Here’s everything you might have missed at KCON:TACT 3

The biggest online K-pop festival is back

After a half-year break, the world’s largest South Korean music festival is back with the third installment of its online counterpart, KCON:TACT 3. This year’s event features a packed lineup of K-pop superstars, from girl group MAMAMOO to veteran soloist Sunmi, plus a slew of features to bring viewers closer to the idols through the power of technology.

With KCON:TACT 3 now over, recap all of the performances that you might have missed over the course of the festival below.

Day Nine

MAMAMOO are the fun and effortlessly cool band we wish we were in

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MAMAMOO open the final day of KCON:TACT 3, meaning the show begins on the biggest wave of energy possible. A marching band heralds their arrival as they rise up from below the stage, looking like superheroes assembling, but later dispel that extraordinary atmosphere by showing their down-to-earth side, running around the stage as they talk to their fans and acting silly.

In terms of the performance itself, 2016’s ‘Decalcomanie’ now comes laced with brass as the women deliver its diva hooks with ease and ‘Aya’ treads a cooler, edgier path. ‘Dingga’ is just as irresistible live as it is on record, helped along by the band taking control of the filming with the aid of selfie sticks towards the end of the song and switching from idol mode to that of friends having fun. Later, in the KCON:TACT music studio, MAMAMOO are joined by a live band to elevate 2019’s ‘gogobebe’ to new heights, complete with noodling guitar solo. It’s a set that shows of the four-piece’s eclectic range, as well as their enviable girl gang chemistry.

TOO reintroduce themselves as TO1

Earlier this year, rising boy group TOO were caught up in some industry issues when there was a dispute between the two companies managing them. Now solely looked after by CJ ENM, the band are ushering in a new era complete with a new name – one they announced in the middle of their KCON:TACT set today (March 28). They began their performance labelled as TOO but, after bubbly opener ‘Count 1, 2’, shared they would be going forward as TO1, which means Together As One.

Their first performance of this new chapter was full of promise. The newly-christened boyband appeared to send a message to their fans with the comforting pop of ‘Don’t Fear’ while, later, they dominated one of last year’s best K-pop songs. On a special cover stage, the 10-piece group took on TWICE’s ‘I Can’t Stop Me’, performing it as if it was written just for them.

Kang Daniel puts on one of the most captivating solo sets of the week

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Kang Daniel has been building his name as one of K-pop’s most enthralling soloists since his post-Wanna One debut in 2019 so it’s no surprise that his KCON:TACT set is one of the best from lone artists. Clad in all-black, he begins his latest heart-winning performance with the foreboding and slinky ‘Who U Are’, commanding focus from the off, despite being surrounded by dancers. ‘2U’ and ‘Interview’ lighten the atmosphere with tales of falling in love, but it’s latest single ‘Paranoia’ that shines as the jewel in Kang Daniel’s crown.

Inspired by his own experiences of paranoia and mental health issues, it’s a powerful piece of dark pop that manages to be extremely catchy while offering a glimpse into its creator’s mind. As he performs it on the KCON:TACT stage, you can feel the rich emotions in the song through Kang Daniel’s neatly executed dance moves and expressive voice.

BTOB end KCON:TACT 3 on a happy note

BTOB might be depleted from six members to four right now because of military service, but Peniel, Minhyuk, Changsub and Eunkwang don’t let that stop them from being one final blast of positivity for this edition of KCON:TACT. The moombahton rhythms kick off their set vibrantly, while later they switch up the festival’s relay dance section to a relay vocal performance instead. In it, rappers Peniel and Minhyuk swap duties with singers Changsub and Eunkwang on ‘Only One For Me’, testing themselves but still having fun with it.

Despite their happy energy, though, there’s still time for some more emotional moments in their set. ‘Alone’ would have the arena audience swaying its arms in unison were they not a creation of technology. Closing song ‘Missing You’, meanwhile, performing with wistful expressions on their faces, the lyrics made more poignant by the sound of their fans chanting at regular points of the song. It might be less buoyant than some other parts of their set, but it’s the perfect way to close out KCON:TACT – a reminder of what we’re all missing right now and the hope of being reunited one day soon.

Day Eight 

ITZY show their softer side

As current K-pop girl groups go, ITZY are the undisputed champions of girl power, a slew of empowering songs about loving yourself and being independent women in their arsenal. On their latest single, though, they change up the tempo and they used part of their KCON:TACT set today to show the results of that.

‘Trust Me (MIDZY)’ is a song for their fans and marks the group’s first steps into ballad territory – it’s hard to sound heartfelt when you’re deploying bangers after all. For the performance, the girls take a break from their intense and intricate dance moves to do the classic pop move for a slow song – sit on stools and share their sincerity from their seats. It might not be as compelling as the rest of their set, but it’s touching and good to see them mixing things up.

ENHYPEN prove why they’re K-pop’s latest super rookies

Since they made their debut in December, ENHYPEN have dazzled with flawless performances and one mini-album full of killer songs. In their KCON:TACT debut, the seven-piece group reinforce the hype around them by putting on another magnetic display, bouncing from the cute choreo of the infectious ’10 Months’ to the alluring swagger of ‘Let Me In (20 Cube)’ and title track ‘Given-Taken’’s more mysterious vibe.

In a special cover stage, things get even more exciting as the group show there’s much more we’ve yet to see from them in the future. They take on Block B’s boisterous ‘Very Good’, complete with their first time rapping, Jay serving as a brilliant hypeman and Heesung headbanging. It’s giddy and exhilarating to watch, and sure to start a moshpit were we watching this in a real arena. Here’s hoping we get to see more of this energy from ENHYPEN as they progress.

ATEEZ light up KCON:TACT

After making their comeback with ‘Zero: Fever Pt. 2’ earlier this month, ATEEZ bring some of that record to KCON:TACT’s “Paris” stage. ‘Fireworks (I’m The One)’ kicks things off in an incendiary fashion, the band surrounded by desolate burning buildings via the magic of technology, and pyrotechnics mimicking the song’s explosive title. ‘Celebrate’ douses away the darkness with gospel backing and the group’s bright energy, while a trip to the KCON music studio sees them take things back to 2019 with a live band version of the punchy ‘Promise’.

Things get surreal when they perform ‘Answer’ to fulfil a fan request. Everything about the song is normal, but ATEEZ perform it while wearing the cloaks and outfits of different Harry Potter houses. It’s fun but surreal to see them nailing the moves and belting out ad libs while dressed like they’re off to a fan convention.

Sunmi turns Paris purple

Headlining the penultimate day of KCON:TACT 3 is K-pop legend Sunmi, a former member of Wonder Girls and now solo star in her own right. Unsurprisingly, her set is a masterclass in enthralling performances, from the slinky ‘Tail’ to its sultry b-side ‘What The Flower’. It’s closing song ‘Pporappippam’ that is Sunmi at her best though – seductive and cool, throwing in cute nods to her fans through fingerhearts and other means as she weaves her way through the 2020 hit.

The song’s title means “purple night” in Korean and before she starts, the camera pans above the stage to an XR rendering of the Eiffel Tower. As the first notes kick in, it lights up purple in Sunmi’s honour – the least this virtual Paris can do to recognise an icon.

Day Seven

Stray Kids take things back to the beginning

Over the last four years, Stray Kids have proven themselves to be one of the most inventive self-producing boybands in the current K-pop scene. During their KCON:TACT performance, they take us on a race through their journey so far.

They appear on the stage twice during today’s instalment of the festival, first opening the whole show with their 2019 track ‘Victory Song’. It’s a ferocious way to kick things off, the group (down to seven members with Hyunjin still on hiatus) chanting “Undefeated!” throughout. Later, for their main set, they travel forward to the present for fiery versions of ‘God’s Menu’ and ‘Back Door’, before hurtling all the way back to their pre-debut song ‘Hellevator’. As they close things out with an ever-infectious performance of 2019’s ‘MIROH’ and glitter cannons explode either side of them, it feels like a jubilant look back on the band’s story so far.

Everglow pay tribute to the women of K-pop and mark themselves out as the future

K-pop history is full of incredible female artists, from legends like Girls Generation to the newer pack like BLACKPINK. Everglow pay tribute to those two groups and more during their KCON:TACT performance, sharing a special covers medley that rocketed through K-pop girl group classics, including KARA’s ‘Lupin’, Girls Generation’s ‘Genie’, Miss A’s ‘Good-bye Baby’, Red Velvet’s ‘Red Flavour’, and BLACKPINK’s ‘Kill This Love’.

It’s impressive but even more so are their own songs. ‘LA DI DA’ stuns with futuristic visuals that match its soaring feeling, ‘Adios’ brings the girls’ usual attitude and mixes it with something a little more glimmering, while ‘Dun Dun’ reminds us why it was one of the best songs of 2020. Everglow might be honouring those who’ve come before them, but they’re also carving out space for themselves as a key part of K-pop’s future.

A.C.E mix traditional and modern

If there’s one thing A.C.E always do well at (and there’s quite a lot), it’s making themselves stand out. They do that at KCON:TACT by doing something none of the other artists have done so far – mixing traditional Korean culture with the modern sounds of K-pop in 2021. They open their set with ‘Jindo Arirang’, a traditional Korean folk song that they use to show off their precise and impressive dance skills.

It’s quickly followed by ‘Goblin (Favourite Boys)’ and the rock riffs of ‘Under Cover’, both of which put A.C.E right in the sounds of now. At the start of the former, rapper Byeongkwan declares: “Your favourite boys are back.” After the Beat Interactive boyband’s flawless KCON:TACT set, they could be winning that title from a whole new set of fans.

Lee Jin Hyuk proves perfection isn’t everything

When Lee Jin Hyuk first takes to the stage, his performance feels a little scrappy. Rapping live rather than relying on a backing track, he misses some lines in ‘Bedlam’, giving the track a disjointed feel. It’s jarring at first because a lot of K-pop performances are so on point and perfect, but as he progresses through the song it serves as a reminder that there’s value – and feeling – in the imperfect too.

After a break to talk to the camera and his fans watching at home, Lee Jin Hyuk returns to his performance with the darker hip-hop swagger of ‘Villain’, far more slick and composed. It’s a set of two halves, both with their own merits in their differences.

HyunA blooms in her KCON:TACT debut

Former Wonder Girls and 4Minute member HyunA might be a familiar face in the KCON world, but today marks her first appearance at any of its digital events. Although her three-song set feels too short for one of K-pop’s most individual artists, she makes the most of every second she has on stage, hopping through her latest release ‘I’m Not Cool’ and the softer sounding ‘Red’. It’s the middle song ‘Flower Shower’ where she really blooms though, showing her full range from sweet falsetto to cool rapping.

Day Six

P1Harmony bring the power

From the second they step out on stage, P1Harmony come out all guns blazing, delivering a performance that commands your attention and dares you to look away. A powerful version of ‘Siren’ follows an impactful intro of strong moves and the group with their game faces on, while the bright stage for ‘Lemonade’ lightens the mood without sacrificing on attitude. Usually standing at six members, the rising boyband are down to five today after Soul injured his knee, but don’t let that hold them back from putting on an enticing performance.

JO1 show they’re ‘Born To Be Wild’

Not every band on KCON:TACT 3’s line-up is actually Korean, like JO1 – the 11-piece boy group formed through Produce 101 Japan. It’s fitting that they’re playing today, though, with the “world tour” concept of the festival moving from recreated stages of LA to ones of Tokyo. They do J-pop proud, showcasing 2020 track ‘Shine A Light’ and treating viewers to a new stage.

This show marks the first time they’ve performed the recently released ‘Born To Be Wild’ live and it doesn’t disappoint. There’s the drama of them performing on a stage full of dry ice, the coolness of the slick choreography and the joy of a great song. With more new music on the way from the group next month, it’s a strong sign that we should all be keeping our eyes firmly on them.

Jessi reminds us it’s not just fans missing the feeling of live shows

Something that gets spoken about a lot in the K-pop world is the concept of duality. No one shows it off stronger today than P Nation soloist Jessi who, when she’s not sharing compelling performances of earworms like ‘Nuna Nana’ and brilliant new single ‘What Type Of X’, is getting doe-eyed for the fans she gets to chat with and see on the Zoom wall behind her. It’s a sweet reminder that it’s not just the audience that’s missing the connection of live shows, but artists too – and one that’s blasted away as soon as she gets back to burning up the stage with her fierce energy.

Ha Sung Woon becomes a video game character

Former Wanna One member Ha Sung Woon’s set is full of variety, from the darker stage of ‘Forbidden Island’ to his special collaboration with AB6IX’s Donghyun. On the cute end of the spectrum, though, is his performance of ‘Curiou’s’, which starts with him popping out of a pink pipe in front of a background made to look like a classic platform video game. As a concept, it makes sense – it matches the bright, carefree bounce of the song’s melody, bringing out the almost 8-bit sounds buried in its layers.

At the end, he returns to the screen behind him where a pixellated version of himself leaps along, knocking into blocks above him to spell out HA:NEUL – the name of his fandom – and a heart.

iKON’s return is fun and heartwarming

Ahead of their turn on this year’s Kingdom series, the returning YG boyband headline day six of KCON:TACT 3, showing just why it’s so good to have them back. Bobby kicks off the whole day with a scorching performance of his recent solo track ‘U Mad’, before rejoining the group for a set that spans the spectrum of their work. ‘Rhythm Ta’ blazes through the virtual arena as bright as the pyrotechnics behind the band, while the six-piece show off their goofier side on ‘Dive’.

The most touching moment comes ahead of ‘Love Scenario’, though, when the band’s fans iKONICs appear in a video message, sending messages of love and support to their idols. It makes the subsequent performance even more heartfelt, delivering lyrics about a break-up that could be reinterpreted to fit the gap between fan and artist during iKON’s hiatus.

Day Two

SF9 mark themselves out as ones to watch on ‘Kingdom’

Next month, SF9 will go up against BtoB, iKON, THE BOYZ, Stray Kids and ATEEZ on the upcoming Mnet survival show Kingdom: Legendary War. Compared to some of the other bands on the programme, the FNC Entertainment group might be a little more underrated but, in their KCON:TACT performance, they showed they’ve definitely got the skills and songs to mount a challenge against the more globally renowned acts on the bill.

‘Summer Breeze’ is bright and fun, while ‘Shine Together’ shares moving sentiments, delivered with poise. It’s ‘Good Guy’ that’s the highlight of the set though – still an irresistible banger over a year since its original release. With member Rowoon back on stage following injury, SF9’s KCON:TACT set shows a group coming into their own.

TOMORROW X TOGETHER offer comfort and escapism

On their latest release ‘Minisode 1 – Blue Hour’, TOMORROW X TOGETHER shared their thoughts and feelings on young people’s lives in the pandemic. It was a comforting listen and one whose powers are still going strong, as evidenced by TXT’s latest KCON:TACT performance. It’s a set of two halves – the consolation and relatable feelings in ‘We Lost The Summer’ and ‘Way Home’, and escapist joy.

First, that manifests in ‘Blue Hour’, complete with an even more joyful dance break and, later, in the standout track from the band’s 2019 album ‘The Dream Chapter: Magic’. ‘9 And Three Quarters (Run Away)’ was a burst of pure serotonin back when it was first released and, as proved by TXT’s performance today (March 21), hasn’t lost any of its potency in the interim.

DREAMCATCHER own their 2PM cover of ‘My House’

We’ve still got a bit of a wait until 2PM make their long-awaited return from hiatus, but DREAMCATCHER’s cover of ‘My House’ will more than tide us over til then. The original might not immediately make you think it would work as a rock ripper, but the DREAMCATCHER ladies prove that it not only does work but sounds incredible in that form.

It’s not just notable for its heavy reworking though – the group also perform sublimely, especially Handong nailing an impressive triple axel spin like she’s dancing on ice rather than the KCON:TACT stage.

Woodz represents for soloists

It’s unusual to see the KCON:TACT stage so sparsely populated as when Woodz is performing, but what the solo star lacks in numbers he makes up for in talent. On ‘Touché’, his vocals are sultry and caramel smooth, while a performance of ‘Trigger’ in the KCON:TACT music studio positions him as the compelling frontman of a rock band, combining riffs with his biting rap flow. Our only complaint? His set feels far too short.

Day One

LOONA take us into their universe

So far, LOONA have performed at all three KCON:TACT events, with their 2020 appearances showcasing some of their best songs so far. In their third performance, the girl group welcome us even further into their world. Their set begins with ’12:00’ and ‘Why Not?’, complete with voguing and heaps of attitude. Later, they add the heartfelt ‘Universe’ to the mix and the refreshing bop of ‘Star’ to round off a performance that highlights the band’s different assets. No wonder they keep getting invited back.

AB6IX showcase their soul

Last year, AB6IX were due to head out on their first world tour. Before they could hit the road, though, the dates were forced to be cancelled by the coronavirus pandemic. While their fans, ABNEW, wait for the chance to see them live, the boyband use their KCON:TACT set to give us a glimpse of what to expect from their shows when the day comes. The answer? A lot of soul.

It’s there in their gorgeous vocals on ‘Heaven’ and poured into every move on ‘Stay Young’. By the time two canons of shiny confetti explode either side of the stage during ‘So Real’ they’ve firmly made their case for being a must-see when the world reopens.

THE BOYZ bring the ‘Danger’

The 11-member boyband kick off the whole show with a powerful version of ‘The Stealer’, Hyunjae performs a special collaboration with LOONA’s Heejin, they play games in a meet and greet section and, of course, share a full performance later on. Throughout, they show off their compelling performance skills and eclectic songs – from the summery bounce of ‘Salty’ to the cool strut of ‘Whiplash’ – but there was one moment that just came out on top.

Originally debuted during Road To Kingdom last year, THE BOYZ’s cover of Taemin’s ‘Danger’ is sublime. There’s less drama and extravagance in the KCON:TACT version, but that doesn’t stop them from making a lasting impression. It’s a masterful cover – one that puts their own take on Taemin’s R&B flavour but still honours the original.

OH MY GIRL serve up sweet treats

If the other Day One acts excel on some darker stages, OH MY GIRL close out the action with something brighter and sweeter. From the irresistible chorus of ‘Dolphin’ (and its impossible-not-to-copy choreography) to the loose fun of ‘Tic Toc’, the girl group consistently serve up the kind of infectious energy it’s hard not to get swept along by.

There are sweet treats included in their set too, like a performance of the swooning ‘The Fifth Season’ delivered from a “music studio” space. Backed by a live band, the new arrangement adds a new edge to the song’s soft melodies. Back on the main stage – which is made to look like a packed arena by XR technology – the background changes to one dripping in pastel gloops and cream swirls for the vibrant sugar rush that is ‘Nonstop’. An uplifting joy to watch.

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