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Mama Awards stays in Japan for 2nd straight year

Under the slogan "One I Born," 2023 Mama Awards aspires to become K-pop festival for Gen Z fans

Nov. 8, 2023 - 16:53 By Choi Ji-won
(From left) Park Chan-uk, general manager of Mnet, producer Lee Young-joo, producer Shin Yu-sun, K-pop singer Jeon Somi and producer Lee Hyoung-jin pose for pictures during the 2023 Mama Awards media day held in Seoul on Wednesday. (Mnet)

Despite its global aspirations, the renewed Mama Awards by Mnet is set to take place in Japan for the second straight year.

Although at a more sluggish pace than expected, the world's biggest K-pop festival said it is inching toward its goal of being held outside Asia, with this year's event taking place at the Tokyo Dome, Japan's top concert venue, for the first time.

With 20 days left until the festival on Nov. 28-29, producers of organizer CJ ENM, and this year's host, Jeon Somi, held a media day gathering in Seoul on Wednesday.

Park Chan-uk, the general manager of CJ ENM's music arm Mnet, noted of the venue's significance, as Tokyo Dome is a highly coveted stage by many global artists, and Mama will be debuting there for the first time as a K-pop festival.

"We're entering the Tokyo Dome, considered to be among Japan's three top domes along with Nagoya and Kyocera. Japan is K-pop's No. 1 consumer and the world's second-largest music market. Launching (Mama Awards) at a symbolic and central location of such a country itself holds value," Park said.

Last year's venue was Kyocera Dome in Osaka, Japan. The Mama Awards being held in Japan this year comes as a slight disappointment to some as the event had undergone a major renewal last year, renaming itself as the Mama Awards, from its previous name, the Mnet Asian Music Awards, in expression of its ambition to go more global.

Kim Hyun-soo, head of music content at CJ ENM, had stated at the media event last year that Mama Awards aims to be held in the US within three years.

When asked by The Korea Herald whether the plan is still feasible, CJ ENM's Live Entertainment Content Planning Manager Lee Sun-hyung gave a vague response.

"One I Born," the slogan for the 2023 Mama Awards, is shown on the screen during the event's press conference held in Seoul on Wednesday. (Mnet)

"K-pop is being consumed and trending globally and we see the potential for Mama to happen in any other place than originally planned," Lee said, adding, "America is the world's largest music market, so it is definitely important, and we're considering several regions for our venues, including (the US). When the plan (to hold in the US) becomes more attainable, we will announce and proceed with it."

Mama aims to take a leap toward its ultimate goal with this year's edition, which the producers touted will be another extravaganza of top artists and cutting-edge technology.

Under the slogan "One I Born," the festival stresses the value of "I," a one-and-only being in the world that has infinite potential, and the synergy it will bring to the Mama Awards, allowing it to become the perfect "one" through music, CJ ENM explained.

According to Park, "I" here refers to Generation Z -- largely defined by those aged between 1997 and 2012 -- who are currently the main consumers of K-pop.

"Gen Z have self-love and consider oneself a special being, and we worked to convey such uplifting energy and show diversity," Park said, adding such initiatives have been portrayed in various parts, including in the changed logo, the artist selection and the stage production.

Jeon Somi, a prominent Gen Z K-pop artist, has also returned to host the first day of festivities, after taking on the role last year. Actor Park Bo-gum will helm the second day.

Jeon will also take the stage as a performer, this time taking charge of one of the four pillars of the event's performances. This year's Mama will be divided into four stages -- Theme, Super, Mega and Wonder -- and Jeon will be the main performer of the Mega stage under the title "It's Mi."

"It's not 'me' but 'mi' from Somi, and it will be inspired by my own history. I'll be doing a megascale Tecktonik performance with a large group of people. I will shake up the Tokyo Dome," the singer said during Wednesday's event.

K-pop singer Jeon Somi poses for pictures during the 2023 Mama Awards media day held in Seoul on Wednesday. (Mnet)

Pivoting to this year's Gen Z identity, the Theme stage will bring together young musicians of various genres. Selected members from K-pop groups Le Sserafim, Zerobaseone, Treasure and solo rapper Lee Young-ji will join forces for the first performance.

The Super stage will showcase a special collaboration of female artists. Centering on the theme of "reinterpretation of goddesses," Huh Yun-jin of Le Sserafim, Xiaoting of Kep1er and Minnie of (G)I-dle will team up with dancers Monika and Bada Lee of Mnet's dance survival show "Street Woman Fighter."

Famed Japanese rocker Yoshiki of rock band X-Japan has been tapped as this year's foreign artist. Yoshiki will perform X-Japan's "Endless Rain" at the Wonder stage along with several K-pop artists.

"Yoshiki is a legendary artist who has held 18 concerts at the Tokyo Dome and has sold over 30 million albums globally. He has also contributed in culturally bridging the two nations," said producer Lee Hyung-jin, who helmed the Wonder stage production.

"We hope to demonstrate the value that overcomes the differences of regions, language and generation."

The third performers lineup was unveiled on Wednesday, adding "Smoke" hit-makers Dynamic Duo and Lee Young-ji, dancer Monika and boy bands Treasure and Just B to the list.

Other artists to perform this year include Ateez, NiziU, Riize, TVXQ, xikers, Zerobaseone, &Team, Boynextdoor, El7z Up, Enhypen, (G)I-dle, Kep1er, Le Sserafim, Seventeen and Tomorrow X Together.