What’s better than a night of M! Countdown performances from some of K-pop’s hottest names? Two nights, of course! And thanks to KCON 2018 NY presented by Toyota, such a bipartite event is made possible once more at the Prudential Center in New York’s metropolitan area. Fans attending the second and final day on June 24th were looking at up-and-coming acts like Golden Child, fromis_9, Wanna One, and NCT 127. Meanwhile, the seniors of EXID finalized the lineup with their seasoned career that is still going strong. With expectations on the rise from the day prior, Day 2 seemed like it had something to prove.
Bursting onto the scene headfirst was Golden Child, who delivered a charismatic dance intro as the foil to their peppy pop track, “It’s U.” The incursion of the song’s redundant lyrics still lives on even long after the group’s gung-ho performance, leading us to believe that producer Sweetune knows more than a simple thing or two when it comes to producing the perfect chorus. A bit unfortunate Golcha did not promote their other Sweetune-produced “Lady” off of the same EP as well, instead favoring its B-sides “All Day” and “Crush” in order to show a more varied stage.
The real highlight came when KCON had the group defend their “Next Almighty Boy Band” title as part of a segment that rolled over from the previous day. Apparently, this meant channeling their inner Childish Gambino as the boys imitated his moves from his recent “This is America” music video. But the Hot 100 hits don’t stop there. Member Joochan also busted out into a rendition of Camila Cabello’s “Havana” while Jangjun demonstrated an aegyo version of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” Although still rookies in the K-pop game, Golden Child receives full marks from us in the entertainment department.
Wanna One’s resident English speaker Daehwi then joined fellow member Minhyun to preface KCON’s customary special stages. Centered on the theme “darkness,” this year’s featured members from EXID (LE) and NCT 127 (Mark, Jaehyun, and Taeyong) on separate stages in an unofficial battle of the best rapper. Bad girl LE, draped in Chanel, a bath of red lights, and a matching paisley-printed two-piece, took to the mic first with her savage solo entitled “Velvet.” The boys of NCT 127, for their part, followed up with a Taeil-removed version of “Whiplash,” a titillating hip-hop number that especially spotlights rap line. Though they were both very different takes on the same concept, the two acts gave new meanings to the term “idol rapper.”
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Usually KCON organizes the lineup order based on seniority. When it comes to their in-house groups, however, exceptions can be made. This was the case with fromis_9, who made their debut earlier this year through the Mnet reality show, Idol School. A much welcome gust of energy, color, and charms after a macabre special performance, they graced the stage with the only two-week old “DKDK.” The “vitalizing girls” further went on to honor the girl groups that paved the way for them by incorporating a random dance portion into their set, including iconic tunes from Wonder Girls (“Tell Me”), Red Velvet (“Red Flavor”), and Girls’ Generation (“Gee”) in the mix. Perhaps one day fromis_9 will join the likes of these seniors, but for the time being, their early beginnings dancing along to twinkling music in Mary Janes and knee-high stockings is enough for their fans. That’s the image they created for themselves, and the note they went out on as they wrapped up with “22nd Century Girl” and their debut title, “To Heart.”
KCON 18 NY must have felt generous once again since concertgoers at Day Two enjoyed not one, but two female acts like the night prior. Descending from the sidelines, EXID made a grand entrance to a stage of roller skaters precariously mimicking the intro choreography. With moves straight from “Lady,” it made sense that the veterans of the evening would segue into the retro, ‘90s-inspired single. Once they struck their final poses for the cameras, the ladies that needed no introduction gave one anyways out of formality. During this interlude, member Hani praised LE for her “Velvet” stage, whilst Hyerin cued audience the upcoming song, “DDD,” before delving into “Night Rather Than Day.” And with one still left to go, it was obvious how they would go out on. Still, the group (rhetorically) asked everyone for what the last song they would like to hear, to which everyone unanimously responded “Up & Down.” Indeed, there really was no better way to do this than to have hundreds of attendees on their feet, hip-thrusting along to the brassy, career-breakthrough hit.
On the topic of popular songs, fromis_9’s Jiwon and Golden Child’s Joochan united together in front of a backdrop of pink balloons for another and final special stage, a “love”-ly remake of the 2005 Humming Urban Stereo top ten hit, “Hawaiian Couple.” The duet remained faithful to the original version, preserving its lulling male and sweet female tag team vocals beloved by 2000s K-electropop. Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but in hindsight, the cover was definitely among one of the highest points of the night for us.
Sadly, the love spell did not last long. Returning back to KCON after exactly a year since their stateside debut was NCT 127, who, based on the overwhelming ovation from the crowd dotted in neon green lightsticks, was one repeat act no one seemed to mind. The guys transported everyone to N-City when — similar to KCON 17 NY — a spry Taeyong opened with a dance routine starring brisk moves and seizure-inducing graphics from the screen behind. One tripled to three tripled to nine as the members filed in to finalize the troupe. Also very much alike to last year’s show was their setlist, which, save for their latest, “Touch,” had them going through “Firetruck” after “0 Mile” after “Limitless” after “Cherry Bomb.” Nonetheless, Yuta’s intense glares affected us all the same during “Cherry Bomb” and they still were the “biggest hits” that we remembered them as.
Conflated by their dynamic stage presence, relative seniority, and extensive international fanbase, NCT 127 certainly could have passed for headliners. Too bad that role went to Wanna One, though. After all, this was supposed to be the New York stop on their summer U.S One: The World tour after organizers cheated the city of one. The project group, in their own right, at least made an effort to treat KCON as if it was their concert by squeezing in samplings of the world tour’s unit stages, which consisted of four songs produced by salient Korean artists Nell, Dynamic Duo, Heize, and Zico. At the confluence of hip-hop, contemporary R&B, and ballad rock, the genre-bending medley at once played up each of the member’s strengths and demonstrated their can-do mindsets. We mean, there’s a reason why the members ranked top 11 on the second season of the survival show, Produce 101.
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But if the references to the identity properties of arithmetic within their album titles is not intimation enough, it’s that Wanna One prides itself in its unity and operates best as a single unit. Their teamwork spoke for itself when they successfully completed KCON’s special Q&A relay mission in under 101 seconds, and more so in their synchronized choreographies. Fans were privileged to witness the latter before their impending disbandment as they bowed out with “Light,” “Beautiful,” and the single that started it all for them, “Energetic.”
This is how the second day of KCON 18 NY comes to its ultimate end. But just because it stops here for the East Coast does not mean it has to for you. KCON will continue in LA’s Staple Center on August 10th-12th, and if you are anything like us, we are already there.
Did you attend KCON 18 NY? What’s your favorite KCON artist? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.