[kpop] the state of debuts, 2013

Looking over the list of debuts this year, it was incredibly dismal. I recognized a few– HISTORY, Wa$$up, Royal Pirates– but I could not remember any of their debut songs. I could tell it was a terrible year for debuts, because though I do not really follow kpop, I do follow a number of Shawols who do. I remember when NU’EST and BAP came out, my Twitter timeline had more than a few mentions of both (more like a vomit and some people switched fandoms), but this year, buzz surrounding rookies has been small.

Instead of talking about disappointing debuts, let us talk about the kpop groups that finally broke through the barrier this year: f(x), Crayon Pop, and EXO.

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 1.01.22

The release of Pinktape was the first serious album of f(x), and brought together what f(x) is good at paired with its oddly consistent, signature electronic sound. Listening to f(x)’s previous releases, it just all climaxes into that album, more mature and more confident. f(x) is fast emerging as a counterpart to SHINee, though they still do have a lot of catching up.

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Crayon Pop had a surprise hit with Bar Bar Bar, but the challenge in 2014 will be proving that they are not one-hit wonders, because frankly, their other songs are disasters and really shabbily produced. Crayon Pop hit the magic formula by a long shot with a catchy song and a funny dance, but I do not think they necessarily have the raw talent to push through (note: Bar Bar Bar is not in my music library).

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Last, but probably the most “wtf was that” group of the year, EXO. To me, EXO is the epitome of why S.M. is the 800-lb gorilla in the room. As the huge company, S.M. can attract the very best talents, and even if the material is a tad mediocre (cough, MAMA), once EXO hits their stride, they are fantastic. While on the surface, EXO may seem to be the reincarnation of Super Junior, they are far more meticulously crafted and far more talented as performers. Again, due to its 800-lb advantage, S.M. can increasingly reach for better songs, produced by a broad range of international professionals. Could Growl have been composed by in-house S.M. composers or Korean production houses? Decidedly not.

I believe 2014 holds the most promise for EXO, because as they are a boy group, they tend to get more Westernized, mainstream pop, whereas f(x) and Crayon Pop are girl groups and must play up the high-pitched aegyo expectations of Korean society from time to time. It is no coincidence that the enduring gold standard for girl groups in kpop is SNSD’s Gee, not 2NE1’s I Am The Best. Speaking of YG, I have no idea what happened to the “you pick who debuts” game, which was largely unpopular, pathetic, and needlessly mercenary. YG could have spent that time building up rookies’ popularity, as surely in 2014 S.M. will be assaulting us with new groups as they have revealed new rookies as well.

As for debuts in 2014, I only have one question: where is Jino? (Apparently he is starring in a musical in Japan and still is under S.M., but seriously. What about his Korean activities?)


5 thoughts on “[kpop] the state of debuts, 2013

  1. the only debut i cared about this year was ladies’ code. they’re quite talented *^* a member, sojung, was on the Voice Korea. (she’s on the left: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjqy6VznOe8). on my timeline and dash, there was a lot of hype over the male rookie group bangtan/bts.

    2014 is definitely going to be the year of exo – it doesn’t matter if sm gives them a good song or not, their fans will make sure they sell another million records.

    ah, i’m beginning to wonder if sm will ever debut jino :/ sm will most likely be debuting a girl group in 2014 and he’s not getting younger…

    • oooo I remember watching their video too! But I didn’t continue following them after that. I will make sure to look at their next singles.

      Just hoping and praying we get another ‘Growl’. I liked it so much more than Super Junior’s ‘Sorry, sorry’ and other dance tracks. Someone shoot me, but I think ‘Wolf’ is growing on me.

      I hope they do! I was hoping Jino would be part of EXO, but I guess he wasn’t a good enough dancer? Hm, I think it would be really nice if SM did a mixed gender group. That would be quite new.

      have a great new year!

  2. *in a small voice* I have ‘Bar Bar Bar’ in my library…actually I prefer their Dancing Queen than that. Maybe it’s the dance that attracts me.
    EXO just exploded all over my feeds. They are all so pretty and fluffy! Song-wise, I don’t know if I’m the weird one of not but I don’t like any of their title tracks. I prefer the slower ones that they didn’t promote. And that just reminds me, I wonder why SM didn’t release a Christmas album in 2013..I mean, I want one..

    Jino! YES! The kid from S.M.The Ballad! He’s not in the SMRookies, the last time I checked.


      • Please tell me Chen’s voice gives you goosebumps because that’s the reaction I get whenever I hear his high notes… The vocal kids are uber good!


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