As has been the case with most of the Gayos of the past few years, SBS’s Gayo Daejun was a bit dull tonight. Performing without a live audience has its ups and downs, and the best moments of the show were when the production really embraced the potential of the circumstances it had been dealt.
Every time the creators threw copious amounts of AR technology at the stage, I was a happy camper. I loved the crazy backdrops they gave some of the performances. They need to just constantly switch it mid-song. I want to see these idol groups perform at the bottom of the ocean, or on Mars, or within the confines of a McDonalds bag next to a ten-piece chicken nugget. Oh, the potential for ridiculousness!
Staging aside, these shows would be more fun if they widened their net. We’re basically seeing the same artists singing the same songs over and over. I know this is the way the Gayos have always been, but in an industry that’s constantly welcoming more and more acts, I’d love to see more diversity in the line-up. Throw some under-the-radar groups between the heavy hitters. They could use the opportunity, and may just bring some surprises to the show.
Anyways, tonight was short on special stages, and felt more like a regular music show on a bigger scale. SBS’s venue has usually been the biggest of the three networks, so securing that same sense of bombast without an audience was always going to be a challenge. Some performances succeeded in this. Most did not.
On the whole, this year’s Gayo Daejun was… fine. For me, there really weren’t any definitive highlights, so even my top few choices are just kind of there by default. I don’t know… maybe I’m just getting tired of some of these songs (or didn’t even care for them in the first place). I found my attention drifting from the screen far too often.
And for those who stuck it through to the end, didn’t tonight’s final minutes feel weirdly depressing? I get that Covid is an omnipresent topic, but it really closed the show on a dour note.
Hwasa – Maria
This was more of an introduction to Mamamoo than a full performance, but I still want to point it out because the set was so cool and the remix was pretty interesting. Parts of Mamamoo’s performance were fun too, but I have a hard time enjoying either of their songs regardless of the staging.
10. April – Lalalilala
This was a real mixed bag. There were parts of the remix that I loved, but the whole first half drained so much of the energy that makes this song great. The girls did a nice job, though, and it was nice to see them included in the line-up.
9. Treasure – Boy x I Love You x MMM
This was a satisfying, concise medley of their three 2020 singles. MMM improved immensely with the addition of rock guitar, and made me wonder yet again why these kind of exciting elements are reserved for end-of-year ceremonies when they should be in the original song for us to enjoy all year round.
8. BTS – Black Swan x Life Goes On x Dynamite
Even though I’m pretty tired of all three of these songs by now, I really liked the staging on this. Unlike some of the other performances, there was a clear through-line, yet each one had very distinct stages. And, sleigh bells make everything better on Christmas, right? Also, kudos to the set designers. Parts of this were like an old movie musical.
(but, that official Christmas remix of Dynamite feels like the most unnecessary cash grab in an industry full of them…)
7. Twice – Merry & Happy
Twice’s main performance may have been more complex, but this is my kind of cheese. I found this silly little interlude to be really fun, and those snowmen costumes were killing me… especially how top-heavy they seemed to be. This is where SBS gets the Christmas advantage. They’re free to do this kind of weird stuff and get away with it. To be honest, although this had a fraction of the production budget and running time as BTS’s Christmas spectacular, It brought me a bigger smile.
6. ITZY – Not Shy
Okay, I love how this leaned into the country western motifs of Not Shy’s concept. The costumes and lighting were on point, and it was pretty fun when the girls just about transitioned into a line dance during the breakdown. I wish they would have went all in!
5. Kim Kwangseok Tribute
This was a touching moment, particularly given the fact that tonight’s show was filmed in Daegu. Both Kihyun and Yuju were great choices for these ballads, and the unit stages were a great addition as well. Hearing Miyeon and Yuqi from (G)I-DLE tackle Where Wind Comes From makes me long for a girl group track in this folksy style. I think it could be really fresh.
4. Oh My Girl – Nonstop x Dolphin
Wow, the staging and AR effects on this were gorgeous. Oh My Girl’s 2020 songs continue to sound better in these performances, buoyed by a generous dose of strings. Having revisited it so often during these year-end ceremonies, I think I’m realizing that I enjoy Nonstop more than I realized. But… Dolphin! Always such a joy to watch, especially when placed inside of that winter iceberg wonderland they created.
3. Uhm Jung Hwa and Friends
I’ll always love a tribute, and Uhm Jung Hwa certainly deserves one. GFriend’s Eunha vamping it up for Invitation was particularly inspired.
As far as new single Hop In goes, this performance made it sound so much more fierce than the studio version. Was it a slightly beefed up mix, or was it just me? Either way, Jung Hwa may have just sold me on this song.
2. TXT – Sherlock x Blue Hour
TXT continue their streak of covering some of the best K-pop songs of all-time (in this case, the number four best song!), with SHINee’s Sherlock. And while they lack the vocal firepower that this track really requires, they nailed the choreo. The holiday-themed remix for Blue Hour was a lot of fun, too.
1. The Boyz – Reveal
I feel like it’s almost becoming a running joke how literally EVERY SINGLE remix of Reveal is better than the original track. This EDM/rock mix was fantastic, and a sound I would love The Boyz to explore further. And though I’m still not a huge fan of the actual song, their stage performance is always a joy to watch. Their opening dance breakdown was incredibly polished.
But as good as this was, the fact that it comes out on top just shows how forgettable most of the night’s bigger spectacles were.