MAMA 2020 Recap: Predictable Awards, but Epic Performances

The Performances -1st Session

“The Dawn of a NEW-TOPIA”

Artist: Taemin (SHINee)
Agency: SM Entertainment
Latest Single: “IDEA (理想)” (November 2020)
Performed: “Intro” + “Criminal” + “Heaven” + “IDEA (理想)”
(I don’t know why “Heaven” is included in there… it’s literally like 20 seconds of him singing it.)
Award: Favorite Dance Performance – Male Solo

As one of the current kings of K-pop, it’s only fitting that Taemin kicked off MAMA with an amazing opening number. MNET is slowly rebuilding their relationship with SM, so having one of the company’s star soloists as the first act was a great move. While I thoroughly enjoyed it, I personally found all of the flashing lights and visual effects kind of distracting. Taemin is largely considered the best idol dancer of his generation, perhaps the best one of all-time. He has immense appeal as an engaging performer, so I don’t think he really *needs* all of those fancy bells and whistles. At least the production team had enough common sense to keep the camera focused on him most of the time, so we could see that his dancing was superb as always. The man truly knows how to work a stage.

“I Am What I Am”

Artist: Jessi
Agency: P-Nation
Latest Single: “Nunu Nana” (July 2020)
Performed: “Nunu Nana”
Award: Favorite Dance Performance – Female Solo

Artist: Hwasa (MAMAMOO)
Agency: RBW Entertainment
Latest Single: “Maria”
Performed: “Intro” + “Maria”
Award: Best Dance Performance – Solo

Jessi and Hwasa
Cover Performance
“Gang” by Rain

Next up was a powerful collaboration from two of the most badass women in K-pop. Jessi performed first, sassily serving up “Nunu Nana” backed by an army of dancers in bedazzled face masks and hot pink gloves. If you have to follow health precautions, follow them in *style.* Hwasa followed up with a dramatic dance performance – in water! – and a sensual rendition of “Maria.” (Her backup dancers were also wearing bedazzled headgear, but it seemed to be this strange net that just covered their whole heads? #highfashion) Finally, the two of them teamed up for their own version of Rain’s “Gang” – a song that went mostly unnoticed when it came out in 2017 but has become really popular recently. I admittedly don’t follow K-pop solo music all that much, and this was probably the first time I heard both women’s songs in full (instead of just snippets). So that was a lot of fun. And it was nice to see a stage with some more mature vibes, since K-pop is often fairly toned down compared to American pop.

“On the Borderline”

Agency: Belift Lab
Latest Single: “Given-Taken”
Performed: “Into the I-LAND(Piano Ver.)” + “Walk the Line” + “Given-Taken”

To be honest, I don’t have many comments on ENHYPEN because I didn’t pay close attention to them… but I promise that’s not because I don’t care! I would like to watch I-LAND in the near future (once I knock more stuff off of my to-do list), and I don’t want to be too familiar with the members or their music just yet. I know it’s too late to avoid spoilers, but I still tried to watch their stage with enough detachment that I wouldn’t be able to recognize anyone or put names to faces. However, I was super impressed by that one member who did a whole performance gliding around on roller skates. Is he a trained ice skater??? I’m so curious!!! And I will say that ENHYPEN looks very impressive for a group that debuted like a week before MAMA. I look forward to eventually diving into I-LAND.

“Heaven and Hell”

Agency: Starship Entertainment
Latest Single: “Flame”
Performed: “Break All The Rules” Special Stage, Monsta X Covers: “Dramarama” (Jungmo, Wonjin, Hyeongjun, Seongmin) / “Shoot Out” (Serim, Allen, Woobin, Minhee, Taeyoung)
Award: Best of Next

Group: Monsta X
Agency: Starship Entertainment
Latest Single: “Love Killa”
Performed: “BEASTMODE” + Love Killa”
Award: Best Stage

I totally thought that CRAVITY and Monsta X were going to have a collaboration, so I was extremely disappointed when it turned out they were just part of the same set. But at least we got CRAVITY covering some classic Monsta X songs! (And two of my favorites, no less.) Anyway, I still loved this because I love both groups. I’ve had a really hard time getting into rookies this year, and CRAVITY is one of the few that I’ve really taken note of. “Break All the Rules” is one of my favorite songs of the year, and it was just such a stellar debut. I was cheering on Jungmo the whole performance because he was my favorite on Produce X 101 – I even voted for him in the finale. (And yes, I take the news that he should have been in X1 *very* personally because of that.) I’m so glad that he’s getting the chance to shine with CRAVITY. As for Monsta X, they killed it as always. I’ve been seeing some mixed reactions to “Love Killa” as a comeback song, but I personally love it. Though maybe that’s because I’m a Hyungwon stan, and “Love Killa” suits him perfectly. I also spent all of Monsta X’s set cheering for Hyungwon, so there was a lot of hyping going on for these ten or so minutes. (Thank you Jess for being infinitely patient with me.)

“Total Eclipse”

Group: Oh My Girl
Agency: WM Entertainment
Latest Single: “Nonstop”
Performed: “Nonstop”

Group: (G)I-DLE
Agency: Cube Entertainment
Latest Single: “DUMDi DUMDi”
Performed: “DUMDi DUMDi”

Oh My Girl (Mimi, Jiho, Arin)
(G)I-DLE (Soyeon, Soojin, Yuqi)
Cover Performance
“Bad Girl Good Girl” by Miss A

Oh My Girl and (G)I-DLE have seen a rise in popularity lately, and their set brought back memories of summer and warmer times. (Seriously, it’s so freaking cold here right now.) I find it kind of cool how “Nonstop” was kind of the song of the summer at the beginning of the season, and then “DUMDi DUMDi” became the song of the summer towards the end. At least, that was the case for me. I’ve heard both songs and seen them performed literally dozens of times by now, so I don’t have a whole lot of commentary on either of them – although I was totally into those glow-in-the-dark tie-dye outfits (G)I-DLE was sporting.

What I do want to mention was the girls’ unexpected and awesome collaboration. (This is what I wanted for CRAVITY and Monsta X, MNET.) Oh My Girl’s Jiho and Arin teamed up with (G)I-DLE’s Soojin and Yuqi to put their spin on Miss A’s “Bad Girl Good Girl”, complete with surprise rap breaks from both groups’ rappers Mimi and Soyeon. That song is an absolute classic, so I was totally here for it. I also really appreciated how they upped the girl crush vibe even more with those rap verses; I always love when groups take a cover and make it their own. Soyeon obviously gets plenty of opportunities to rap in (G)I-DLE’s songs, but that’s not necessarily true for Mimi and Oh My Girl – so it was great to see her in her element. The whole stage was too short; I wanted to see more!

Next Page: The rising boy groups of the 4th generation are out for blood.

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