20160104_seoulbeats_mbcgayo2015logoThere are heavy pros and cons for being the last major show to close out the year. On one hand, the network can learn from the mistakes of its predecessors, but the downside is facing insurmountable pressure to excel beyond what they did. MBC Gayo Daejejun had a lot on the line to lose at this point. SBS and KBS both got reamed for their poor direction and planning for their shows, so it was MBC’s turn to end the curse. Like a fairy tale ending, they had succeeded in breaking the spell of bad shows before the clock struck midnight.

How did they accomplish this when the other networks floundered? Well, it’s called doing-the-same-thing-you-do-for-music-shows-anyway. That means you don’t splurge on fancy cameras or go overboard on the staging and lighting. Make the performers the stars of the evening because it’s about them. MBC gave fans what they wanted and more, thanks to their adherence to a standard that didn’t deviate from what this was — a music festival.

The MCs for this night were Kim Sung-joo and SNSD‘s Yoona, who kept things lively and upbeat throughout the show. The roster boasted a lot of big names like 2pm, Wonder Girls, Got7, BTS, B.A.P, Infinite, B1A4, Apink, 4Minute, EXID, Red Velvet, Teen Top, Mamamoo, CN Blue, Exo and more. The expansive lineup meant some groups got less time for their songs than others, but overall, most of them managed to put on fabulous performances. Here are some highlights from the 2015 MBC Music Festival.

The Soloists Show How It’s Done: Ailee, JYP, Tae Jin-ah and Hong Jin-young

Commanding a stage as a soloist is a tall order. These individuals exhibited an incredible stage presence that rivaled any group. They may have had backup dancers galore, but my eyes were constantly glued to them.

Ailee allowed her golden pipes to shine for “Mind Your Own Business.” Some may not care for her ad-libs, but compared to her earlier stages, I actually liked her alternate rendition of this song. The power of her voice really came out as she belted notes with a confident attitude.

JYP made up for his awkward MAMA performance with his stages for “Who’s Your Mama?” and “Uptown Funk.” It took me a hot minute to realize he was singing in English for “Uptown Funk,” but he sounded really good. While I still view him as the slightly weird uncle who can’t be trusted around a karaoke machine, I can admire his skills as a showman.

Speaking of impressive showmanship, Tae Jin-ah demonstrated why he is the master of trot. Whether you hate or love the genre, you can’t ignore his charisma as idols sang along with him. Same goes for Hong Jin-young who never bores me when she sings her classics. Her voice was made for this type of music.

The Remix Champions (and Runners-up): Wonder Girls, Apink, 4Minute

I adored the ’80s girl band nostalgia that Wonder Girls gave for “So Hot” and “I Feel You.” The cubed staging added some eye candy by making it look like they were performing inside of an old school Caboodles box. Those who grew up during that era may have felt like they were watching a hipper version of Jem and the Holograms.

Apink took a risk and went for something a little sassier than their typical bubblegum pop. It’s clear to me now why they need to stick to their brand of cotton candy sweetness. The performance wasn’t awful, but it was somewhat awkward. I had a tough time liking the less innocent version of Apink because they couldn’t sell it to me. They also didn’t look comfortable going for more mature concept.

That wasn’t a problem for 4Minute who succeeded in turning their image around in 2015 with “Crazy.” They took things a step further in this performance that remixed their hit song with a funky club beat. I actually enjoyed this version a lot better than the original.

Throwbacks Make a Comeback: 2pm and SNSD

There is something about bringing back fan favorites for these shows. 2pm and SNSD both have extensive discographies with various hits. The powerhouse groups performed a couple of their most popular songs that never fail to hype the crowd. 2pm started off with “My House” before transitioning into their party anthem “Hands Up.” The song couldn’t be more appropriate for New Year’s Eve celebrations, so I was thrilled to hear it again.

I lost my mind when SNSD came out for “Genie.” Even if you’re not a fan of theirs, it’s hard to dislike this song because of how catchy it is. The ladies went all out for their stage of this iconic tune by adding a Broadway flair that made it even more exciting to watch.

Covering the First Generation of Classics: BTS

A running theme throughout the night was covering old school classics from K-pop’s first generation of idols. Even the audience got into the spirit by waving colorful balloons like they used to do before light sticks became the standard. It was really fun to watch the newer generations sing along to these classic songs that paved the way for K-pop.

Various groups covered their respected seniors, but the BTS stage stood out best to me. They took on Shinhwa‘s “Perfect Man” with flawless choreography that left me speechless. I can’t get enough of this.

Best Fandom Integration: CN Blue and EXID

Both groups held these particular stages outdoors where fans had a chance to get closer to them than usual because they were part of the performance. CN Blue played “Every Day With You” on a platform in the middle of an ice rink. People casually skated around them as they sang a lovely melody that fit the season.

EXID’s fans proved their dedication to the ladies by dancing in sync with them to “Up and Down.” This was the most adorable thing I’ve seen because they didn’t have to do that, but they did. These fans are the real deal!

Roll That Video: Teen Top, Exo, Gfriend

If there was a negative, then I’d say it was the pre-recorded performances of these three groups. That’s not to say they were terrible, but I was disappointed not to get a live stage from at least two of them. Exo did perform “Call Me Baby” live, but it just felt like another typical music show stage.

Most Awkward Intro: Jessi for CN Blue

Jessi made a surprise appearance with CN Blue for “Cinderella.” It was a strange way to start off the breezy pop song since it contrasted strongly with her hard-edged rap. Jessi’s short intro was probably the most random moment of the night.

Best Collab of the Night: Dynamic Duo and Crush

They combined their talents to playfully create Dynamic Trio. Their project name made me smile almost as much as their performances for “Oasis” and “Ring My Bell.” The latter song is my jam, and they did it justice. Another ideal song for ringing in the new year.

Got7 Channels Magic Mike

Allow me to explain what happened here. There are members in mesh shirts. They start off “If You Do” with a smooth R&B intro before going full throttle (ahem). It’s too much for my poor little fan girl heart to handle. Do you have any idea how my mind exploded upon seeing this? I’m done.

I could go on forever about all of my favorite moments from the night. There really wasn’t much that I disliked for the MBC Gayo Daejejun. As marvelous as the artists were, I must give a standing ovation to the true MVPs of the night — the entire show production team. I’ve worked briefly in television, so I know what they have to do for something like this isn’t a small feat. Thank you, Team MBC for proving that we can get a music festival that doesn’t appear as if it’s run by mad, drunken squirrels! This was a wonderful way to close out 2015.

What were your favorite performances? Which music festival from SBS, KBS, and MBC did you enjoy the most? Share in the comments below!

(YouTube, Image via MBC)