6 Rookie K-Pop Groups Watch 2021
The 2020 K-pop acts debuted on unparalleled terms. As the pandemic in COVID-19 persisted, artists performed for the first time at local music performances in South Korea but without a live audience singing along and naming their favorites — one of the most awaited encounters in preparation for idols. Still, last year, a few dozen rookie acts joined the K-pop scene and interacted enthusiastically with fans across online channels as both parties awaited the day when gatherings could resume.
The K-pop groups that have especially drawn our attention are between four and 12 members. They also range from one single song to a full-length album in their performance. In addition to good music, they were somehow surprised and ready to make even bigger waves in 2021.
Members: Jiung, Jongseob, Keeho, Intak, Spirit.
A cinematic surprise came at P1Harmony’s entry into the k-pop scene: a full-length, sci-fi film, P1H: A New World Begins featuring six party members. On Oct. 8, weeks before the new event FNC Entertainment dropped its first EP, Disharmony: Stand Out, the movie was created to create a fictional universe about its identity. Although the approach of a K-pop group to make a great show debut was revolutionary, the contents of this heavy hip-hop EP formed P1Harmony as a formidable rookie act. The lead track ‘Siren’ featured a smart use of quasi-homophones desire, the Korean word for danger and wrong, imitating the sound of a siren to provide a sense of urgency. The other tracks of the release are bangers themselves, full of punchy rap lyrics, which members helped write. And while the rap parts of P1Harmony’s tracks are a highlight, the choreographical video stream that has been posted during recent months shows that members still have dance chops.
The following are Sumin, Sieun, Isa, Seeun, Yoon, J.
STAYC’s debut single, “So Bad,” has the most catchy chorus in recent memory. This was predicted in view of Black Eyed Pilseung’s track—the songwriting dome behind some of the K-biggest pop hits, including TWICE’s “Fancy,” Chungha’s “Gotta Go,” and Apink’s “Dumhdurum” (one of TIME’s Defining K-Monumental Pop’s Year by 2020). Although the six-member ensemble—”So Bad” and “Like This”—released just two songs on a Young Culture compilation in the single Star, both made encouraging moves toward more hits. STAYC participants demonstrated an incontrovertible ability to control the stage with their stable live singing (a video of increasingly high-note vocalists) and blatant charisma. And while their own discography is limited, through popular K-pop song covers, artists have shown they can take various performance styles from sweet to elegant.
Members: Jungwon, Sunghoon, Sunoo, Heeseung, Jay, Jake, Ni-ki.
Before ENHYPEN’s official launch, the company had accumulated huge social media followers: over one million on Twitter, two million on Instagram, and three million on Weverse’s fan network. When they participated in the I-LAND Reality Contest, the seven contestants became popular, shaping ENHYPEN’s line-up by combining global fan votes and producer selection. ENHYPEN began with the first single “Given-Taken,” a partnership between Big Hit Entertainment and CJ ENM. ENHYPEN is concerned with the uncertainty surrounding the circumstances of a reality TV show: was this an opportunity given by their efforts to participants or a “taken” Given-performance Taken’s is sharp, slick, full of dance movements that can only be performed as part of each member. Through this title track and other songs on EP Boundary, ENHYPEN made it clear: Day One provides complex choreography is the finest party, irrespective of the song’s atmosphere.
Members: Zoa, Monday, Soojin, Jiyoon, Soeun, Jaehee, Jihan.
WEEKLY stood apart in the group debut in 2020 to fully embrace a fresh, vibrant sound while glamorous and dark concepts from K-pop acts are technically highly traditional. Play M Entertainment’s first group of girls over 10 years (Apink was the last to be premiered), WEEKLY released two EPs after the group debuted last June—we are and should. Jiyoon Member early named as prolific songwriters on four of the 10 songs. The party’s first title track, “Tag Me (@Me),” begins with a nice chant about the loud responses of a social media post, concluding with members singing about their schedules. The song, however, is less a stern reprimand of internet culture than a friendly warning to keep us in the midst of online noise. The other songs, beautiful and enjoyable, solidify WEEKLY as a charming party.
Members: Giselle, Karina, Winter, Ning Ning.
Aespa took an unconventional teaser picture in the days before her debut: eight women in a bed, but just four people. Karina, Giselle, Winter, and Ning Ning are virtual counterparts. Later on, cartoon characters are seen singing, raping, and dancing alongside real life. The anticipation for SM Entertainment’s new girl group—the first female label act since Red Velvet in 2014—was already huge, and the launch of these avatars only amplified aespa excitement. But the dominant subject was Aespa’s first hit, ‘Black Mamba,’ digital renditions above and above the participants. Video music with roaring synthesis notes, rich vocals, and rapidly dropping climatic choreography became the fastest K-pop music video band with 100 million views on YouTube. Although “Black Mamba” is APEA’s only release to date, its popularity has placed it at the forefront of the 2020 rookies.
Members: Park Jeong-woo, So Junghwan, Mashiho, Yoon Jaehyuk, Asahi, Choi Hyunsuk, Jihoon, Yoshi, Junkyu, Bang Yedam, Haruto, Doyoung.
TREASURE’s debut long-awaited. Although the competition reveals the group was formed and completed in January 2019, the act officially debuted just a year later. Fortunately, the pre-debate Treasure Map series which caught a warm surprise for a participant graduating from high school from lighthearted games provided an opportunity for the 12 participants to pursue their lives. All YG Entertainment (BLACKPINK’s home) debuted the August 2020 “Boy” title track. The group debuted a laidback second track in each of TREASURE’s first three albums with a hard-hitting lead single, demonstrating its versatility. TREASURE’s first album, The First Step: Treasure Impact, released on January 11. Perhaps most exciting is the inclusion of the pre-debate single, “Going Crazy,” both featuring dynamic melodies, “My Treasure,” both featuring rich vocal colors of members—a true strength in the party.