Of the three year-end song festivals, I’ve always considered MBC’s to be the most intimate-feeling, as well as the one with the most diverse line-up. Plus, it’s got the added celebratory nature of New Year’s Eve.
In 2020, none of these strengths could really be capitalized upon. It’s hard to create that intimate feeling without a live audience, and Big Hit pulled their roster of artists for their own concert, essentially removing a sizable amount of the festival’s would-be headliners. Plus, New Year’s Eve has a totally different vibe to it this year. I think most people just want 2020 to be over.
With that said, I also think this was the strongest of the three Gayos, even if its peaks tended to be clumped together in a few stellar standouts. There was a fair amount of filler tonight, but the show managed to draw upon some of the celebratory energy that has always made it a highlight. Even though I didn’t list all of them, there were a lot of fun idol group team-ups and interactions within these performances, which has always been one of my favorite aspect of these year-end festivals.
I could do without the endless trot marathon, and I can always do without Norazo (I find them quite obnoxious), but on the whole I think MBC sent 2020 off on a high.
Also, on a more biased note, I’m wondering why Woollim Entertainment completely sat these year-end festivals out this year? They usually have at least one of their artists present. Maybe they just figured it wasn’t worth the risk? Still, you’d think Sungkyu at least would benefit from the promo given that his album just released a few weeks ago.
IZ*ONE – Panorama
The theatrical opening to this was very cool, but I was disappointed when the main performance reverted to the original mix.
Hwasa – LMM + Maria
Beautiful staging and magnetic performance. I’ve also got to shout out Mamamoo for performing Travel, which is definitely my favorite song from their most recent album. Still can’t stand Aya, though (and I’ve found Dingga to become more grating the more I hear it).
Henry – Radio
Henry is such a talented musician, but Radio just isn’t it for me. As soon as the actual song started, this performance lost a lot of its appeal. But, the instrumental sections were great. It’s always nice to see that side of his talent get a showcase. And at the risk of sounding hyper-critical, I can’t help but feel that, when so music musical bombast is thrown at a song this plodding, it starts to feel a little pretentious…
Uhm Junghwa, Hwasa & DPR Live – Hop In
The staging on this was great, but the fact that we’d already seen it last week at SBS’s show made it lose a little excitement. Also, those outfits were awful. (I assume they were supposed to be?)
Shownu x Ten – Dance Performance
This was a really odd pairing. Like, the two didn’t really compliment each other? Ten is always an arresting dancer to watch, but I wasn’t a fan of any of these songs. The camera work was cool, though!
10. Monsta X + Cravity – Break All The Rules + Fantasia
I’ll always love big percussive dance showcases like this. I appreciated how the various parts of this performance were all themed to complement each other. The choreo part went on a little long and got a tad repetitive, but the drums were a nice touch.
9. Twice – I Can’t Stop Me
When this first started, I thought it was going to be amazing. It was still very good, but the “disco” mix wasn’t all that different from the regular mix, right? Just a little punchier? Still great, though.
8. SSAK3 Tribute
This was just a lot of fun. I love mixed-group, co-ed performances like these, as cheesy as they are. The SSAK3 tracks really are a breath of fresh air, and I wonder if any of these younger groups will ever dip their feet into this sound. Surprisingly, we got to hear Stray Kids’ Felix and Hyunjin sing on this (or at least mime along to their recorded singing parts!)
7. Jessi – Nunu Nana
This mix really brought Nunu Nana to the dancefloor in a different way than we’re used to hearing. Parts were stunning, others were less so. But, I applaud the daring direction that Jessi took this track. She’s such a charismatic performer, and the high-energy remix really highlighted that.
6. Uhm Junghwa & Friends – D.I.S.C.O
I’ve never loved this song as much as I should, given its bright dance beat and upbeat energy. But, Junghwa’s a legend and it’s always fun to see her interact with her juniors. The costuming here was on point, and really captured the spirit of this celebratory night. Can we just have this kind of fluffy pop joy all year long? It’s so nice to see idols having fun.
5. The Boyz x Loona – Blinding Lights
I don’t talk a lot about western pop music here, but I adore Blinding Lights, and I love how it has influenced the general trends in music. It was really fun to see it performed with choreography, and bringing together two large groups like this made for a very dynamic stage. Pure fun.
4. Stray Kids – Back Door + Ta
Okay, that breakdown for Back Door was fantastic. Please fashion an entire song around that, Stray Kids! And then it segues into Ta? One of their best 2020 songs that should have been promoted? Well played, guys. If anything, this stage just made me consider all the missed opportunities hidden within their Go Live album. Here’s to a 2021 filled with this image and sound for Stray Kids.
3. Oh My Girl – Nonstop
Ooh, a live band! Strings! This is what I hope for when it comes to these festivals. I’m not sure that Nonstop has enough melodic meat on its bones to make this a total triumph, but I absolutely loved the fact that they rearranged the instrumental with a symphonic rock base. The brass felt a little out of place within the mix, but this was a total joy to watch.
2. The Boyz – The Stealer
Wow, this rock opera remix was incredible! The Boyz have really proven themselves to be the MVPs of this year’s song festivals. I loved everything about this. I loved how the rearranged instrumental wove through the entire track. I loved the hardness of the guitars. I loved the costumes. I want to see more of this energy in actual K-pop comebacks.
1. Rain x JYP – Medley + Switch To Me
It says something that these older acts are consistently ranked high on my Gayo rankings.
(Yep, it says that I’m old! Haha just kidding… sort of).
Really, though, performers like Rain and JYP just know how to put on a show. They don’t need a ton of bombast surrounding them. It’s all charisma and experience, and that’s a joy to watch. I was especially impressed with Rain here, who most certainly still has “it.” From vocal performance to choreography, he was totally in his element.