Since the summer of ’09, K-pop has seen an explosive rise in popularity. What was once simply a small niche market became, well, a bigger niche market. And with idols becoming a potential medium for profit and shameless money milking, hordes of idols group began making their debut–and backing them random agencies I had never heard of. To put it bluntly, by default I generally care not about most rookie groups making headlines today. Whether they’re from SM, Cube, or DreamSnowPassionLQ Entertainment or something, any rookie idol has five minutes to impress or they’re off the radar. (As a note, releasing fifty teasers goes well beyond the five minutes.)
Unfortunately (or fortunately), the rookie groups recently pushing onto the scene have actually been shattering my facade of hipster-like indifference. EXO has actually released a full song that isn’t 80% Yoo Young Jin, BAP had one of the most well-executed debuts I’d seen in a while, and NU’EST is well… eye catching, to say the least. This led me to two realisations:
1) I’m a meanie pants and judgmental prude when it comes to rookie groups (not that I’m going to change anytime soon).
2) These rookies are debuting with better material and production than a lot of the older bands I currently stan.
Of course a lot of this can be attributed to the fact times are changing, and technology and production value is significantly better than five years ago, but still I can not help but think back to the current big name groups and the kind songs they debuted with. So I ask you, dear Seoulbeats readers, to accompany me on my journey to the ancient past (which we all know in K-pop time is like 3 years ago).
Generally speaking, most debut songs from most rookie groups suck and it’d just be cruel (to you guys) and redundant to list all of them. So to keep it short and sweet, I’m limiting it to the worst debuts from groups that are at least semi-relevant today.
3. TWINS – Super Junior 05
I completely understand that Super Junior didn’t even debut with the intention of being a permanent group, which is why SM didn’t really invest, well, anything into them at the beginning. But debuting the boys with a remake? That’s a bit sad, SM. And for a group which sells themselves based on their ‘flower boy’ looks, it’s a bit pitiful to witness what I believe to be the best looking of them (Donghae) resemble a mop. Then there’s the fact the main vocalists at the time Yesung and Ryeowook get nothing but ad-libs, which would have been alright except Siwon and Hangeng, two of the worst singers in the group, are given the bulk of the lines. It doesn’t help the song gives me a headache. Let’s just say that Kyuhyun was lucky to miss this one out.
2. Oh Yeah – MBLAQ
The depressing thing about this debut was that there was so much hype for MBLAQ, but instead they delivered what is one of the most lousy debut songs ever. The constant repetition of ‘Oh Yeah’ is a terrible and lazy hook, and neither Mir or Thunder are decent enough rappers to justify their raps taking up 70% of the song. The song as a whole is simply a redundant ear-sore, it’s flat with no depth, and the ‘exotic’ concept they were attempting to pull off is executed poorly. The song only runs for 3:30 seconds, but to me it feels like it goes on for decades. And this debut was precisely why everyone hopped onto the BEAST bandwagon instead.
1. Tilt Your Head – Girl’s Day
To be fair, it isn’t as if Girl’s Day grew to become anything remarkable as a pop group, but if you thought ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ was bad, well, their debut song was another level of mind-numbing atrociousness. Remember how New.F.O teased with awesome teasers and delivered a vexing debut song? Well before that there was Girl’s Day, who gave us promising teasers of the girls and their talents and then dropped… this:
To be honest, it’s very rare that a group debuts with a song and executes it so perfectly that it completely blows me away. But, it’d be fair to say that these following singles aren’t bad either, and come pretty damn close.
5. Fire – 2NE1
Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that ‘Fire’ made heads turn. When 2NE1 debuted, they went against the conventional route of most girl groups and suddenly bad girls became ‘in’, and fierce became the standard of fresh. The best thing about ‘Fire’ is that I believe it truly encompasses what 2NE1 is about, whether or not you believe that’s girl power and fiery charisma or ‘in your face’ obnoxiousness. Then there’s the fact I genuinely do love the song; it’s so catchy and high energy and I really do think it’s one of the best songs of 2NE1’s career. They attempted to recreate it with ‘I Am the Best’, but that missed the mark by a mile or so. Nonetheless, ‘Fire’ has scored a permanent place in my heart.
4. I’m a Loner – C.N Blue
Personally speaking I think CN Blue set the standards much too high with this debut song, because they haven’t even come close to topping it since. Although I initially approached C.N Blue with skepticism about them becoming FT Island 2.0, I was pleasantly surprised to hear C.N Blue actually had something like their own sound and could probably successfully stand on their own. Admittedly, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of ‘I’m a Loner’ is the episode of We Got Married where a girl pointed to Yonghwa exclaiming “IT’S THE LONER GUY”, if that isn’t telling of how pretty damn good and successful this song became, I don’t know what is. ‘I’m a Loner’ is a fantastic song, catchy whilst not completely succumbing to being ‘poppy’ to sell. Yonghwa’s rap is admittedly rather unwanted, but that’s a small blip. Sure C.N Blue aren’t very ‘indie’ or as ‘rock’ as they claim to be, but they’re four charming and talented guys, which is a pretty good bargain.
3. Missing Child (MIA) – IU
Okay, yes, she isn’t a ‘group’, but ‘Missing Child’ is too perfect not to mention. Oh, IU. I have no qualms with the music IU is producing now, it’s age appropriate and ideal for her image and maturity. But that being said, I’m not a fan of most of her songs because I find them rather bland and missing that ‘umph’ I need. However, I will forever stan ‘Missing Child’, and I believe it’s still the best song by IU ever. I’m not usually a fan of ballads, but this one simply soars and the melody is so dark and gorgeous, I literally get shivers down my spine. IU has a beautiful voice. I also adore the art direction for the music video, simply because of how disturbing and twisted it is (also, hi Thunder, you cutie patootie!), quite a contrast from her other material.
Unfortunately IU didn’t exactly hit the big time with this song, and it was pretty much dismissed by the public. Boo you, public!
2. Into the New World – SNSD
I’m pretty the sure the consensus is that this is the be all and end all of all SNSD songs. Now the most successful girl group in South Korea, it’s nice to go back and look into their humble beginnings. And what an amazing beginning it was. Their vocals all sound fantastic on this song (oh Sunny, sometimes I forget how your real voice sounds like), and Hyoyeon even gets an actual dance break. This really is one of the most well executed and produced girl group debuts I have ever seen, and it really brings out the best in all nine of these stars. The choreography is also one of the most difficult and energetic performed by a girl group, and what’s chilling is watching the Soshi girls execute it almost perfectly in synch. SNSD came kicking into the music scene singing, dancing, and doing everything in between. One can only wish they’d reach back into their roots a little bit.
1. Replay – SHINee
You know how I said no group has executed a debut perfectly and completely blown me away? Well, I lied. When SHINee debuted I was indeed blown away. I was blown all the way to Timbuktu. ‘Replay’ embodied SHINee’s youthful image perfectly without it becoming contrived and painful, and the boys are all so talented that the beauty of the song wasn’t lost on stage. When ‘Replay’ came out I honestly though SHINee had all the potential to surpass their SM seniors in four years and go above and beyond, unfortunately that hasn’t happened and four years later the direction SHINee have taken is, well… queer, to say the least. However, nothing will taint the perfection of SHINee’s smooth R&B debut single ‘Replay’, it is untouchable in the history of SM’s entire discography and nothing will change that, not even Minho‘s trolltastic rap.
Not to mention that I am mad jealous of Victoria for being able to star in an adorable MV for such a perfect song.
I actually feel all warm and fuzzie looking back at ‘Replay’, because it honestly feels like just last week that the little SHINee boys debuted with their skinny jeans and their noona-serenading ways. Well, I have been in K-pop for far too long. I’m actually getting sentimental. Almost to a fault. Because looking back at all these songs, I’ve also come to realise none of these new rookie groups are probably ever going to reach such a special place in my heart as the groups mentioned above (yes, including Super Junior in all their dysfunctional glory. And yes, even including creepy mushroom-haired Taemin).
Ah, well. I can still watch them try. Dance my pretties, dance.