2016 in Review: Day 10 – Rookie Artist of the Year

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[2016 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 Crossover
9. Best Collaborative Work
10. Rookie Artist of the Year
11. Artist of the Year
12. Song of the Year
13. Album of the Year
14. Staff Picks
15. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

Today and the next three days are pretty self-explanatory, and the next two days in particular will be short on description – a summary of the artists’ notable work in 2016 will hopefully do most of the talking. The rookie category needs some elaborating notes:

  • 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 (such as Kpop Star and other audition show soundtracks), soundtracks, and featured performances do not count towards the above stipulation. Only full-fledged singles/albums within the artist’s discography.
  • Group and band members who debut solo are not considered rookies, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Rookie Artist of the Year


For EP Red Ickle and full-length album Red Planet; featured appearance with Shofar Music

I feel like Bolbbalgan4 came out of nowhere about as much as a Superstar K participant can. Their rise has been meteoric: they went from “only a dozen or so “likes” on our Facebook posts” earlier in the year to completely dominating the charts for much of autumn, in a way that very few indie groups ever do. At the center of it is vocalist Ahn Ji-young‘s uniquely saccharine voice, a little breathless at all times yet wielded with deftness, and do-everything instrumentalist/composer/singer Woo Ji-yoon‘s consistently absorbing melodies. Red Planet did have help – I think Vanilla Man‘s trademark attention-to-detail arrangements had a lot to do with the album’s appeal – but this team has an instinct for good sound and good stories that made that debut possible. We may well have observed the beginning of the next big pop duo.

Runner-up Rookie Artist of the Year


For EP Come Back James

Back on Day 3, I briefly marveled about how so many of this year’s rookie bands seem to be so well-prepared for the spotlight right out of the gate. Stereotype is Exhibit A for that. The band seems to know exactly what they want to do: moody Britpop with intense progressions and instrumentation that pops out individually. Listening to all-too-short Come Back James, two things stand out in particular. First, the melodies, courtesy of drummer Eurock and guitarist James, consistently find a sweet spot between groove and satisfying explosion: lead “Falling” (a serious candidate for Best Rock Song for me) is the best example, but even a more dramatic track like “Denmark” keeps the beat moving. The other is Keemyoung‘s rich and calming vocal performance, which has a curious grounding effect on those uptempo tracks while adding dreamy atmosphere to the emotional ones. They’re one of the best-sounding bands I’ve heard in recent memory, and apparently they are not even at full strength right now: James has been abroad for a while (hence the EP title), and he’ll be rejoining the team in early 2017. I can’t wait for what’s next from them.

The First Ten Out

Ahn Ye-eun

For full-length album Ahn Ye-eunKpop Star compilations; featured appearances with Lee Han-chul


For EPs MusiCoreAmerica and What Is Your Color?; single “Mmm”; featured appearance with Evan


For EP Miss Me?; single “Whatta Man”; various OST, compilation and promo material

Jung Jin-woo

For EP In My Room; participation in Kpop Star compilations

Jung Seung-hwan

For EP 목소리 (Voice); participation in Kpop Star compilations; featured appearance with Sam Kim

Kwon Jin-ah

For EP 웃긴 밤 (One Strange Night); participation in Jealousy Incarnate OST; project work as Kwon Jinah LOVE Sam Kim


For EP New Blood; singles “Dopeboy” and “Locked and Loaded”; featured appearances with Owen Ovadoz, Jerry.K, MKIT RAIN, and Woo Tae-woon


For full-length album At Doors and its remix version

Stella Jang

For EP Colors; featured appearances with Han Yo-han and Pleyn


For singles “Hate Me”, “Guiding Light”, “Right Before a Storm” and “I Don’t Like You”

Honorable Mentions
Adios Audio
Honey Moon
Koh Nayoung
Kwak Jin-eon
Lee Jin-ah
The Mirror
Oh Eun-bi
Sam Kim

Sources: artist images from Bugs Music; Nafla image from Namuwiki; Stereotype image from V Entertainment artist page

Read our past series:

2015 in Review

2014 in Review

2013 in Review

2012 in Review

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