Super Talented Rookies That Made 2017 A Good Year For K-Pop

The 13th Annual Soompi Awards is finally here, and we’re celebrating a phenomenal year of music with an especially sensational roster of nominees. In order of their official debuts, here are the nominees for Rookie of the Year!


12-member boy group VARSITY debuted with the addictive track “U R My Only One” on January 3, 2017. The group has remained active since their debut, releasing two comeback singles and competing on the currently-airing idol survival program “MIXNINE.”

Aiming to be a global idol group, VARSITY boasts one of the most diverse lineups in K-pop. The group is comprised of seven Korean members and five Chinese members, but some members have grown up in other places such as the United States and Dubai. As a result, VARSITY can communicate with their fans in Korean, Chinese, Arabic, English, and French. Manny, the group’s maknae, is also the first known Muslim K-pop idol.


Five-member boy group A.C.E debuted on May 23 last year with the energetic dance track “Cactus.” The group immediately garnered attention for their “hot pants” concept, but their pre-debut busking events and past history as dancers with 1Million Dance Studio proved that they also have the vocals and dance moves to make it as big stars in the industry.

In addition to their latest comeback “Callin,” the quintet released an English version of “Cactus” last September – leaving many anticipating similar possible releases in the future.

A.C.E is currently split between two idol survival programs. Jun and Chan are on “The Unit” while Wow, Jason, and Donghun appear on “MIXNINE.” Even judged individually, all A.C.E members rank in the top 20 on their respective shows. Read more about why A.C.E should be on your radar here.


A star even when she was a budding trainee on the inaugural season of “Produce 101,” Chungha reached immense popularity as a member of the hit girl group I.O.I back in 2016. Her solo career was met with the same fervor soon after the group’s disbandment, with her debut single “Why Don’t You Know” soaring up the charts in June 2017.

Chungha’s star power was heightened by her extraordinary dance skills. She shocked the “Produce 101” judges with this powerful freestyle dance and stunned her peers with performances on dance show “Hit The Stage.”

The soloist recently dropped her new EP “Offset,” which features the chart-topping title track “Roller Coaster.” Read more about how Chungha could be the next big K-pop star here.


Officially, KARD debuted with “Hola Hola” on July 19, 2017. However, the group had been making significant waves in the K-pop world since the release of their first project single “Oh NaNa” in December 2016. One of the rare coed groups in K-pop, KARD stands out for their nontraditional lineup, fresh dynamic, and dancehall-influenced sound.

The quartet has already placed on music charts in over a dozen countries around the world, dropped two mini albums, and even embarked on a world tour.

Check out what makes KARD so unique here, and take a listen to their recent title track “You In Me” from their second mini album below.


At just 16 years old, Samuel had already once trained to debut with SEVENTEEN, debuted in the duo 1PUNCH with YG rapper ONE, and swept hearts away as a shining contestant on “Produce 101 Season 2.”

Although Samuel may not have made the survival program’s final group, that didn’t stop him from excelling on his own as a solo artist. His debut mini album “Sixteen” topped iTunes worldwide charts in three countries, in addition to physical album sales ranking No. 1 on Korea’s Hanteo chart.

Samuel recently dropped his first album “Eye Candy” last November, as well as the digital single “Winter Night” earlier this month. Check out more reasons to support the soloist here.


Hailing from the same agency as B1A4 and Oh My Girl, rookie boy group ONF debuted with the retro title track “ON/OFF” on August 2, 2017.

The group is made up of seven members that are split into two units: the “ON” unit (which focuses on touching vocals) and the “OFF” unit (which focuses on impactful dance performances).

In addition to serving as B1A4’s backup dancers during their pre-debut days, several ONF members have previously trained under top entertainment agencies such as JYP and Starship. Member Laun notably trained to debut with BTS, while fellow member MK participated on the survival audition program “No.Mercy” – which determined the lineup of MONSTA X.

The Rose

Four-member boy band The Rose made their official debut on August 3 last year, but the band has been around for much longer – showcasing their musical prowess in busking events across Korea.

The Rose is a self-producing band, with its members taking active roles in the band’s songwriting process. Despite being so new, the group has already found big fans in GOT7’s Jinyoung and DAY6. Billboard also named The Rose one of the top five new groups to watch this year.

The band’s first single “Sorry” beams with raw emotion, and it’s already amassed over 3 million views on YouTube. With talent and numbers like this, it’s clear that The Rose is only just getting started. Check out more reasons why you should be on the lookout for them here.

Wanna One

Having only officially debuted last August, 11-member boy group Wanna One is already racking up record-breaking achievements in their short tenure as artists – and their hot streak shows no signs of slowing down.

Formed from the top 11 finalists on “Produce 101 Season 2,” Wanna One has been receiving attention long before their initial inception. But their debut song “Energetic” proved that they deserve every ounce of their hype, and the single’s captivating sound easily solidified a place for them on the music scene.

In addition to topping countless music charts, Wanna One has won over a dozen of awards since their debut last year. Most notably, the boy group became the first K-pop group to sell a million copies on a debut album.

Watch Wanna One work their charms in these cute commercials, and check out the group’s recent track “Beautiful” from their repackaged album here.

Weki Meki

With tickets to their debut showcase selling out in just one minute, eight-member girl group Weki Meki has already had a phenomenal start to their first year as artists.

The group debuted with “I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend” on August 8, 2017. Its accompanying EP “WEME” quickly sold over 47,000 copies – making it the highest album sales for a girl group that debuted in 2017.

In addition to their outstanding sales, Weki Meki houses former I.O.I members Kim Do Yeon and Choi Yoo Jung. Read more about what makes the group so unique here.

Golden Child

Golden Child is Woollim Entertainment’s first boy group since debuting INFINITE back in 2010. The now 10-member rookie group debuted with “DamDaDi” on August 28 last year, which highlights the group’s cheerful image and sharp choreography.

Despite having not even officially debuted in Japan yet, Golden Child’s mini-album “Gol-Chal!” soared to the No. 1 spot on the daily chart in Japan’s largest music site.

The group is gearing up to make their first ever comeback on January 29.

Jeong Sewoon

Jeong Sewoon is Starship Entertainment’s latest soloist, and he’s already proving to have a strong presence on multiple music charts.

The soloist previously competed on “K-pop Star 3,” but his big break really originated from “Produce 101 Season 2.” Although he didn’t make the final group, Jeong Sewoon’s sweet vocals and star quality were enough to set him up for a memorable debut.

Jeong Sewoon debuted with “JUST U” off of his mini album “EVER” on August 31, 2017. The single topped both Genie and Bugs’ realtime charts, while the mini album went on to peak at No. 2. The artist is slated to make his much anticipated comeback later this month.


TRCNG is a 10-member boy group from TS Entertainment. Their debut marks the label’s first boy group in five years – having previously debuted B.A.P back in 2012.

The group, whose name stands for “Teen Rising Champion in a New Generation,” has an average age of around 15.9 years. Members Jisung and Hyunwoo have even played childhood versions of G-Dragon and Lee Seung Gi respectively.

Debuting with the powerful lead track “Spectrum” on October 10, TRCNG recently made their comeback with “Wolf Baby” earlier this month.


RAINZ is a seven-member boy group composed of former “Produce 101 Season 2” contestants. The fan-requested group debuted with the groovy lead track “Juliette” off their mini album “SUNSHINE” last October, which peaked at an impressive No. 9 on the Gaon Album Chart.

The group’s vibrant charms blossom through their music, and it’s no question why fans hoped to see them together. In addition to already announcing their own fan cafe and official fan colors, RAINZ regularly displays their fun and quirky daily lives through their reality show “RAINZ TV.

RAINZ just recently made a comeback on January 23. Check out the music video for their title track “Turn It Up” here.


JBJ’s formation is the literal definition of a fan’s dreams come true. Originally, fans wished for the artists to perform together on “Produce 101 Season 2.” While that ultimately never happened, the fans’ love for the fantasy group grew so large that the artists themselves found out about it — and turned fans’ fantasy into a reality.

The six-member boy group boasts seasoned performers such as HOTSHOT’s Noh Tae Hyun, former Topp Dogg member Kim Sang Gyun, and YG K+ model Kwon Hyun Bin. Member Takada Kenta previously danced in the Japanese dance cover group G2H, while fellow member Longguo recently debuted in the duo Longguo & Shihyun.

JBJ made their official debut with “Fantasy” on October 18, which quickly climbed to the top of the Hanteo charts. The group is currently promoting their colorful and trendy title track “My Flower” from their “True Colors” EP. Read more about what makes the fan-imagined group so unique here.


IN2IT is an eight-member boy group formed through the 2016 survival program “Boys24.” After over a hundred concerts and performances as units, IN2IT became the survival program’s final group lineup.

The group debuted with tropical dance track “Amazing” on October 26 last year. Despite only being rookies, IN2IT’s mini album “Carpe Diem” features songs from top composers such as Cha Cha Malone and Duble Sidekick.

MONSTA X’s Shownu and Minhyuk introduce the nominees:


Soompiers, who do you want to win “Rookie of the Year”? Let us know in the comments!

brookenicole writes from YG’s basement until her (indefinitely) postponed debut. Find her on Twitter.

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