MAMA 2021, Was It A Hit? A Miss? Here’s My Full Recap of Kpop’s Biggest Award Show

Alright everyone, brace yourselves. Grab your favorite drink (mine is caffeine) and some snacks. This is gonna be one long post…cause I got a lot to say.

On December 11, the Mnet Asian Music Awards was held. This is one of the biggest Kpop award show of the year. MAMA is known for having incredible performances. However, this year was different. Just like last year there were heavy restrictions for the health and safety of everyone involved. But this year was a weird mix of grand performances and well….not so grand performances. I’m not sure who determines these things. Is it the group’s company?

I noticed there was a huge lack of 3rd gen (and even 2nd gen) groups performing. I understand many groups are getting ready to tour, or the members are in the military, or perhaps some groups chose not to attend (or they weren’t invited).

However, MAMA 2021 solidified the dominance of 4th gen groups. Throughout 2021, they have been breaking records and really owning the scene. Also keep in mind I LOVE 4th gen groups. So even though there weren’t many 2nd or 3rd gen groups I was still pretty happy.

P.S. If you want to see my reaction to these performances you can watch it HERE.

There was no better way to show the strength of the new generation than the opening performance.

Opening Performance – “BlooM The Sound”

Hyunjin from Stray Kids, Yeonjun from TXT, Yeji from ITZY, Heesung from Enhypen, Wooyoung from ATEEZ, and Karina from aespa had a special stage. Every single member owned the performance. I love the concept of the various elements each member represented.

However, I thought we would see them perform together on stage, but sadly that didn’t happen. I’m not sure if it was because of their schedules or COVID restrictions. But it would’ve been great to see all six of them together on stage. But still the opening was powerful.

Best New Female Artist – aespa

The first award presented was for Best New Female Artist and no surprise it went to aespa! Their charisma on stage and in their videos are amazing. No matter what SM gives them, they own their unique concept and stage performance every time.

Best New Male Artist – ENHYPEN

Next award was Best New Male Artist and again, no surprise, it went to ENHYPEN! From day one this group has been solid. As someone who followed their journey from I-LAND I’m beyond proud of them!

Brave Girls Performance – “Wind of Wish”

The next performance came from the underdogs of the year , Brave Girls!

Their performance was one of the most unique (in my opinion) of the night. They started with a ballad version of their hit song “Rollin’”. Then the stage transformed into a tropical Christmas paradise and they performed their summer anthem “Chi Mat Ba Ram”.

Then their last song was “Rollin’” regular version. Their performance was so fun. I was dancing along to it and fully enjoying it. Their whole performance gave me summer vibes with Christmas cheer!

KTO (Korean Tourism Organization) Breakout Artist – Brave Girls

Following their performance Brave Girls won KTO Breakout Artist! This year was a miracle year for Brave Girls and I’m beyond proud of them. From almost disbanding in January to performing and winning at MAMA in December – it is one of the best comeback stories for Kpop this year.

Best Band Performance – Jannabi

Jannabi won best band performance. I honestly thought DAY6 would take home that award. Also if you know me, you know I was rooting for CNBLUE. Regardless if they won or not, being nominated is a huge accomplishment in itself.

I’m still proud of Jannabi, they have their own style as a band and I listen to their music from time to time. Their music is soothing and beautiful. So I’m still happy they won.

INI and JO1 Performance – “One Dream”

The next performance was from Japanese group INI followed by JO1. I’m not familiar with Japanese groups, even though they are from the Japanese version of Produce 101. But the performance from INI was awesome. I really enjoyed their song “Rocketeer”. They performed on a boat and I thought that was unique.

I’ve heard good things about JO1 and I’m happy they are going strong. Their performance was great as well. I enjoyed the beginning of their performance, the formation was wonderful and their synchronization was great.

Favorite Asian Artist – INI / Best Asian Artist Japan – JO1

ITZY Performance – “Mission : Be a Good Kitty”

ITZY was the next performance and it definitely got people talking. The whole storyline of their performance was amazing. Anyone could watch their performance without knowing about ITZY or having watched their previous MVs to understand what the performance was about. It’s storytelling at it’s finest and I loved it. Also their performance featured the actor from Squid Games, Heo Sung Tae. I thought that was super cool.

They had effects, props, dancers, it was a full stage and definitely award show worthy. ITZY brought their A game and delivered an unforgettable performance.

Best Hip Hop & Urban Music – ASH ISLAND

Best Dance Performance Female Group – aespa

This award could’ve gone to any of the groups nominated. They were all fantastic this year. But aespa took home the award for Best Dance Performance Female Group. Their choreographies have been so solid since their debut. Congratulations aespa and their choreographer(s)!

JANNABI Performance – “Sailing into the autumn”

Next performance was from JANNABI! It was soft and beautiful. The choir added an extra touch of magic to the whole performance. It sounded heavenly.

Album of the Year – BTS BE

BTS BE won Best Album of the Year. I know this album has brought a lot of comfort to people around the world. The members poured so much of themselves in their music and I’m so proud and happy their hard work is being recognized worldwide.

*sorry for the not so great screenshot – I tried to capture it as best as I could.

Gwang-il Jo and Gaeko Performance – “LIMITLESS CHALLENGES”

The next performance was a shout out to hip hop. Gwang -Il and Gaeko performed “Waterbomb” and “GARION (MAMA ver.)”.


The next performance felt like a celebration to SMTM. I’ll admit I really wanted to watch this previous season of SMTM because Gray and Mino were mentors. But I never got around to it. But this show has introduced so many incredible artists. So this performance had Dynamicduo, Paloalto, GIRIBOY, JUSTHIS, lIlBOI, Lee Young Ji, and Gwang-il Jo.

NCT U Performance – “Welcome to Universe”

NCT U performed “Universe (Let’s Play Ball)”. Their performance was simple and straightforward. It was nine members on stage. There weren’t any elaborate props, effects, or dancers. Just the lights, projections, and NCT. Regardless if they have a full on performance or just the members – you can always count on NCT (all the units) to give quality performances. All the members were on point and “Universe (Let’s Play Ball)” is super fun.

I’ll admit I wish they would’ve created a storyline to join NCT U, NCT Dream, and NCT 127 performances. So it would be one giant NCT performance. But I know poor Haechan and Mark would be exhausted (even though these performances were pre-recorded).

Unrelated but I have to mention Jeno and Xiaojun tho 😍 they looked so good.

BEST OST – Cho Jung Seok “I Like You” (Hospital Playlist 2)

OSTs bring life to any show or movie. I’ve heard lots of good things about Hospital Playlist not only the drama but the music. So congratulations Cho Jung Seok!

ATEEZ Performance – “The real journey begins”

ATEEZ were the next performers. Hoongjong started the performance. He had a beautiful choreography. The screens underneath him made it look like he was dancing on water. Plus the floating lantern was super cool. It was a beautiful start to the performance. Then it flowed into their song “Turbulence” . The song is raw and emotional, the members showcased their strong vocals. Then they brought the party with their following song “The Real (Heung ver.)”!

I love how they incorporated the Korean culture in their performance. It was so fun to watch. I wished I was in the crowd, in person to enjoy it. They had so much energy and I couldn’t stop smiling while watching it.

Now I have address something……ATEEZ didn’t take home a single award. Why? Also their performance wasn’t shown as it should’ve. MAMA….don’t disrespect these artist….you need them more than they need you. So get your act together bestie 👏.

Worldwide Fan Choice Top 10

Throughout the night they started announcing the winners of Worldwide Fan Choice. Fans were able to vote in this category. I’ll admit I predicted these groups would win this award. However I am surprised ATEEZ wasn’t on the list or ITZY. Actually now that I look over the list I’m shocked some groups didn’t win this category.

BUT I’m still extremely proud of all the groups that did win. They each have solid fanbases and each group and fandom should celebrate this accomplishment.

  • Stray Kids
  • NCT Dream
  • NCT 127
  • Enhypen
  • TXT
  • BTS
  • Lisa
  • Seventeen
  • Treasure
  • Twice

Also shoutout to Treasure. They weren’t involved in MAMA, not sure why YG groups barely participate in MAMA. But I was happy to see their name on screen.


The next performance is from TXT they performed “Frost” and “LO$ER=LO♡ER”. Their incredible dance break wasn’t shown as it should’ve been. People have posted more details on what happened at MAMAs, I’m sure you can do a quick search on Twitter and you’ll see it.

But LUCKILY they uploaded a dance practice video and you can enjoy how the performance was supposed to be. Check it out HERE.

However, when I first watched their performance I didn’t see anything wrong with it. I thought the dance break was incredible! I know this is selfish of me but I REALLY wanted TXT to perform “I Know I Love You”, mostly because I’ve been listening to that song nonstop and I love the choreography to it too.

But still, just like ATEEZ, TXT also deserves respect. These groups and their teams work so hard to put on a great performance.

Stray Kids Performance – “Stray Kids WORLD DOMINATION”

The next performance was probably the best of the night. Stray Kids performed “Cheese”. I loved how it started with Felix and the dancers wearing masks. Also 3RACHA’s performance “Hey, Monster!” Then they performed “Thunderous (Hero ver.)”.

From start to finish Stray Kids also had a solid storyline. They had props, effects, dancers, they basically had everything you want in a major performance AND MORE. While watching their performance I kept thinking….this isn’t MAMAs, this is a Stray Kids concert – it’s Stray Kids show now.

Also to make it even more epic Hyunjin danced with a flaming sword! That was wild. Overall their performance is exactly what award shows need – something grand and epic.

NCT Dream Performance – “DIPPING IN DREAM”

NCT Dream started their performance with the sweet song of “Hello Future”. The performance was just the members, no other dancer on stage. However for “Hot Sauce (MAMA ver.)” it started as if they were stuck in a hot sauce bottle. Then it opens up and they walk out of it along with dancers. “Hot Sauce” was epic and so fun.

This was my favorite performance from all the NCT units (“Sticker” dance break is a close second).

Worldwide Icon of the Year – BTS

Of course this award had to go to the group that is full iconic guys…BTS.

Wanna One Performance – “1=1¹¹ (I MISS YOU)”

I’m almost certain, Wanna One’s performance was the most anticipated one of the night! Their performance started with “Spring Breeze (MAMA ver.)”. Then they performed “Energetic” and my favorite “Burn It Up”. Then they closed with “Beautiful (PART III)”. Their performance was so good. They also had everything: nostalgia, energy, and beauty.

After watching MAMAs “Beautiful” was stuck in my head all day. 🥺 It was definitely one of the most beautiful performances of the night – they were dressed in white, they were on a moving platform, there was confetti, their vocals…..I melt.

aespa Performance – “Oh my gosh! We are on another level”

I was looking forward to aespa’s performance. Just like the previous NCT units, they didn’t have any elaborate props, effects, or dancers. Except instead of nine members – aespa is only four. I would’ve wanted to see dancers, props, and effects to fill their stage. aespa are incredible performers and I wish SM would’ve gone all out especially in MAMAs. Also since their performance is titled “Oh my gosh! We are on another level“….I was literally expecting it to be on another level. SM why?

But I’m sure they have their reasons why they kept their performance straightforward and simple. I have a feeling they want to protect their artists from having any unnecessary contact with other people. Which if that’s the case, I fully respect that. Health comes first.

I just hope in future award shows aespa will be able to have a grand performance. They deserve it. The four members own the stage and I hope SM will support them in future performances.

ENHYPEN Performance – “Carnival to Dilemma”

Another one of my favorite rookies performed! ENHYPEN gave us a party. I love how it started with Ni-Ki, then they performed my favorite “Drunk-Dazed”. Sunghoon had a solo performance then they performed “Tamed-Dashed”. Their performance felt like an extension of their music videos. It was so cool.

Plus the ending when they teased their comeback “Blessed-Cursed”. I’m super excited for it.

NCT 127 Performance – “ETERNAL LOVE”

NCT 127 performed “Favorite (vampire ver)” and “Sticker”. The performance was just the members. I absolutely love how they were styled. “Favorite” was great. Doyoung knows how to work the camera. As some of you may (or may not) know “Sticker” is the first NCT song I can’t get myself to like. “Sticker” isn’t my fav. However, the dance break in the bridge and especially in the end made the whole performance worth it!

I think their stage setup really helped the overall look of their performance. Especially the lasers in “Sticker” made it seem like the stage was full.

Street Woman Fighter Performance – “MAKE SOME NOISE”

The different crews from Street Woman Fighter performed and it was so cool. Each crew had their own style and flare. They definitely owned the stage.

Lee Hyori and Street Woman Fighter Performance – “MAKE SOME NOISE”

The grand finale of the night was Lee Hyori (Kpop legend also the MC of the awards) and Street Woman Fighter. Their performance was fun and it was a nice way to close out the ceremonies.

I didn’t realize this post would be this long. My bad. So here are the rest of the awards given throughout the night.

Best Female Group – Twice

Deserved. They definitely released incredible albums this year.

Best Female Artist and Best Vocal Performance – IU

Queen. IU definitely deserves all the awards she’s received.

Best Male Artist – Baekhyun

This category was really hard for me because MY FAVs were all nominated. Baekhyun, Kai, D.O., and Kang Daniel. They all released amazing albums. But I’m super happy Baekhyun won this award. I mean, regardless between the four guys I would’ve been happy if any of them won.

Best Dance Performance Solo – Rose

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about this one. I’m happy Rosé won an award. Her solo debut was so solid. However for dance performance I had another choreography in mind. But still congratulations Rosé.

Song of the Year and Artist of the Year – Butter & BTS

Of course the biggest awards went to BTS. They’ve been dominating the music scene this year. I look forward to their future activities in 2022. Huge congratulations to BTS and Army!

TikTok Favorite Moment – BTS
Choreographer of the Year – Leejung Lee
Best Engineer of the Year – Gu Jong Pil, Kwon Nam Woo
Best Video Director of the Year–  Lumpens
Best Art Director of the Year – MU:E
Best Composer of the Year – Yoo Young Jin
Best Producer of the Year – Teddy
Best Executive Producer of the Year – Bang Si Hyuk
Best New Asian Artist (Vietnam) – Hoang Duyen
Best New Asian Artist (Indonesia) – Lyodra
Best New Asian Artist (Thailand) – SPRITE X GUYGEEGEE
Best New Asian Artist (Mandarin) – Anson Lo
Best New Asian Artist (Japan) – Ado
Best Asian Artist (Vietnam) – Quan A.P.
Best Asian Artist (Indonesia) – Anneth
Best Asian Artist (Thailand): -Tilly Birds
Best Asian Artist (Mandarin) – ACCUSEFIVE

Overall MAMAs 2021 wasn’t as grand as it was in previous years. I’m hoping for the next MAMAs to be held in an arena and be filled with fans like it used to. Also I hope for all groups and artists to be treated with respect not only during their speeches but also in their performances. I hope this award show can be fair and genuinely be a celebration of Kpop.

Thank you all so much for reading.

If you would like to see my reaction to the performances you can check it out HERE.


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*I do not own any of the pictures of the artists and groups on this post.