2012 In Review: Part 11 – Rookie of the Year

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[2012 In Review Series]

0. Prelude – Best Album Art
1. Introduction
2. Best R&B/Soul
3. Best Rock/Alternative
4. Best Rap/Hip-hop
5. Best Dance/Electronica
6. Best Pop/Ballad
7. Best Crossover/Miscellaneous
8. Best Original Soundtrack
9. Best Collaborative Work
10. Label of the Year
11. Rookie of the Year
12. Song of the Year
13. Artist of the Year
14. Album of the Year
15. Concluding Remarks

Welcome back to our 2012 In Review series! We’re getting into the home stretch of this thing, and today we recognize some of the new faces we saw in 2012. Discovering rookies and watching their achievements is a big part of any year, and 2012’s newcomers made quite the impression. Selections were made primarily based on the body of musical work, but with extra weight given for impact on the scene and some to popular success.

As always, honorable mention picks are sorted by alphabetical order of names!

Rookie of the Year 2012

Busker Busker

Notable activity: Released debut album Busker Busker and EP 마무리 (Finish); performed promo theme for KT olleh

You know, for the longest time I had someone else at this spot. (No, it wasn’t the runner-up artist either; there was some shuffling of the list.) After all, I didn’t name a single entry from this band in the entire rest of this series. But in the end, I couldn’t justify not having Busker Busker as Rookie of the Year. This trio, fresh off of their second-place finish on Superstar K2, dominated the music market in the first half of this year. They broke and set records, topped and swept and all-killed their way to dominance, and became the most-downloaded artist of the year by far, with over 25 million downloads. (That’s 7 million more than Big Bang and 15 million more than Psy.)

The Internet was ablaze with Buskermania, of course, but the phenomenon was bigger offline – as IZM put it, “wherever youth congregated, from coffee shops to clothing stores to pubs, could not help but play 벚꽃 엔딩 (Cherry Blossom Ending), 꽃송이가 (The Flowers), 여수 밤바다 (Yeosoo Sea at Night), and 첫사랑 (First Love) all the time.” This in a scene that had been of the idols, by the idols, and for the idols for since 2007. They were at the forefront of not only a seismic shift of the K-pop market, but also the greatest band-music renaissance in Korea since the 1980s. Make no mistake, I think Busker Busker’s music needs a lot of work, and the band is probably among the least polished out of these rookies. But there’s simply no discounting what they did this year.

Rookie of the Year Runner-up


Notable activity: Released debut single Heaven and EP Invitation; starred in Dream High 2 and participated in soundtrack; included in 18 Immortal Song soundtracks as contestant; participated in Full House Take 2 soundtrack; assorted featured appearances

In Hellokpop’s 2012 In Review: Honorable Mention R&B/Soul Song for Heaven

Talented female solos always abound. But talented and marketable mainstream solos can be difficult to find. Ailee was a breath of fresh air in that sense; from her impressive stage-debut performance of Halo to unorthodox first single in Heaven, the multi-talented former YouTube star was simply different. She was nearly complete as a vocalist even as a rookie, as we saw in the ample power and remarkably controlled tone of Heaven; we then saw her compete against established stars in Immortal Song and digest everything from the legendary Kim Wan-sun disco to a freaking Patti Kim 1967 hit with deftness to match her bravado. Even in what I think was an underwhelming EP, her performances were faultless. Bottom line: this rookie can flat-out sing. In all senses of the term. Throw in the fact that she also has an under appreciated talent for rapping and dancing, with good musical interpretation skills and dominant stage presence to boot, and you start realizing there is really no limit to how far Ailee can go.

Honorable Mentions


Notable activity: Released debut album 욘욘슨 (Yonyonseun)

Guten Birds

Notable activity: Released debut single You in the Mirror and EP 팔랑귀 (Gullible Ears); participated in Found Tracks Volume 23

In Hellokpop’s 2012 In Review: Honorable Mention Rock/Alternative Album for Gullible Ears


Notable activity: Released debut EP My First June and second EP 1&1 (read our review)

Kim Geu-ji (Kim Beggar)

Notable activity: Released debut album 밥줄 (Means of Livelihood); participated in the 22nd Annual Yoo Jae-ha Music Contest and in Soul Dive single 매일 그대와 (Every Day With You)

In Hellokpop’s 2012 In Review: Honorable Mention Pop/Ballad Song for 독백 (Soliloquy)

Lee Hi

Notable activity: Released two singles; participated in eleven Kpop Star soundtracks as contestant and in Epik High single 춥다 (Cold)

In Hellokpop’s 2012 In Review: Runner-up R&B/Soul Song for 1, 2, 3, 4


Notable activity: Released debut album 2012; participated in compilation album 이야기해주세요 (Tell Us) and Kirin single 난 외로움은 싫어 (I Hate Loneliness)

No Respect For Beauty

Notable activity: Released debut album Why Perish

In Hellokpop’s 2012 In Review: Runner-up Rock/Alternative Album for Why Perish; Honorable Mention Rock/Alternative Song for Day of Departure

Park Soyu

Notable activity: Released debut album Lonely Planet (read our review)

In Hellokpop’s 2012 In Review: Best Pop/Ballad Song for Oheyo; Honorable Mention Pop/Ballad Album for Lonely Planet

Ravie Nuage

Notable activity: Released debut EP 하비누아주의 (Ravienuaism)

In Hellokpop’s 2012 In Review: Honorable Mention Pop/Ballad Album for Ravienuaism; Honorable Mention Pop/Ballad Song for 바람, 바람 (Wish, Wind)

Son Seung-yeon

Notable activity: Released debut EP 미운 오리의 날개 짓 (Flight of the Ugly Duckling) (read our review) and single 경고 (Warning); participated in six The Voice Korea soundtracks as contestant (and winner), in Show Me The Money soundtrack, in Son Sue-kyung single Stand Up For You, and in Golden Time soundtrack

In Hellokpop’s 2012 In Review: Honorable Mention R&B/Soul Song for Replay

What do your picks look like for this category? Discuss with us in the comments, and join us tomorrow in Part 12 as we unveil the Song of the Year!

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely of the reviewer and not of hellokpop as a whole.

Sources: Photos – Tistory blog, Naver blog, Donga Sports; all others from artist pages at Daum Music

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