The Top 10 K-Pop Rookies of 2019

2019 was a huge year for rookie groups. In fact, I’d say that the year was almost driven by them. So many agencies unveiled new acts, offering a needed jolt to the industry. This makes for a highly competitive countdown, with lots of treasures to discover.

Like usual, this list comes with some caveats. When compiling my top ten, I don’t usually include any kind of temporary or project group. With their relatively long contract time, I debated whether or not X1 fit this criteria. But with scandal possibly cutting their lifespan short, I ultimately decided to leave them off the list. Solo debuts from established acts (Kang Daniel, Park Jihoon, etc.), sub-unit debuts (SuperM) and re-debuts (ONEWE) are also ineligible.

Read on for my top ten rookies of the year — each with links to my reviews of their 2019 single releases!


Rocket Punch make it on this list by benefit of their agency and the artists that came before them. I wasn’t a big fan of their debut mini album, but I have faith in Woollim Entertainment to bring the goods over the next year. I hope they don’t let me down.

Singles released: Bim Bam Bum


While I haven’t liked everything they’ve released, Sage has become an unexpected grower and represents a great direction for the guys. I think they could be a dark horse for 2020.

Singles released: Savanna, Time Leap, Sage


ARIAZ only have one mini album to their name, but it’s a strong one. Their sound and collaborators are right up my alley. Their biggest hurdle in 2020 will be the agency that they’re signed to. Star Empire has had a lousy reputation when it comes to promotion. Hopefully they can get it together for these promising girls.

Singles released: Moonlight Aria


I suspect Everglow will have a much higher placement on many others’ rookie lists. I wasn’t as enamored with either of their 2019 singles as most fans seem to be, but I know potential when I see it. They’re quickly carving out their own niche, and if they can continue that growth next year, they may surprise me.

Singles released: Bon Bon Chocolat, Adios


Dongkiz check so many of my musical boxes. I’m always looking for bright boy group songs, and they seem intent on delivering the most upbeat, unabashedly goofy pop that they can. The effort is appreciated, and I’m eager to see where they go next. All they need is a big break.

Singles released: Nom, BlockBuster, Fever


ONEUS debuted strong in January, and followed up with a series of great mini albums. They slipped a bit in the second half of the year, but Valkyrie and Twilight (along with some dynamite b-sides) more than proved their potential. In many ways, their sound reminds me of classic K-pop — hard-hitting but not unnecessarily angst-ridden or trendy.

Singles released: Valkyrie, Twilight, Lit, 808

4. AB6IX

I wasn’t completely convinced by AB6IX at first, but they slowly won me over as the year went on. Though their music feels trendy, it has its own personality thanks to the members’ participation in its composition. They’re one of the tightest rookies of the year. Their five members each bring something different to the table. And with most of them known to the public already, AB6IX is as close to a super-group as K-pop gets (minus SuperM, of course!).

Singles released: Hollywood, Breathe, Blind For Love


I will always love groups who find a signature sound and stick with it. VERIVERY’s new jack swing revival proved to be both addictive and versatile this year, and I’m hopeful that they’ll tread roughly the same territory in 2020 as well. The group has such a refreshing energy, with lockstep choreography and fun, consistently strong material.

Singles released: Ring Ring Ring, From Now, Tag Tag Tag


ITZY only released a total of five songs this year, but it felt like they took over 2019. They’re such a force already, bounding out of the gate with palpable charisma and the tunes to match. Their quirky, upbeat style pulls from many girl group tropes we already know, but feels uniquely their own. Dalla Dalla and ICY were two of the year’s biggest and best singles, and it’s a crime that the girls weren’t allowed to release more material. But, if JYP’s non-stop promotion of Twice is any indication, ITZY are going to have a packed 2020.

Singles released: Dalla Dalla, ICY

1. TXT

TXT are the definition of a super rookie, flooding the K-pop landscape with material even if they only released two albums. Their placement at the top of this list shouldn’t be any surprise to longtime Bias List readers. I’ve been waiting for a more pop-minded group like this to break out, and I’m delighted that TXT’s melodic, upbeat sound has been embraced by the industry. Their fantasy-like concepts have proven to be highly original and different enough from agency-mates BTS to stand out. Their music, videos and trailers have been incredibly high-quality (and big-budget), and the members are as endearingly personable as they are talented. It’s still early days for the group, but I can already tell that they’re going to be a long-time favorite.

Singles released: Crown, Cat & Dog, Nap Of A Star, Run Away, Magic Island, Angel Or Devil

16 thoughts on “The Top 10 K-Pop Rookies of 2019

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  3. 2019 has been an unusually great year for girl group debuts; for me anyways.

    ARIAZ – Moonlight Aria
    Bvndit – Dramatic / Dumb / Hocus Pocus
    Cherry Bullet – Q&A / Really Really / Violet
    Everglow – Bon Bon Chocolat / Adios
    Fanatics – Milkshake / Sunday
    ITZY – Dalla Dalla / ICY
    Purplebeck – Crystal Ball / Dream Line
    Rocket Punch – Bim Bam Bum

    RUANN – Beep Beep
    Hwasa (mamamoo) – Twit
    Jeon Somi – Birthday
    Kei (Lovelyz) – I Go
    Oh Ha-young (Apink) – Don’t Make Me Laugh
    ORLY – Crush On You
    Yoona (SNSD) – A Walk to Remember
    Yukika – Neon

    Sadly, Sulli also released her first solo debut, “Goblin”, on June 29, 2019. And now.. ..the world is a smaller place.

    3 random references; just because:
    Reference #1 (Bvndit): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnJqGMW4yts
    Reference #2 (RUANN): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FR8VWEgcvU8
    Reference #3 (Yukika): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67jSYCSrnE4


  4. Both of Everglow’s singles grew on me more than I’d like to admit, although I still cannot stop hearing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” in Adios. Which, now that I’m thinking about it, is quite appropriate for the season! 🎄🎄

    ITZY takes home the celebratory cake for my best rookie of 2019, no questions asked. Verivery and Oneus take home honorable mentions, because although I did not listen to their music much this year I can recognize their potential. Same goes for TXT, from whom I only downloaded one song this year – Run Away – but what a song!

    People on the internet like to argue over where “generations” in kpop begin and end, and because we are in a transitional period in kpop right now I’ve been thinking about the question myself. I personally measure these rough eras by tone and style shifts, which is why I think the so-called “second generation” ended in 2014 and the current “third generation” ran from 2015 to 2018, with something new beginning this year. Obviously these are but concepts that only exist in the collective imagination of kpop fans, but I still find them fun to consider – as long as a Youtube comment war doesn’t spring up over them! 😆

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t unhear it either (adios).

    I would like to give a shout out to a couple reboot groups. 3ye was hella entertaining with “Out of my mind”, the first overt Billie eilish influence I have heard in kpop. (I pretend that “do ma thang” does not exist.)
    Hot Place (what a name) was also hella entertaining with “TMI” in the spring.


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  12. can we please get some recognition for CIX ?? not only were their title tracks godly , but the BSIDES !! not to mention the japanese single they released last year , my new world . they legit got their first win a WEEK after debut . they should be in here .


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