The Best K-Pop Rookie Groups of 2022
The past year has seen some of the most extraordinary moments in K-pop history.
More than ever, fourth-generation groups are dominating the charts, sweeping at award shows and breaking new records. But, most importantly, they're setting a precedent for the future of K-pop. From debuting the industry's first Vietnamese and Indian idols to celebrating the first K-pop performances at international music festivals, the K-pop industry is solidifying its global impact. These fourth-generation groups will only continue to spearhead its exponential growth, and we're happily taking a front-row seat to witness it.
To recap K-pop's momentous year, we've gathered five of our favorite debuts. Not only have these groups released some of 2022's bestsellers, but they've also made a permanent mark by way of their unique or nontraditional charms and groundbreaking achievements.
NewJeans formed earlier this year as the first artist under HYBE's newest sub-label ADOR and quickly became one of K-pop's most prolific stars with the release of their self-titled EP that set a new record for both first-day and week sales. On NewJeans' lead single, "Attention," they declare their adolescent desire for all eyes on them, perhaps a foreshadowing of their success to come. Rightfully so, the combination of their refreshingly youthful personalities and contemporary twist on Y2K aesthetics forged the perfect recipe to spark everyone's curiosity and propel them into stardom.
When HYBE announced LE SSERAFIM as the first girl group to debut under their labels, it was natural for there to be high interest in the group's release. The HYBE reputation precedes them, and FEARLESS proves every assumption is correct: they're charismatic and skilled in every department. On the album's chart-topping title track, they confidently taunt, "Bring me a forever win / Number 1 on my chest," confirming that LE SSERAFIM is not your humble girl next door. LE SSERAFIM are the it-girls everyone envies.
After competing in the survival competition series Girls Planet 999, the nine highest-scoring contestants united to form Kep1er. In January, Kep1er released its debut mini-album, First Impact, which sold over 150,000 units on the release day, making them the first girl group to achieve this record. "Wa Da Da," the chic, edgy single from First Impact, was one of the most notable K-pop releases of 2022 after surpassing 100 million streams on YouTube and Spotify. Kep1er has continued to showcase their artistic multidimensionality following the release of First Impact with hyperfeminine tracks "Dreams" and "Sugar Rush" juxtaposed against the rebellious and valiant sounds of "We Fresh" and "Purr," establishing them as one of this year's most memorable and versatile K-pop rookies.
In an industry with increasingly younger idols, XEED makes a heroic entrance to dispel any expectation that you must be under a certain age to debut. Nature Space Entertainment revealed the four-member boy group in March, with its youngest member debuting at age 27 and the oldest member at 30. The quartet released their first mini-album, Dream Land, on Dec. 1, and their powerful vocal performance and precise dancing ability are evidence that talent does not, in fact, have a shelf life.
Also read about: The Best 6 K-Pop Tracks of November 2022
TEMPEST took the world by storm earlier this year with their tropical dance-pop album, It's ME, It's WE. In an interview with Pinkvilla, the group detailed their goals for TEMPEST, stating, "Let's show the world everything we've got when we debut. Let's be number one everywhere and win all the awards." The YUEHUA Entertainment newcomers ended the year as Genie Music Award winners for Best Male Rookies. Their passion and drive are promising and will bring them far in overcoming the tempest that is K-pop.
Can't get enough of K-pop? Click HERE to read our interview with P1Harmony on their HARMONY: SET IN mini-album.