2017 In Review: Day 11 – Rookie Artist Of The Year

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2017 In Review

1. Prelude (Best Album Art)
2. R&B and Soul
3. Rock and Alternative
4. Rap and Hip-hop
5. Dance and Electronic
6. Pop and Ballad
7. Folk and Country
8. Jazz and Blues
9. Crossover and Other
10. Best Collaborative Work
11. Rookie Artist of the Year
12. Artist of the Year
13. Song of the Year
14. Album of the Year
15. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

The 2017 class of debuts was particularly strong at the R&B and electronic fields. I think the idol-group red ocean didn’t see quite as many impact rookies this year, but there were a few ambitious projects as well as a wave of interesting debuts created in the wake of Produce 101 and similar programs that publicized a wave of young talents. Some ground rules for today:

  • To be considered as a rookie, an artist or group must have released their first album, first single, or second single between December 1, 2015 and November 30, 2016. Thus artists who have released one (and only one) single prior to this period are still considered rookies.
  • Work done in compilation albums, audition shows, soundtracks, and featured performances do not count towards the above stipulation. Only full-fledged singles/albums carrying the artist’s billing.
  • Group and band members who debut solo are not considered rookies, unless there are exceptional circumstances. Sometimes the reverse happens, where individual members or sub-units debut before an already-planned full group; Loona falls into this category for 2017. In this case I defer until the official group debut, so Loona will show up in next year’s series.

Rookie Artist of the Year 2017


For EPs Million Things and Unkind; singles “Bud” and “No City For Love”; featured appearances with Emotion LAB, Primeboi, and Imlay

Two packed EPs, a multi-track single and another true single, with no overlaps and all in the space of a year. It’s a ton of work to push out in one year for anyone, let alone for a rookie musician who handles every step of production herself. But Yeseo’s 2017 was characterized even more by quality than quantity. I described the sublime achievement of Million Things on Day 5 in naming it our Best Dance and Electronic Album; Unkind is cut from a similar cloth and its best moments, fatalistic yet dreamy, are right on par with the former’s. Switching effortlessly between the techniques and languages of R&B and electronica – musicians who can be equally as natural in “Fill My Holes” as in “Rude” don’t just grow on trees – Yeseo’s crafted quite a discography of inventive and viscerally enjoyable pieces at an incredible pace. The future is bright.

Runner-up Rookie Artist of the Year 2017

In the Endless Zanhyang We Are

For EP 우연의 연속에 의한 필연 (Inevitability Under Consecutive Coincidence); singles “5:41” and “야광바다” (“Nightglow Sea”); featured appearance with Poclanos label

Perhaps drawing upon vocalist Ahn Da-young’s previous experience, these early works of In the Endless Zanhyang We Are make extensive use of slow, ponderous compositions that take long minutes to resolve their brimming emotions and tensions. It’s not quite as busy as a lot of post-rock or shoegaze, but the band does borrow structures and ideas from those genres and just chill it down a couple more notches. Almost every song of Inevitability Under Consecutive Coincidence has lengthy instrumental intermissions, filled with Ahn softly vocalizing or repeating something or groaning, or sometimes not even that. I love that they love these wordless moments in “#” and “Interlude” and “Untitled”: letting their plain and unvarnished stories (really vignettes, or sometimes just a striking piece of imagery) breathe alongside a warm motif or familiar loop, and speak to us with a deep empathy. In a market where being noticed is sometimes equated with being flashy and bold, the youthful calmness of Zanhyang offers a refreshing counterexample.

The First Ten Out


For EP Intelligentsia; featured appearance with Justhis & Paloalto


For EP ㅔ (é); featured appearance with Poclanos label

DPR Live

For EP Coming To You Live; singles “Know Me”, “Please”, and “Jasmine”; featured appearances with Somdef, Loco, and Sik-K

Hippy Was Gypsy

For EPs 섬 (Island) and 나무 (Tree)


For full-length album Kali Dance


For EPs Hola Hola and You & Me; singles “Oh NaNa”, “Don’t Recall”, and “Rumor”; participation in Lovebird: First Year Season 2 soundtrack

Kim Ximya

For EP Moonshine (joint with D. Sanders); singles “Interior” and “Runner’s High / Career High”

Ku One-chan

For EPs 반복 (Repetition) and Format (joint with Fisherman); featured appearance with Fisherman


For singles “Circle” and “Sweaty”; featured appearance with 2xxx!


For EPs Somablu and The Letter; singles “같은 밤” (“Same Night”) and “Midnight in Paris (The Remixes)”; featured appearances with Grizzly, Hippy Was Gypsy, Rico, Nuz, and TK

Honorable Mentions

Grace Shin
Kangri Kim
Kim Soo-young
Shin Seung-eun
Shirts Boy Frank
Skooby Doo

Sources: artist profile images from Bugs Music

Read our past series:

2016 In Review

2015 in Review

2014 in Review

2013 in Review

2012 in Review

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