MAMA 2020 Recap: Predictable Awards, but Epic Performances

“Paradise, Lost”

Group: TWICE
Agency: JYP Entertainment
Latest Single: “I Can’t Stop Me”
Songs Performed: “More & More” + “I Can’t Stop Me” + “Cry For Me”
Awards: Worldwide Fans’ Choice Top 10, The Most Popular Artist

TWICE started their stage by doubling down on the earthy ethereal vibe of “More & More.” We got some pretty lyrical dancing from Sana, Mina, and Tzuyu. (I’m pretty sure it was those three, but it was filmed from overhead so I’m not 100% sure.) There was also an interesting part with Momo and some fan dancers, but I think the camera messed up and skipped some stuff with Dahyun and Chaeyoung because we only saw both of them for like five seconds. So that was kind of a pity. Anyway, like most of my other favorite groups, I have seen and heard both “More & More” and “I Can’t Stop Me” countless times. I don’t have much to add except that I was bopping along as always. I did note that both songs were significantly cut down and was confused about that, because a senior group like TWICE should have a significant runtime. Of course, we soon discovered that was because they were planning on surprising us with a WHOLE NEW SONG.


My dumb brain could not process that this was a brand new song, and I spent the first minute trying to figure out how I knew all of TWICE’s Korean discography but couldn’t recognize this gem. After Jess helpfully checked Twitter and confirmed it was an unreleased track, I was freed up to become absolutely spellbound by everything: the addictive melody, the stunning outfits, and the captivating choreography. From what I understand, “Cry for Me” might not have ever been released – which truly shocks me because it’s a pretty perfect song as far as pop goes. It appeals to all kinds of fans and listeners, and it would have been a perfect fit on the Eyes Wide Open album. And while I love both “More & More” and “I Can’t Stop Me,” “Cry for Me” seems to be the perfect solution to mature TWICE’s image going forward. I truly do not understand why JYP did not give this song the full comeback treatment. Thankfully, they DID release the audio track so I can go listen to it forever.

“BoA 20th Anniversary Special”

Special Stages:
*Winter (aespa): “ID; Peace B”
*(G)I-DLE: “Listen to My Heart”
*YooA (Oh My Girl): “Tree”
*IZ*ONE (Eunbi, Chaeyeon, Chaewon, Yena): “Atlantis Princess”

I think it’s hard for some international (read: Western) K-pop fans, especially newer ones, to understand how much of an impact BoA has had on K-pop as a whole. I’m going on five years as a K-pop fan, and I have a hard time gauging the full impact of her career in the 2000s versus the visibility she has now. However, I’ve noticed that she’s one artist that many Koreans know and love. She has a TON of beloved classics that the idols of today grew up listening to, and she probably inspired a bunch of our favorites to become singers. This tribute is crystal clear evidence of how much respect the K-pop industry has for her. While it’s always fun to see full girl groups doing BoA covers (“Atlantis Princess” is one of my favorites), my personal highlight was YooA’s beautiful rendition of “Tree.” I am generally not a ballad person at all – especially when I don’t understand enough Korean to really grasp the lyrics – but she looked so stunning and sang so emotionally that it caught my full attention.

Also, I really enjoyed that they brought in Winter from aespa to be part of this tribute. Since she’s a member of SM Entertainment’s newest girl group, it has that whole “coming full circle” vibe and shows how much of an influence BoA has had on her agency. And Winter did a great job! But I do find it wild that she was born in 2001, which means she wasn’t even alive when BoA debuted. It’s just so crazy to think that the length of BoA’s career equals the age of a whole young adult person.

“You’re Still My No. 1”

Artist: BoA
Agency: SM Entertainment
Latest Single: “Better”
Songs Performed: “No. 1” + “Only One” (feat. Taemin) + “Better”
Award: Inspired Achievement Award

My knowledge of 2000s K-pop music is pretty shaky, so I will confess I don’t really know most of BoA’s music outside of the really famous songs. But I DO know “No. 1” and “Only One,” and they are classics. I especially love “Only One” because BoA generally dances with one of SM’s male idols for part of the song. This time it was Taemin – one of her former dance partners – and I was living for the chemistry. She also performed her new single “Better,” and I really liked its sexy and groovy vibes. I don’t watch BoA often, but she really is a level above everyone else. There’s a comfort and ease to her singing and dancing that only years – perhaps decades – of experience can bring. I just could not get over how she sang so calmly and stably during all that floorwork. Definitely a song and a performance worthy of a queen.

“ON & ON”

BTS FINALLY took the stage to close out the show after hours of prizes and performances. I mean, we saw them a bunch of times before when they were accepting their awards, but I admit that I didn’t really pay attention during any of the speeches (for most groups, not just BTS). My 6th grade students – who are not multifans by any means – watched THE ENTIRE AWARDS SHOW just to see BTS’s performance. Even I was almost ready to turn off the TV at the six hour mark, so I admire their dedication. Thankfully, BTS put on a great performance that was worth all the waiting.

Group: BTS
Agency: Big Hit Entertainment
Latest Single: “Life Goes On”
Songs Performed: “ON” + “Dynamite”
Awards: Worldwide Fans’ Choice Top 10, Best Male Group, Best Dance Performance (Male Group), Best Music Video, Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Worldwide Icon of the Year

Unlike all of the other performances, BTS pre-recorded “ON” in the Seoul World Cup Stadium. And it was nothing short of amazing. I’d say the choreography for that song is pretty epic under normal circumstances, but staging it in an actual stadium puts in on an even bigger scale. The masked drummers were already part of the routine, but they added in a full marching band and what looked like a squad of cheerleaders and acrobats – so the whole thing looked larger than life. As an American, I couldn’t help but be reminded of football games. To me, this was on the same level as a Super Bowl halftime show. It was truly a performance fit for one of the world’s biggest musical stars.

I’m sorry, but I’m not going to write anything about “Dynamite” because I’m SO TIRED OF THIS SONG. It’s good, but I have easily heard it a million times here in Korea and I’m over it. I hate to be that person, but it’s the truth. It’s a fun performance, but I have nothing else to say about it. Except that I really liked V’s red suit.

The stage for “Life Goes On” hit me in the feels. It was like watching a painting come to life. For the first half, everything was colorless and white and everyone was motionless – depicting how the world came to a halt because of COVID-19. But everyone unfreezes in the second half and the stage fills with color, saying that life indeed goes on. It was a simple yet beautiful statement.

I also want to take a moment to point out how nice it was that BTS made every effort to include Suga although he wasn’t present (he’s recovering from shoulder surgery). There were multiple times when there was an open spot left for him, like in the intro when they were all in a line or at the end of “ON” when they were all hugging each other and left a gap between two members. And in “Life Goes On,” they had a VR version of him appear to sing his verse. A K-pop group’s bond is one its major selling points. I tend to believe that all groups have a bond unless shown otherwise, but the bond BTS has is clearly strong and genuine. It’s really touching to see.

And there you have it! Though there were definitely some hiccups in the execution of everything (thanks COVID-19), MAMA still managed to put on a spectacular show that rivaled previous years in terms of performances. There are definitely a few stages that I’ve been watching on repeat. Though I’m still concerned about idols’ health and safety, MAMA has sufficiently convinced me that having awards shows is possible in these times. I am tentatively looking forward to the rest of awards season.

NOTE: All performance videos belong to MNET and are posted on MNET’s YouTube channel.

You can see the Soompi article I referenced on the first page here.

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