We’ve successfully made it halfway through 2012, and I think it’s safe to finally say so far, so good. You may or may not remember that after discovering my tendency to subconsciously ignore unfamiliar K-pop groups and their music, I made it my New Year’s resolution to give K-pop and the rookie scene more of an honest chance. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of exploring not only new pop music but also new genres of music, such as K-indie and the K-underground scene, and I’ve been able to learn a lot more about K-music and the struggle to stardom.

I saw the rookie spring of 2012 as my best chance to act on my K-pop resolution, instead of letting it fester and die alongside my other resolutions like that gym membership and finding a new part-time. Anyways, many of us had high hopes for what this new rookie wave had to offer. Perhaps more anticipated than the return of the veteran idols we all know and love were the debuts of the many rookie groups we all heard so much about along the grapevine. From peroxide blondies and mascots and weird names and other humble beginnings, the incoming 2012 rookies seemed like they had a lot to offer. And I would venture to say even in reality many of them did, and wowed us beyond our expectations.

Now what I’m getting at is this: as I put in the effort to explore new music and investigate the rookie scene, I happened upon a newfound respect for vocalists. And I know, respecting a vocalist is perhaps the most basic level of fandom, but taking perspective on the climate of the current K-pop scene, it’s apparent that the music scene is not necessarily the stage of the vocalist anymore. What keeps the cogs of the K-pop machine turning are aesthetics and personality, and we know both of those things don’t always paint the picture a vocalist in K-pop. In the grand scheme of K-pop, its almost all too easy for vocalists to get overshadowed by other, more visually pleasing bandmates.

Which is why I’ve brought to you all today a handful of new vocalists that, in my personal opinion, are the reason K-pop music is music at all. Though perhaps some of them are still nameless nobodies and some of them outshine the others, it maybe worth focusing in on each of them just for a moment to pick up on the melodies you might be missing out on.

To begin, let’s bring up B.A.P.’s Zelo and Daehyun. I know I was extremely skeptical of B.A.P. pre-debut, mainly because their boasted of talent we all had yet to see. And while they may not be the best, absolute, or perfect, they certainly are a rookie group that has stolen much of the spotlight. Daehyun is the main vocalist of B.A.P., and has a unique type of sound for someone his age. His voice has a lot of unexpected depth for a pitch as high as his, which creates a lot of balance during his delivery. Certainly an idol that can do more with his voice than just carry a tune, Daehyun is an integral part of the vocal arrangement of B.A.P. that allows the group to harmonize.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSHSJI4ycyU?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

Zelo, on the other hand, is one of the rappers in B.A.P. Now you don’t need to tell me, hey, a rapper is not a vocalist because I am aware of the technical difference. However, a fifteen year old with skills like this can’t go unmentioned. Zelo is a fire cracker all wrapped up beneath the demeanor of a young school boy, so his charisma and flow really take the listener by storm. He is undoubtedly a natural talent, and well worth your time.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6j3M6canYA?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

Another new vocalist who has stolen my heart is Kim Boa, the leader and main vocalist of SPICA. Standing tall with spunky short hair, Boa is a force to be reckoned with. They call her the woman with the status of a rookie but the record of a pro, and her resume can attest to some extensive musical achievements. She’s worked as a vocal guide for artists like SNSD, 4Minute, and Infinite, and played a big part alongside the composition of SPICA’s very own debut mini-album Russian Roulette.

But aside from being experienced behind the scenes, Boa’s vocal performance stands above par. She’s got a sexy huskiness to her voice that allows her flesh out deeper tones but also a higher, more fluid pitch that is anything short of mesmerizing. She’s capable of carrying the flow of a rapper to hitting hard, emotional notes that simply breath passion and life into her lyrics, a feat both easily seen and heard.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbac_9WxYoQ?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

B1A4, though having debuted in late 2011, is another rookie group that seems to keep winning me over time and time again. Now you can call me a sap for pretty boys and I won’t argue with you, but call B1A4 a quintet of talentless pretty boys and I’d have a bone to pick. Though perhaps not the most captivating vocal arrangement, they’ve got a solid vocal foundation and some stellar talent. It is none other than main vocalist Sandeul who I want to highlight here.

Sandeul has got that well tempered and toned dream boat voice. His innocent pretty boy looks could very easily deceive you of the power that lies in his airways. He typically doesn’t show case too much depth of tone or any extravagant charisma, but maintains a harmonious, steady, and mild approach to his sound. However, that is not to say he lacks stage presence. Sandeul is very much capable of holding his own, as he demonstrated through his solo track “Crush” off B1A4’s recent Ignition album.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeXOcacFzoE?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

And last, but certainly not least, is Seohyun. And I know what you’re thinking–this is crazy talk, Seohyun’s been on the scene for years now. Well, to be quite honest with you all, as much as a fan of SNSD as I am, I can’t say I knew Seohyun’s voice until SNSD’s latest sub-unit TaeTiSeo brought her front and center. It was in “Twinkle” that for the very first time I was hearing Seohyun rather than just listening to her few lines in most other SNSD tracks, and needless to say, I was seriously impressed.

I’ve always perceived Seohyun as soft spoken and imagined her voice to very much the same. Her vocal performances never seemed to stand out during normal SNSD stages, so this only reassured my own skepticism of her ability. But after hearing her during the “Twinkle” promotions, I now have reason to believe the only thing that was keeping her back was the line distributions and her hushed nature. TTS really gave Seohyun the opportunity to shine in a light I’d never seen her cast in before, and it really opened me up to her more after hearing the real, healthy strength that lies her voice.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6x9bfxzkW8?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

Of course, I can’t possibly name all the amazing new voices that have come to the stage this new year, but I did my best to bring you some of the best that I know. Being able to experience new vocalists and to explore their musical abilities was highly effective in recharging my passion and admiration for K-pop, so I mean it with all my heart when I say new vocals bring with them new vibes. We all need to get away and discover something new once in a while, and I hope a look into the talents of these vocal talents warrants as much of your respect as they did mine.

It also worth paying attention to vocalist like these to be reminded of the real talent and earnest that is able to manifest itself in an industry that breeds competition more through image rather than sound. And while many of us, including myself, are often doubtful and hesitant to even give new vocalists the time of day, there is certainly a refreshing new chapter to be found when endeavoring into new music. Of course, since there have been so many new groups to sprout on the scene not just this new year but in the past year, I’m certain you all are dying to share the new vocalists that make your hearts flutter that I’ve also failed to mention. I’ve shown you all the vocalists who’ve been rocking my world so far, so now all that’s left to ask is who is the new vocal muse is rocking yours?

(Naver, Newsen, wannnds, variouskpop, fragolina9400, TheFREAK4456)