20151230_seoulbeats_iu_shindongyup_sbsThe 27th of December, 2015, saw SBS kick off a week of Gayos with the broadcaster’s annual Gayo Daejun Program. I always considered SBS to have the nicest stage set-ups, and this year’s crosswalk with three stages was no exception. And though a lot of performances were prerecorded, it did mean that transitions were quicker and the show not needlessly long (what’s good MAMA?)

The MCs for the event were Shin Dong-yup and IU. IU also performed, alongside T-ara, CN Blue, Mamamoo, Ailee, A Pink, iKon, Shinee, Hyukoh, Red Velvet, Wonder Girls, Exo, Up10tion, Seventeen, Twice, Monsta X, B.A.P, Got7, G-Friend, Lovelyz, Vixx, EXID, AOA, BtoB, B1A4, 4Minute, Infinite, 2PM and SNSD. SBS also snuck Psy in by replaying performances from his recent concert.

Those sorely missed at the SBS Gayo included a working sound system and producers who understood how live switching worked.

In addition to making prewritten banter and exchanging outfit colours, the MCs also conducted awkward interviews and gave out awards. Because 2016 is Year of the Monkey, a bunch of ’92 line idols were rounded up to read suspiciously apt fortune cookies. Most Popular Leader went to Onew, AOA’s Seolhyun was recognised for getting the most views on their Gayo promo video and Got7 won the Chinese Netizen Popularity Award.

I quite appreciated the cute yearbook nature of the awards, and so have decided to continue it with more awards for the performers below. Let me know what you think of my picks in the commens below — and tell me yours, too!

Best Collaboration: IU and Hyukoh

Despite not being on-site, Oh Hyuk and IU’s duets made up the best collaboration of the night. It wasn’t flashy, but the two looked completely at ease, something that was missing from most of the other collabs on the night. While I prefer Lim Kim’s voice on “Gondry,” IU’s  clear voice gave this rendition a crispness that I enjoyed. “Shoes” was a bit snoozy, but it made for a smooth transition into Hyukoh’s performance of “Comes and Goes.” The band appeared to suffer a bit from the sound system, but all was well by the time the middle eight rolled around. Oh Hyuk really came into his own at that point, and had my undivided attention until the end.

Jonghyun‘s “Deja-boo”  with Yubin was almost perfect! I don’t even want to call it a let-down, but Yubin’s nerves did seem to get the better of her. Especially next to someone like Jonghyun — who oozes so much passion that the stage would get slippery, who makes putting a jacket on look sexy as hell — Yubin’s relative stiffness was even more noticable for the juxtaposition. I guess the only thing more disappointing is that I haven’t yet overthrown this guy to make Jjong my ultimate bias.

Like Jonghyun, Ailee also tried her hardest to make the diva stage work. You’d think that nothing could go wrong with such amazing singers (Ailee, Luna, Eunji and Solar) and a winning song choice (the Korean version of “I Will Survive”), but it stopped just short of clicking. De facto leader Ailee did her best to engage, but Eunji was too fanservicey, Solar too intimidated and Luna too dramatic. I guess doing your own thing is part of what being a diva is about, but the fact remains that this performance failed because the ladies did not engage with one another enough on stage.

Then there was the opening dance stage. My love for the elemental theme aside, I’m not a fan of collaborations that are more solo intros and holograms than actual collab. Vixx borrowed some heat from the Earth’s core, but it was iKon who brought the fire (and Kanye) with their dance performance. Got7 made “Hotline Bling” classy… Or it almost did, until I saw Jackson‘s pants. And poor B.A.P: the dimmed lighting failed to showcase the other members’ entrance, leaving me to stare up at a stock-still Yong-guk suspended in mid-air. He did look like an angel though. A cold, unforgiving one.

I’m not really counting the ballad cover stage because they were together of a fraction of their allotted time, but I would like to appreciate their increasing states of dishevelment: from prim and proper Chen, to rough and tumble Baekhyun, to hot and heavy Taemin. As for the other Shinee-Exo collaboration… the less said about that rehash, the better.

Best Mash-up/Segue: Mamamoo and Red Velvet

Mamamoo has always been a dab hand at mixing Western songs into their performances, and the dashes of “Uptown Funk” definitely spiced up this performance of “Um Ah Oh Yeh.” In fact, this entire stage was pure awesome, one of the best of the night. First thing, they added horns to the chorus, thus making it more sportive.

Next, the ladies were perfectly styled, keeping accoutrements to a minimum and letting the loud colours of the suits do the talking instead. Then there was the whole Motown vibe of the stage; and finally, the screams at the end when they gave a shout out to the Gayo. Mamamoo deserves your full attention — I’m pretty sure that girl the camera caught texting was later eaten alive by mustachioed raddishes for her impudence.

Where the mash-up was accentuated by everything else for Mamamoo, for Red Velvet it was the saving grace of an uncharacteristically empty performance. I think we can all agree that it was the outfits at fault — “Dumb Dumb” may have been all about the crazy manic pixie maids, but the knockoff Disney princess dresses were so incredibly sad to look at. At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much difference to these outfits and what was worn at the Melon Music Awards — heck, even the hairstyles are the same. But it can’t be denied that there is so much wrong with these SBS Gayo outfits.

It all boils down to the fact that Red Velvet usually performs in sporty outfits with simple silhouettes, a basic colour scheme and minimal or platform heels. These outfits are the antithesis of RV’s usual aesthetic. The MMA outfits were different but still worked because they stuck to the group’s signature style. The SBS Gayo outfits threw that out the window with poorly matching colours, fussy fur trim, overdone hair and uncomfortable heels — there was too much going on, and it sucked the energy out of the performance.

The only reason to watch this performance, really, is the amazing musical transition from “Dumb Dumb” to “Ice Cream Cake.” It’s only 20 seconds long, but those 20 seconds were the most entertaining of this performance.

Best Concept Change: Seventeen Bond and Xmas Pink

Seventeen’s boy-next-door image is nearly impossible to remove at this stage in the group’s career, but this James Bond-inspired performance of “Adore U” was still engaging. The music was the highlight of the performance, as it sold the Bond theme better than the members themselves. Considering how adorable the original composition and concept is, I’m actually impressed they managed to make the Bond thing work as well as it did — not to mention the fact that Seventeen made such a great impact in such a short time. At two minutes and ten seconds, I think this is the shortest performance of this year’s SBS Gayo — and Seventeen made every one of those 130 seconds count.

Like SNSD has done with “Party,” A Pink wintered up their summery “Remember” with a red and white Christmas. It’s actually quite amazing how adding sleigh bells and a bit of piano can make just about any song sound Christmassy. But while I loved the colour scheme, I do have to say that A Pink was second on my worst outfits list (guess who was first).

Most Commitment to Original Concept: 2PM

While the aforementioned groups took their song concepts in exciting directions, 2PM went the other way, in spectacular fashion. The group not only stuck with the fairytale ball theme of “My House,” it kicked things up a notch by holding an actual mini-ball within the performance. While the gown- and tux-clad dancers waltzed away, the 2PM members seduced the audience. It worked so well that Nabeela better watch out, because I’m seriously considering stealing her man Jun.K.

I also have a feeling that this is how the second episode of theOuran High School Host Club anime would have ended if the members weren’t so busy with the plot. And anything that reminds me of Ouran is a win in my book, as is the presence of female band members. With this performance, 2PM more than avenged the one week of promo they had for “My House.”

Best Outfits: SNSD’s “Catch Me If You Can”

I have to admit I liked CMIYC’s hi-vis, Construction Worker Barbie outfits; but I also have to agree that the para-military style was the better way to go. And boy did that blinged up kakhi look good on the ladies. “Genie” may be the superior song, but I bet that era is looking at these outfits right now and crying bullets at the injustice of it all. And even though they had the help of lip-syncing and strobe lighting, the members’ energy was nice to see as well. They looked like they were enjoying themselves, and you can’t really help but join in on that feeling — and that’s one thing strobes can’t distract you from.

Not quite sure what was going on wth the helicopters, though.

Best Ode to Menstruation: Got7

Yeah, I went there. But seriously, how do you expect me not to when, after singing about angsty feelings, Got7 launches into a dance break against a backdrop of angry red waves crashing down on one another? It represents the torture many people with uteruses suffer when their abdominal muscles spring to action each month. And it could also be a protest against the constant use of blue liquid in sanitary item advertisements — “let there be red!” The fact that Got7 performed in head-to-toe white only serves to inspire more awe — and a tinge of envy — in me.

Do you see how this performance works on so many levels? It was about more than just being thrifty, by carrying over the water theme from the dance intro just to make the most of those underwater shots. I can feel it in my lower abdomen. As far as pop cultural commentary on menstruation goes, this performance could give Sunmi‘s “Full Moon” a run for its money.

As the owner of an active uterus, this stage resonated with me on a deep and painful level, and I honestly don’t care how many of you I have grossed out with this award.

Most Put-upon Performers: 4Minute, T-ara, Exo and BtoB

This isn’t so much an award as it is a moment to recognise the acts who seemed to get notably shafted in one way or another, but still powered through like the professionals they are.

Despite the questionable styling and tepid twerking, live performances of 4Minute’s “Crazy” are still a must-watch for me. And while the first ladies of Cube continued to impress with their intense focus, the producers let 4Minute and viewers down by switching to the wrong camera. So instead of receiving the full effect of Hyuna continuing the in-your-face vibe of the performance set by the intro VCR, we had to watch events unfold from the other side of the room.

Exo suffered to the point of bamboozlement in the audio department. Members were consistently signalling that their in-ears weren’t working properly; and all leader Suho could do was shrug, because he knew he had no control over the situation. If only he, or one of the other Exo members, had taken taken a leaf from Changmin‘s book…

While all this was happeneing, BtoB put up with dissmissively critical comments allegedly made by a SBS staffer (though there have also been claims that they were made by an attendee instead), and T-ara had to perform first. Maybe there is a legitimate reason for why T-ara went on first involving schedules and/or counting Yuan, but having such a senior group perform first seems just a tad rude.

Notable Performances: IU, Ailee and Shinee’s “Hitchhiker”

Elaine has already written about IU’s performance (as well as a couple more), and I concur with her assessment. IU has always been a consummate performer, but I still have to admire her successfully selling a different image from what we’ve been used to on music shows in the past. There was a lot of what we’ve seen before in the meticulous styling, affected expressions and ton of back-up dancers. These familiar touches helped ease viewers into appreciating the differences like IU’s bold confidence, and the cool gaze that accompanied it. The novelty, and especially the finesse, made “Twenty-three” a memorable performance.

The Shinee performance (from 7:15) starts off OK, but it’s after “View” that things get interesting. I don’t know if the group is on a mission to perform their concert setlist on the sly, or if SM is being cheap and not hiring dancers for “Married To The Music” performances; either way, the members are getting a lot of rehearsal time in.

“Hitchhiker” was one of my not-so-favourite tracks off Misconceptions of You, but I love this high energy performance of it; not even the sound system could stop the members. The remix of “Hitchhiker” had just enough rock in it to make it lively without being overbearing. Shinee has had trouble with making rock remixes work in the past, so it’s good to see some restraint being excercised in that regard.

Ailee’s cast was already off when we interviewed her last month, but this was the first time we got to see her in action on TV. No other performer on the night worked that walk to the B stage like she did (except maybe Jonghyun).  More than the dancing, though, it was the singing and ad libs that got me. Not even the minimal eye make-up (bad choice for that outfit) and oversized jacket could distract me; and when Ailee told us to scream, I did exactly as I was told.

(Pann, SBS via Dailymotion[1][2][3][4][5][6] because fuck YouTube, Streaming Media, Twitter. Images via: SBS)