Ah, yes (or “Ah Yeah,” depending on who you bias). November. It’s that time of year, when the Christmas trees come out of storage, holiday discounts finally come around, and, most importantly, award show season in the world of Kpop. Whether you’re an EXO-L, VIP, S<3NE, or a member of another of Kpop’s many fandoms, it’s a pretty big deal. The Mnet Asian Music Awards (or MAMA), despite being the center of controversy, debate, and sometimes dissatisfaction among fans, is one of Kpop’s most anticipated events of the year. To add to the excitement and speculation, let’s take a look at the nominees, and try to figure out who will win what.
Before we start, however, let’s clear up one important fact: these are predictions, not the awards themselves. Nor do they accurately depict who actually deserves the award. Instead, we are evaluating each nominee on the basis of chart performance, sales, public popularity, etc., in addition to past MAMA ceremonies in terms of who won and who didn’t. With that disclaimer of sorts in place, let’s begin! Since MAMA is a very long ceremony which awards artists in a whole slew of different categories, we will break these predictions up into multiple articles, the first of which starts here with the Artist Category.
Best New Male Artist - iKON
Despite drastically imbalanced line distribution, idol-dissing on their debut EP (hypocrisy, much?), and rumored bullying directed towards newest member Chanwoo, iKON is undoubtedly the safest prediction to make for the winner of this award, (and you probably knew that already). iKON has already managed to match or outdo very popular groups like B2ST in physical and digital sales. Not many boy groups have been able to score songs in Gaon’s Top 5 this year, but iKON already has a #1 with their debut single “My Type.” To provide some comparison, the last boy group to debut at the top of the charts was WINNER, YG’s other relatively new boy group with an alternative-influenced musical color. iKON is set to get another Top 10 with their new single “Apology,” which all-killed right after release on the 16th. The only other nominee that even stands a chance is hundred-thousand-selling Seventeen, who are probably Pledis Entertainment’s only money-making artist at the moment. But overall, iKON’s win is definitely something we can expect.
Best New Female Artist - TWICE
This new nine-member girl group is stunningly different than anything JYP has put out before: a strong mix of powerful vocals, dance talent, and startlingly beautiful visuals. The members are easy to tell apart and their charms are clearly noticeable, yet they meld together perfectly — and the public is taking notice. TWICE is one of the only female rookies this year to score a top 20 song and an album selling more than, you know, 10 or 15 copies (seriously, female groups deserve more physical sales than they get).
But despite all of TWICE’s qualities and selling points, time is definitely working against them. While TWICE debuted last month, GFriend has been in the game since January, and is the only rookie on the female nominee list to have a top 10 single (“Me Gustas Tu” peaked at #8 while TWICE’s “Like OOH AHH” hit #16). Despite Woollim’s new GG Lovelyz matching TWICE in physical sales, GFriend is the only other major contender — they are the only group with comparable or arguably greater public popularity. Considering the fierce competition, (cue stupid reference to the insanely catchy “Like OOH AHH”) we’ll definitely be thinking about this prediction twice.
Best Male Artist - Zion.T
Not gonna lie, JYP is a tempting pick for this award. “Who’s Your Mama” was not only successful, but wildly popular — it ended up fighting against his own label’s Miss A for the top of the charts earlier this year, and if Miss A is known for anything (other than their awesome R&B sexy concepts), it’s for holding their own on the charts when the public takes a liking to their songs (remember “Bad Girl, Good Girl”? One of the top-selling songs in South Korean history? Yeah, we do, too). But if we look at the history of this award show, the explosively popular one-hit wonder is not the winner, at least in this category — in 2012, it was G-Dragon who, with “Crooked,” beat out PSY’s “Gangnam Style” for the award. And while JYP undeniably had a stellar year, so did Zion.T. He has a total of three Top 3 singles this year, two of which are chart-toppers. He was even featured on Jonghyun’s pre-release “Deja Boo,” which was (unsurprisingly) another #1. Despite being around since 2011, Zion.T finally shot to stardom this year. American entertainment magazine Complex called him the “reigning king” of contemporary R&B in Korea. Such is a fitting title for the year’s Best Male Artist.
|Image Credit: Soshified|
Best Female Artist - Taeyeon
At first glance, this category seems filled almost overwhelmingly with Kpop royalty. For starters, you have BoA, the eternal Queen of Kpop, sitting on the nominee list. Her “Kiss My Lips” comeback was acclaimed by critics and fans alike, but failed to really capture the public’s attention. HyunA and Ailee both had decent releases, but they, along with BoA, were unable to make a splash with their comebacks, most likely because they both stayed within the boundaries of their typical concepts. IU, on the other hand, did the opposite — she definitely got the public’s attention, but for all the wrong reasons (her songs may be good, but her slew of scandals clearly aren’t).
Instead, we have one candidate who clearly outshines all the rest: Kim Taeyeon, the leader and main vocalist of Girls’ Generation who finally got a solo album (Thank you thank you thank you, SM). Her song, “I,” an emotional pop-rock ballad, was an instant hit — the track as well as the album became the top-selling of October. Taeyeon succeeded where the others couldn’t. She stayed out of scandals and stayed in the spotlight. Despite the immense popularity of each nominee, you end up saying “duh, who else?” once you realize how much of a smash success Taeyeon really is.
Best Male Group - BIGBANG
While many would like this award to go to the rising BTS or the virtually scandal-less SHINee, BIGBANG receiving this award is more obvious than iKON for Best New Male Artist. I mean, who else could get four #1 songs and four more #2’s? Who else could sell more than 350,000 albums in just physical singles? Who else could get their albums into the top 3 of the iTunes real-time album chart...in the USA? It has to be BIGBANG. While EXO definitely poses a threat (their physical sales almost quadruple those of BB), it’s pretty obvious that BIGBANG is the only group here with the power to get the entire public excited about their releases, making them by far the strongest contenders for this award.
Best Female Group - Girls’ Generation
Another “duh.” But this award isn’t theirs because they’re Girls’ Generation (although that is a pretty good reason to give it to them). A lot of groups get comfortable in their success, only promoting once a year and disappearing into the Kpop void for the rest of it. Some examples are, well, pretty much everyone else on this nominee list. Despite successful comebacks from everyone here, Girls’ Generation has definitely been the headlining female act of 2015. From Catch Me If You Can to Party to Lion Heart, GG remained undoubtedly relevant and successful from April to September. The other girl groups here are definitely worthy of applause, but they still pale in comparison to the Nation’s Girl Group.
So do you agree, or do you think these predictions are absolutely bogus? Let us know what you think! Part 2: The Genre Category, is coming soon!
Kushal Dev is an Indian-American writer based in New Jersey. He discovered K-Pop through friends and YouTube, and has been an avid follower of Korean entertainment for 4 years. He biases 2NE1, Girls' Generation, f(x), MAMAMOO and EXID.