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The Top 10 K-Pop Rookies of 2017

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.

Singles released: She, Mind Control

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.

Singles released: I’m Your Boy, Boy

7. TRCNG

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

6. MVP

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

5. PRISTIN

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.

Singles released: Wee Woo, We Like

4. DREAMCATCHER

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.

Singles released: Chase Me, Good Night, Fly High

3. A.C.E

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.

Singles released: Cactus, Callin’

2. ONF

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

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13 thoughts on “The Top 10 K-Pop Rookies of 2017

  1. Pingback: K-POP Best of 2017 Masterpost | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

  2. Great list, pretty much agree 100% with your ranking (though ONF is my personal favorite of the year, I can’t deny the slight uncertainty as to where they’ll end up over the course of next year.)

    Golden Child definitely seems the most likely of any rookie I’ve seen since 2015 to follow in Seventeen’s footsteps. There have been many large, 10+ member groups to debut since then, but in my view GC seems to have the right mix of charisma, sound, and actual smart utilization of their large numbers to have the same appeal that SVT has ridden so high on. Also their b-side With Me is one of my favorite songs of the year, and if they can continue to deliver similarly creative and refreshing sounds on future albums, I’ll be more than pleased.

    Pristin definitely has enormous potential, but their Twice-imitative title tracks have been a little disappointing to me. I think they can do much better (more quirky and less cutesy like you mentioned) and although this might sound mean, I’m kind of glad their latest album had a decrease in sales, as it might give Pledis a sign that they should go in a different direction with the group. If they work out the perfect image and sound to suit the girls’ considerable skills as well as their charms, there’s no reason they couldn’t be increasing their sales exponentially.

    Fantagio has proven with Astro that they can give their groups strong songs and unique, clever concepts, so I have hope Weki Meki will receive the benefit of that in future comebacks as well.

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    • I’ve waffled between GC and ONF for the past few weeks. Both have incredible potential and unique sounds. In the end, it just came down to a gut feeling about how next year might play out.

      I love seeing ONF dominate MIXNINE, but I think it was a mistake to send them on the show this early in their career, especially now that we know the ratings have been lousy.

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      • Well said. I’m praying even if the ratings don’t do much for ONF, that at least the resulting final group might grab some attention which could hopefully benefit any members who make it in.

        Also, just totally 100% out of burning curiosity, if LOONA Odd Eye Circle had been its own group without any attachment to anything else, and considering the mini album + repackage and the two singles they released, where would you have ranked them on this list? Would they have made the top 10? I can see why you didn’t include them (if you’re also taking their future into account–which of course will be part of OT12 LOONA) but I’d love to know where they’d fall if everything OEC had done as a group existed in a vacuum. 😀

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      • OEC definitely would have made the top ten… probably around #6 or 5. I don’t feel like I’m as enthusiastically aboard the LOONA train as some, but OEC’s material was the best of the bunch,

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  3. Just like Snuper, I fear MVP won’t take any advantage even by The Uni+, and that’s an annoying mess… Take It is one of the best tracks of the year, and they proved to be really more than rookie in their live shows.

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    • Honestly, it feels like the Unit producers had already decided on their favorites long before the show started. It’s hard to garner votes when you’re not given any screen time.

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    • MVP seriously impressed me with their debut, so much so that I got “into” the group and familiarized myself with the members and their personalities and everything, which I think is the first time I’ve done that for a group as nugu as they are. I’m now hoping it wasn’t a mistake…..

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  4. Pingback: Looking Back at Last Year’s K-Pop Resolutions — Did 2017 Deliver? | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

  5. Pingback: Song Review: Golden Child – It’s U | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

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