Okay, I tried something new this time. Rather than watch the entire hours-long festival in one go, I just skipped to the performances on YouTube (which is probably what most sane people do!). This improved the overall experience by removing some of the bloat these year-end shows are well-known for.
I’ve always appreciated the bigger staging SBS gives their Daejun. It adds to the grandeur of the experience and makes the night feel like a celebratory concert — which is what it should be. It’s also nice to hear the ecstatic cheers of the live audience, especially when each artist makes their entrance.
As far as the performances, nothing struck me as instantly iconic. But, there were some nice mixes and staging. For me, the girl groups easily won the night. Given that this was aired on Christmas Eve, there were plenty of seasonal tracks performed. Some were more noteworthy than others, but I appreciated the festive cheer.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t come up with ten stages that felt exciting enough to write about, so we’ve got a top eight instead!
8. NCT Dream – Graduation + Joy
Graduation is my favorite b-side from Dream’s new album and Joy is such a festive burst of joy. Neither song is performed all that often, so it’s nice to hear them in such a big venue with all kinds of holiday graphics filling the screen.
7. Stray Kids – 24 To 25
We don’t often get to see Stray Kids deliver this kind of slower, vocal-focused song on big music shows. I appreciate the change of pace and the choice to showcase a lesser-known deep cut. 24 To 25 is very pretty.
6. ENHYPEN – Dope + ParadoXXX Invasion
When it comes to covers, it’s all about song choice. We haven’t seen Dope covered in a while, making this performance refreshing. Bonus points to the costuming’s callback to the original music video. The extended version of ParadoXXX Invasion was nice, too.
5. CRAVITY – Party Rock
I already enjoy this song a lot, but the added brass in this mix made it stand out more. Add a sleigh bell dance breakdown (has there ever been such a thing?) and this was a lot of fun.
4. Younha, Minnie & Yuqi – Comet
I love team-ups like this, pairing established artists with a younger generation. Younha has enjoyed such a resurgence these past few weeks and this performance felt like a celebration of that. The cheerleading team could have felt a bit incongruous, but I think it worked.
(That thumbnail for Younha, though… Why choose that expression?)
3. IVE – After Like (Ballad Version) + Love Dive
I don’t think the ballad mix of After Like was a great choice. It stripped away most of the aspects that make the song so great. But, I loved the dramatic rework of Love Dive. That’s how you elevate a song for a big year-end stage like this.
2. NewJeans, IVE, LE SSERAFIM & NMIXX – Girl Group Covers
This segment was well-organized and I loved how they mashed up the old classics with elements of production from these new gen groups. This was a very cool idea and elevated the performances compared to the typical covers stages we often get. I think IVE and LE SSERAFIM utilized this approach best.
1. LE SSERAFIM – Fearless
Okay, I’m obsessed with the intro to this performance. Better yet, the group took those classical influences and weaved them throughout the entire track. This is the kind of reinvention I love to see at year-end performances. This had charisma to spare and was the easy standout of the night. LE SSERAFIM thrive on a big stage like this.