Friday, January 4, 2013

Notable KPop Rookies of 2012

The industry has been obviously saturated with rookies since 2010 (more so in 2011). It seems like companies are even more desperate for cash this year and there's been more than 50 rookie groups that have been introduced to the kpop scene. Quite ridiculous, right? Well, I've checked out some of these groups over the course of time and here's a list of notable rookies that left an impression on me, whether negative or positive.

Debuting with a reminiscent 90's electro-pop mixed with that obnoxious dubstep dance break song called "FACE", I couldn't get into this group at all. Although they are very much polished in the looks department, group and video wise, I couldn't get over this simplistic sound. Ren turned me off a lot. He seemed...out of a place. Somehow with the hard hitting "Action" made me give them a more serious chance. The image was edgier and Ren looked less like a visual kei reject or wannabe. They have potential and have garnered some respect as underdogs with the whole battle between Exotics and Babies. Am I a fan? Not really. They've fallen back to their aegyo image and none of their latest releases have caught me like "Action" has.

The most overly promoted rookie group of 2012, Planet EXO, brought to you by the makers of Super Junior and SNSD -- SM Entertainment. I've rambled about the marketing strategy when they presented their "prologue" song called, "What is Love". It bothered me that they were skirting around calling this song and their follow-up "History" a prologue to an official debut. Do I still think that SM Ent. wasted loads of money on pointless and annoying promotional efforts? Yes. Do I still believe that EXO-M will be short changed for EXO-K? Of course. But I still cling to my bias EXO-M as the more talented and harmonized group between the two. They have also shown the more successful and play less to SM biases, in my opinion as well. On a positive note, EXO-M has the best chemistry with personality, choreography synchronization, and vocal harmonies. I also pointed out in my v-log that they are more expressive in their music videos as well. The obvious negative is that EXO-K, the most likely the main focus and main money maker of the two, lacks all of that in my eyes. If it's any constellation they have the most insane fans now. I'll definitely will be keeping my eye out on comparing the two and supporting EXO-M.

TS Entertainment accepted SM Entertainment's promotional challenge with a reality show and tough talk from the members of B.A.P. They took a slower, perhaps more clever approach with their efforts. Instead of pounded images of the group's leader with no real substance, the label placed Bang Yong-Gook in the pseudo-"Flashing Lights" music video with Secret's Song Ji-Eun, then smoothly transitioned to B2ST's tiny powerhouse YoSeob in a solo effort that reflected an Eminem and Rihanna duet effort and, for me, an annoying duo effort with future group mate Zelo in a more upbeat effort. I was saddened to hear the talented Bang Yong Guk would be stuck in some rookie group with this cutesy young blonde Zelo. The promotions were interesting and shared that similar alien storyline. Kpop fans constantly compared them with EXO, but they seem to fall under the lines of former hip-hop inspired rookies Block B. The group started off strong with a bombastic debut, "Warrior" and used a technique to emphasis talent over appearance by dying the group's hair blonde. Unfortunately through the year, their music went downhill from there with repetitive lyricism and weak choruses in "No Mercy" and "Power". I assume the label tried to broaden their appeal by putting aside the harden, masculine image for a more soft, aegyo one that didn't sit right for me. Although the group is very much overrated in the rookie department with EXO, I'm hoping they'll return to their original concept and work on being less try-hard in the aggressive area.

Six Bomb
With one kinda known song under their belt, it doesn't look like a positive start for these six ladies and they may be forgotten this year. I must admit watching the low budget debut "Chiki Chiki Bomb" took at least a couple viewings, but the song was undeniably catchy. If kpop fans actually give their first CD release a chance, they would learn that these ladies do bare some talent beyond their low production and simplistic wardrobe. It's not all about the money, guys. [Check out "Baby Boy"]

I mentioned earlier this year that these rookies left a bad first impression on me. "She Is Coming" showcased basic choreography and visuals with horrific styling for the boys. On the plus side, I could definitely admit that these young men did carry some strong pipes, but the debut song was quite unfortunate. Luckily, "Racer" roughened up their imagery and brought something with a little more personality, while "Kiss Kiss" contrast with a softer, more artsy indies touch that reeled me in more than their debut. I'm hoping they don't fall victim to boy band trends and utilize their strong vocal powers to intimidate their competitors.

It feels blasphemous calling these ladies rookies when they possess such strong vocals. Stronger than most popular girl groups that are very well established. I've already went into the back story with my relationship and a little bit about them in my promo post. After the release of "Painkiller" and their first full mini-album, SPICA easily booted 2NE1 out of their spot as my favorite female kpop group. Sure, their choreography isn't the most elaborate, but I'll take passionate vocals any day. Similar to B.A.P, they took an anonymous sort of debut in "Potently" by not appearing which I mention in the promo post as well. As the year went on, I'm not sure if it was the label or the members decided to take a new approach with their song "I'll Be There". The song felt like a step back for me, but I guess they were trying to go with a more playful image while use some 90's Janet Jackson instrumental. While "Lonely" was a half step forward, but sounded like every other female kpop group to me with miss A/Sistar pale visuals. Despite that, they still are my favorite and I'm looking forward to more amazing music from them.

Initially, I didn't like this group at all. I was upset that one of my favorite female rappers LE joined such a cheesy group and their debut song, "WHOZ THAT GIRL" annoyed me. Something about the vocals, silly chorus, and concept for the video put me off. "I Feel Good" was a little more tolerable and I didn't like it until after their release of "Every Night". It's nothing super complex and the styling is still bad, but something sticks more naturally to me. The chorus is nice, the beat is fluidly danceable, and the video is entertaining and relatable. With "Every Night", the girls followed the path of 4Minute, miss A, and Sistar with a sensual, simplistic style. It was less colorful and presented a more mature side of the girls, not only visually but vocally as well. The styling isn't the best as the biggest pet peeve was the visible bras. Otherwise, the video is creative and kinda dark with a little humor. They definitely have potential.

If you've paid attention to my music video recommendations, you would know that I immediately fell in love with this group upon their debut with "Never Let Go". Using the same tactic as SPICA's "Potently", they utilized familiar figures in the kpop industry and let their emotion filled vocals sell to the audience as opposed to their faces. They're not my favorite rookie vocals in 2012, but they definitely have a leg up on a lot of them as I followed each of their major releases. "ONE 4 U" introduced the handsome faces behind the lovely vocals as well as some amazing Grecian visuals. Of course, some audiences were quick to say that the boys ripped off SME's concept they used for DBSK and EXO, but I think they did it better...all bias aside. The vocals, music, and styling of the boys and video scream strength and perhaps the live choreography echoed that as well. "HOT GAME" broke out of the serious tone, but did a better job than SPICA did with their third release. The song is upbeat, a little more playful, but it doesn't take away from their vocals too much. Sure, this reminds me of Flo rida's "Low", there's some autotune here and there, and it kinda sounds like every other rookie, but something about it still stands out from the rest. Their dance skills are showcased more and you can truly see the boys' personalities shine. It's just a charming video~ Their last entry for the year was a response video to SNSD's "Run Devil Run" called "2MYX" (read "to my ex", clever, right?), which I can actually see more clearly than NassuN & G.O's effort in "O-IWI-O". This video combines that charisma and dance talent from their previous video with their maturity from the beginning. It's nothing spectacular like their first two videos, but it's still pretty good and worth checking out. I will definitely will be keeping up with them.

JJ Project
Well, JYP tried to put himself in the ring of rookies with a male duo. I found them different from his other projects and fell on the lines of 2PM's "Hands Up". From the hip-hop-esque electro instrumental track and the annoying bouncing camera movements. I know, it's supposed to go with the title of the song, "Bounce", but I never was a fan of this movement when I saw it 2PM's video. It's nothing special musically, but it has some smooth transitions with hip-hop, electro-pop, and rock. The choreography is quite impressive and the vocals aren't that bad. Mostly, I think they did what Bang Yong Guk and Zelo couldn't do successfully in their video, in my opinion. I wish there was more effort put forth on the duo during 2012, but there's always 2013 and I hope JYP doesn't forget about them either.

I think it took me a couple listens of their debut song "Insane" to truly give them a chance. The song is very lovey dovey semi-grating to me on certain days. It's not a terrible song, but it was like ChAOS' starter song. Although, I am so happy I checked out the b-side because I absolute love "Imagine". It showed off the members' vocal range, harmonization, and strength more steadily than "Insane". It's truly a beautiful song and even live you can feel the power of the lyrics. "Irresistable Lips" brought that same power from "Imagine" and made it more danceable. I didn't go crazy over this track and the video was pretty cliche, I also got distracted by the girl's lips. >> "Father" is less memorable for me, not that it was a terrible song, but I tend to avoid most tributes to parents ballad type songs. I know they had a song or two, maybe more of little digital releases or drama songs, but I don't bother with those, so...onto "WOW". It sounds like those 90's boy bands! One of the lesser known ones. I think I mentioned this before. Anyway, this reeled back to the "everyone sounds like this" sound. The visuals are very polished and it's kinda a shame that this song is so...dated? Not terrible, but not their best. The biggest challenge will be directing BtoB away from being another B2ST, but I'm still looking forward to what they have next.

Like JJ Project, the group only has one real music video promotional effort which is their debut for "La-Di Da-Di". I was a little skeptical with the intro talking part, but the song was very catchy and I couldn't help but abuse that repeat button. The visuals are extremely appealing and the choreography is simple, but creative in some parts. The instrumental sounds familiar, but the vocals lure you in. I'm hoping they don't get lost in the shuffle because they have a strong power behind them vocally and charisma wise. The choreography is quite strong for rookies too.

This male duo doesn't feel like a rookie group either as they share strong vocals and mature presence similar to SPICA. Unfortunately, their first effort "Made yet another woman cry" wasn't the first thing I saw from them and looking at it now isn't anything I would watch nor listen to. It's not bad, but it's one of those usual slow love song ballad things. My first experience was "LOVE AGAIN" with rising female soloist Ailee. This song made me give Ailee a second chance as I didn't know she could rap like that. Their voices compliment each other so well. The song is catchy, mature, soothing, and alluring. The video has some classic R&B elements to go with the men's styles and some dancing girls that are a little distracting. "24Hours Later" is more a lounge type R&B. It's nice to listen to every now and then, but nothing I could repeat like "Love Again" easily. It has that drama OST sound to it with a twist of their signature soulful sound. Since they're a little slower type of R&B that I'm not really used to or fond of, I didn't really listen to much of their other stuff after that. If you're new to them, I'm not discouraging you from listening to it, it's just not my thing.

I will admit that this group didn't have the best production value with their debut video for "SOLO". The song was your typical electro-pop sound and shared a slightly atmosphere to old Big Bang and "Blue" Big Bang. It's not a terrible song either. The chorus is cheesy catchy and the choreography follows that, but the insertion of individual member pictures between scenes cheapened the video. Their follow-up, "Far away...Young Love", was more successful musically. It showed off their skills to emote through their acting and vocals. The story has been used before, but it was still successful in entertaining me. There's even a dance version of the video, but I won't go over that. The second promotional effort definitely gave me a little more confidence in the group's potential skills for the coming year.

I think this group had the most colorful video debut for the guys in this list. "SUPER HERO" was an immediate click for me. The opening was less off putting than Cross Gene and the song was extremely catchy. I couldn't help but dance and smile to this as I repeated the track over and over again. The video is extremely visually stimulating with it's vivid pop colors from cotton candy and comic book palettes, while still having a slick approach used by groups like B2ST and MBLAQ. There's a lot of personality in this debut package and perhaps that's the reason they had the opportunity to guest at an east coast convention last year. Their second video for "Rock Ur Body" shared the same amount of energy and charisma. It's full of color and a cool video game theme. I hope I see more great, energetic music in 2013.

I'm sure this female trio was accused of copying 2NE1's "I Love You" with their muted colored debut "I'm Missin' You". Well, they were produced by similar sources. Sad to say, I might slightly prefer this more than "I Love You". Visually 2NE1 did it better, but musically D-Unit has more passion in this simple song. I think they have the right foundation, especially listening to their first CD release. The rap and singing are equally on par. "Luv Me", their second video contribution, reinforces this point. They display some natural attitude and passion with their actions and vocals. The song is a little more catchy and the video has the same washed out color palette as their debut. I would like to see more bold colors from these girls, perhaps on the lines of SPICA's "Painkiller" video. Otherwise, I believe they are headed in the right direction and they have some decent dance skills as well as the right backing.

I swear it seems like these groups use the same 3-4 color palettes. Anyway, "BAD BOY" is very similar to C-CLOWN's debut effort. It's not terrible, but nothing new. The song's decent and there's moments, like the black and white scenes, that remind me of U-KISS, which is mostly a good thing. Unfortunately, I didn't actively seek out any more of their videos, but there are two more, I believe. I have listened to their mini-album which isn't that bad either.

One more 2NE1 comparison from the public, but you know what, I'll give 2NE1 credit for bringing back the girls with attitude and sex appeal for girls like D-Unit and EvoL. Anyway, "We are a bit different" was an easy sell for me. The colors popped like some high production YG video and the chorus exudes attitude with a hint of sexuality. The vocals are on point and full of sass and energy. The choreography even matches the attitude of badass and sex. It's a shame they didn't have a follow up video, but I'm hoping these ladies don't trade their hard, rebellious image for the soft and aegyo or anything that doesn't fit this initial concept. Also, I must add that the rappers are very strong and cause a huge threat. [Check out "Magnet" dance practice]

This group is going to be difficult to talk about, but they did leave a strong impression on me. Upon seeing their debut video for "ELVIS", I knew this wasn't for me. It was too much like SNSD trying to be cutesy bad girls and you all know I do not like SNSD. The production value, the aegyo gestures, styling, and even the song was too similar to SNSD, but they had to throw in this seemingly pseudo-band thing into the mix. Whether they really play instruments or not, I could care less, but idol rock is not my thing. "GET OUT" was practically the same thing, but a little better with movie nods. So, it's obvious I won't be following these more talented SNSD wannabes.

Well, everyone knows that twins sell, look at Boyfriend! "You know me" was this twin duo's debut effort which confused me at first, but I kept watching. The video is very simplistic and solely focuses on both men. The choreography isn't anything extravagant, but it's clear that the intention of the video was to display their dance skills. If you take that away and just listen to the song, it's kinda obnoxious and doesn't have much to it other than mindless dance music. I'm not completely sold on these twins, but they have piqued my interest in their future efforts.

Last, but not more male group. I think I have more guy groups than girls. Heh. Anyway, "Hurry UP" started off as a possible car commercial and I didn't know what to expect. The music and first few visuals made me a little wary, but then the first verse after the rap made me feel a bit better. The song isn't extreme, but it has some strong rap parts and some good vocals to build on for the future. It has a lot of attitude and some subtle charm. The video isn't anything new, but they tried and I'll give them that. The other video isn't a real music video just one of those fan things with candid moments, but it does display more of their vocal talents...and aegyo skills.

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