The first month of the new year is a time to shake off the past and to resolve to improve in the future. January is a unique time in the K-pop comeback calendar for the very same reason. January is the time where up-and-coming acts can make their mark. For example, Momoland’s “Bboom Bboom” came out January 3 of last year and became a massive sleeper hit, earning the group major recognition and new fans.

The month also has a spirit of reinvention, which artists like iKon, A Pink, Chungha and Bang Yongguk tapped into. iKon and A Pink solidified their new image, the former I.O.I star tried on a dark, new concept, and the former B.A.P. member made his solo debut. The below standout MVs and songs from Unsung Artists for January 2019 represent a new beginning for these K-pop acts.

KNK, “Lonely Night”

2018 was tough for KNK. After participating in YG’s trainwreck survival show Mixnine, they left their agency, YNB Entertainment, and member Youjin left the group for health reasons. By the end of the year, the group hadn’t had a comeback since “Rain” a year and a half ago. Despite their setbacks, the group has made a fresh start with their latest comeback “Lonely Night.”

KNK added a new member, their friend Lee Dongwon, found new management and announced a U.S. tour. On top of that, they maintained a relationship with producer Kim Tae-joo, the composer of their previous title tracks such as “Back Again,” “Sun, Moon, Star” and “Rain.” This will help the group continue to build on their signature R&B sound, which is definitely present in “Lonely Night.”

The song’s jazzy, trumpet-backed chorus allows the boys to shine with their brand of sultry moves and long, lean, manly visuals. The charismatic dance shots of the new lineup showcase the group’s strengths and future potential.

WJSN, “La La Love”

WSJN’s star continues to rise with their latest release, “La La Love.” Unfortunately for this comeback, the group’s three Chinese members are absent due to other commitments. While not as strong as their previous release, the school-set “Save Me, Save You,” “La La Love” captures the group’s dreamy, space synth sound but combined with some new elements.

The MV has less concrete “cosmic” visuals or symbolism, but the styling and visuals are strong. This time around, the members frolic around a magical carnival imploring their lover to “always stay by my side.” The song itself adds edge and drama with Exy’s intro and outro and a spoken-rap pre-chorus. These moments balance the earnest, sweet chorus that shows off the group’s vocals.

Not all the song’s tonal shifts are successful and the choreography isn’t as impactful as in past comebacks. But overall the song has a catchy chorus and provides a chance for the members to play with new elements of their ethereal sound.

Verivery, “Ring Ring Ring”

Verivery debuted on January 9, 2019, with their colorful New Jack Swing single “Ring Ring Ring.” The new Jellyfish boy group and little brothers to VIXX do the opposite of the dark, highbrow concepts their seniors are known for. The septet shine with charm and youthful innocence, making them stand out compared among their fellow rookie boy groups, such as Oneus or Ateez, who went with edgier concepts.

Crafting cutesy pop is much harder than it seems, and the production behind the track blends each section together with the driving drum machine beat. Even the nostalgic retro touches like harmonies and chanting in the second bridge fit in perfectly. The chorus is catchy with an adorable matching key choreography point.

While the MV is nothing revolutionary, their debut has set them up for success, especially at a time when bright concept groups like NCT Dream and Astro are pivoting to a more mature sound.

Astro, “All Night”

Speaking of Astro, the Fantagio group came back in January with the mature mid-tempo song, “All Night.” The group, which established themselves with delightful bubblegum gems like “Hide & Seek” and “Breathless,” have fully embraced the current prototypical boy group aesthetic of pastels and billowy, feminine blouses. In this MV, they also engage in the moody activities of languidly lounging at dining tables or getting in bathtubs fully clothed (see: BTS, EXO and more).

While the visuals of the MV are cliche, they certainly do work for the members of Astro. To be fair, Eunwoo could probably still rock the tackiest knockoff Chanel jacket or blinged-out grandma blazer and still look stunning. The boys give great face to the camera and are sharp with their choreography, but the video really comes alive when their bright personalities shine through.

Jin Jin’s pink hair and playful raps balance the video’s moodier moments. Rocky smirks through the bridge until finally the boys let loose in the song’s last chorus. The members smile, laugh and act silly together and there’s even a laugh included on the track. This gives the LDN Noise-produced song an energetic finale representative of the group’s charm. “All Night” proves Astro can be moodier or more mature without losing what fans love about them.

Favorite, “Loca”

Since their debut in 2017, the six girls of Favorite have shown promise, and their fan base has rallied behind them. Favorite crowdfunded more than $10,000 for their latest comeback on the MakeStar platform, a feat they also achieved for their 2018 comeback. This boost in funds makes a difference, with the MV for “Loca” looking slick, stylish and saturated along with featuring nice costumes and sets for the dance sequences.

“Loca” is a darker, more powerful turn for the group. The song is produced by Ollounder, who is known for working with Dreamcatcher. While this song employs overused tropical and Latin beats, it does it extremely well. It also foregoes the trend of instrumental-driven, single-phrase choruses for a classic refrain. This look and sound suit Favorite well and will hopefully be a step toward them defining their signature sound like Dreamcatcher.

Roh Taehyun, “I Wanna Know”

After becoming a beloved contestant on the second season of Produce 101 and a successful run as leader of fan-imagined group JBJ, Hotshot’s Roh Taehyun has made his solo debut with “I Wanna Know.”

Known for his charm and krumping skills, Taehyun has proven he can adapt to a variety of concepts from hard-hitting hip-hop to aegyo-filled pop. The stylish MV for “I Wanna Know” combines these elements, borrowing the rainbow-hued outfit element from JBJ’s “My Flower” and giving it more trendy hip-hop attitude.

The ever-moving camera in the MV is a bit headache-inducing, but it mimics Taehyun’s silly, beagle energy. One smart, subtle technique used to further this feeling is that Taehyun crosses over the edge of the MV into the black border surrounding it. This creates an effect of him bursting out, unable to be contained in your screen. Overall, the song and video are pure, playful fun.

Who was your favorite Unsung Artist for January 2019?

(Youtube [1][2][3][4][5][6]. Images via Fantagio, Astory Entertainment.)