Yesterday was an opportunity to spotlight established artists who had a great year. Now, it’s time to look at 2022’s new debuts.
It was a pretty big year for debuts — particularly girl groups. Many of 2022’s highlights came from these acts, making this list difficult to compile. The ranking is so dependent on what criteria you’re using, and with such a wide range of acts I ended up looking at a little bit of everything: rookies who released music I love, rookies whom I have high expectations for in the future, and rookies that greatly impacted the industry this year. To be honest, I’m still not super confident in my ranking.
Unlike my Top 50 countdown, any group who debuted in this calendar year is eligible. Before I break down my picks, here are few honorable mentions:
Compared to the year’s bigger debuts, H1-Key flew under the radar. But, their small discography is all killer, no filler. If they can build on these strengths, they have a shot of really breaking out in 2023.
Singles released: Athletic Girl, Run
NINE.i found a spot on this list thanks to the strength of Young Boy and the members’ involvement in their own music. I don’t think the group is quite there yet, but I hear individuality in the vocals and songwriting that catches my attention.
This may be cheating since the members of VIVIZ already debuted with GFriend. But, they feel like such a new group. I had to include them anyway. While their discography is not yet GFriend-level, their summer mini album showed a lot of promise.
7. FIFTY FIFTY
Fifty Fifty only have four songs under their belt so far, but I’m struck by the sonic diversity within these tracks. Each tackles a different genre, yet does so with a polish and verve unusual for a rookie group.
TAN are listed as a project group, but they haven’t yet mentioned how long their contract is. We’re likely to get at least another year of music. Hopefully, it will be as strong as highlights like Du Du Du and Beautiful Lie.
5. LE SSERAFIM
There’s no doubt about it: LE SSERAFIM are super rookies. Their music has been great so far and having a cohesive team of producers behind them has helped to shape their stylish sound. I could see them releasing a future song that makes me regret placing them so low, but I can also see them succumbing to some of the trends that have marred other HYBE-associated acts. Time will tell!
NewJeans and LE SSERAFIM are essentially tied, but I’m just a bit more excited to see where NewJeans go in the future. This is due to their quirky concepts and the influence of creative director Min Hee Jin. They seem poised for superstardom, and an upcoming comeback (pre-release tomorrow!) should offer hints to their future.
Back when I was riding high on Can’t Stop Shining, Tempest were my 2022 rookie to beat. They’re still one of 2022’s brightest lights, but Dragon‘s jarring concept shift gave me pause. Then, I remembered which agency they’re managed by. Like Everglow, it seems we’re in for a discography that’s all over the place. I predict they will revisit the top of my year-end countdowns again, but I’m worried their musical trajectory will be a bit hit-or-miss. However, they have tons of potential and I might be kicking myself next December for not giving them the top spot.
This was a tough one. If you’re looking purely at the quality of RoaD-B’s two 2022 singles, they’d be an easy number one. But, much of that love is down to their Sweetune production (though Eddy’s spectacular voice deserves a mention, too). As a group from a very small agency, I can only hope they’re still releasing Sweetune bops this time next year. There’s a great amount of uncertainty here, which prevents me from placing them at the top. But, I’m really pulling for them and their music deserves to be celebrated.
It’s a close one, but CSR ended up nabbing my top spot for a number of reasons. First, they released my favorite start-to-finish EP of all these rookie groups. Second, they’re exploring a K-pop sound that sets them apart from everyone else in today’s market. And most importantly, I have faith in the plan their agency seems to have for them. Thus far, their collaborators have laser-focused on the group’s concept. Personal favorites like Sweetune and Hwang Hyun have been involved in shaping this sound and I hope for more of that in the future. CSR’s dance covers have hinted at how an eventual evolution might sound and I’m eager to see this brought to fruition.