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10 Best K-Pop Debuts of 2017

From K.A.R.D’s dancehall flavor to Wanna One’s ‘energetic’ moves and ONE’s chill-hop vibes, here are some of the best new artists in K-Pop

Riddhi Chakraborty Jan 15, 2018

K.A.R.D initially gained popularity pre-debut in 2016 for being one of the very few co-ed groups in K-pop. Photo: Courtesy of DSP Media

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10. Varsity

Varsity have been applauded for their international appeal— one member is also the first known Muslim K-pop idol. Photo: Courtesy of GKC Entertainment and In Hi Media Ltd.

This 12 member group lean towards a dance pop sound and are often compared to successful senior groups like Seventeen and EXO thanks to the powerful choreography and tight formations in their debut video “U r my only one.” The group have also been applauded for their international appeal, featuring seven Korean members and five Chinese members— one of whom is also the first known Muslim K-pop idol. Languages known among the group include Korean, Chinese, English, Arabic and French which have helped the group establish a small but fierce international fan base.

9. BLACK6IX

BLACK6IX’s “Like A Flower” keeps it interesting with several genre twists and turns. Photo: Courtesy of Black Hole Entertainment

Possibly one of the most underrated debuts on this list, BLACK6IX made an impression on us with their single “Like A Flower” in September. While their first single “Please” harkens back to the 2012 pop rock ballad-era of K-pop, “Like A Flower” keeps it interesting with several genre twists and turns; soaring vocals, heady rap and an unexpectedly tropical chorus make for a refreshing listening experience.

8. A.C.E

A.C.E initially gained popularity by busking on the streets of Seoul. Photo: Courtesy of Beat Interactive

A.C.E initially gained fame online with their dynamic K-pop covers on YouTube. The group would often be seen performing songs and dances by artists like BTS, Big Bang, BlackPink and EXO on the streets of Hongdae in Seoul. A.C.E were also members of the popular 1Million Dance Studio before debuting as an official K-pop group with the powerful hardstyle/dubstep-influenced “Cactus” in May 2017.

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7. Pristin

Pristin gained recognition due to their precise, in-sync choreography and their involvement in the writing and production of their own songs.

Pledis Entertainment debuted their much-anticipated second girl group Pristin in March 2017 with the single “Wee Woo” from their first EP Hi! Pristin. The 10 member group quickly gained recognition due to their precise, in-sync choreography and their involvement in the writing and production of their own songs (traits they share with labelmate boy-group Seventeen.) The group released a second EP titled Schxxl Out in August and the lead single “We Like” propelled them further into popularity with its confident dance-pop flavor.

6. Dreamcatcher

Dreamcatcher use dark, supernatural video concepts and a sound that borders on J-rock territory. Photo: Courtesy of Happy Face Entertainment

Five member pop group Minx embraced reinvention on their comeback as Dreamcatcher. While the group have technically been in the scene since 2014, they decided to re-debut in 2017 after adding two new members, dark, supernatural video concepts and a sound that borders on J-rock territory. It was a gamble that paid off and Dreamcatcher’s deviation from the norm on their EP Nightmare make them one of the most fascinating girl groups to emerge from South Korea in recent years.

5. ONE

ONE’s single “Heyahe” is particularly striking, with intricately produced background vocals and echoing ad-lib in the chorus. Photo: Courtesy of YG Entertainment

One is the first male solo artist to debut from YG Entertainment in 14 years and displays a brand of artistry that falls into the category of of elegance and subtlety rather than the explosive hip-hop usually seen from the company’s rappers. The slightly nasal intonation in his voice is incredibly appealing and works beautifully with his debut EP One Day‘s chill-hop/R&B production. His single “Heyahe” is particularly striking, with intricately produced background vocals and echoing ad-lib in the chorus.

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4. Wanna One

Wanna One often pair hip-hop and R&B with house elements and creative choreography. Photo: Courtesy of YMC Entertainment

Formed via the ‘survival’ reality show series Produce 101, the eleven-member group made an explosive debut with the single “Energetic” off their debut EP 1X1=1 (To Be One) in August. In the show, Wanna One were among an initial 101 trainees representing various agencies and the final 11 were chosen by audience voting. The group often pair hip-hop and R&B with house elements and creative choreography.

3. LOONA/ODD EYE CIRCLE

ODD EYE CIRCLE’s JinSoul, Kim Lip and Choerry

While Loona have not debuted as a full group yet, their sub-unit Odd Eye Circle consisting of members Kim Lip, JinSoul and Choerry debuted in September last year and made a splash with their fresh yet nostalgia-inducing singles “Girl Front” and “Sweet Crazy Love.” The trio retain Loona’s symbolic artistry via their dark, almost eerie visuals but sonically stick to uplifting, funk-fueled electro-pop. Loona have revealed 10 of their members so far (each with a solo music video) and are expected to release their first material as a 12-member group this year.

2. K.A.R.D

[L-R] B.M., Somin, Jiwoo and J.Seph of K.A.R.D. Photo: Courtesy of DSP Media

K.A.R.D initially gained popularity pre-debut in 2016 for being one of the very few co-ed groups in K-pop and quickly built a strong following with their dancehall sound and signature ‘hidden’ concept. The four-member group finally made their debut in July 2017 with their EP Hola Hola which included the summery title track as well as hit pre-debut releases “Oh Nana”, “Don’t Recall”, and “Rumor.” The group released a second EP titled You & Me later the same year.

1. JBJ

Decadent, dark and visually spectacular, JBJ’s first single “Fantasy” grabbed attention immediately after its release in October. Photo: Courtesy of Fave Entertainment

Comprising of participants from the reality show Produce 101 (which ultimately created boy group Wanna One with the top 11 contestants) JBJ defied all odds to make one of the most outstanding debuts of the year. Decadent, dark and visually spectacular, their first single “Fantasy” grabbed attention immediately after its release in October with all six members displaying phenomenal chemistry despite being a fan-generated group with very little training time together. Their EP, titled Fantasy, blends trap, rock, pop and complex harmonies throughout to create a sound that carves an identity for JBJ. The group are due to make a comeback this week with their second EP True Colors.

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