“Qui fert pondus coronae velit”
Group: The Boyz
Agency: Cre.ker Entertainment
Latest Single: “The Stealer”
Performed: “Reveal” + “Checkmate”
From the moment I saw Juyeon rise up onto the stage seated in an elaborate throne, I knew we were in for something epic. The Boyz went above and beyond in all their Road to Kingdom performances, so it only makes sense that they would pull out the stops for something like MAMA. In one sense, this stage was a tribute to their time on that show. They even repeated one of their jaw-dropping stunts and made it more dangerous with flames and fireworks. Everything was so exciting and fascinating that I didn’t even know where to look. It was definitely one of the performances I had to replay to pick up all of the details, of which there are many.
While I did see – and love – the Ancient Rome references in the production design, I will say that this stage didn’t have as much as the brutal warlike aspect that was obvious in the following groups’ performances. Their outfits, while stunning, were just too luxurious and opulent to make me think of the gritty bloody times I associate with Ancient Rome – especially since the other two groups had more of that gladiator/warrior vibe. Though perhaps the point was that they were supposed to look like royalty, since they’re defending the “high-class performers” reputation they built for themselves on Road to Kingdom (I commented to Jess several times that Hyunjae looked like an actual Disney prince.) It was, of course, an elaborate stage – one that I will be happy to watch over and over in the months to come. Every time I think The Boyz cannot outdo themselves anymore, they just continue to prove me wrong.
Agency: KQ Entertainment
Latest Single: “Inception”
Performed: “Inception” + “Answer”
Award: Discovery of the Year, Worldwide Fans’ Choice Top 10
I am ashamed to say that I’m not really that familiar with ATEEZ, so I don’t have a whole lot to say about their performance. I don’t even know why I’ve never really checked them out; there genuinely is no reason. On the plus side, this video convinced me that I need to do so ASAP. Though I’d say that their stage was more subdued compared to what the other group did (in terms of production design and moving pieces), it was a slightly calmer moment between two stages that gave us a lot to look at. And that allowed us to focus more on the members themselves and really absorb their performance. I’m aware that ATEEZ is super popular with international fans, and this showed me that all the praise is well-deserved. Also, I wholeheartedly approved of the costumes – very edgy and very much in line with the perception of ATEEZ that I already have.
Group: Stray Kids
Agency: JYP Entertainment
Latest Single: “Back Door”
Songs Performed: “Victory Song”
Stray Kids has definitely started to make a name for themselves over the past year or so, and this stage made it blatantly obvious that they’re not playing around. They came storming on the stage with an epic rearrangement of “Victory Song,” their blood red costumes adding to the whole fearsome and warlike aspect. The Boyz layered their dancing against elaborate set pieces and stage design, while ATEEZ mostly focused on what they were bringing to the table as performers. Stray Kids opted for something in between, seamlessly incorporating weapons(!) into their choreography and effortlessly moving through formations with a squad of shield-bearing backup dancers. I told Jess mid-performance that I felt like I was watching a musical version of 300.
To be honest, Stray Kids has only truly piqued my interest since “God’s Menu” – *maybe* “Double Knot” if I’m being generous. Before that, I didn’t really vibe with their music. (I blame hearing “District 9” exactly a million times in one day during KCON 2018.) Since I know a ton of international fans love them, I always felt like there was something I wasn’t picking up on until recently. But when I watch this stage – and I’ve watched it many times since then – I totally get it. I see a lot of people praising Stray Kids for their creativity, and there was so much of that here. It’s genuinely one of the most captivating special stages I’ve seen in the past few years.
Juyeon (The Boyz)
Hyunjin (Stray Kids)
Look at all the power in this featured image! Look at it!
Just when we thought we could relax, each boy group sent out one of their dancers/most popular members for an intricately choreographed battle. (According to the YouTube comments I read, San is not actually in ATEEZ’s dance line… but he sure could have fooled me.) As they stared each other down over the crown, we got the twist that we all should have seen coming – Kingdom is happening soon, and these three groups will be on it. Despite the inevitable fan drama that will come with this show, I CANNOT WAIT. And I need to hurry up and publish all of those Road to Kingdom recaps in my drafts.
(If the fact that this whole thing was an elaborate teaser for Kingdom was totally obvious and not actually a reveal for you, I’m really impressed. I was so overwhelmed and absorbed in everything that I just completely missed all those signs ^^”’)
In my opinion, this was the best stage/collaboration of the night. In an effort to prove that I’m not being biased, I’ll remind everyone that a) I’m not overly familiar with any of these three groups and b) my ultimates NCT also performed at MAMA. Truthfully, I just thought everything was so excellent. As a multifan, I watch all the awards shows and I see the same material performed multiple times. Everything’s entertaining in its own way, but I really look to the more unique stages because they end up being more memorable. And I thought each of these performances really highlighted the groups and showed the essence of their public images: smooth, sophisticated, and polished (The Boyz) vs. dark, introspective, and edgy (ATEEZ) vs. passionate, chaotic, and wild (Stray Kids). All of those details were present in everything, down to the production design and the excellent color schemes. If this is what Kingdom is going to look like, I’m all in.
Next page: Some are veterans, some are rising stars, but they all impress.