After the borefest that was KBS’s Song Festival, I wasn’t really in the mood to see what SBS had to offer. But, the cheesy-fun introductory stage, where all the artists joined together to sing Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You, turned my frown upside down. We haven’t gotten many chances to see groups together like this during the past couple of years, and you can’t not enjoy a good singalong (especially when it opens with Wendy). I won’t count this in my ranking, but it’s worth watching:
True to form, SBS opted for a much bigger stage than KBS, immediately giving this festival a grand appeal. The audience was sparsely populated, but it was still exciting to see real live fans in attendance. They also found a nice cross-section of MCs in Boom, SHINee’s Key and ITZY’s Yuna.
Unfortunately, the artist line-up for this festival doesn’t differ much from KBS’s show. There was a time this monotony didn’t bother me – mostly because groups would reinvent their material for each individual show. But, so many of the end-of-year performances the past couple of years play it safe and straightforward. I suppose the pandemic situation is somewhat to blame. But if they’re not going to pull out awesome rearrangements, I’d prefer that these festivals tried to diversify their rosters.
Also, this was the 25th anniversary of SBS’s song festival. I’m surprised it took nearly an hour before the MCs even mentioned that. You’d think they would have themed the whole night around the milestone.
And on one last note, I apologize for the many fragmented videos. For some reason (ie: views), SBS cut all their performances into little chunks. Some videos are literally thirty seconds long. It’s needlessly annoying.
10. Fiction and Mirotic – Cover Stages
I’m going to combine these even if they came at vastly different points in the festival. Fiction is such a legendary K-pop song and I’m always happy to see it performed. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it covered by female idols, and the switch-up was pretty successful. I think the arrangement lacked bite, but these kind of cover stages usually do.
The same was definitely true of Mirotic. This song has been covered to death. The guys’ performance was on point, but the vocals were definitely not given the same attention as the choreography. I really wish they would have reinvented the track rather than opt for a glorified karaoke version.
9. Oh My Girl – Who Comes Who Knows + Dun Dun Dance
This was a solid stage that contrasted a moody b-side with a sprightly rearrangement of Dun Dun Dance. I definitely preferred the latter, even if I wish the remix went further with its orchestral flourishes.
8. ITZY – In The Morning + Sorry Not Sorry
Okay, I’m never going to love the Mafia song and that makes it harder to enjoy a performance. BUT, I think the theatrical staging tonight really helped this stand out. The dance break was strong, even if the transition back to the main track could have been smoother. Sorry Not Sorry was also pretty fierce (except I don’t like that song much, either…)
7. K-Carol Medley
(There’s no way I’m embedding all the videos that are included in there, so here are a few of the longer ones)
Good, clean K-pop fun… right? Most of these songs are a little saccharine, but I love festive stages that feel a tad less rehearsed and more natural.
6. Nu’est – Dress + Inside Out
Nu’est are using these festivals to remind us how many stronger songs are on their album than title track Inside Out, aren’t they? Dress was the definite highlight here. The performance was very slick.
5. Astro – One
After a hilariously dramatic intro, it took awhile before this performance revealed its full potential. Two-thirds of the way through a straightforward performance of One, the guys trasnsitioned into an extended dance break (with rock guitar!) that used the fullness of the stage very well.
4. TXT – Magic Castle + I Know I Love You
This wasn’t a remix or reinterpretation, which usually relegates a performance to ‘honorable mention’ status for me. But this was an especially great performance of this excellent song. Some tracks just work better in the context of an arena than others, and the anthemic quality of the melodies really hit. It was also fun to see the guys tackle Magic Castle – a cover you don’t hear often anymore.
3. Brave Girls – We Ride (Ballad Version) + Rollin’ + Chi Mat Ba Ram
For me, this was the first memorable performance of the night. It was nice to hear We Ride in ballad form, even if I much prefer the original city pop version. But, the sax-heavy remix of Rollin’ was the clear standout. This is how you create a festive atmosphere (even if the audience was prevented from shouting their approval). Plus, the segue into Chi Mat Ba Ram was expertly done.
However, I’ll say it again: if the year goes by without a single “After We Ride” performance, I’m flipping a table.
2. Stray Kids – Winter Falls + Thunderous (Remix)
This makes it on the list partially because we got to hear Winter Falls performed. It’s a nice song, and I like how the guys brought the holiday cheer with the set and props – even if it was a weirdly cheesy match for such a moody song.
But, the real standout was the bizarre holiday mix of Thunderous. I don’t even know what to make of this arrangement. It totally flipped the song on its head. I’m not sure it always worked, but I give the guys credit for taking the chance. This was a lot of quirky fun. I mean… tap dancing?
The sheer confidence it takes to pull off something like this…
1. Key – Helium + Bad Love
This was far and away my favorite performance of the end-of-year festivals so far. This is what charisma looks like, folks! The arrangement, the simple staging, the costumes, the song choices – all fantastic. And at the center of everything was Key himself, commanding the stage in a way no one else matched tonight.