If January is any indication of K-pop’s trajectory for the rest of 2022, we’re in for a year full of surprises. January saw the comebacks of veteran artists (Eric Nam, Wheein, BamBam, Changmin of TVXQ) and the exploration of their sounds as soloists. This month also brought anticipated debuts, such as Girls Planet 999’s resulting group, Kep1er, SM Entertainment’s female supergroup GOT the beat, and the first solo mixtape from Seventeen’s Woozi.

For this edition of Unsung Artists, we’re diving into the releases from rising artists. They may be newer to the K-pop scene, but they’re already making their mark with these tracks and MVs. 

P1Harmony – “Do It Like This”

Released just ahead of their Live Tour P1ushstage H: Peace announcement, P1Harmony dropped Disharmony: Find Out with “Do It Like This” at the head of the mini album. A brazen yet laid back track complete with an earworm of a hook, “Do It Like This” strides with confidence, P1Harmony’s ambition as artists imprinted all over the song. 

In the MV, the members flit from scene to scene, starting in a wide open space adjacent to the hustle and bustle of a nearby city, but always surrounded by traditional symbols of success. From wads of cash to sports cars and squealing tires to ornate halls, P1Harmony move seamlessly within these spaces. More importantly, the six members bring their P1Harmony flair to wherever they go, asserting that their success is—and will be (because they still have much more to come)—on their own terms. As the chorus of “Do It Like This” goes, “Come on wake up follow me / Do it like this right now, right here / Do it like this chant dreams together.” P1Harmony are striving for more, and they want listeners to do the same. 

H1-Key – “Athletic Girl”

Early January also saw the debut of H1-Key, the new four-member girl group from Grand Line Group (a subsidiary of Grand Line Entertainment). Adding to the trend of debut singles, the group dropped “Athletic Girl” complete with a MV that enthusiastically leans into the fitness concept. The members grace the screen in colorful athletic clothes, like biker shorts and leotards from the ‘80s. Flying yoga sets also make an appearance and the choreography incorporates squats and boxing-type moves. 

“Athletic Girl” is an example of how MVs enhance the experience of a song. The overall concept takes center stage, weaving the costumes, simple backgrounds, and the group’s vocals into a message moving solidly in a single direction. Light autotune on the verses and pre-chorus, along with the whisper-chant hook following the build-up to the drop, effectively causes the song to loop in listeners’ heads. 

H1-Key uses the idea of being an “athletic girl” to express their confidence, strength, and ambition as a new group making themselves known in the K-pop market. With lyrics such as “I don’t stop, I run” and “I transform for better,” these four are definitely rookies to watch. 

WJSN Chocome – “Super Yuppers”

WJSN Chocome, too, brighten the dreary January days with their comeback “Super Yuppers!” This single release follows the debut of the WJSN’s second subunit, WJSN the Black, in 2021. While this fresh unit staked their claim on exploring a sultry side, WJSN Chocome (formed in 2020) bring uncontained energy and bursts of fun to the table, especially in “Super Yuppers!”

From the moment the drums enter, you know that this song—and its MV—will be a very welcome treat. The high-pitched synth hook adds to the track’s retro vibe established by the drums. The brief superhero/Sailor Moon-esque introduction sets the scene as Dayoung, Yeoreum, Soobin, and Luda take down bullies, thieves, and litterers with a bright and humorous touch. 

OnlyOneOf – “Skinz”

As the sequel to Instinct, Pt. I, OnlyOneOf return with Instinct, Pt. 2 and its title track “Skinz.” From a musical production standpoint, “Skinz” intentionally makes listeners uncomfortable. The brain fights to find purchase in the static-like rhythm of the instrumentals. When combined with the slices of life shown in the MV, the song becomes the soundtrack of what it means to live during a global pandemic. 

OnlyOneOf sing of a toxic love and a need to peel back the mask hiding so many truths while also bringing in lyrics touching upon viruses and parasites. To cap off this thought-provoking MV, the group naturally spotlights various kinds of touches, underscoring the skin that forms the foundation of this track: handshakes, hands to lips, arms brushing against each other, ocean waves playing with your ankles. And, of course, the main choreography where the now six members (as this is the first comeback since leader Love left) don black suits with most of their torsos exposed. The deep contrast in the black and white editing captivates viewers, and pulls their eyes even faster to OnlyOneOf’s own skin and the vulnerability at the heart of this creation. 

Omega X – “Love Me Like”

On January 5, rookie group OmegaX came back with “Love Me Like,” the title track off of their second EP. However, it’s interesting to note that technically, they are not rookies as all 11 members were part of other K-pop groups before joining OmegaX. Back to the track, a whistle hook and an upbeat trumpet line melds with the energy of the Latin beat, creating a smooth earworm. 

The “Love Me Like” MV builds on the sophisticated track. The OmegaX members are front-and-center, their black ensembles, their sleek choreography, and the ethereal colors surrounding them enticing the eye back for another watch. The killing part of the choreo is particularly memorable, as the members draw an invisible flute to their lips once the beat drops.

What were your favorite unsung comebacks of January? Let us know in the comments!

(YouTube[1][2][3][4][5]. Images via Spire Entertainment and 8D Creative [RSVP].)