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Top K-Pop Rookies of 2019 (Part 2)

Written by Violet Tell a Friend

2019 may not have been the best year for K-pop, but it did give us numerous super rookies who surprised in different ways. The top rookies of the first half of 2019 have already been covered in Part 1 of this feature. Now, it's time to introduce YesAsia's top 10 best-selling K-pop rookies in the second half of the year!

1. X1 – "Fly High, X1!"

Flash MV

From I.O.I to Wanna One to IZ*ONE, the Produce 101 series never failed to lead its debut groups to the top tier despite their short period of promotion time. Last year, X1 was born from Produce X 101 with 11 members of different potential. Though most of the members are rather young, X1 surprisingly showed a pretty mature and powerful group concept in their debut album Bisang: Quantum Leap and title song Flash. Amid controversies relating to the audition program, X1 still attained Korea's all-time highest first-week sales for a debut record with impressive sales of half a million copies. They were not only strong in physical sales, but also peaked at #1 on digital music charts and garnered a total of 11 wins on music shows. In November, they abruptly halted their activities and eventually announced their disbandment in early January this year. Though their rise and fall both happened all of a sudden, in that brief time, they were indeed bright and shining like a Flash. Hopefully, all 11 members will fly high while pursuing their own paths.

2. ITZY – "All in Us!"

Dalla Dalla MV

IT'z Different! K-pop powerhouse JYP Entertainment's latest girl group ITZY debuted as a five-member team in February and shot to stardom with their funky hot single Dalla Dalla. Leader Ye Ji, who took part in The Fan, leads the group that includes MIXNINE's #1 female contestant Ryu Jin, K-pop Star 3 and Sixteen's Chae Ryeong (IZ*ONE Chae Yeon's twin sister), Lia and Yu Na. Though they debuted at a young age, these Gen Z girls manage to steal hearts with their unique "girl crush" vibe on stage. Known as the monster rookie of 2019, ITZY has already notched up impressive achievements – most wins for a girl group debut song, first girl group to win a "triple crown" on a music show with a debut song, and a sweep of the rookie awards at year-end ceremonies. Their chart-topping debut single Dalla Dalla is widely favored for encouraging self-love and embracing our unique selves, which also constructs a chic and independent image for the group. Five months following their debut, ITZY released their highly anticipated first album IT'z Icy, and confidently dominated charts again with the title track Icy.

3. SuperM

Jopping MV

In late 2019, SM Entertainment collaborated with Capitol Records to launch the very ambitious project group SuperM and officially break into the Western music market. Gathering popular members from SHINee, EXO and NCT, SuperM debuted in October with the support of their massive fanbase and was dubbed the "Avengers of K-pop." Their self-titled album topped the Billboard 200 chart in its first week of release. The all-star group impressed with their funky and addictive number Jopping and dance choreography that embodies SM's powerful and iconic performance style. SuperM's album brings five hip-hop-style dance plugs credited to well-known producers like LDN Noise, Yoo Young Jin, Kenzie and Moonshine, plus NCT 127's Tae Yong who participated in the song composition of No Manner. As they tour worldwide for SuperM: We Are the Future Live, the group is ready to take over the world with their music, charm and synergy. Can't stop Jopping to SuperM!

4. CIX – "In X!"

Movie Star MV

"Complete In X!" Five boys of unidentified variables – Wanna One's Bae Jin Young, BX, Seung Hun, Yong Hee and Hyun Suk – join hands to be complete as one in CIX. Just a week after their debut in July, they quickly grabbed their first music-show win with the mysterious dance track Movie Star from their first EP 'Hello' Chapter 1. Hello, Stranger. They later even made a foray into the Japanese music market with the Japan repackaged edition of the release. In November, CIX swiftly made a comeback with the second chapter of their "Hello" series, Hello, Strange Place, and the rhythmical and fierce title song "Numb," which calls out people for being indifferent and encourages teenagers not to become numb to what's happening in society. With Jin Young's Wanna One fame and BX and Seung Hun's experience on YG Treasure Box, the group has constructed a stage presence that stands out among rookies – not to mention their outstanding visuals and unique style of music!

5. Kang Daniel

What are you up to MV

It's the power of Wanna One – following AB6IX's Woo Jin and Dae Hwi, Ha Sung Woon, Park Ji Hoon, Kim Jae Hwan and CIX's Jin Young, Kang Daniel also landed on our top K-pop rookies list with his hot solo release Color On Me! Ever since the disbandment of Wanna One, Daniel has gone through various highs and lows in his career in less than a year, but that hasn't affected his popularity. Winner of Produce 101 Season 2, CEO of his agency Konnect Entertainment, and all-around singer-rapper-dancer – these recognitions have built him up to be one of the most successful male soloists of recent years. His first release Color On Me, for which he co-wrote most of the songs, brought him record-setting first-day and first-week sales as a male soloist. 2019 marks the first milestones in Kang Daniel's solo career, and it'll be exciting to see his growth as an artist in the future!

6. Rocket Punch

Bim Bam Bum MV

Hit the world with Rocket Punch! Woollim Entertainment's girl group spread cutesy dynamic energy through their debut release Pink Punch and title track Bim Bam Bum last August. Looking through the lineup, you may have recognized some familiar faces since Juri, Su Yun and So Hee appeared as trainees on Produce 48 before. Juri, who was then an AKB48 member, graduated from the Japanese idol group and joined Woollim for her official Korea debut. The girls proudly sing their aspirations in Bim Bam Bum (a German onomatopoeia for bell ringing), which is produced by the famous duo Leegi Youngbae. Unlike many other groups, Rocket Punch did not debut with a defined girl crush or cute and innocent concept, but rather a little bit of everything. Hopefully we'll see Rocket Punch soaring higher in the near future!

7. BVNDIT – "Be Ambitious N Do It!"

Dumb MV

If one group has to be picked as the hidden gem of the year, it has to be BVNDIT. After debuting with the single Hocus Pocus in April, the MNH Entertainment girl group continued to build their chic, fierce image with catchy jams like Dramatic and Dumb, which are all compiled in their first mini-album BE! released in November. Despite coming from a small agency, BVNDIT stuns with their distinctive, stylish music and choreography that aligns with their senior labelmate Chung Ha's quality of performance. The girls not only have the complete package of good songs and unique concept, they slay their live stages with stable vocals and powerful dancing. Definitely the most underrated rookie of 2019!

8. D1CE – "Roll the World!"

Wake Up MV

D1CE is a very special group in terms of their lineup and formation. All five members took part in survival audition programs before – Woo Jin Young won MIXNINE while Yong Geun and Woo Dam were on both Produce 101 and MIXNINE, Hyun Soo on MIXNINE, and Yoo Joon on Boys24 – and they've been active through the pre-debut HNB project since 2017. Though MIXNINE's project group unfortunately fell through, that also pushed up the debut of D1CE. In August, the group set out to change the world with a dice in their first mini-album Wake up: Roll the World. The six-track release begins with an intro that matches the album concept and theme, and then ushers in the strong trap beats and brass sounds of title song "Wake Up."

9. Lee Jin Hyuk

I Like That MV

Among the 101 trainees in Produce X 101, who left the biggest impression on you? For many, it was Lee Jin Hyuk who found his way into viewers' hearts with his caring personality, leadership and performing talents. Despite being unable to join the debut group, the UP10TION member shone through various TV appearances and endorsements, and even released his first solo album S.O.L. Nicknamed "Baby Sun," Jin Hyuk brings his well-liked duality as the concept of his record. Lead single I Like That mixes trap and EDM, while "Villain" is an electronic trap number with lyrics co-written by the rapper. Jin Hyuk's onstage charisma and offstage warmth have established him as one of the most lovable rising stars of the year.

10. Fanatics

Sunday MV

Fanatics first gained attention because of member Kim Do Ah, the popular Produce 48 contestant with striking visuals and a refreshingly honest personality. A year before Fanatics' full group debut, their company first launched the subunit Flavor with Do Ah, Chia Yi and Yoon Hye. Last August, they officially debuted alongside DOI, Si Ka and Chae Lin with their first mini-album The Six. The girls delightfully sing the youthful and heart-fluttering tropical pop single Sunday. Though the title track did not make a significant impact, it has showcased the sweetest side of Fanatics.

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Published February 14, 2020

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