MBC also have not been lagging far behind, with their Korean Music Wave project taking off over the past two years, as well as becoming an annual affair in Thailand and Japan. However, the scale and ambition of its collaboration with Google was on another level, and for many reasons.
For MBC, it was the chance to take the famed franchise to America, as well as piggyback on a known name to take K-pop truly international. Google, by putting its name on the event, as well as streaming the whole thing live, in some ways is acknowledging K-pop on the world stage, as well as bringing it to the mainstream.
Another advantage of having big names backing the concerts is there being a guaranteed level of quality, and for fans watching, not feeling let-down. From friends’ experience with the MBC Korean Music Wave in Bangkok, MBC does have standards in organising a reasonable sound system, as well as making sure that seating and crowd control are taken care of.
With such high expectations and standards, it’s worth seeing how the live concert translates on YouTube.
The Main Performances:
Sure, there may been those who wished that a few more equally popular acts could have been there, but those that went there pretty much represented what the better acts, as well as the more popular ones, in K-pop could serve up. Besides, not every company would be keen on the prospect of flying their stars half around the world for a three-hour event. So, not many complaints on that front there.
Performance wise, it was pretty much like a standard episode of MBC Show! Music Core, only for a larger stage, as well as longer set-lists for the artistes who were there. I enjoyed how this served as a good chance for the K-pop acts there to both sing recent songs, as well as good old crowd favourites.
With that, it is time to give out some personal awards for acts that impressed (or surprised):
Best Vocal Performances: Beast, who made it look like every member performed on the same level that night.
Best Use Of English: Amber and Krystal of f(x), who never looked so comfortable before making banter with the crowd.
Honourable mention: The Wonder Girls addressing the crowd fully in English, highlighting the lessons learned from their US tours.
Honourable mention: Dasom of Sistar addressing the crowd with serviceable English. This deserved a mention as English speaking is not something they are really known for.
Overall Champions: It would have to be the fans. Their cheering, waving for the cameras, holding up their placards of love for the idols, if that is not love for K-pop, then what is? Props also to them for really enjoying themselves the whole night, or at least what the lingering camera shots showed them to be.
Honourable Mention: The obligatory Kumbaya near the end of the concert. Having been to a few of these events, they always end the show with either a song that best exemplifies Korea, or one that aims to show how music can bring different cultures, with all the artistes coming out and singing along. Clichéd it may be, but there is always a warm fuzzy feeling after hearing it, as well as that sense of cohesion.
The Special Performances:
MBC really does get some bonus points there for trying to give fans a little something more, by having two artistes perform songs outside their standard repertoire. For this, SNSD’s Seohyun did a cover of Cherry Filter’s “Flying Duck”, while the Wonder Girls’ Sunye went with Insooni’s “Father.”
I admit to anticipating covers, partly to see how idols do with them, but also because their covers usually give the original singers some added exposure, though in a most superficial form. At least to some extent it allays criticism that K-pop overshadows most other forms of Korean music.
I was pleasantly surprised by Seohyun’s performance. While the cover certainly deviated from the original’s rock sound, the re-arrangement of the song into a breezy pop-rock number did make for nice listening and suited her pleasant mid-tones.
However, Sunye’s rendition was on another level. She might not have packed the vocal punch of Insooni (then again, who does), but in other respects, including the all important emotional pull, she definitely did the song justice.
The ending, and how it (almost) ruined the night:
The largest problem with the ending was how uncoordinated the instructions were for who to give the ending speech, resulting in both SNSD’s Tiffany and Super Junior’s Leeteuk sounding like they were both fighting for the microphone and trying to speak at the same time.
To make matters worse, fans of the two groups involved took to Twitter to voice out their displeasure at each other. Sones blamed Leeteuk for cutting in before Tiffany was done, while ELFs blamed Tiffany for talking too much, and tried crediting Leeteuk for trying to wrap things up. Some of the sentiments even spilled over to the YouTube page where the video was hosted.
This whole problem could have been avoided if MBC had just made it absolutely clear who was going to say what lines in the first place. As it stands, the lack of coordination marred an event that was otherwise well executed, as well as incite a completely uncalled for fanwar.
The resulting fanwar probably left a pretty bad taste for those new to K-pop, giving them the impression of fans perpetually divided into cliques, and permanently defending or excusing mistakes.
To sum up, the MBC YouTube collaboration probably presented K-pop on the world stage, with its popularity, as well as its growing pains and the occasional slip ups, for the world to see.