It’s that time of year again when some of us stay up all night, wake up early, or, if you’re very very lucky, wake up at a reasonable time, to witness some of the most amazing stages of the year. Pretty much all the big names in K-pop attend the MAMAs, even if this year was missing all of YG‘s roster and a few of SM‘s big names other than EXO.
This year brought some interesting non-K-pop artists as well, like Gallant, Timbaland, and Wiz Khalifa. Why? Who knows. Was it entertaining? Absolutely.
Without further ado, let’s get into the performances.
First up was SM’s newest rookie group, NCT. They didn’t really sing any of their songs, but they were a nice introduction to the real opener. Plus, the kid in the very beginning is adorable and the dancers that followed him were really great.
I did not expect Taemin to be the first full performance, but boy, did he open the MAMAs. The Michael Jackson vibes all through “Guess Who” and “Soldier” were brilliant and fit so well. Then he started stripping and performed “Goodbye” (or, if you know it by its Japanese title, “Sayonara Hitori”). This made me wish I had drank some coffee before settling in.
The boy can move. He’s definitely one of the strongest dancers in K-pop; his fluidity is only rivaled by BTS’s Park Jimin, in my opinion. I love “Goodbye” both because of the song itself and the choreo that goes with it. It’s more like modern dance rather than hip-hop and I feel like that’s a style we don’t see much of in pop music in general, but definitely not as often in K-pop.
G-Friend x Seventeen
Both Seventeen and G-Friend are known for putting on great performances and the fact that they collaborated at MAMA made me so excited. “Adore U” as a musical number? Heck yes! Incorporating the members of G-Friend into “Very Nice?” A+. Having G-Friend both open and close the set? Yes, good.
I love that this was a mini K-drama. You see the boys falling for the girls and you see the aftermath of heartbreak. It’s short and sweet and really gets the themes across really well.
Suzy x Baekhyun
This was nice. A lot of people have been wanting this stage to happen since the song came out, so I’m sure they loved this. I liked the live band.
DEAN, Crush, ZICO x FANXY CHILD
This set really showcased the stage’s potential as an interactive backdrop. Surprisingly, I didn’t really notice how intricate it was until these performances. And since both Dean and Crush don’t need anything fancy since they’re more focused on showcasing their vocals, using the stage as more of a backdrop really works.
Both Dean and Crush have pretty incredible stage presence, even though they were performing slower songs. Then Zico took the stage and ripped it to shreds.
Ending their set as their unit was the right choice. “Bermuda Triangle” is so good. It’s such a great song to vibe to, plus having all three of them on stage just moving together was great.
NCT 127 X Monsta X x Got7
Monsta X and Got7 are a combination I wasn’t surprised by. But adding NCT127 to the mix? That made this interesting. The Taeyong–Jooheon rap interlude improved the flow of the performance, and I really liked how while they start on the main stage, they end on one in the middle of the crowd.
NCT127 are all strong dancers and the choreography for “Fire Truck” looks great on that stage. They keep their windows and they’re aware of one another. I’ve avoided NCT in general, and I probably still will, but they were fantastic and I see why people are really into them.
I love Monsta X. All I want is for Monsta X to shine. They did a pretty decent job at MAMA, but they could have done better if “Fighter” was better; as a song, it’s not bad, but the choreography wasn’t as hard hitting as some of the others they’ve had previously.
GOT7 went hard. They went all in with the short amount of time they got and I appreciate that. Hopefully next year they’ll be treated like the rising stars they are and get to perform a full song. Especially since they won the Worldwide Favorite Artist award.
Lee Juck x Ko Sang
This was lovely. Pretty song. Well performed. I really enjoyed the curtains of stars.
Twice x I.O.I
I want to like I.O.I. But most of their songs are just repetition of the same words and calling it a chorus. Plus, they’re the kind of sugar candy pop that I just have a hard time liking. I won’t deny that the girls can dance though. They all nail the more complicated elements of their choreography with ease and look so poised while doing it.
That being said, I really like Twice. They’re still sugar candy pop but it feels like they have more bite. I loved watching them perform “Cheer Up” and “TT.” They looked like they were having fun and their outfits were on point.
Eric Nam x Timbaland
Why is Timbaland at the MAMAs? It seems like no one knows, not even the man himself. This was an interesting collaboration. Eric was great as always, but it just seemed… bizarre? It just reminded me of when Snoop Dogg did his stint in K-pop and everyone was like, why? But enjoyed it all the same.
I miss Snoop Dogg. I hope he comes back to K-pop sometime soon.
Y’all. I don’t even know where to begin with this. I’m so disappointed Mnet took down all the other versions of this so we’re left with their official version that cuts out the intro where Jungkook (at least I’m pretty sure it was Jungkook) was suspended from the ceiling while Rap Monster read an excerpt from Demian. What a fantastic way to introduce their performance.
Then we have J-hope performing his intro and Jimin performing his solo song, before going into “Blood, Sweat, & Tears.” This performance is what I’m looking for in MAMA stages. Intricate, well designed, and just plain awe inspiring. And then after this they won Artist of the Year.
What a day to be a BTS stan.
BewhY x PREPIX x Yiruma
I need to listen to BewhY. He’s clearly a talented rapper and he’s got stage presence.
The final performers of the night were EXO.
Kinda like BTS, I don’t even know where to begin. This performance. Just. Wow. Why did Mnet have to cut out the really cool intro to EXO’s performance in their official video? That VCR and reveal of them in the collars was awesome. I love that they did “Transformer;” that song doesn’t get a lot of recognition but it’s so good.
Everything about this was amazing. It just proves that they truly deserve Album of the Year.
My favorite non-K-pop artist performance was Gallant’s, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a video of it. He performed his song “Weight in Gold,” which is just such a good song.
The performances at this year’s MAMA certainly didn’t disappoint. Was it everything you hoped and wanted? Share your highlights in the comments below!