For me, the arrival of rookie groups can often be more exciting than the work of their established peers. I love nothing more than discovering a new artist and witnessing their potential unfold as they grow.
2017 was a year without any major agency debuts, making the rookie field much more competitive. Like last year, I won’t be including project/temporary groups (JBJ, Rainz, Wanna One), since they feel like they belong in a different category entirely. Ditto for LOONA, who technically haven’t debuted yet even though their members and sub-units have released over a dozen songs.
Read on for my top ten rookies of the year — each with links to my reviews of their 2017 single releases.
10. WEKI MEKI
This is a group bursting with personality and potential, even if their debut single didn’t quite draw upon that. Still, I’m excited to hear where Weki Meki go next. They seem to have a decent amount of momentum behind them.
Singles released: I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend
9. TOP SECRET
Top Secret failed to find the success they were looking for this year, but their Sweetune-produced output was consistently solid. Both mini albums are worth checking out.
8. THE BOYZ
The most recent debut on this list, making it difficult to gauge exactly where they’ll go. Success seems likely, as debut single Boy has gained a fair amount of attention. It’s already grown on me quite a bit.
Despite coming from a relatively well-known agency, TRCNG kind of flew under the radar when they debuted this October. That’s a shame, because they released one of the most solid mini albums on this list, pulling off a multitude of styles.
Singles released: Spectrum
MVP was another criminally underrated 2017 debut. We haven’t heard from them since March, which is definitely a concerning sign, but they left us with the brilliantly energetic Take It. I only hope they’re given the chance to follow it up with another strong release before they’re forgotten entirely.
Singles released: Take It
One of the year’s most successful new girl groups, Pristin still have a few kinks to work out (less of the cutesy, more of the quirky, please). But with two solid mini albums under their belt and the assistance of mastermind producer Bumzu, their future is looking very bright.
Providing a needed jolt to the stagnant girl group scene, Dreamcatcher debuted with a hard dance/rock concept that felt like a breath of fresh air. Thankfully, they’ve continued to draw upon this sound, quickly establishing their own unique identity within a very crowded marketplace. They may not be able to compete in the big leagues yet, but the hype they’re generating is definitely propelling them in that direction.
Speaking of unique identities, boy group A.C.E debuted in May with the addictive electro hardstyle of Cactus, forging an individual sound that carried through to their follow-up. The only thing that seems to be holding them back is the size and resources of their agency. The boys haven’t yet released anything beyond singles, and it remains to be seen what they can pull off with a mini or full album.
ONF released the most outstanding debut album of the year, making them a strong candidate for the number one spot. There’s no denying their potential, or the solid track record of their agency (home of B1A4 and Oh My Girl). Their inventive electro sound — merging atypical arrangements with huge, almost chant-like hooks — feels perfectly executed already. The only thing holding them back is a sense of unease about what the next year will bring. With several members seeming likely to debut as part of YG’s MIXNINE project group, I don’t know how their agency is planning to build the all-important fan base for the ONF itself. I’m hoping that everything works out well for them, because these guys could (and should) be leading the next wave of k-pop.
Singles released: On/Off
1. GOLDEN CHILD
Golden Child’s energetic debut track offered only a taste of what this group is capable of. At eleven members, it feels as if they have an almost unlimited potential. And though I’ve had many issues with Woollim Entertainment this year, the agency has always been pretty good about developing and promoting its rookies. Of all the artists on this list, I’m most excited to see what Golden Child gives us next. Their follow-up promotions with dynamite album track What Happened hinted at a signature sound that should be built upon, but the group’s most untapped strength is their sense of personality. It takes a certain spark of charisma to stand out in k-pop’s competitive market, and I can see Golden Child developing a huge, devoted fan base over the next year or two. Given the right material, they should be unstoppable.
Singles released: DamDaDi