Which is why this year, aside from picking my over-all favorites, I'm handing out two kinds of "consolation prizes" so to say, to the performances that had their moments, but were outshone by better ones. First, with so many special arrangements done over the course of three shows, there were bound to be those which really brought something new to the table. And second, I'll be listing the five performances that I saw so much potential in, but which didn't really completely pull through.
The Best Arrangements
KARA - "Pandora" (SBS)
I really liked "Pandora" to start with, so I really liked how they kept this re-arrangement simple, adding some more oomph to the song, but retaining the elements that are both familiar and likable. It's probably the most simple rearrangement on the list, but the thing with this is that you know the simplicity wasn't because of laziness or lack of time. It makes sense, and it gives the song something as opposed to just adding to the chaos. I also really like the dance break -- there's substance to it, but it's also very graceful. If they had delivered this better, it would've been a stand-out performance of the night, really.
Super Junior - "Sexy, Free and Single" (SBS)
After their KBS performance, honestly I was put-off Super Junior's Gayo appearances this year. Every year we get some sort of retrospective of everything they put out since "Sorry Sorry". I know "Sorry Sorry" was a really good song, because it was and it opened so many doors, and I'd take it over "Sexy, Free and Single" any day, but it's not 2009 anymore, plus they've incorporated it in later performances already -- can we move on? This is a 2012 Gayo Daejun, not a 2009 or 2010 or 2011 one. Which is why I liked their SBS arrangement much more. It was pretty sloppily sung, but I liked the arrangement because it gave the song a different kind of dimension, and it's fitting for a group of Super Junior's seniority/stature. You can tell they prepared for this, and you can tell that people made an effort to make this arrangement work. It also made the hook a lot less annoying that it is, for which I'm forever grateful.
Ga-In - "Bloom" (MBC)
This was a nice change from the original performance, which is really perky in a kind of innocent way (but still really good), but I wouldn't really say it's unexpected. The arrangement matches Ga-In and her personality as a performer really well because it gives the song this more mature kind of sexy that you didn't see in the original arrangement. What I really liked about this though was the fact that even if the nature of the elements they chose mass it easy for the song to just stay in one place and not go anywhere else, this performance still has dynamics to it -- verses are ever so slightly urgent, and the chorus has a very graceful, but confident explosion. This is the kind of lie-low arrangement that wouldn't have worked if one, the arranger was lazy, and two, Ga-In couldn't sing. And thankfully, neither happened.
Potentially Good Performances
Teen Top - "Be My Girl" + "Going Crazy" (KBS)
This could have been a good performance, because the song choice was really good -- perky enough to liven up the atmosphere -- and I kind of liked the remix of "Going Crazy", but the delivery fell short. I was reading through my notes from when I first watched this performance, and after watching it a few more times, I still think the same:
The vocals were going back and forth between sloppy and painful, the only reason why the belting was successful was because it was more of screaming than singing. And underneath all the jumping and movement, their presence was pretty mediocre and more manic than energetic.I'm all for graceful performances, and being too stiff on stage is bad too, but when you perform you need to put some guts into it as well, no matter how fluid the movements. I get the feeling that they were going for that effortless fun vibe, but all I got from the choreographed parts were limbs flailing around with little purpose, and sub-par vocals. Which is really a pity.
SM The Performance - "Spectrum" (SBS)
To tell you the truth, I was actually pretty bored throughout the SBS Gayo, more than I was during the KBS. There was so much going on, but hardly anyone actually delivered, so I ended up just "leafing through" majority of the show at first. But then SM The Performance showed up and they literally made me peel my eyes away from my computer and on to the TV. Which is surprising considering the fact that this is supposed to be more of a dance group and I'm more of a music person. However, two things made me notice this performance (aside from Yunho, of course) -- the song, and the delivery.
"Spectrum" is an amazing, glorious song to start with -- you have all these beautiful elements that really make the song soar, and then you have this melody that lies low during the verses but does the soaring at the chorus. Beautiful. It's the kind of song that you really can't not dance to. Believe me, the only reason why I can stay still is because I'm too busy concentrating on the performance. And then, you have these SM dancers, most of which you hardly notice in their respective groups because they're too busy trying to make up for the weaknesses of their bandmates. Of course some of the people in this project group are significantly weaker than others, but the ratio of useful to less useful/useless is much, much better. These are people who know how to carry themselves on stage, and people who know how to carry even more people than they do here, so naturally they'd do a good job performing. As far as the vocal distribution goes, SM hit the nail on the head for the third time -- people like Taemin and Yunho, people with actual voices, got the solos, and everyone else was multi-tracked. If this had been sung live, and done just as well as it was, this would be on my list of best Gayo performances, but since it wasn't it'll have to settle for potentially one of the best.
Mystic White - "Mermaid Princess" (SBS)
Like I said yesterday, the only project group song I liked was the Mystic White one, because it was fresher than the others, and the production was really good. It had substance as a recording, but it fell short as a performance. It was okay, but the vocals were weak, and the chorus, which I really liked, was delivered sloppily. The entire performance was boring and frail, which is the complete opposite of the characteristics that made me like the song in the first place. The substance was gone, and it's like the entire performance was watered down. In a bad way. Which is really a pity because it was a really good song.
KARA - "Pandora" (MBC)
When I first saw this performance I was still high off the amazing SISTAR one, and even then I thought this had a fighting chance against that gorgeous rock version of "Alone". The remix was confident and I really liked it, and the staging was great (despite the dancing guy) with the crowd of backup dancers that they really made use of. It was a fun way to present a song as good as "Pandora", so obviously I was on board. But then they started singing and they weren't singing live. I guess my ears are partially thankful that I didn't have to hear their sub-par vocals, but honestly, I hate that they didn't even get the chance to try and do it well. What if they had done it well? Even if I doubt it'll happen, KARA is bound to hit it right some time. There were so many good elements, and they were all disregarded by the fact that this ended up only half a performance.
*Note: So apparently, KARA were not lip-synching, but to me that just means that this was even worse than I initially thought it was. Usually, when vocals are too perfect to be humanly possible, at least without studio tricks, or when less obvious auto tune becomes obvious, or when the shape of their mouths don't correspond to the note they're hitting, the performance is lip-synched. Which kind of makes this "live singing" even worse because the only reason I found out that they were singing live was one, someone commented below, and two, I heard them breathing. Yeah sure the backing track makes everything nice and even, but both KARA and the sound guys are at fault -- the sound guys for turning the backing track too high, and KARA for not making an effort to sing over it when it's pretty clear that the backing track is ridiculously loud.
DBSK - "Catch Me" (MBC)
I was really disappointed that DBSK didn't get anything new for this year's Gayo Daejuns, because this is the first year they spent closing all three shows and yet all they had with them was some random intro and the same backing track they've been using since September. Their performances this year were a total waste, not only of their talent, but of "Catch Me" and everything that could've happened. Here you have two performers who literally jump through hoops and fire for a living, and do it well, with a song that's elaborate enough to spruce up even more, and nothing was done. I mean they sang and performed really well, with presence and conviction, but they did that on smaller music shows too -- Gayo Daejuns are supposed to be special. I chose their MBC appearance because it started out really, really good, and when I heard the opening bars of "O - Jung. Ban. Hap." play, my jaw dropped in surprise and awe. That's the kind of reaction I wanted to have for the entirety of the all three performances, but then "Catch Me" came on and things were normal again. This could've been so much better because if anyone can carry a challenging arrangement, it's these two.
And I'm two days late, but that's it for 2012! Again, thank you so much for sticking around despite the rocky start last December. Time to concentrate on 2013!