Sunday, December 30, 2012

Debut 2012: Must Listen 'Top K-Pop Idol Groups'

Everything is normal once again in the world K-Pop, there's high flying action left and right with new groups debuting seemingly every moment. For the companies, it's about making profit of the huge 'Hallyu Wave' extending across the globe while for the youngsters involved, it's about achieving the age old dream of being an idol star with the added benefit of making money. Even though I try my best to give each group a serious listen, there has been too many groups debuting that it's been a little hard keeping up. However, the talent pool this year among debut groups has been the best it's ever been in my experience.
In this post, I will share with you the debut groups that have not only managed to appear on my radar but has left me impressed wanting for more. To be fair, I will not include the stellar rookie acts such as Ailee, Busker Busker, John Park, Juniel, Baek Ah Yeon15& and Lee Hi. since all of them are not specifically idol groups. This post will feature the bands that you should definitely must listen to because they have serious talents that may put them on top some day. New groups are walking a fine line because everything rides on their impending debut with companies putting all their stakes in making the group prominent through release of strong debut tracks and creative concepts. Through out the year, newer and younger stars will join the older ones while others will be forced into fading out through the back door. Afterwards, be sure to check out these new budding idol groups.

Let me know afterwards which groups you thought deserve spots at the top.


1. B.A.P

B.A.P (비에이피)
Debut Date: January 26, 2012
Group Name: acronym for Best Absolute Perfect
Official Fan Club: BABY
From left to right: Daehyun, Jong Up, Himchan, leader Bang Yong Guk, Youngjae and Zelo.

B.A.P finally debuted after members Bang Yong GukZelo and Himchan's individual activities and quickly gained recognition for their powerful and charismatic concept. Housed under TS Entertainment along with girl group Secret, they expressed unique fashion choice with all members going platinum blonde and debuted with thought provoking lyrics, 'Even if you hide, you will kneel before the truth' and 'Move, it is time for the anthem of the battle between the weak and strong'. With each release, they came blazing and captivated the audience with their strong choreography and powerful image. The two talented rappers, Zelo and Bang Yong Guk were balanced out by the vocal sets of main vocalists Daehyun along with Youngjae and Jong UpCheck out their Power MV below:

Within the first seven months of their debut year, they have managed to release three different EPs simultaneously with WarriorPowerNo Mercy and the 1st Mini Album repackaged titled Crash. Hit producers Kang Ji Won and Kim Ki Bum produced their title tracks Warrior and Power with member Bang Yong Guk providing help in writing the lyrics. For No MercyBang Yong Guk collaborated with producers Marco and Jun Da Woon, both of whom has had experience composing for Secret. For Crash, B.A.P got to work with producing duo of Duble Sidekick consisting of One Way's Chance and Park Jang Geun. On October 22, aware of the anxiousness that gripped their fans, B.A.P searched within their hearts and made another comeback (5th promotional cycle) with a single album titled Stop It and released the music video for the title track of the same name. This round of promotion brought the members to square one (blond hairstyle square) but also saw them with a more hipster and lighter image. Check out the music video below.

Thoughts: I was extremely captivated by them once they made their debut with Hip Hop and Rock elements and how all the members were able to present all the concepts so effortlessly. The members were really strong with Zelo and Yong Guk rapping with immense control while Daehyun was really able to showcase his vocals as the lead vocalist. The other members are talented as well but I think they could use a little bit more attention with more important parts of a song. Meanwhile, who wouldn't have been blown out by 1996'er Zelo and his rap portion in Warrior. Their title tracks were solid and having four promotion cycles within the first seven months of debut is beyond impressive. They should be the top candidate for the rookie of the year award. Some of the other songs in their EP as expected were not at par with the title tracks but for more, definitely check out Goodbye and Voice Message and explore their less brash sides. The recent single Stop It also helps lighten up their image a little bit along with Crash even though one can argue that it also makes them susceptible to major image changes and that may not sit well with those that were drawn to them in the first place due to their brash outlook. Though that won't matter if they continue releasing one solid title track after the other (even though releasing single album after the other can have some serious consequences).
Their recently released pop and rock infused track Crash is a good-listen even though it deviates from their 'Warrior' image. If you are looking for more even after that, listen to Bang & Zelo's unit digital single Never Give Up composed by Kang Ji WonKim Ki Bum and Yong Guk and take in its meaningful message to heart while following to its light instruments. Still not satisfied? Hmm... I know, check out Bang Yong Guk's solo release featuring Yoseob from Beast produced by One Way's Chance along with Yong Guk. Better be satisfied, if not, don't worry, B.A.P will drop something before you can say Best.Absolute.Perfect a million times in their praise. Lastly, check out their powerful live performance for Power below.


Spica (스피카)
Debut Date: February 8, 2012
Group Name: means 'the brightest star' since Spica is the brightest star in constellation Virgo
Official Fan Club: Mercury
From left to right: Leader Kim BoaPark JuhyunPark NaraeKim Bohyung and Yang Jiwon.
Comprised of five members, B2M Entertainment's first girl group peaked on everyone's radar when they released their first digital single Potently on January 10 before their debut along with a music video exclusively featuring label-mate Lee Hyori. Check out their live rendition below.

The members themselves had much experience within the industry before coming together as one:

Kim Bohyung: originally set to debut in the original line up for 2NE1
Yang Jiwon: member of Five Girls along with G.NAUeeSecret's Hyosung and Yubin
Kim Boa: vocal coach for InfiniteKara and Rainbow under producer Sweetune
Park Juhyun: guest rapper on label-mate Heo Young Saeng's Let It Go music video
Park Narae: contestant on the Superstar K's first season finishing in the Top 10

Marking their official debut on February 8 with the release of their first EP titled Russian Roulette they fully established their mature and strong R&B style and distinguished themselves with the display of their solid vocal sets. The EP included title track Russian Roulette and the rising ballad Diary, entirely composed by the maknae, Kim Bohyung. On March 29, they released a repackaged version of their EP titled Painkiller and held promotions for Painkiller, a track produced with the help of Ryan Jhun. Through their debut stage, they were once again able to display their strong vocals and calm demeanor which proved that the group were miles ahead of their competition in terms of stage presence and vocal talent. Spica made their comeback on September 19 with a digital single titled I'll Be There with a more bright and lighter image compared to their debut. Rightfully so, Spica shifted from the heavy elements of their first EP with I'll Be There and the subsequent EP Lonely release in November but none of the latter releases fully captured the charm that was evident in Russian Roulette and Painkiller

Thoughts: Right out of the gate, I was impressed with Spica because all the members were really strong vocally and were able to harmonize really well. The tracks they released were also really good, especially since they were coming from B2M Entertainment, a relatively small company even though it has Lee Hyori under its management. Presenting more of an R&B element, the different dynamics worked for them and clearly showed showed off their immense talent. Kim Boa and Kim Bohyung have really amazing vocals and even the rapper, Park Juhyun can sing as well as Park Narae and Yang Jiwon. They do have some minor improvements to make but the debut was really strong as they tackled more mature materials than the average girl groups. I hope that they will stick with their current concept and release more equally strong tracks and become a force to be reckoned with.
Their comeback I'll Be There deviated a bit from their original image and it was not unexpected because even though musically, they were years ahead, the company stated that they switched to a brighter image to make the public connect more to the group. Even though the track was infectious in its own right, it was more than disappointing to see the change come about after just a short amount. Even though I am sure that B2M will make Spica try out different things, their debut had a spark that I'll Be There doesn't. It certainly showed that in South Korea, the talented are made to change in order to become more relevant in the eyes of the regular fans and that usually means portraying a certain type of image. Lonely, the title track and EP released November 21, had the potential to be something much more than just Sweetune tunes but in the end turned out to be nothing more than just a building block even though the single does have some brilliant flashes as evident below.

3. EXO (K+M)

EXO (엑소)
Debut Date: April 8, 2012
Group Name: coined out of exoplanet, term for planets outside the Solar System
Unofficial Fan Club: EXOtics
EXO-K Top Left to Right: Sehun, Chanyeol, leader Suho, Baekhyun, Kai and D.O.
EXO-M Below Left to Right: Tao, Lay, Xiumin, Lu Han, leader Kris and Chen.
Hailing from arguably the biggest entertainment company in South Korea, SM Entertainment's boy group EXO were meticulously marketed with the release of 23 teasers before the group's official debut, with most teasers showing the little dancing machine known as Kai. At the 2011 SBS' Gayo Daejun, members Kai, Lu Han, Tao and Chen were first introduced and performed with their label-mates.The group containing twelve members were divided into two units consisting of six members each as EXO-K and EXO-M. EXO-K was formed being the South Korean counterpart to EXO-M, the Chinese counterpart releasing the same songs but singing in two different languages, Korean and Mandarin respectively. Anticipation started building up once SM released prologue single What Is Love on January 30, an R&B single with a unique beat produced by Yoo Young Jin and Teddy Riley. What Is Love was released in South Korea and China simultaneously with singing provided by the two units respective main vocalists, Baekhyun and D.O. for EXO-K and Lu Han and Chen for EXO-M. Listen to the Korean version below.

After that, listen to the Chinese version below courtesy of EXO-M. 

On March 9, one more prologue song was released titled History which featured the members dancing to the upbeat track. The two groups were able to showcase their fluid dancing and gained explosive interest from the public. SM finally held their debut showcase featuring both units performing as one and large amounts of fan were seen attending the showcase. On April 8, the units respective debut EPs were released titled MAMA, which included four new tracks in addition to the two prologue singles. The physical sales for the EP were really solid considering they were rookies and the Chinese version by EXO-M was also able to sell well in South Korea. Produced by Yoo Young Jin, the title track MAMA employed Gregorian chants with heavy and aggressive beats while Angel/Your World, the track used many times for their teasers beautifully balanced the title track through its wonderful instruments and showcased the groups' vocal talents. Watch EXO-K's MAMA music video below, which intricately explains the groups' origin.

Thoughts: There is no question that EXO will have the most amount of fans behind the backs compared to other debut groups once the year is done. After all, they are the talented and precious juniors to Super Junior, Girls' Generation, f(x), TVXQ and SHINee and backed up by  SM. Even though I was very much impressed with their debut EP and thought they released strong materials, I had to judge them through a thicker lens considering where they are coming from. I am also not sure how they will market their two unit groups since EXO-M members have been subjected to perform in China.
Both units can dance great, but vocally, some members have their work cut out for them. Baekhyun and D.O. are really strong in hitting high notes but their high performance dance has derailed their vocal efforts in some performances. I did see a noticeable improvement and hope they will continue releasing great tracks. Additionally, EXO members' are also set to make appearances on the SM produced remake of Hana Kimi titled 'To The Beautiful You'. Their future looks really bright no less because they are talented and under tight management that will do anything to give them top class materials.


Nu'est (뉴이스트)
Debut Date: March 15, 2012
Group Name: abbreviation for NU (New), Establishment, Style, Tempo
Official  Fan Club: L.O.Λ.E -taking first characters of Nu'est in Hangul (뉴이스트) looks similar to LOVE
From left to right: Minhyun, Ren, leader JR, Baekho and Aron.
After appearing in the music video along with label-mates After School and Son Dambi for the title track Love Letter in Pledis Entertainment artists' collaboration album Happy Pledis 2012, the first boy group from Pledis made their much anticipated debut with single album Face. Debuting with a fierce image and embracing their 'urban electro' musical style, they made a strong debut with a double stage of Face and I'm Sorry, establishing themselves as one of the stronger band to have made their debut. Their lyrics and the music video of their title track Face expressed the culture of school bullying within society and gained interest as it was revealed to have been composed by Swedish composer Daniel Barkman. Check out their MV for Face below.

Before four months had passed after their debut, NU'EST made their comeback on July 11 with their first EP titled Action and started another round of promotion cycles for their title track of the same name. Similar in style to their previous title track Face, Action boasted a cinematic tune at the beginning with the beat picking up and then developing into a action filled song. Their EP also included Not Over You, a summer track with an infectious beat and Sandy, a track dedicated to their fans. Lead vocalist Baekho was also given a solo titled Happy Birthday, a song with a piano tune. Check out Nu'est on Music Core promoting Action below.

Thoughts: I thought NU'EST was one of the stronger bands to have debuted and if Pledis continues to expertly handle their future promotions like they have, their is no doubt that they won't succeed. With 'Urban Electro' being their supposed style, I feel hesitant as to how they will approach their future releases. Individually, the members have strong vocals that are good enough to carry a song, Baekho has a soothing voice and and JR has good rapping voice while Aron can rap with clarity through tough English verses. It was interesting to see how Ren had everyone talking with his feminine look before debut and it definitely helped by bringing in more exposure. Pledis has done a great job so far with both Nu'est and Hello Venus and I expect nothing more than that moving forward.
Opinions are plenty, the ultimate decision rests on those with real power, the people
The following groups after the top 4 were equally strong and definitely can go far with a strong follow-up.

5. Hello Venus

Hello Venus (헬로비너스)
Debut Date: May 9, 2012
Group Name: giving off the friendly feeling of "Hello" along with beauty that rivals "Venus"
Official Fan Club: Hello Cupid
Counterclockwise from top left: NaraGo AraYoonjoYooyoung, Alice and Lime.

Releases - 9.0/10
Content - 8.5/10
Skill Sets - 8.5/10 becomes 9.0
[+ for having a rapper named Lime that can bend notes easily and can do a 3-octave high note]
Image & Creativity - 9.0/10 becomes 9.5/10
[+ for not overdoing the 'cute image' and being able to remain 'refreshing']
Potential - 9.0/10
Promotional Cycle (s) - 9.0/10
Miscellaneous - 10/10

Making their debut alongside Nu'est, this girl group hailing from Pledis Entertainment generated quite the buzz with a refreshing and not-overdone cute image. They made their debut with Venus sans member Yoonjo, who was recovering from a leg injury. Afterwards, they released Like A Wave and later made a comeback along with Yoonjo with What Are You Doing Today?, their second mini-album and began additional promotional activities.Watch their debut music video for Venus below.

Boasting impressive and above-average vocals, many were captivated by their refreshing charm. Main vocalist Go Ara possessed smooth vocals while their rapper Lime showed her talents with her ability to do three-octave notes. Watch their music video for What Are You Doing Today below.


GLAM  (글램)
Debut Date: July 16,2012
Group Name: letters taken from 'GirLs be AMbitious' 
From left to right: DaheePark Ji YeonMisoZinni and ex-member Trinity.
Releases - 8.5/10 becomes 9.0/10
[+ for debuting with the perfect debut song Party (XXO)]
Content - 9.0/10 becomes 9.5/10
[+ for singing about a delicate issue even if they have never released an official statement]
Skill Sets - 8.5/10 becomes 9.0/10
[+ for having an awesome b-girl member named Zinni]
Image & Creativity - 8.5/10 becomes 9.0
[+ for the classy and elegant teasers introducing the members]
Potential - 9.0/10
Promotional Cycle (s) - 8.5/10 becomes 8.0/10
[- for only promoting Party (XXO), mainly the company's fault for not humoring B.A.P]
Miscellaneous - 10/10

Debut song: Party (XXO) One of the best debut songs of 2012.

Second single: I Like That (Released January 1, 2013)


EXID (이엑스아이디)
Debut Date: February 16, 2012
Group Name: Exceed in Dreaming

Releases - 8.5/10 becomes 9.0/10
[+ for releasing a softer version and slightly better of Whoz That Girl]
Content - 8.5/10
Skill Sets - 9.0/10
Image & Creativity - 8.5/10
Potential - 9.0/10
Promotional Cycle (s) - 9.0/10 becomes 9.5/10
[+ for rebounding perfectly with a bang after the member changes]
Miscellaneous - 10/10 becomes 9.5/10
[- for letting power vocalist Yuzi leave even though the new members have great vocals as well]

Debut single: Whoz That Girl. Promoted before member lineup shuffle.

Title song: I Feel Good

8. EvoL

EvoL (이블)

Debut Date: August 10, 2012

Group Name: Stands for "Effective Voice of a Lady", abbreviation for 'evolution', spelled LOVE backwards (1)

Releases - 9.0/10 remains 9.0/10
[+ for releasing one of best debut hip-hop influenced EP We Are A Bit Different]
[- for choosing a not so great title song, brilliant Magnet would have done so much better]
Content - 8.5/10
Skill Sets - 9.0/10
Image & Creativity - 8.5/10 becomes 8.0 
[- for not living up to the expectations pre-debut, especially with the title track and music video]
Potential - 9.5/10
Promotional Cycle (s) - 8.0/10
Miscellaneous - 10/10

Debut single: We Are A Bit Different. 

Magnet - the song they should have promoted. Dance practice video.

9. AOA

AOA (에이오에이)
Debut Date: July 30, 2012
Group Name: Acronym for Ace of Angels and Age of Aquarius

Releases - 8.0/10 remains 8.0/10
[+ for utilizing a live band and even adding a half angel to help with the drums]
[- for the slightly annoying vocals in Elvis]
Content - 8.5/10
Skill Sets - 8.5/10 becomes 9.0/10
[+ for having members that can rock with instruments]
Image & Creativity - 8.0/10 becomes 8.5/10
[+ for all the references to female characters from popular films in their MV for 'Get Out']
Potential - 8.5/10
Promotional Cycle (s) - 9.0/10
Miscellaneous - 10/10

Debut song: Elvis. Some of the effects and the beat were overdone.

Get Out: Better of the two releases.

10. BtoB

BtoB (비투비)
Debut Date: March 22, 2012
Group Name: Acronym for Born to Beat

Releases - 8.0/10 becomes 8.5/10
[+ for releasing a song dedicated to a father]
Content - 8.5/10
Skill Sets - 9.0/10
Image & Creativity - 8.0/10
Potential - 8.5/10
Promotional Cycle (s) - 8.5/10
Miscellaneous - 10/10

Debut song: Insane.

Comeback song: WOW.

*Note: This post has been updated to include B.A.P's Crash (August 30) and Stop It (October 22) along with Spica's I'll Be There (September 19) and Lonely (November 21).

[Info Source: Komca, Spica, popgasa, BAP, EXO, Nu'est, Daum Nu'estWowKpop, Koreaboo]
[Videos Source: b2m, bap, mbc k-pop, exo-k, loen, music corehello venusglam, abentofficial, danceversionhd, aceofangels8, officialbtob @ Youtube]
[Images Source: Spica, 1st Look, Exo Official, Nu'estHelloVenus, Glam MTV]

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