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The Top 10 K-Pop Rookies of 2022

Top 10 K-Pop Rookies of 2022Yesterday 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:

Mimiirose
Kep1er
NMIXX
TNX
Trendz
YOUNITE

Click for last year’s rookie countdown

2022 Year-End Masterpost


10. H1-KEY

H1-Key

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


9. NINE.i

NINEi

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.

Singles released: Parallel Universe, Young Boy


8. VIVIZ

viviz

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.

Singles released: Bop! Bop!, Loveade, Rum Pum Pum


7. FIFTY FIFTY

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.

Singles released: Lovin’ Me, Higher


6. TAN

TAN

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.

Singles released: Du Du Du, Louder, Walking On The Moon, Beautiful Lie


5. LE SSERAFIM

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!

Singles released: Fearless, Antifragile, Impurities


4. NEWJEANS

newjeans

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.

Singles released: Attention, Hype Boy, Hurt, Cookie


3. TEMPEST

Tempest

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.

Singles released: Bad News, Can’t Stop Shining, Dragon, Taste The Feeling


2. ROAD-B

Road-B

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.

Singles released: Nonstop, Icarus 


1. CSR

csr

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.

Singles released: Pop? Pop!, ♡TiCON 

8 thoughts on “The Top 10 K-Pop Rookies of 2022

  1. As a group – my top rookie of this year is Nmixx hands down. I’m not talking about the music – though I do like it myself I know it’s not to everyone’s taste – the group though is absolutely solid, with every member being an absolute 10! Nmixx’s real strength can be seen especially from their covers – they covered, imo, 2 very difficult to cover songs in the sense both those songs are by bgs with their own special style in such a way that those songs are shaped by the group itself and not as a general song – One being SKZ’s Thunderous and the other being Seventeen’s Aju Nice. And Nmixx absolutely rocked both these by making it their own and doing full justice to those songs!! ❤❤ Lol, I know this sounds very essay-ish but I really think Nmixx as a group is the one that truly captured my love this year.

    Next up I would say Kepler and H1-Key – both who I enjoy as groups a lot right from the beginning and then Le Sseraffim, who I really got into with their last comeback. Miimirose also totally took my attention with their debut and stage performance – I hope to see more excellent stuff from them! And AAA though just a subunit looks really promising! Sadly I don’t see anything in NewJeans as a group so far – I really hope the cb gets me interested in them but right now I’m probably one of the few people on whom the “New Jeans effect” has made zero impact.

    Certain groups put out great songs – Tan, Tempest and Nine.i (Young Boy is still growing lmao – what a banger!) but as groups I don’t really find them memorable so far. Same for Road-B – good song but absolutely zero impact from the group and if I may be brutally honest, though I liked their songs I feel maybe if in the hands of a stronger group I might have felt more invested – and I only say “stronger” – I’m not saying an experienced group or anything lol.

    Actually if there is a boy group this year that got me interested even a little it’s Trendz! And I find them promising rookies because they really do great on stage! They have charisma and they are way more energetic on stage than MV’s!

    The amount of rookies I like this year doesn’t even come close to last year but I have hopes for all of them next year too 🙂 Including that group with the AI member, because funnily enough that song ended up on my playlist and it’s low-key fun XD

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    • And Classy!! How can I forget them?! 😭 As gg groups go- I think I really really liked them as well even though it’s their rapper who I really got interested in after that rap competition! She was great there! Though overall as well, I liked the vibes of the group!

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  2. Rookies delivered in general but NewJeans would top this list for me. The way they came out of the gate alone, with no fanfare and a dynamite song, would have sealed the deal anyway, but the fact that they’ve ushered in an entirely new girl group style sends it over the top. I think they’re next year’s superstars…

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  3. I have to admit it: I’m a big CSR fan, and I was glad they topped Nick’s list. Sequence: 7272 is definitely one of the best debut albums of this generation: The album had such a coherent sound that shaped CSR’s identity and signature. This reminded me of Apink’s debut album ‘Seven Springs of Apink’, where tracks had a common theme and sound signature.

    Disregarding my bias towards CSR, New Jeans topped my list of 2022 Best Rookies. Their style essentially defined how 4th gen GGs are going to be like (A good example: tripleS Acid Angel from Asia). A promising market leader.

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  4. My favorites (only the top 5 are ranked)
    Nine-I
    Tempest
    Black Level
    TAN
    Triple S

    Others I enjoyed:
    Road-B
    P.O.A
    Villain
    Rocking Doll
    CSR
    NMIXX

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  5. 1. Nine.i (2 mini albums /no skips)
    2. Ive (they were everywhere)
    3. TAN (2 mini albums / 5 awesome songs)
    4. Tempest (3 mini albums / 5 awesome songs)
    5. RoadB (are they rookies?! / 2 awesome songs)
    6. LeSeraffim (2 mini albums /no skips)

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