2014's Rookies of the Year


In a year of turmoil and disappointment in Kpop, the one bright spot may just be the rookie groups that debuted this year. Objectively speaking, it's difficult to crown who should be the Rookies of the Year, in a category that can really only be quantified subjectively. If we're talking just by numbers and popularity, it'd be hard to argue for anyone else except Winner or AKMU, and neither would be undeserving of recognition after their popular releases this year.

But if you dig a bit deeper, beyond the Red Velvets and Lovelys, you'll see that the category is more vast than one could possibly fathom. Wings' "Hair Short" was definitely a standout release from a peculiar duo. If Kiss & Cry were not on sabbatical, their spectacular "Domino Game" would surely still be in the running. And what about the killer release from Purfles?

Then there's Mamamoo. We loved so many rookie groups this year, but everything that Mamamoo has done this year, from their pre-release singles and collaborations, to their stylish debut and stunning comeback, has really made them stand out. We've even written extensively on our love for Mamamoo, and confession time: I really planned to write an article on how Mamamoo edges out the field and should be the Rookie of the Year.

But even with Mamamoo's amazing year and impressive future, we have to return to AKMU, and beyond popularity and success, Akdong Musician edges out the competition here. And that's not even considering the chart topping releases they've had this year.

AKMU Rookies of the Year

We all know the fun and sublime hits "200%" and "Give Love," but what really makes Akdong Musician even more amazing is the rest of their debut album, "Play." I'm talking the bottom six songs here, where most albums, debut or not, seem to inevitably drop off. I'd argue that "Play" gets better as we round the final songs. "Artificial Grass" is one of the best songs of the year (speaking completely objectively, of course). "Hello" is like a dream. How fun is "Anyway?" And "Idea" straddles the line that AKMU does so well, between indy and pop, and here, a light quasi-club song? Believe it.

Siblings Lee Chanhyuk and Lee Suhyun are not just the Rookies of the Year, they have an eleven song album here that one can arguably call one of the year's best. They're brilliant and bright and they're going to change the face of Kpop in the most fun and unique ways possible. How could they not win Rookie of the Year?

Lee Suhyun Rookie

Many have been following them since their K-pop Star 2 win, but for most their debut came with the release of their album and successive music videos this year: "200%" on April 7th, "Melted" on April 14th, and "Give Love" on May 2nd (this third song chosen, ingeniously, through fan voting). They've been riding a wave of momentum since then, and Lee Suhyun was even part of the cute and very successful subgroup with Lee Hi, called Hi Suhyen. They even had a hit with their cover of Taeyang's "Eyes, Nose, Lips," the most covered song of the year and maybe ever, and somehow they made their version feel new. YG has done spectacular things to make AKMU an elite duo from the start. Their talent has been on full display, only matched by their vibrant charisma and personalities. No, they're not "traditional" Kpop idols, but that works in their favor here. They stand out. They're here to stay.

Lee Chanhyuk

But a word on "Melted," because if you haven't seen this video, you're missing out.

What could that one word be? What one word could really articulate and encompass the myriad of feelings one would associate with this music video? Brutal? Powerful? Sophisticated? Cinematic? You'll have your own word. I'm still trying to find mine.

And really, it's hard for me to find the right words for Akdong Musician and what an amazing year they've had. Winner might get the awards, and Mamamoo might have that special place in our hearts, but when it comes down to it, there was no question. Akdong Musician are 2014's Rookies of the Year.

Timothy Moore writes from Chicago. He blogs at Read My Blog Please, and edits at Ghost Ocean Magazine. His biases are T-ara, Block B, Nine Muses, Brown Eyed Girls, and Girl's Day.


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