Across three days of a convention at the Los Angeles Convention Center and two days of concerts in the Crypto.com Arena, KCON 2022 Los Angeles reported more than 90,000 fans in attendance in its first in-person event since 2019.
Plus, with a new, post-COVID emphasis on live streaming, the festival garnered a total viewership of 7.17 million viewers in more than 176 regions.
KCON’s live comeback is a slight dip from its last in-person event (103,000 fans were reported attending in L.A. in 2019), but what 2022 can claim is some of its most notable workshops and performances to date — a major hurdle to jump over as KCON celebrates 10 years in the SoCal area.
Through KCON’s three convention days, former K-pop group members like Amber Liu, Kevin Woo and Alex Reid opened up about their industry journeys and careers today. Liu’s hour-long chat on Friday, Aug. 19, was particularly eye-opening as she talked about her battles with her mental and physical health throughout her career, moving some attendees to tears in a rare and raw moment for the realities of superstardom. An emotional talk like this was a perfect setting in a safe space like KCON where supporters and K-pop fans surround speakers.
The marquee concert kicked off on Saturday, with the audience quickly noticing it needed to stay on its toes as the show interspersed special performances and moments between artist sets.
ATEEZ kicked off the concert by performing a new, unreleased song, “POPPIA,” announced as the first “Signature Song” of KCON. It wasn’t the only new song getting a live premiere either as Stray Kids members Bang Chan, Changbin and Han also performed an unreleased track together as their trio known as 3RACHA.
The only performance of the night that wasn’t heavily choreographed, but was undoubtedly heartfelt, was when pop diva Bebe Rexha surprised the audience. The unannounced special guest joined ITZY members Yeji and Ryujin to perform the new remix of Rexha’s track “Break My Heart Myself,” which now features the K-pop stars.
Ryujin closed the performance, shouting, “Love you, Bebe!” before Rexha even louder, yelling, “I love you, ITZY!” All three walked offstage, hugging and smiling.
In a capturing of the times and to honor the first decade of KCON, artists noticeably focused solely on covering and celebrating their fellow K-pop acts — as opposed to past KCONs where many artists delivered (occasionally awkward) renditions of English pop songs.
Girl group Kep1er covered new K-pop classic “La Vie en Rose” by IZ*ONE, rising boy-band superstars ENHYPEN took on BTS‘ Hot 100 No. 1 “Permission to Dance” while female octet LIGHTSUM performed (G)I-DLE‘s 2022 hit single “Tomboy.”
Meanwhile, Japanese boy band INI (created on a local version of Produce 101, a singing competition show that began in Korea) also stepped up to the occasion with a new Korean version of their J-pop hit “Password.”
KCON’s second night of concerts delivered even more surprises. LOONA performed their Pop Songs radio hit “Star,” WJSN delivered “Aura,” the song that won them the Korean girl-group competition show Queendom 2 earlier this year, all before The Boyz whipped out “Whisper,” their latest single that only dropped earlier that week.
Later, the new girl group NMIXX covered SEVENTEEN‘s signature song “Very Nice,” and boy band TO1 took on Hot 100 hit “That That” by PSY and BTS’ Suga. The show’s last cover was its biggest yet as LOONA members Heejin and Hyunjin teamed up with NMIXX’s Sullyoon and Kyujin for their combined take on MAMAMOO‘s 2016 K-pop hit “Décalcomanie.”
For as much emphasis as the 10th anniversary had on honoring their fellow K-pop stars, the standout moment of KCON had to be the “Dream Stage” portion of the night that not only combined the concert and convention but local fans and K-pop superstars.
Towards the end of the performance of “WA DA DA” by Kep1er on the first night and LOONA’s “PTT (Paint the Town)” on the second, a troupe of fans joined the groups onstage to join the girl groups. Earlier that day, fans attending the KCON convention learned and auditioned for each song’s respective choreography in hopes of joining the artists on stage.
While audiences love K-pop groups for their synchronicity and balance, the diversity of gender, bodies and skin colors that joined the groups on stage made for a moment that spoke to an increasingly global and diverse future for music. And perhaps that’s exactly what KCON has been working toward all these years.