Well, we have made it to the halfway point in this year (I know, where does the time go?), and 2015 has been jam-packed with debuting K-pop acts.
Keeping track with all these new artists is anything but easy, and sorting the wheat from the chaff is no mean feat either.
But never fear, Soompiers, because we are here with a comprehensive rundown of 10 of the best debuting groups of the year so far. So read our list, vote in the poll and then let us know who your favorite new act has been this year!
The boyband debuts have come thick and fast this year, and it has been hard to keep up at times. But this group most certainly stood out, if only for the flak they caught from Infinite fans for alleged concept plagiarism.
Certainly those who pointed out the design and photography similarities between Romeo’s “1st EP The Romeo” mini album and Infinite’s “Season 2” album thought something looked amiss.
Skeptics might even point to the fact that the lead song from “Season 2” was titled “Last Romeo,” but I will leave that can-of-worms debate to the more hardcore conspiracy theorists out there. Regardless of whether or not these concept plagiarism claims hold any truth, I personally found more of a similarity between Romeo and Infinite when it came down to the nitty gritty of the music.
Something about the production techniques used seemed to remind me distinctly of the Infinite sound. But as Infinite is one of the few boybands out there that truly has an identifiable musical concept, I would say that it is a pretty good act to take your lead from, if indeed Romeo is doing that.
Regardless of the perceived Infinite similarities, though, the Romeo boys have exhibited stacks of youthful energy, decent dance moves, and good tunes so far – something that any boyband aiming at longevity needs in spades in 2015.
You knew right from the start that Monsta X was going to work. Talent agency Starship Entertainment has been churning out some of K-pop’s most influential groups of the past few years.
And while Starship already has two pretty successful boybands in the shape of UNIQ and Boyfriend, Monsta X, formed via the “No Mercy” survival show, looks like it will offer something a little more raw and high-octane. And Starship seems to have got everything right thus far in terms of its newest project – from recruitment
…to well, the name. K-pop group names really don’t get more rough-and-raw sounding than Monsta X. Grr.
Possibly the most ambitious new K-pop project of the year, and arguably the most long-awaited of all, Seventeen’s debut track “Adore U” was the result of some four years of planning from Pledis Entertainment. Since recently parting ways with Son Dam Bi, the artist for whom the label was originally set up, Pledis urgently needs a new champion and must be banking on the hope that Seventeen will deliver.
It seems that there are two distinct concepts at play with Seventeen, as the act comprises a fairly even split of pop vocalists and rappers. And with a staggering 13 members, Seventeen has the potential to become one of the most complex acts in K-pop. Expect subunits in the vein of the (sadly short-lived) After School subunits After School Red and After School Blue.
These boys have talent, though, and there is no reason why they cannot become one of 2015’s breakthrough acts. Especially with songs this good.
In fact the whole of the debut mini album “17 Carat” is hard to fault, and hip hop fans will want to check out the track “Ah Yeah” (no, it’s not an EXID cover) for a slightly harder sounding taste of what these boys are capable of. Pledis has uncovered gold before. This act could be the label’s salvation.
Talking of Pledis and Seventeen, here is one that got away. 1punch’s Punch is a former Pledis trainee and the word on the street is that he was actually supposed to debut as a Seventeen member. Instead he made his K-pop bow this year as one half of hitmaking producer Brave Brothers’ latest project 1punch.
With a musical concept that hearkens back to early 90s American RnB and hip hop, 1punch took a lot of people by surprise. Punch might look very young, but he has quite a voice on him, and One is also not short on talent. Brave Brothers has quite clearly pulled out all of his superproducer tricks to make his act sound as fantastic as possible.
The lead track “Turn Me Back” has been one of the outstanding songs of the year so far, but “Ice Ice” (the other song on the debut digital single) is almost as good.
Brave Brothers will hope for more success from 1punch than he had with his previous protegees, the likes of Brave Girls (whatever happened to Brave Girls, by the way?)
The concept of a two-member boyband with a distinctly retro musical theme might be a little difficult to sell in 2015 Korea, but if it is something out of the ordinary that you are after, you will find it in 1punch.
Another group that K-pop fans were anticipating the arrival of for what seems like absolutely ages, N.Flying had been active since 2013, and had actually built up a fairly reasonable following in Japan, but Korean fans had been waiting with baited breath for this group to make a domestic debut.
Perhaps this was due in part to the fact that there had been glimpses of the group all over the place for years, from support gigs with fellow FNC Entertainment act FTISLAND, to a tvN reality show to perhaps the most tantalizing teaser of all – member Lee Seunghyub’s show-stealing performance in the Jimin N J.Don collaboration project.
Label FNC has had a pretty good record with all-male bands such as CNBLUE and FTISLAND. There is no reason for N.Flying to be any exception.
Not to be confused with the Beatles album of the same name, Rubber Soul is another group that draws heavily from the spirit of 90s hip-hop and RnB, a time when three-piece girl groups like 702 and TLC ruled the charts.
However, this act seems to have taken a lot of people by surprise. Rubber Soul’s pre-debut teaser pictures seemed to hint at a group with something of a harder edge – going heavy on the thick gold chains, braids, and bleached blonde hair.
But the two tracks that the act has promoted so far, “Life” and “Lonely Friday,” have been very laid back in terms of sound, the latter in particular.
And with big-name collaborators enlisted from the K-pop world for the debut in the shape of Mad Clown and Mad Soul Child’s Jin Sil, it is clear that Rubber Soul already commands enough respect (and carries enough label backing) to become a success in the future.
However, I cannot help but feel that the girls’ music so far sounds ever so slightly under-produced. The talent is there, but the audio is not quite there yet. “Life” sounds too bare for my liking and there is far too much reverb, delay, and autotune used in both promoted songs.
That said, Rubber Soul has made a solid-enough start, and with slightly better material, might go on to do better things very soon, especially as the girls seem to have completely eschewed the “cute” and “sexy” concepts that seem to be the default settings of far too many new girl groups these days.
Speaking of girl groups with under-produced music, Cupid is another group that appears to have plenty in the way of talent, but needs better material if it is to find success. The girls seems to have raw ability, and they certainly look the part, but it is a pity that their debut track sounds like it was recorded and released in something of a hurry. The accompanying music video is also decidedly on the lower end of the budget scale.
Regardless, “I Feel Good” is an upbeat, catchy, dancey number, which is a massive plus at a time when most new girl groups seem to be drifting towards saccharine mid-tempo bubblegum pop tracks.
Unlike a host of similar smaller-agency new girl groups, the act even made it to a TV music show – performing “I Feel Good” on an early May episode of MBC Music’s “Show Champion.” Personally, I am a fan of girl groups that go easy on the member numbers. Less is sometimes more, and four is usually about right.
The group’s talent agency, In Entertainment, is a relative newcomer, so those of us who like to root for the underdog will be wishing Cupid all the best in a girl group scene that has become ruthlessly competitive. The girls will need a slightly better sophomore release if they want to make a real mark in K-pop, but Cupid is certainly not lacking in potential.
Quite a lot of girl groups have been going with the cute schoolgirl concept for their debuts this year, following on from last year’s trend. The other big new act that has gone with this theme is Oh My Girl (such a pity about that name), but G.Friend just about got there first.
I cannot help feeling that there is quite a lot of similarity with A Pink, both in terms of the style and the music. Something about the song, concept, style and choreography seems to remind me of “No No No” in particular, especially this part:
That said, G.Friend has certainly brought a lot of positive vibes to the table, and “Glass Bead” was a very promising start to what could well become a long and established K-pop career.
Musically speaking, this is the girl group that has truly stood out this year. The debut track “Pepe” was an exceptionally catchy, upbeat pop number with a memorable hook, a great beat, a nice rap breakdown, and plenty of brass thrown into the instrumentation for good measure.
And instead of vanishing for months on end while its agency hums and haws about comeback ideas, CLC came straight out of the gates with its sophomore release only a month or so later in the shape of “Question,” another strong mini album.
What most excites about this group, though, is that CLC has only been active since March and have already got involved with some interesting collaborations with its Cube Entertainment labelmates. BTOB’s Ilhoon has contributed lyrics to a few CLC tracks, while Rain is said to have helped out with the “Pepe” dance routine.
It might be too much to wish for at this early stage, but the potential for a Trouble Maker-type project group that might involve CLC and any of BEAST, BTOB and/or 4MINUTE (or even Rain or G.Na maybe?) is not unthinkable.
OK, hands up, I admit this group did technically make its debut in (very late) December last year, but with all the excitement of New Years and so on, Sonamoo only really appeared on the K-pop radar in January 2015, which just about qualifies them for this list.
By far and away my personal favorite new girl group on this list, the debut track “Déjà Vu” was a breath of fresh air in K-pop – a high-energy concept, multiple rap breaks, great choreography, lots of style – and minus the oppressive “sexiness” and “cuteness” of certain other acts. They also had hands-down the best outfits from any of the debuting girl groups.
The group went on to briefly promote the decidedly less exciting “Just Go” (“People’s Little Sister” would have been a much better choice). But hopefully “Just Go” was but a blip and the girls will be back with another dancey, high-octane number for their next release.
Sonamoo deserves to be on the list if only for this ever-so-slightly boyband-tastic dance move, not something you see from the average girl group. Gets me every time.
So what do you think Soompiers? Which new act has caught your eye so far in 2015? Did your favorite debutants make this list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
timmydee is a music geek with a penchant for pop, an enthusiasm for electronica and a hankering for hip-hop. When he isn’t writing for Soompi, he is remixing your favorite K-Pop tracks – with sometimes astounding (but often catastrophic) results.
*The views expressed in this article solely reflect those of the author and do not represent Soompi as a whole.