MAMA 2020 Recap: Predictable Awards, but Epic Performances

The Performances – 2nd Session

“Infinite Light”

Group: JO1
Agency: Lapone Entertainment
Latest Single: “Shine a Light”
Performed: “無限大(INFINITY)” + “Shine A Light”
Award: Best New Asian Artist

JO1 is the boy group formed from the Japanese version on Produce 101 (which was apparently untouched by the Korean version’s vote manipulation scandals). I’m not overly familiar with Japanese music because I don’t want to do the same deep dive I did with K-pop; I know myself and I just don’t have the time for that right now. So, this was definitely one of the stages where I was definitely more of an objective observer. And I have to say, I really enjoyed it. I’m normally a pretty moody glass half-empty person – and I’ve only grown more so in these difficult times – so I’m rarely drawn to bright and happy music. But “Shine a Light” is just so sweet and uplifting! I couldn’t help but smile the entire time I was watching.

“Find Your TREASURE”

Agency: YG Entertainment
Latest Single: “MMM”
Songs Performed: “Boy” + “I Love You” + “MMM”
Awards: Best New Male Artist, Worldwide Fans’ Choice Top 10

So I watched YG Treasure Box when it aired two years ago, and I got really invested in it. But then all of the YG scandals happened, their debut got delayed, and I moved on to other things because I have a very short attention span. So I was super excited when TREASURE finally debuted and started releasing a bunch of music… but the hilarious thing is, I have forgotten EVERYTHING about them from when I watched their survival show. A memory flashes by every once in a while, but it’s genuinely like I’m seeing new people I know nothing about. For example, I remember that I really liked Mashiho on YG Treasure Box, so I’m always like “Yay Mashiho!” when I watch TREASURE stages – but I don’t remember *why* I’m such a supporter. It’s wild.

ANYWAY, TREASURE’s MAMA stage provided a good insight into why they’re a popular rookie group and why they took the Best New Artist award. They’re not even six months into debut, and they’ve already released three good quality songs and are delivering polished performances. With that solid foundation in hand, they added some high tech elements and intriguing musical rearrangements to create an entertaining stage. (Although Jess and I were a little unnerved by those laser machines in the beginning.) My feelings on each of their three songs varies greatly from “like” to “love,” but I do thoroughly enjoy them all. I have been inspired to go learn all about them again.

“Welcome to the DISCO”

Group: TXT (Tomorrow X Together)
Agency: Big Hit Entertainment
Latest Single: “Blue Hour”
Song Covers: “Short Hair” by Cho Yongpil, “She Was Pretty” by Park Jin Young (JYP), “Dynamite” by BTS
Performed: “Blue Hour”
Award: Favorite Dance Performance (Group), Worldwide Fans’ Choice Top 10

Like ATEEZ, TXT is another group that I know I should check out but just haven’t gotten around to yet. I fully admit that in their case, I’m dragging my heels a bit. And that’s because my one friend who’s a fan is one those ARMYs who loves and supports them because they’re “BTS’s little brothers.” Which is great and all, but not convincing enough for me. Although Jess – a fellow multifan – is really loving them right now, so her influence will probably rub off on me eventually. This stage was a little too wholesome for me, and I’ve never really been into disco. (I told you I was a moody person!) However, I will say that it clearly reflected how talented TXT. Dance is a major part of what draws me to K-pop, and their choreography and execution are definitely very high level. I think that TXT’s songs are always really well-put together and objectively good; it’s just that “Run Away” is the only one I’ve really vibed with so far. But I’ll definitely keep an eye on them in the future. At least I came away from this stage knowing all their names!


Group: IZ*ONE
Agency: Off the Record Entertainment
Latest Single: “Secret Story of the Swan”
Performed: Medley of “La Vie en Rose” (Eunbi, Hyewon, Yuri, Wonyoung) + “Violeta” (Sakura, Yena, Nako, Yujin) + “Fiesta” (Chaeyeon, Chaewon, Minju, Hitomi) / “Secret Story of the Swan” / “Panorama”
Award: Favorite Female Group

I’m honestly so proud of IZ*ONE. The Produce vote manipulation schedules really affected them (even though it wasn’t their fault), but they’ve risen above and had a stellar year. And though they weren’t able to attend MAMA last year, this time they could rule the stage like the princesses that they are. They started out by breaking up into groups and performing a medley of their first three singles – I still confuse “Violeta” and “Fiesta,” but “La Vie en Rose” is a classic. After the iconic “Secret Story of the Swan,” the girls treated us to the first performance of their new single “Panorama.” (MAMA aired a day before IZ*ONE’s comeback.) At the time, I felt like it sounded a little too similar to “Violeta” and “Fiesta” for my taste – though perhaps a little more electro pop? But the choreography is stunning, and it’s been growing on me a lot lately. Get it, girls!

“A Last Piece of New-Topia”

Group: GOT7
Agency: JYP Entertainment
Latest Single: “Last Piece”
Songs Performed: “Not By The Moon” + “Last Piece”
Award: Worldwide Fans’ Choice Top 10

As I mentioned before, my #1 complaint about MAMA is that GOT7 has been performing at this show for YEARS and has never gotten one of the official awards. LOOK AT THEIR STAGES, MNET. LOOK AT ALL THAT TALENT. Their performance of “Not by the Moon” was so beautifully choreographed, especially Mark’s rap part (love me some table choreography). And I also really liked “Last Piece” – it was the first time I had seen the dance for it, and I think it adds a lot of dimension to the song that’s a little mellow for me. I personally thought GOT7 had a fantastic beyond-expectations year in 2019, so I have been somewhat underwhelmed by their 2020 music. But that doesn’t change the fact that they should still be acknowledged for their talent and creativity, MNET. Even if their music isn’t my style, I know it’s the kind of music that they want to make. And I can totally appreciate that.

“Promised Land”

Agency: RBW Entertainment
Latest Single: “AYA”
Songs Performed: “AYA” + “Dingga” (Agrabah Version)
Award: Best Vocal Performance (Group), Worldwide Fans’ Choice Top 10

MAMAMOO’s 2020 music is not really my cup of tea compared to last year’s “gogobebe” and “HIP,” which were my jams. But the power that these four women have is undeniable. They literally appeared onstage riding their own thrones (perhaps a nod to their win on Queendom last year). It’s hard for me to put into words, but I think MAMAMOO has this cool factor that’s really hard to emulate. I’m not saying that other groups aren’t cool – everyone’s definitely cooler than I am – but the members of MAMAMOO radiate confidence and charisma in nearly everything they do. And they also have a more mature and grown up vibe. I still miss those early days when they had a more jazzy musical style, but I can’t deny that they’re still as entertaining as ever. They sure know how to put on a show.

“Door to Youthtopia”

Pledis Entertainment:
Latest Single: “Home Run”
Songs Performed: “Left & Right” + “Home Run”
Awards: Worldwide Fans’ Choice Top 10, Global Favorite Performer, Notable Achievement Artist

SEVENTEEN can always be counted on to deliver amazing special stages. ALWAYS. To be quite honest, my interest in SEVENTEEN’s music varies from year to year… but their end of the year performances never fail to capture my attention. They just know how to captivate and entertain their audiences. Their performance of “Left & Right” was much more chill and laidback than their normal fare, but it was still super engaging. I think it’s because SEVENTEEN is very relatable. They always seem like they’re having fun onstage, and that draws you in and makes you want to be part of it.

In terms of style, “Home Run” was almost the complete opposite. It was an homage to the jazzy 20s that pulled out all the stops. I often describe SEVENTEEN stages like they’re musical numbers, but this actually WAS a musical number. I was living for it. Much like Monsta X and GOT7, SEVENTEEN is a regular MAMA attendee but rarely gets any of the good awards. They have fared *slightly* better and nabbed a couple of Best Dance Performance trophies in the past, and at least their awards didn’t have super ambiguous titles this year. But the fact that all the prizes they receive are dance and performance related shows that even a shady network like MNET can’t deny that SEVENTEEN is the golden standard of performance.

Next Page: NCT performs and I drop all pretenses of not being biased.

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