It’s really hard to believe we’ve already made it through the first half of 2012, and I’m glad I can report that K-pop is still alive and well. The year so far has been a busy one, from propagandizing the great Hallyu export, to convoluted scandals, saesang rage, military departures, the return of old legends, American undertakings, and epic comebacks, and 2012 has so far delivered on it’s promise of new excitement.

Perhaps more exciting than all those things, however, was the colossal incoming of rookies prepared for stellar debuts on the K-pop scene. The moment the rookie gauntlet was thrown, these new artists couldn’t wait to hit the ground running to supply us with their colorful personalities, innovative marketing approaches, hoards of eye candy, and best of all, new music.

Over 50 debuts this year were comprised of brand spanking new idols just itching to break onto the stage, and we all were endowed the pleasure of getting to know those of which managed to steal our attention. Of course, everyday we here at Seoulbeats offer up our opinions on the state of K-pop, and especially on the state of the rookie scene. But to better hear your opinions, we strung together the SB Midyear Wrap-up: Best Debut poll to gauge the love our readers have for the rookies of 2012. Let’s now take a moment to reflect on the results.

SB Midyear Wrap-up: Best Debut Poll Results (Top 5) 

1. NU’EST with 107,327 votes (43.23%)

2. EXO (K+M) with 106,824 votes (43.02%)
3. B.A.P. with 22,780 votes (9.17%)
4. JJ Project with 3,287 votes (1.32%)
5. VIXX with 2,049 votes (0.83%)

Thank you all for taking the time vote and, heh, spamming the comments section with your love. NU’EST and EXO were literally neck and neck down to the very last minute, but in the end, it seems as if NU’EST fans rallied together to give their boys that last extra push across the finish line.

I think those who ranked within the top five certainly deserved to be there–EXO was perhaps the most hyped SM project I’ve ever bared witness to, VIXX is a bundle of extremely talented vocals that were finalists in the Mnet reality Mydol, and JJ Project, well they were just fun and unexpected. Though in my personal opinion, NU’EST’s debut was rather mediocre compared to EXO’s, and I preferred “MAMA” to “Face,”  both groups merit places at the top for obvious reasons–earnest, creativity, effort, the list goes on.

The poll,of course, was an opportunity for you to voice your opinions and root for the rookies you adore. Now, however, is my turn to dish out some love and opinions. With that said, I have personally selected one rookie group whom I consider to have had the best debut for the first half of 2012. And here’s why.

As part of my 2012 New Years Resolution, I made a vow to begin taking a vested interest in rookies and other smaller K-pop acts that lived on the tiers beneath the mega-idols of our day. And as far as the year has gone by, I like to think I’ve done a fair job of trying out new music and doing my best to share it, all along the way rediscovering the old thrill of stumbling across great music and pretty new faces. There’s something about that humbling rookie charm that has allowed me to reconnect with K-pop and the underlings that will undoubtedly one day become the forefront of K-pop.

After giving it much thought and analysis, racking my brain through a handful of hot, sleepless summer nights, the rookie group whom I have selected for best debut is none other than B.A.P. Best Absolute Perfect.

TS Entertainment’s very first boy group, comprised of six members: leader and lead rapper Yong Guk, (formerly Jepp Blackman of Soul Connection fame), visual Himchan, lead vocalist Young Jae, main vocalist Daehyun, main dancer Jong Up, and main rapper Zelo. First breaking onto the music stage in January 2012 with their debut single and EP “Warrior,” B.A.P. were among the first rookies to breath life into the music scene of the new year. With their matching platinum blonde dye jobs and all the teen angst they could muster, B.A.P. fired up the music stage with their brazen, fast-paced choreography and powerful stage charisma. Complete with a pre-debut series titled Ta-Dah! It’s B.A.P., a back story about being aliens from ‘Planet Mato,’ and the Matoki Earthventure comic and mascot, these kids had everything in their arsenal to keep the attention focused in on them. enewsWorld’s Nancy Lee said it best when she stated,

It appears B.A.P has set out to differentiate itself among the pretty-boy male idol groups currently dominating the K-Pop world with a tough, bad boy image, smashing car windows, kicking up dirt and, you know, doing as boys do.

One of the reasons I think B.A.P. has succeeded in having the best debut of the year so far was their debut concept. Normally debut songs play it safe–a little bit of eyeliner, maybe a dash of desire, and standard choreography; Just enough to make a safe landing onto the music scene without ruffling any feathers. “Warrior,” however, was unlike an MV I had seen before. The “Warrior” concept, which also played into B.A.P.’s later release “Power,” was about unveiling the rogue. Like mentioned above, “Warrior” was a huge departure from the pretty-boy image, or any male K-pop image we’ve seen on the mainstream at the very least. Sure, plenty of groups do sexy, charismatic, mature, and other labels of the like, but “Warrior” was about taking the bad boy image to a different, more brutish level. From the choreography down to BYG’s lip curls, this debut concept was painted in dark, savage colors that, dare I say, pushed the envelope.

The way the concept worked its way into the song itself made it a statement-making number. The song didn’t deal with a love story, personal triumph, and certainly not anything innocent–at the end of the day, “Warrior” is a fight song, about a warrior, for a warrior. Apart from giving the debut a unique theme, the concept dressed the song with an extremely commanding presence, which only progresses to hold fast to your attention with an impressive array of bass-hitting choreography, made complete for a heart-pounding performance.

The concept also does it part in “Warrior” MV to showcase B.A.P. in a gang-like element to further the implementation of image. We open on the MV with a bit of point of view, as if we as viewers have crossed into enemy territory–you’re not even 30 seconds into the MV when you’re hit in the face by the Matoki mascot himself. The boys stare you in the eyes almost as if to say they’re going to dance their way into your heart before they claw it out. This underground gang aesthetic is even embellished with endless graffiti, metal chains, fire, and in house violence. Debuting with such a concept means there’s a point TSE doesn’t want to be missed here. And that is B.A.P. are rookies of a different breed.

B.A.P.’s debut is up high on my list also because of their musical style and endeavor of perseverance. Apart from the similar methodology we see in both “Warrior” and “Power,” the rest of B.A.P.’s musical style, influenced greatly in part by hip-hop, soul, and even rock, which include the members’ own personal tastes, maintain a very unique fitting that keeps things musically interesting. Tracks like “Burn It Up (Intro)” and “Fight For Freedom” from the Warrior EP and “It’s All Lies” from the Power EP can attest to this kind variety and influence. In fact, the Warrior EP landed at the 10th spot on Billboard World Album Chart just two weeks after it dropped onto the market. If that doesn’t speak to some talent, then I don’t know what does.

The boys of B.A.P. have also taken it upon themselves to play an active role in their stage assembly, the creation of their concepts, and the writing, composing, and producing of their music. Facts like these make it apparent the kind of passion the members of B.A.P. have as well as their determination to hold their own in the music world. Motivation like that weighs heavy with responsibility, especially for rookies, which made their debut all the more worthwhile.

Another interesting quirk that made the B.A.P. debut distinctive was the introduction of the Matoki Earthventure comic. This comic offers a comprehensive backstory to B.A.P. along with animated equivalents of each member. The Matoki have been hinted at since before B.AP.’s debut, as seen in the transitional snippets of the Ta-Dah! It’s B.A.P. series, up until the much later “Power” promotions. The comics are released in both Korean and English, and acts as the more fun, light-hearted side to B.A.P. The Matoki even have an official Facebook page through which domestic and international fans alike can both enjoy the comic and follow this ‘alien’ story bit on B.A.P.’s venture into idoldom.

And that’s why B.A.P. takes the win for best debut so far, at least in my book. They really took to the stage with unbeatable energy and an exceptional concept that truly made good on the promise of their (I would say name, but it’s too soon) quality. Not only that, but the kind of involvement they take in their music, choreography, and image honestly blew me away. They’ve got an edge and a presence I can really appreciate for being well executed and different, and I simply can’t say the same for K-pop idols in general, let alone other rookies.

Of all the phenomenal debuts this year, B.A.P. really, truly swept me off my feet with their originality and strength of performance, and that is why they are without a doubt my midyear selection for best debut. All in all, however, the rookie scene has turned out to be quite the formidable playing field, and many of them, not only B.A.P., have wowed me beyond expectations. I feel proud as the fan of many new rookies to have witnessed their humble beginnings, and I look forward to watching these rookies continue to grow, and build and better the K-pop scene as we know it. It’ll be interesting to see what they do next and just who they will become as the doors to idoldom fly open before them.


(enewsWorld, OSENKorea JoongAng Daily)


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