl – The Red Shoes
Okay, why don’t we get more collaborations between boy and girl groups? This should happen like every week. Astro and Oh My Girl are a perfect duo, and I never would’ve expected them to cover The Red Shoes. It was such a fun, theatrical performance, highlighting both groups’ colors while still pushing them in directions we don’t usually see. I’m gonna need a behind-the-scenes variety special about this collaboration. In fact, I’m gonna need them to just record an album together.
This Love me stage was a nice surprise!
Astro X OMG stage was definitely the best one. I think I’d go with that, History of Kpop and Mamamoo X Seventeen for my top 3.
On a side note, I don’t think I’ll ever undestand your fixation with Love Me and Ab6ix’s Breathe.
Nonetheless, Happy New Year everybody!
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Finally some spectacular stages!! Yayyy!
My personal favourites were
Momo x Taemin x Jihyo,
Astro x OMG and
MMM x SVT
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Okay, I was prepared to give (G)I-dle the “performance of the night” trophy for Lion because it is one of their most powerful stages to date. The HyunDawn dance was also good.
Then, I watched the OMG/Astro stage. Then I watched it again. …and again. Absolutely charming from start to finish. How can you watch that and NOT have warm fuzzies and an ear to ear smile?
I already made a comment on your 2020 wish list, but I now have to amend that. If there is one area that I think K-Pop needs to go is MUSICALS! Think about it. A K-Pop stage along the lines of West Side Story, or Grease, or High School Musical. Yes, we had the two Dream High series, which were great, but neither was theatrical.
Musicals offer several avenues. Collaborations of different groups and artists. The chance for individual performers to flex their acting chops. An opportunity for some acts that may be near the end of their run in the pop scene to branch into a different genre within the industry. I want this. I need this. This must happen.
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I would flove musical concept! All the way around. New music style to mine, New dance moves (get rid of that damn pyramid)! Props? Drama? Puppets? …. tap dance?
IU is all old school Gene Kelly-musical era. But other than IU, not much. SuJu does some campy theater for their live Super Show concerts, usually in drag. Do Re Mi from SS4 is a classic. The ELF expect it, and so they oblige.
… To be perfectly frank, I don’t think most of the idol groups can sing well enough for musical concept. I think each has a singer or two, perhaps three, who can pull it off, but few have a full group.
Actually, a good proxy for who is the good singer in each group is who gets cast in Korean live musicals. Some may say Masked Singer, but I disagree, because every idol lead gets to go on once to polite applause. The theater people really pick the ones who can carry a full night of song, night after night.
Darling daughter got a boom box from Santa. When I was at Prex, I picked up a big stack of $1 cd’s for her, including all the Glee’s. I never watched it back then, but I was broadly familiar. We had them on while doing a big puzzle. Man oh man, the casting director sure picked a whole cast who could sing the shit out of anything the writers threw at them each episode.
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Well, it doesn’t “have” to be the whole group. As I wrote, it could simply be a new direction for many artists nearing the end of their pop run, or have already moved on. Here’s a few off the top of my head…
Sojung (LADIES’ CODE)
Solar, Wheein, Hwasa (mamamoo)
Lee Suhyun (AKMU)
Lee Kaeun (After School)
Kim Bo Ah, Kim Bo Hyung (Spica)
Jieun, Hyoseung (Secret)
Hyolin, Soyou (SISTAR)
Sojin (Girl’s Day)
JeA (Brown Eyed Girls)
I’ll leave it you you to fill out the guys list.
Taeyeon doesn’t like starring in musicals.. She said it was too much for her. But that was a long time ago..
P.S. Yeah, Glee served up more than a few great covers. Here’s a couple of the ones I ended up hunting down:
Empire State of Mind
I Say a Little Prayer
To Sir With Love
Somebody To Love (Queen)
Hate On Me
Bust Your Windows
I Can’t Go For That /
You Make My Dreams Come True
Having just seen Astro, I will say Astro.
But really, I mean, c’mon Seventeen would be perfect for any Jerome Robbins – Jets – Sharks – West Side Story – style work. On the Town.
Off topic, quasi related – this popped up in my feed this morning. Park Hyo Shin and Suho (EXO) did this one in 2018, and now my man Kyuhyun.
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