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The Top 10 K-Pop Rookies of 2020

After a glut of high-profile rookies in 2019, this year felt more subdued. There were still tons of new acts, and many of them made it onto my “Top 50 Songs” countdown. But, most hailed from smaller agencies with less promotional power.

Making a rookies list is a combination of looking back and looking forward. Many of these groups only have a handful of songs to their name, so when I compile this ranking there’s a certain amount of prediction baked in. This means I look at things like the past history of agencies, or which producers different groups are being paired with. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’ wrong. Either way, I think all ten of these acts will go on to do interesting things in 2021.

Before I break down my picks, here are few honorable mentions:

BAE173
Secret Number
Weeekly
MCND
UNVS
E’Last

Link to End-of-Year Masterpost


10. P1HARMONY

It’s still early for P1Harmony, but I was impressed with their debut mini album. B-side Nemonade represents the sound I hope they follow, but even the weaker tracks showcased some promising vocals. Their music could go either way, but I have a feeling that they’re going to impress in 2021.

Singles released: Siren


9. ENHYPEN

Despite a limited amount of music and a late-2020 debut, I feel like I’ve been with ENHYPEN for months now. I guess we can thank I-LAND for that. I’m a bit hesitant about the direction Big Hit is taking them, but given the money and hype behind their career, ENHYPEN’s future definitely looks bright.

Singles released: Given-Taken


8. AESPA

Aespa, with their one measly digital single, placed above a fan-favorite girl group like Weeekly? Well, hold your pitchforks, because this is where I start to project the future rather than look at what 2020 brought. I actually liked Black Mamba quite a bit, and if SM Entertainment’s traditions hold, Aespa will soon be bringing the goods. I’m genuinely excited to see what the agency does with them.

Singles released: Black Mamba


7. TREASURE

After months and months of build-up, YG’s Treasure finally made their debut. They blitzed us with several title tracks, most of which ended up growing on me more than my first impression suggested. I still think they need a bit of a musical makeover, but there are some real talents in the line-up.

Singles released: Boy, I Love You, MMM


6. TOO

After a decent debut, TOO leapt up this countdown with the release of their second mini album. I think they really found their sweet spot with the nostalgic pop of tracks like Count 1, 2 and Step By Step. If they continue along those funky lines, they’re going to have a great 2021.

Singles released: Magnolia, Count 1, 2


5. STAYC

StayC only released two songs this year, but the fact that they’re backed by producers Black Eyed Pilseung makes them a very exciting prospect. They’ve also got a great, diverse roster of vocalists and have already harnessed a sound that fits them well. I’m very excited for their future.

Singles released: So Bad


4. THE MIDNIGHT ROMANCE

These guys aren’t exactly new on the scene, but 2020 marked the debut of The Midnight Romance as a band. They released a ton of material this year — all of it great. Their hazy synth sound feels perfectly suited to this era in K-pop, and I’m really hoping that they’ll break out next year.

Singles released: The Midnight Romance, On My Own, Nightmare, I Don’t Want To Live Without You


3. LUCY

It’s hard not to root for Lucy. They’re such an endearing group, backed by tons of talent and a handful of great songs. It’s exciting to see a violinist featured so prominently in a K-pop band, and if Lucy continue to leverage this strength, their music will just get better and better.

Singles released: Flowering, Jogging, Snooze


2. GHOST9

It feels as if GHOST9 already have a sense of what they want their music to be. There are still a few kinks to work out, but I’m happy to see that they’re sticking with a tight team of producers. There’s a continuity to their work, buoyed by fun sci-fi storytelling. Their rollout has reminded me a lot of ATEEZ back in 2018, and we all know how that turned out! Time will tell if GHOST9 will enjoy the same level of success, but I think they have the potential to do great things in 2021.

Singles released: Think Of Dawn, W.ALL


1. DRIPPIN

Woollim Entertainment has a proven track record when it comes to their groups. I trust them, and that trust has rarely been broken. Despite a lame group name, DRIPPIN released a very strong mini album that drew from the agency’s past with one eye on K-pop’s current trends. It’s hard to tell exactly what DRIPPIN’s sound will grow into, but if they continue the classic appeal of tracks like Nostalgia and Overdrive, they could easily forge a legendary catalog of music. I’m hopeful that Woollim will pair them up with some of the agency’s frequent collaborators (Sweetune? Ten Ten? 1Take & TAK?), but I’d be just as happy if they continued to work with the FULL8LOOM team for title tracks.

Singles released: Nostalgia, Shine

15 thoughts on “The Top 10 K-Pop Rookies of 2020

  1. Pingback: K-POP Best of 2020 Masterpost | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

  2. I am so excited for 2021! Ohhhh especially for the return of Sweetune!

    Woollim please, you have my trust!

    Ghost9 and DRIPPIN are my personal favorites for now!

    Like

  3. DRIPPIN deserves, Nostalgia is easily the best debut of this year. Also, they have been performing Overdrive on music shows for like 2 weeks now, instead of Shine. I wonder what made Woollim change their minds?

    Like

    • You know what? Why do K-pop Companies do this?

      I am super Upset about Labyrinth , Like very upset even though it’s almost about to be one year.

      I have no idea, It just infuriates me!

      Labyrinth
      New World
      Beautiful X
      Overdrive
      Ghosting

      All of these amazing tracks just losing titletrack status when they fucking represent what makes each group so amazing!

      If the Chaser and Rising Sun were recorded in 2020, they wouldn’t have even been title tracks, just relegated to B-sides……

      There, I just sent shiver down to all of your spines

      Like

  4. STAYC’s future looks so bright.

    Many of my favourite k-pop songs ever were produced by BEP (Sistar’s I Like That and Lonely, miss A’s Only You, the last three Apink comebacks…) so I was very excited before they’d even debuted, but their So Bad performances have surpassed my already high expectations!

    Like

  5. I was excited to see this list, I’m happy that STAYC are the highest girl group as they’re definitely the rookie gorup i’ve been rooting for. I was also wondering if you were gonna write a review for Twice’s Cry for Me since it’s been officially released as a single now, or do you only write reviews if they have MVs?

    Like

  6. I am really rooting for Ghost 9 in 2021. Their comeback album really solidified my interest in their group. In particular, the b-sides Splash and Red sign really drew me in. Their sci fi thing is right up my alley I guess. Not complaining 😆

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  7. A very similar list to mine, except I would have made E’last sneak into that top ten lol simply because both their releases were very solid for me whereas some others that had only one track didn’t exactly leave a big impression on me yet.

    A group that I would also consider would be DKB. Their debut song wasn’t exactly my cup of tea but their follow-up singles have been fairly good and they seem to be a very talented group, I’m just hoping they don’t go the same Brave Brothers route as other groups 😦

    Like

  8. Pingback: The Top 10 K-Pop Artists of 2020 | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

  9. JUSTICE for Weeekly!! LOL

    I would say I have zero faith in Aespa currently but that I’m willing to give them another chance clearly communicates differently doesn’t it? So instead I’ll say that they need to have an actually good song next time around – if not the title then on a mini album – for them to capture me because BM was just NOT it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. kinda upset because cravity isnt in the list 🙂 when cravity is one of outstanding rookie group in 2020 with most awards. but anyway all rookies listed i look forward to their journey

    Like

  11. Pingback: Song Review: CRAVITY – My Turn | The Bias List // K-Pop Reviews & Discussion

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