A multitude of young teenagers sacrifice the conventional route to become an idol trainee. Out of those, only a hundred few see the light of debut. The number of debuts in the K-Pop industry has increased significantly since the 90s, simulating a Hunger Games to stand out like no other.
2020 brought with it a fair share of trials and tribulations. Entertainment, especially the K-pop industry took quite a hit for the rookie acts who could no longer hold fan meets and do offline projects to promote themselves. Yet, this didn’t demotivate the most resilient of talents as they overcame various barricades to finally find a home in our hearts. In this year gushing with all-virtual debuts, Team KHIGH brings you a carefully curated list of 2020’s best debuts, tested against various thoroughly designed parameters.
We’ve all regretted not stanning our favourites right from the beginning. KPOP HIGH INDIA is here to your rescue, ensuring you don’t sin again. Please note our top picks are listed below in alphabetical order. Presenting you *drumroll*, The Best Of K-Pop Debuts 2020:
Astro Sanha & Moon bin – ‘Bad Idea’
Four years after the group’s debut, the first subunit from the 6-member group Astro took the stage with “Bad Idea”, the title song of their first EP. The subunit is composed of the maknae Sanha, and Moon Bin, the group’s vocal organ.
“Bad Idea” is a dark track, contemplating an adventurous relationship between a therapist and his disturbed patient, wherein the therapist is in control of the patient’s memory. The music video falls in line with the concept and we see Sanha as the patient who keeps dying and resurrecting at therapist Moonbin’s whims. The two vocals push their limits and incorporate diverse pitches and note lengths to construct this daft punk number with an addictive hook. Shots in the MV alternate between dark and angelic, hazy and crystal clear concepts to complement their album theme “Fading In and Fading Out”. The celestial and bewitching choreography is executed gracefully by the duo. What makes this song a notable debut is the various instrumentals, aural elements, beats, bridges and verses which entrance the listener. Moonbin and Sanha have us tapping our feet and dancing along to this catchy number, and it would definitely not be a Bad Idea to check them out ASAP.
Bae 173 – ‘Crush On U’
One look at PocketDol Studio’s first boy group debut, BAE 173’s Crush On U, and you get a nostalgic flashback to the cute concept boy groups.
The 9 member group, with two idols from disbanded groups, have enchanting visuals and a balanced mix of goofy and stern personalities. The vocals and rap line are no joke and manage to gain the spotlight even in the restrictive and commercial concept. The music video seems to pack a mix of all the bright and pastel concepts used with their own added twist and a mesmerizingly synchronous choreography.
A bright, lighthearted pop track, the debut is a boyband-like bubblegum pop track and serves as a refreshing change when compared to the dark and bold EDM laced debuts that most rookie groups debut with. We surely do have a Crush On Them, what about you?
BTOB 4U – ‘Show your love’
4 years after the debut of the septet BTOB, their 4 member subunit BTOB 4U reclaimed the debut stage, setting it ablaze. The subunit was born out of the need to create music by those members who have finished their enlistment, while three of them are currently away enlisting. Before leaving to perform his patriotic duties, Hyunsik, a member of BTOB, wrote and gifted the song in question to the subunit, contributing vastly to their success.
The song comes as healing for listeners and aims to promote and encourage reaching out to our loved ones and intrepidly offering love and support in the wake of the pandemic. The music video is a cinematic production that brings together romantic characters from acclaimed movies. We see Eunkwang is Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) who portrays love for art and friendships from the movie Kill Your Darlings; Minhyuk as Romeo Montague (Leonardo DiCaprio), who shows us unconditional and passionate love in Romeo + Juliet, Changsub portrays a loveless character from Days of Being Wild as Yuddy (Leslie Cheung), and Peniel fits in as a directionless youth Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) from Trainspotting.
“Show Your Love” is an upbeat and groovy track that eventually embeds itself into your mind and your playlist. While the vocals fulfill their part wonderfully, Peniel’s rap stands out, giving the track an essential element. Known for their refined choreography, BTOB 4U doesn’t disappoint and puts forth a complex yet visually appealing performance, winning hearts at debut stages. The song was also seen reigning on iTunes India charts.
BTOB 4U is a reinvented BTOB, proving to the industry that they’re here and for a long time. It’s still not too late to start stanning this underrated pool of talent.
Enhypen – ‘Given Taken’
Emerging victors of a publicized and cutthroat competition aimed at picking the best of the best, Enhypen debuted in late November with their title track “Given- Taken”. The septet had already garnered a dedicated audience since I-Land, which came as an added pressure to perform at a level satisfactory to their onlookers.
However, regardless of the backing of a big label, the boys did an extremely impressive job. Teasing a mystifying theme, the song has dark tones and the boys’ distinct vocals are crisp and clear, showcasing their talent. The lyrics of the song tell the tale of being an idol trainee, right up to the debut, contrasting the positives and negatives of their journey. The title of the track and wordings are based on dichotomies and build a narrative using contradictions to emphasize the hardships of what might seem the ultimate success. The intense instrumental and a cliffhanger bridge which leads to a yearning chorus slowly grows on you, and you’ll soon find this track playing on loop. The debut also hit iTunes India charts on Debut Day.
The visuals are kept very natural, preserving and highlighting the boys’ innocence. The music video is a cinematic production, introducing a vampire storyline, shuffling between Victorian and contemporary themes, replete with horror, trepidation and hues of blood red. The enthralling and polished choreography gets ample spotlight in alternate set sequences. Stills of the boys in modern-day streetwear signaling a debut are also shown. This debut checks all the boxes for us: music, choreography, visuals, music video, lyrics, acting, etc. Enhypen does justice to their fight, proving their superiority.
KAI – ‘Mmmh’
If you’re a K-Pop aficionado who hasn’t been living under a rock, you’re probably already involuntarily doing small body rolls with the meditative “mmmh mmmh” playing in your head. The most sensational and anticipated debut of the year, EXO member Kai joined the members’ solo streak with his hit number “Mmmh”.
Kai delves into the passions of a budding romance in a seductive R&B soul number with a chorus so addictive, it will have you vibing for days. The music video with multiple outfit changes and concept variations paired with Kai’s jarring facial expressions make it a treat for the eyes. Unlike Suho, Kai went for the EXO-esque “superpower” concept and was shown possessing teleportation abilities.
Dubbed as the dance machine of the K-Pop industry, he does complete justice to his title with a jaw-dropping and sensual choreography executed with precision and skill. This is Kai in all his glory, cementing his title of the K-Pop legend. It is no wonder that this staggering debut found itself on this list as well as multiple charts including iTunes India.
Lee Su-Hyun – ‘Alien’
Better known as the other half of AKMU, veteran star Lee Suhyun took the stage to tell her story, while her brother is away enlisting. Produced by her brother Chanhyuk, Suhyun uses her solo debut track “Alien” to lend a healing hand to everyone who is struggling with accepting themselves in a world pervading with unrealistic beauty standards.
Surfing through a virtual retro galactic universe with thematic fits, Suhyun fights aliens representing the toxic haters who’ve trolled her for her looks. The choreography matches the beat of the chorus and is simple yet peppy enough to dance along to. The music video makes being eccentric and unconventional look fashionable. Suhyun makes “Alien”’s intentions clear: “The standards of the world are quite uniform and breaking these is not easy. Although many people have tried to break them, I hope that they continue to break even more. I hope our world becomes a place where different people are respected and can love themselves,” she said.
“I believe that art has the power to change the world. From afar, the world looks at peace, but up close, it’s extremely dynamic. Artists are people who must express what they are thinking about. They are the people who can suggest new things to our world.” A disco-pop number held together by strong bass and Suhyun’s finessed breathy vocals, this song will have you falling in love with your extraordinary self every time you listen to it.
MCND – ‘Ice Age’
One of the year’s first debuts, Top Media’s pentad of MCND, precis for Music Creates New Dream, froze the rookie stage with their hype debut number “Ice Age”. The music video and song packs everything you would expect in an impactful debut: seasoned rap, vocals, a sing-along cheer, introductions and more, all wrapped up in a thunderously frosty concept.
Every member has drastically different visuals and delivery styles, promising varied contributions to the table. Yet somehow they all gel together to complete the Icy theme. Announcing their era as the “Ice Age”, the boys lure in fans not only with the lyrics but also with cute interactions which give way to an unexpected, EDM heavy chorus paired with choreography so chilling, you can’t help but stan.
P1 HARMONY – ‘SIREN’
“This is the one that you gon turn up”. With a loud Siren, FNC Entertainment’s 6 member group debuted later this year with a 3-minute long music video blaring endless reasons why not stanning them would only come at a loss.
Written by the members themselves, Siren is a powered hip-hop track with contemporary synths and edgy beats that announce the ferocious arrival of the group. The members’ proficient vocals and fast-paced rap take the centre stage in the absence of a steady instrumental.
The state of the art music video showcases the crisp visuals of the members as they warn a burning city of a disaster, mitigate it, all to end with a jubilant citywide jam session. The unmistakably sharp choreography gets its own centre stage. All these highlights in addition to a clever wordplay on the repetition of “we are” which sounds like a siren sound, make this “the group” to watch out for.
True to their lyrics, “this siren was just an appetizer”, we believe that the boys have a scrumptious full course meal to serve up in the coming years.
Precious – ‘BEBE’
One of the most underrated debuts of the year, Precious- a five-member girl group from ‘Danal Entertainment’ hit the K-Pop scene with their debut “BEBE” featuring fresh concepts, goth-punk, and pastel visuals and a riveting introductory music video.
The music video follows the girls as they combat tactfully with goons and run across various graphic simulations to get back an old lady’s stolen diamond. Synthesized vocals, a skilled rap line and a consistently badass theme floating through make this a very powerful debut.
Switching between contrasting visuals, scathing facial expressions and swagger dripping choreography, this group carries pure talent and should be on your playlist ASAP.
Red Velvet Irene & Seulgi – ‘Monster’
After keeping fans on the edge for a while, SM finally unveiled the power duo which “Monster” is befitting addition to Red Velvet’s magnum opus, spun around their concepts of Red and Velvet, the former emerging with additional intensity. The hard-hitting lyrics of “Monster” speak about accepting the inner demon which houses within oneself. The dubstep trap incorporates hedonistic and haunting sounds with mesial drops and bridges which embody the track. Seulgi dominates the vocals and Irene brings the eerie softness characteristic to the concept.
The avant-garde music video sees Irene and Seulgi don mesmerizingly bold and sensual convictions, their piercing gaze holding the audience captive. Irene and Seulgi share tantalizing chemistry, romancing one another’s “demons”. The winsome choreography performed in a goth attire is uncommonly delightful. To sum up, the entire concept is dark, psychotic and haunting, but wrapped in a glitter paper, making it groovy and catchy. If you loved Red Velvet’s “Psycho”, Irene and Seulgi’s unit will be your go-to album 😉
Treasure – ‘BOY’
One of the most anticipated debuts of the year, YG’s neoteric boy group- Treasure, officially entered the industry in August with their track “BOY”. Contrary to other rookie groups which usually debut with an introductory track, Treasure decided to cut the formalities and give the audience a trailer of their prowess.
The boys received much critique for the song, yet it emerged as a trending debut with global attention. The superficial lyrics, which pine for a girl’s attention, take the backstage here, putting the melody, house trap beats, visuals and choreography into focus. The instrumental build-up to the EDM chorus features the boys playing around and having fun with the undefined concepts which are very refreshing. The expertly produced music video captures the unique visuals and delivery style of every member. Looking at the entire package, it is safe to say that they’re on their way to becoming “your boys”.
Weeekly – ‘Tag Me’
Unlike the overly produced and commercially bold concepts common to today’s rookie girl groups, Play M Entertainment’s septet, WEEKLY’s debut – “Tag Me” is very refreshing to the eyes and the ears. Although borrowing a lot from 2016-era girl group visual concepts, the lyrics relay the tale of being a carefree and confident girl on today’s agonizingly critical social media.
Largely a funky pop song replete with shouty vocals, Gen-Z slang and hyper verses, the requisite bridges throw a spotlight on the girls’ strong vocals.
Not entirely glamorous, the pastel-holographic music video also shows the girls having fun and making goofy and distinct expressions which makes it hard for us to not adore them. Already having bagged a MAMA within months of their debut, Weekly is sure to make you their Daily.
Which debut swept you off your feet? Which debut do you see becoming your ultimate favourite and who won the honour of being stanned by you? Let it out in the comments and find your fandom!