Even in the midst of a global pandemic, 2020 saw new highs for Kpop with songs like Dynamite (BTS) breaking possibly every known record for a South Korean group, and groups like Blackpink squeezing in a socially-distanced collaboration with Selena Gomez. Thematically, Kpop was all over the place in the best way possible. Disco took the spotlight once again with songs like MAGO (GFriend), pporappippam (Sunmi), When We Disco (Sunmi ft. J.Y. Park), and to a lesser extent, I Can’t Stop Me (Twice); the success of the SSAK3 project saw the glorious birth of the Refund Sisters and the first-in-genre multi-generational song; and there were a lot of upbeat songs of hope to combat the pandemic-induced hopelessness. For those itching to find someone new to stan, here’s our pick for the year ahead.
It’s hard not to start this list with SM Entertainment’s newest girl group, aespa. The four-member girl group come with four ‘avatar’ versions of themselves, which may sound trippy at first, but really isn’t that far-fetched when you consider the popularity of virtual idols like Hatsune Miku and K(DA). Their debut track, Black Mamba, crossed 100-million views within two months of its release, making them officially the fastest debut group to hit the mark. They were also the fastest rookie group to hit the mark, which is even more impressive considering the song was only released in November 2020. 2021 promises more lore as we dive further into the aespa world and hopefully find a deeper meaning behind the phrases SYNK and REKALL.
The nine-member boy group under Starship Entertainment were the first rookie act to debut in Billboard Kpop Hot 100, thus earning them the title ‘Rookie of the Year’. This is especially impressive considering how the pandemic meant their debut was completely unconventional. Gone were the in-person promotions, replaced with live performances to empty rooms, and plenty of vlogs and video ‘meets’. Their music is vaguely reminiscent of GOT7, INFINITE and Monsta X, which is fitting considering the boys cited GOT7 as their inspiration.
The upcoming soloist under independent label ROSCHILD (founded by a YG Entertainment producer) has a promising repertoire of covers that showcase both her vocal and rapping prowess, as well as her fun-loving personality. While there hasn’t been any official news of her debut, her replies on YouTube point to a possible debut this year!