End of the year means awards ceremonies, and the Mnet Asian Music Awards on Friday (Dec. 2) aimed to be the ceremony to end all year-end Asia-based ceremonies.
BTS, EXO, Twice, BlackPink, Zico, Taeyeon and GFriend took home some of the most prestigious awards of the night, but 2016 MAMA was about more than just its trophies. As one of the most popular K-pop-focused music awards shows, there was no lack of talent, ranging from K-pop girl groups like TWICE to top producers like Timbaland.
These are some of the sets that stood out the most, both for their artistic creativity and the delivery of these songs.
8. Gallant – “Weight in Gold”
Gallant’s sheer talent (and enthusiasm to perform at an awards ceremony he likely knew little about before appearing onstage) won over the crowd. He may be a relatively new performer, but Gallant could do no wrong during his performance of “Weight in Gold.” The soulful artist kept things simple and sweet, keeping the audience in awe with his high notes and sweet-toned falsetto.
Many popular K-pop boy bands performed at 2016 MAMA, and only a few individuals stood out from among the mass of men. But in a quick rap battle, Jooheon and Taeyong shone in the spotlight and proved their worth as rappers as they delivered some of the hardest-hitting moments of the award ceremony. Their fierce battle came wedged in between their group’s songs (NCT 127’s “Firetruck” and Monsta X’s “Fighter”) but it was the aggressive charisma of the pair that stood out.
NCT 127 was dubbed the best new male artist, while Monsta X received the best of next artist award.
The two idol groups performed early on in the ceremony and brought their youthful spirits to brighten up the atmosphere with a springtime-themed performance. GFriend’s main vocalist Yuju kicked things off with a quick sentimental ballad sampling of the group’s hit “Rough,” then the two teams flirted with one another on stage for a quick second before Seventeen debuted their brand-new song “Boom Boom.” GFriend returned to sing their latest single, “Navillera,” and then things came to a cute close with special renditions of Seventeen’s “Adore U” and “Very Nice,” featuring ad-libs from GFriend. The girl group then finished things off with the original version of “Rough” in all its synth-pop glory.
Seventeen went on to receive the world performer award, while GFriend took home the award for best dance performance from a female group.
5. BTS – “Blood, Sweat & Tears”
The boy band always brings a unique flair for the dramatic to the stage and their 2016 MAMA performance was no less inspired. For starters, BTS kicked things off with a member suspended above the stage, like a eerie specter. The funereal ambiance set the tone momentarily, then jumped into a dance break backed by “Boy Meets Evil.” Just when it seemed like their set ended with a phenomenal rendition — including members appearing as fallen angels with wings torn out– of their single “Blood, Sweat & Tears,” backup dancers in robes introduced BTS’ hip-hop/house hybrid “Fire” and received some of the loudest cheers of the night as the crowd partied it up.
BTS was named 2016 MAMA’s artist of the year and received the award for best dance performance by a male group.
4. Wiz Khalifa – “Young, Wild & Free,” “See You Again”
Rather than being out of place at an Asian music award show, Wiz Khalifa united all the fandoms at 2016 MAMA during his Hiphop Wizdom set. Despite rumors ahead of MAMA that Wiz Khalifa would perform with at least one Korean act, the American artist flew solo. The energy of “Young, Wild & Free” and “See You Again” was infectious and quickly filled the venue with the voices of the audience singing along.
3. EXO – “Transformer” & “Monster”
EXO came on stage at 2016 MAMA and displayed exactly why they’re one of the most popular boy bands in Asia, by offering up a quick taste of what it’s like to be at one of EXO’s concerts. A group that originally promoted itself as being from another planet, EXO’s changed their mythos over time and this time they introduced themselves with a short sci-fi video that implied the boy band may not be quite human. Fittingly, there was no holding back and the supergroup’s set began with a fan-favorite, the pounding dance track “Transformer,” before leading into a dynamic dance break followed by their recent hit, “Monster.”
EXO’s Ex’Act album was named MAMA’s album of the year, and they were also named the best male group. They also won album of the year in 2015 with EXODUS.
2. BewhY, Yiruma, Prepix and Yooh Ah-in – “Day Day”
BewhY became an overnight sensation in Korea this year after appearing on a reality television series and his collaborative stage at 2016 MAMA showed exactly what it is about the rapper that makes him so appealing. Pairing this sudden star with the renowned pianist Yiruma seemed odd at first glance, but worked out perfectly as BewhY’s lackadaisical attitude and Yiruma’s subtle keys tied the whole set together. The stage toned 2016 MAMA down a bit, foregoing the bright lights and stage effects of other acts in order to focus more on enjoying the atmosphere of the upbeat performance.
BewhY and Cjamm’s “Puzzle” took home the prize for the best rap performance.
1. Taemin – “Guess Who,” “Soldier” & “Goodbye”
While once known for being SHINee’s youngest member, Taemin’s grown into his own as both a boy band member and soloist. His trilogy of songs at 2016 MAMA put many of the night’s other performers to shame. Kicking off with the dark funk song “Guess Who,” Taemin took things to a more soulful route with “Soldier,” which elicited huge cheers from the crowds. When he switched gears, and stripped down, into an intense EDM-driven interpretive dance to accompany his performance of “Goodbye,” Taemin proved why he’s one of the most popular young entertainers in Korea.
Taemin received the award for the best dance performance by a solo artist. This is Taemin’s first solo MAMA award outside of his group activities. SHINee has won the title for the best dance by a male group three times since 2012.