20140408_seoulbeats_Eddykim22014 was a massive year in K-pop. Scandals, comebacks and more made this year quite a hefty one for fans — both old and new. The news headlines may at times take fans away from the music, but it is always nice to reflect on the year and remember some of the more positive things to happen.

Similar to our mid-year review, some of the writers at Seoulbeats have chosen their favorite debuts this year. If you find yourself too overwhelmed to sift through the many different groups, idols, and artists, you can read our thoughts on which ones our writers have selected as the best debuts of 2014.

Rank

Lo

Willis

Morgan

1

Mamamoo

AKMU

AKMU

2

Lip Service

Mamamoo

Mamamoo

3

Kiss & Cry

Eddy Kim

Eddy Kim

4

GOT7

Purfles

Lip Service

5

Wings

Winner

Lee Michelle


Morgan: Seems like a majority of our best debuts came from the first half of the year…

Willis: I agree with you Morgan — most of our choices did come from the the first half of the year. Perhaps there is a tendency for high profile debuts to come at the front half of the year as these artists vie for the coveted rookie of the year title throughout the year.

I had a tough time deciding who to include on my list. I debated between Lee Michelle or Winner as my fifth choice, but I think the fact that Winner released a full album, which naturally had more material for me to sift through, drove me to select them. “Empty” and “Color Ring” were also very solid title tracks which helped to highlight their songwriting capabilities and talents as a group.

Something not on my list but on both of yours is Lip Service. What made this girl group debut stand out for you two?

20140207_seoulbeats_lipserviceLo: They’re not talking about men! Okay, it is more than that. Lip Service are female rappers, with both halves well serviced. They don’t tone down their femininity to suit their rap image, and they don’t tone down their rap game to be more acceptable as girls.

But a large part is that their first two songs are not about love, AKA the only thing girls can sing about. “Yum Yum Yum” is about the high pressure on girls to have that ideal look and how much trying to get it sucks. “Too Fancy” is the anthem of broke college students the world over. Add in the fact that both “Yum Yum Yum” and “Too Fancy” are crazy addictive, and I had no choice. Seriously, “Yum Yum Yum” has yet to fall off my most played list.

Willis: Lip Service is great! The subjects of their songs are a breath of fresh air, and their sharp rap delivery is on point.

I personally prefer singing over rap, so that’s why I chose Purfles to include instead. Their debut song “1, 2, 3” is catchy, and it takes a slightly different approach on a familiar topic with the lyrics consisting of a conversation between the girls. They question why they should be the only ones to mull over old memories and feelings of a guy and encourage one another to let go of this old love. This trio has a lot of potential — with solid vocals and a strong stage presence to top it off.

Lo: I debated Purfles for my number 5, but Wings won out. The super-awesome creepiness in “Short Hair” is just delectable. Their vocals are just amazing, but what cinched it was the instrumentals. I’m a sucker for strings, and the whole song just vibrates with power, and I love it.

Morgan: We might have some new additions to the ‘baddest females’ category if Lip Service keeps up releases like “Too Fancy.” Their confident and realistic songs are really their selling point. No sexy or cute releases for them with them choosing to¬†challenge the standards for female idols.

20120512_seoulbeats_kpop_star_michelle_leeThat was one of the reasons I chose to add Michelle Lee on my top five as she chose to make a statement. In relation to racial prejudice within beauty standards, she stated she was confident with herself and was not going to change herself for anyone. That in itself is a very important statement, one that I would live by everyday.

These two debuts really stood out from the rest, based on the meaning of their songs rather than the quality – not to say that they weren’t musically appealing because they were, they just weren’t as polished as the debuts of Akdong Musician or Eddy Kim.

Lo: Ah, AKMU and Eddy Kim. Both good, but not my style and, therefore, absent from my list. What about them impressed you both so much?

Morgan: First of all, both debuts were very refreshing amidst a music industry saturated with groups. They reminded me of the debuts of John Park and Roy Kim from last year, with them all starting as contestants on singing competitions. They seemed to have a lot of freedom over their music, with Eddy Kim and AKMU’s Lee Chan-hyuk composing the music for their respective albums, adding a sense of authenticity. It is clear that these are artists, not just singers or idols. Their music was simple, light and effortless to listen to. I often found myself listening to their albums on repeat, practically melting at the sound of their vocals.

AKMU has a little bit of everything for me: they can build you up with fun and quirky songs about first romance such as “Give Love” and “200%” or leave you in the bittersweet agony with songs like “Melted.” The emotion in these songs is so exposed, almost naked, that it pulls you in straight away and also leaves you wanting more. They have shown a lot of diversity in their debut album, leaving a lot of room for experimentation as they start to grow up, and I can honestly say I can’t wait to hear more.

As an older artist known as the ‘soldier singer,’ Eddy Kim was the same but different as his music came from a more mature place than Akdong Musician. Like AKMU, his songs were filled diverse and exposed emotions, from the mellow “The Manual” to the cheeky “Darling.” This man only needs his vocals and a guitar to create something really special. I only have one thing to say, ‘Please sir, may I have some more?’

20140810_igot7Willis: Yes to everything you said, Morgan! AKMU have this innocent charm about them, and I absolutely adore their musicality and artistry. I find myself humming to their tunes all the time, and their potential seems boundless to me.

Eddy Kim has a lot of soul. He has a mature confidence that shines through his work, and his debut album left me anticipating his next release.

On another note, I notice that we only have a grand total of two male groups, who coincidentally come from the big 3, in our combined lists — Got7 and Winner. What makes these groups the exception, and did any other male rookie groups come close to being included in your lists? I briefly considered including Troy instead of Winner.

Lo: I’m not gonna lie — I tend to prefer girl groups over boy groups. 2000 Won came closest, but Minx and Laboum were above them. Got7 is one of those things I don’t understand about myself. They’re just … compelling. Whenever they perform, it’s hard to not watch them. Plus, they have this relaxed, chill vibe that not a lot of other groups have. They’re the “play when driving with your windows down” music.

Morgan: I was not as entranced by Got7 as everybody else was; even though I did like “A,” all their other releases didn’t do it for me. Maybe it’s because I really haven’t seen them perform live. From what Lo said, it seems a lot of their charm lies in their stage performances. I also considered putting Winner and Minx on my list, as their music was charming and well produced, having some of the best songs amongst idol groups this year.

There was another artist that caught my eye but didn’t make it on my list: Ugly Pumpkin. Ugly Pumpkin was completely focused on their music, not how they looked or the production value, and they seemed to have fun doing it. Their debut song “From Yesterday” was a hip hop release detailing the feelings of first love, and I think I sort of fell in love with these three boys through it, no matter if they didn’t meet beauty standards or whatever. They ultimately did not make it, as their release was not as polished as it could’ve been. I just felt the urge to talk about them because it is a side of the K-pop industry that is not usually highlighted, lost in the lights and glamor of idols and companies. Though things seem to be changing with the introduction of singing contestant idols where the focus is completely on their singing and talent, which is good.

20141130_seoulbeats_mamamooWe still haven’t talked about the artist on all our lists: Mamamoo — what was so magnificent about their debut? I know if I was to write something, I would be at risk of using the adjective ‘snazzy’ way too much.

Lo: What isn’t great about Mamamoo? They hit the trifecta of good voices, good songs and good charisma. I just love their sound of jazzy goodness and their confidence — holy shit. These ladies are not the sit-on-my-ass, waiting-for-a-man type. They’re take-charge divas, and I love it!

Willis: Agreed. Mamamoo does not seem like a rookie group at all. They’re very polished all-around, and every member has a strong presence. Their movements and singing are filled with a cool charisma, and confidence oozes from their skin. Talking about them doesn’t do them justice. If you watch their live performances, their talents will do all the talking. They’re exemplary and very deserving of a spot as one of the best rookies of 2014.

Lo: 2014 gave us a good mix of debuts, covering every style from hip-hop to jazz, and I look forward to seeing what they can do in the future.

______

These selections only cover a fraction of the acts that made their debuts this year. Which debuts were your favorites from the past year? Was there a group or a solo act that you thought we missed? Please let us know in the comments below!