Despite our attempts to get interested in the awards given out at the Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMAs), we would happily admit that they are a long way from the musical legitimacy by institutions such as the Golden Disk Awards (GDA). However, if award legitimacy were the sole criteria in the success of award shows, then the MTV Movie Awards and the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards would have died a long time ago.
Maybe it’s time we admitted it, and the pictures say it all, but the whole point of the MAMAs was always to be an event for fans to have their fantasies realised, as well as for those attending to have a ball of a time (as well as all the free champagne one can have), and hopefully pick up an award or two. After all, they have a history of not giving awards to anybody who does a no-show.
And of course, one of the key highlights of any MAMA would have to be the special performances. While Mnet always likes to keep the performers list secret, years of observing past MAMAs will always give hints at what to expect.
Here are some of the performance categories that have become mainstays at the awards show.
Explosive YG Stages:
It has been an open secret of sorts that Mnet has favoured YG Entertainment in the past, leading to the (in)famous 2009 awards, where SM Entertainment boycotted the event, citing favouritism, and where YG acts won most of the major awards up for grabs, including Artiste and Album Of The Year awards.
But putting aside controversies, one would have to admit that YG acts always manage to put up the most over-the-top, dramatic and yet brilliant shows that simply showcase the MAMA party spirit at the finest.
One of the most impressive would have to be the Big Bang guys and a medley of their solo projects, with flashy costumes, serenading and endless camera posturing. In other words lots of fun and stuff to make fans swoon.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shugnKKQOWY&w=560&h=315]
And of course, who can forget about their female labelmates, 2NE1? Laser beams, hairdos with nary a strand out of place, robot-inspired costumes and an array of dance showcases are just a few of their many stage acts to get audiences excited.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAHD0aFt45A&w=560&h=315]
Cross Genre Mash-ups:
By far one of the most common stages (and object of fan desires) would be the ones where a popular hit gets adapted for another genre. One of my favourites would have to be the orchestral version of BEAST’s “Fiction,” when the guys teamed up with Chinese pianist Lang Lang. It’s impressive hearing how their vocals sync perfectly with the sweeping instruments. (Starts at 2.40)[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRDpFfuUI2c&w=560&h=315]
Another favourite of mine would be the Brown Eyed Girls calling on a full orchestra for a rendition of their single “Sign.” Amazing how much one can ratchet up the emotion with a backing band, as well as how the Brown Eyed Girls suit the theatrics perfectly. (Starts at 0.40)[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URh0dwvFZIo&w=560&h=315]
However, I would admit to being less impressed by the rock version of KARA’s “Honey.” While I appreciated the grittier spin on the peppy tune, and the backing band, the girls’ weaker vocals meant they struggled to be heard above the guitars and drums. (Starts at 3.10)
And as icing on the double layer cake, we got an dance mash-up of “Abracadabra” and “Mister,” when the minimal electronic sounds of the Brown Eyed Girls and the infectious “lalalalalas” of KARA met. (Starts at 5.25)
Girl Group remixes:
For some reason, MissA always seem to get the harder-edged, more dance oriented versions of their hits performed only at the MAMA dance showpieces, first with this beat filled introduction of “Good Girl Bad Girl” for 2010.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pcsu3-qlETI&w=560&h=315]
Then with the slower Rainstone mix for “Good-Bye Baby” in 2011, which so perfectly complemented the “kung-fu meets dance” sequences. The Chinese members of the group could not have been more impressive.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFranEJ1KwE&w=560&h=315]
Wonderfuls however would be pretty annoyed at this glammed-up version of “So Hot” remaining unreleased till this day. I still like this version for how it turned a song that put the satire in pretty into a song that did bring out the sexy. Surely minus the iffy microphones and with the better singing that characterised the Wonder Girls post 2011, this song is definitely worth re-recording and given a release.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZLrgWC5hGw&w=560&h=315]
Another remix performed first at the MAMAs was a remix of SNSD’s “The Boys”. While I liked how the added elements helped to spice up what was a rather sparse and minimal song, it did not help that the sped up tempo did make for some dancing that appeared rather messy and un-coordinated. I guess it was one of those remixes better heard than seen.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVzN1Dlt8ac&w=560&h=315]
Some male-female sexy stages:
While Trouble Maker in 2011 certainly did get tongues wagging, and proved to be one of the better K-pop collaborations so far, the whole concept of male and female solo artistes getting together for sexy stages is nothing new at the MAMAs.
In 2009, singer Ivy turned up the heat a fair bit with some smoke on the stage, aided by a (unfortunately-mulleted) Nichkhun and some on-stage smoke, but not before being the biggest tease to Seo In-guk (Doh!)[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTZIlQ1iDbM&w=560&h=315]
Then in 2008, K-Pop Queen Lee Hyori worked the stage the Big Bang’s Taeyang, who serenaded her with his hit “Only Look At Me”, before other Big Bang members joined in. This stage certainly showed how much the performance dynamic of Big Bang had changed over the years, with T.O.P retaining the cool factor despite doing far lesser on stage these days, but Taeyang getting rather uncool for simply over-doing his performances now. Dude, back then your sexy-cool mix were just right.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8A9nfvtMteE&w=560&h=315]
And other cool things that make the MAMAs, well, the MAMAs:
Being an Mnet-produced show, the MAMAs never fail to serve as a good platform for showcasing other programs in the Mnet stable, especially their flagship SuperStar K. Here are contestants from 2011’s Season 3 doing a medley of that year’s biggest hits.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9UjIgVVr44&w=560&h=315]
And of course, the MAMAs always have that lofty aim of bringing Asian music together in one common venue, meaning that this may very well be the only time of the year one could hear Japanese or Chinese artistes on Mnet. Highlights would be vocal powerhouse Jane Zhang of China.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAz4sENheJk&w=560&h=315]
Japanese pop royalty Koda Kumi, who switched effortlessly between emotional that night.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyX_KXPPmyg&w=560&h=315]
And Electronic-Pop act Perfume, in what could be one of their earlier regional performances.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cA1w1N_596w&w=560&h=315]
So what are your thoughts, readers? What do you look forward to seeing in this year’s MAMAs? And what previous performances have you enjoyed?