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Grading K-pop Girl Group Debuts 2021: Part Two

And we’re back! If you haven’t checked out the first part of this article, the link is right there, but I’ll give you all a quick run-down of what I’m doing anyway.

I’ll be discussing the 18 groups who debuted the second half of this year (July-Dec. 18), though there may be one or two missing who debuted after the completion of this article. I’ll be focusing mostly on vocals since I don’t really know how to judge the music video qualities, and I’ll be linking the music videos for each group so you can listen to them and form your own opinions on the groups. Each group will get a letter grade that reflects my overall opinion.

Also, a note: I won’t be reviewing fictional groups such as TEAPARTY or Jihadols/underground live idol groups such as Kizuna Simulation, nor will I be discussing children’s groups such as Cookie and subunits such as WJSN THE BLACK. And with that, let’s get to it!

Perfume

Grade: F

Okay. I discussed Future Idol Asia in my previous article, but let me copy-paste what I wrote about them here: Future Idol Asia is “a temporary subsidiary idol development and entertainment project branch of Rainbow Company.” They had a project to put out a new K-pop group just about every month this year, and while they did succeed in that, the groups were very … mixed in quality. I personally did not like any of them, for reasons I’ll detail under each group (discounting their boy groups, of course).

So eight-member group Perfume is one of many Future Idol Asia debuted throughout the year, debuting on July 8. Because of how little-known Future Idol Asia and therefore its groups actually are, it took me a couple of days to actually find the video for their debut song “Diary.” That actually happened a couple of times with Future Idol Asia groups, as well as some of the groups from much smaller companies down the line.

As with most of the Future Idol Asia groups, I find myself not wanting to give them a high grade. Clearly a lot of these girls haven’t been trainees for very long, and are as young as 14. As for the song itself, it was kind of bland in my opinion, not horrible in terms of a debut song but also not noticeable enough to catch my attention. Additionally, I couldn’t get behind the vocal tones of some of the members, and the choreography was likewise at the experience level of trainees in my opinion. I’m just not a fan so far.

Rumble-G

Grade: A

Rumble-G is fun in that they have something special about them: DiDi, one of the three members, is the first ever Burmese K-pop idol! While they originally debuted on July 14 through WinnerZone Entertainment with four members, Ian left the group during Nov. due to health issues, which was disappointing to me since I really liked her rap sections in their debut song.

I have to say, “Roopretelcham” caught my attention off the bat with the intro. It reminds me of the kind of song you would hear at a school dance, and I would compare it to songs I hear on the radio if I listened to anything on the radio in the last two years. It has an overwhelmingly positive message from what I could gather from YouTube’s translations, and overall has a bit of an infectious feeling with an impressive rap section as well. I’m giving them an A and adding them to my “Best Of” playlist, though I still think there could be some room to showcase some of their other vocal talents in the future. I’ll be looking forward to when they do!

SKYLE

Grade: A

SKYLE is one of the only groups, if not the only group, on this list to be known as a South Korean-Chinese girl group (though only one of their members is Chinese). The four members debuted through Good Luck Entertainment on Aug. 4 after going through minor lineup changes, as plenty of groups do. They’re also towards the older range of new idol groups, with the two youngest members being born in 2001. It’s not uncommon for groups debuting this year to have all of their members born within the 21st century, though I do think that can be detrimental to the trainees at times, so this interested me a good bit when I read through their profiles.

“Fly Up High,” SKYLE’s debut song, reminds me of Dreamcatcher’s song “Scream,” and all-around was just catchy enough to land the message without sounding superficial. It’s already on my “Best of K-pop” playlist; I’m listening to it as I write this, actually. Additionally, I just learned that they’ll be releasing a new single called “Our Christmas,” which will be linked if it’s released before this article is posted. SKYLE has amazing vibes, if you ask me, and I’m really interested to see what else they do in their careers!

Hi-L

Grade: A

Hi-L, part of Kpop Live Entertainment (formerly A100 Entertainment), debuted with six members on Aug. 11 with “Too Too (22).” Based on the music and general vibes, it reminds me of some of GFRIEND’s songs, specifically “Navillera” and “Rough.” It’s the kind of song that draws me in instantly, which I was very excited about. Especially as a debut song, it hits all the right notes! With that said, I would like to raise a concern presented in this video: fans are worried that the company will treat Hi-L like NeonPunch and XUM. To know more about that, I highly suggest watching the video in full, as this YouTuber does her research!

“Too Too (22)” landed itself in my “Best Of K-pop” playlist upon first listen, and while they haven’t released any new music to date, the girls are clearly talented, and I can’t wait to see what else they’ll do in the future.

Lemonade

Grade: F

Another group from Future Idol Asia, eleven-member Lemonade debuted on Aug. 17 and I honestly have nothing much to say about them. I’ll jump right into my thoughts on their debut.

Their debut single, “Lemonade,” is marginally better vocals-wise than the other Future Idol Asia groups I’ve reviewed so far, though again there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Because of Future Idol Asia pushing out as many groups as they could throughout the year, it really does feel like the groups a) don’t get much recognition or time spent on them and b) don’t go through the kind of training so many trainees do. Some idols train for years for the chance of debut, while it feels like some of these trainees may have only been trainees for less than a year. But I digress.

“Lemonade” really is unremarkable, like many of the other Future Idol Asia groups, and sounds almost like a kid’s group. I don’t think I can give them above an F, but as always I encourage you all to form your own opinions.

SOLIA

Grade: F

Five-member group SOLIA is an interesting case, and you’ll see why in a moment. They debuted through Space Music Entertainment with their song “Dream” on Aug. 17.

I had been excited for the group’s debut, since they did seem very promising, but I was then disappointed upon watching the debut music video. You can tell from the video that the girls have talent, but it’s a little hard to find underneath all of the autotune present. And, trust me, you can tell that it’s autotune. Personally, I don’t like the sound of it most of the time, unless it’s used very sparingly.

I know I said I wouldn’t judge the music video, either, but it’s also clear to see that it was made on a small budget. That does make sense, given that the company is fairly small, but I do think that a little more effort could’ve been put into it.

That’s not the interesting part, though. The interesting thing is that SOLIA disbanded five days after they debuted, on Aug. 22. The company discussed this briefly through the group’s Instagram, but if the translation is somewhat indecipherable like it was when I viewed it, the summary is that the members had different ideas of what they wanted their careers to look like, and so they all decided that it was better to disband the group than continue on. While I didn’t dig further than Instagram, if you’re interested in learning more about the group, I suggest watching this video on the group’s disbandment.

The group’s disbandment along with the heavy use of autotune is what landed them with a grade of F, though I do think they might’ve gotten a higher ranking if they had continued on as a group and improved together. With that being said, I wish all the girls in the former group luck with their careers down the road!

PoshGirls

Grade: C

PoshGirls is a Korean-Japanese group of eight (with half of the members being Japanese, one of whom I kind of share a name with) that debuted through No.1 Media on Aug. 18. According to their K-pop wiki page, the Japanese line (also known as the J-line) recorded a pre-debut song called “Victory” for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I don’t think I’ve really mentioned pre-debut songs before; some groups release them as a way to get people interested in the group’s official debut.

Off the bat, “Got Chu” reminded me of a kind of child of Oh My Girl’s “Windy Day” and IU’s “Lilac” if that makes literally any sense. With a lot of the high notes, the members showed great control. I ended up listening to the other two songs from their debut mini album, “Fly with you” and “Some Day (PoshGirls Story).” Altogether, the songs aren’t bad, though I feel like the vocals could’ve better matched the energy of the songs. Even the rap section of “Fly with you” seemed to be a bit high-pitched, not the kind of powerful rap I’ve come to know and love. I’d say this group has earned themselves a solid C with plenty of room to grow, though they have a pretty good start.

Pritti-G

Grade: B

I was debating adding Pritti-G to the list due to it formerly being a kid’s group known as Pritti, but given that they’ve rebranded as a regular K-pop group, I decided to keep them on. The five members debuted on Aug. 31 through Enterrobang with the single “Hola,” and three of the members had been part of the lineup for the original group Pritti.

Surprisingly, “Hola” was a lot catchier than I expected. It does kind of have the same energy I would expect from a kid’s group, though all of the members are at least 14 (though three of the five are 17 or 18). So, yeah, technically they’re still kids, which I can appreciate since there seems to be a bit of a push for sexier and more mature concepts in K-pop, so while these girls are still young I’m glad they can enjoy their careers (so far) with a more youthful concept. The same can be said of their only and most recent special single, “Buckle up.” Listening to the song again, I think I’m going to give it a B!

Azer Blossom

Grade: B

Azer Blossom, like the group Azer from my previous article, was formed through Howon University rather than an entertainment company, thus making the seven trainees generally older than the normally-seen trainee age and experienced in a different sort of way. Debuting on Sept. 1 with “Focus On Me,” the group put their technical skills to the test. With Azer it was noted that the members choreographed their own song, and though I couldn’t find the same information about Azer Blossom, I would assume they also had some creative input into their debut.

Just like with Azer, I found myself drawn in by the group’s performance. The more mature and elegant concept is pretty appealing to me, especially with a song with this kind of energy. I almost like “Elegante” better, but this group still has a great amount of potential should they continue their careers as idols!

Ferry Blue

Grade: C

Like Azer and Azer Blossom, Ferry Blue was also put together through a university, this one through the Dance Department of Paekche Institute of the Arts and D Ocean Music. Some of the seven members already have some credits to their names, so I was kind of looking forward to their debut on Sept. 6.

“Call My Name” to me is kind of reminiscent of songs I hear from TikToks my sister sends to me. I’m not the biggest fan of those usually, and that carries over here. The girls are clearly talented vocally, but I wasn’t super impressed. This seemed like a kind of safe option for a debut, if that makes sense. I’m going to give them a C.

ICHILLIN’

Grade: B

Seven-member group ICHILLIN’ made their debut on Sept. 8 through KM Entertainment. I don’t really have too much to comment on on the group specifically, so I’ll move right along to their debut song, “Got’ya.”

ICHILLIN’, I think, had a pretty strong debut. They may not be one of my favorites, but I really enjoyed their music video and concept. They remind me a little of my first impression of Cherry Bullet and Rocket Punch from small glimpses of their songs from compilation videos on YouTube. I think they have the potential to go pretty far, so I’m going to give them a B. Additionally, they’ve already released a second single, “Fresh,” that I’ll take a look at as well.

Sparkling

Grade: F

Another group from Future Idol Asia, seven-member group Sparkling debuted with “Cheerful” on Sept. 9. As with ICECREAM, I wasn’t a fan. I’m sure the girls are talented, but their vocals did sound a bit unstable to me in the video, and weren’t really showcased very well. In fact, the part that I was the most enraptured by was the group’s main rapper, Yuna; even the dancing didn’t seem the best to me.

Not to mention, the group and single’s names suggest something as saccharine as ICECREAM, though the concept of the music video is completely different … and was almost boring to me. This could very well be because of how many music videos Future Idol Asia had to produce this year, but there was just so much that wasn’t appealing about the group’s debut. Sorry, but I have to give them the grade of F. Additionally, they have one of the lowest view counts on their music video, with only 3,331 views as of Dec. 15.

Beauty Box

Grade: A

Beauty Box, a six-member group from BY-U Entertainment, debuted on Sept. 22 with their single “RAT A TAT,” part of their single album “Beyond of BB.” And, I have to say, it blew me away! I wasn’t expecting too much, but they really did impress with their vocals. It’s super catchy and sounds like the perfect summer anthem despite being released on the first day of autumn! The other song on the album, “Take My Heart?!” showed a different side of the members’ vocals. I didn’t like that song as much as “RAT A TAT,” but it’s still worth a listen!

I’d like to add, too, that I found it very interesting to learn that only two of the members are Korean. Gahyun and Sori are Korean, Sara and Rina are Japanese, Anh is Vietnamese and Jerin is Thai. I find it a pretty good trend that there are starting to be more nationalities within K-pop, given that it’s usually dominated by Korean (obviously), Japanese and Chinese idols.

Even though their debut was only two songs, I’m already loving their concept and can’t wait to see what else they do in the future! Good luck with promotions, girls!

Rhea

Grade: D

If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for Greek mythology, and since that’s the concept five-member group Rhea has, I was ecstatic to see them debut on Oct. 1 through I.O Entertainment after their debut was postponed.

“Time Travel” seemed promising at first, but like I thought with Laonzena’s debut, I was underwhelmed. The group was missing that one quality that I think most of the popular K-pop groups of today have. It’s nothing against then; I did like their vocal talents, and I’m sure they could do pretty well on charts eventually, but they need to have that spark before that can happen. Maybe it was just a matter of song choice in this case. In any case, I’m going to give them a D.

bugAboo

Grade: B

bugAboo has to be one of the most popular debuts on this list; I got recommended YouTube videos about them mere days after their debut on Oct. 25. The six-member group, through A team Entertainment, debuted with their self-titled single album, the title song of which I listened to right away. After all, as a fan of Miraculous Ladybug, I’m instantly gonna listen to anything with the name “bugAboo,” which is really only a joke other Miraculous Ladybug fans will get, haha.

Gotta say, the horse sounds at the beginning threw me off my game, though the song gave me kind of Western-cowgirls vibes in a way. The whole music video reminded me of every horse-related show I used to watch (Horseland, anyone?), but not in a way that was unpleasant. It’s a good song to get up and dance to, not at all how I had originally expected it to go. It didn’t make it to my “Best Of” playlist, but it’s not bad by any means.

Vanilla

Grade: F

Future Idol Asia strikes again with Vanilla’s 11-member lineup. They debuted on Oct. 29 with their single “Teach Me,” and, honestly, I’ll just say what I have to say about the song. I’m a little tired of reviewing Future Idol Asia groups.

Oddly enough, I couldn’t find this group’s music video on YouTube even though the teaser was there, so I got the link from their K-pop wiki page. The website only shows you about a minute’s worth of the song and music video unless you log in, but for me, one minute was plenty. This group, while having a younger concept for its clearly young members, feels off-the-mark like the group ICECREAM before it. I was not having a very good time listening to it, honestly. All of Future Idol Asia’s groups sound the same: like they debuted before they were ready. Given more time, I’m sure some of the trainees will go on to do great things, but…

Billlie

Grade: C

When I started this project, seven-member group Billlie was still known as MYSTIC Rookies, named for being trainees under MYSTIC Story. I’m glad they got to debut on Nov. 10! (Edit: one of the members, Sheon, participated in Girls Planet 999, ending in tenth place, just short of the debut group of nine.)

The concept for their debut “RING X RING” was unexpected at first, but I think it works for them. I’m not entirely sure how to describe it myself, which means I should probably learn more adjectives. It wasn’t as powerful a debut as I expected, however, so I’m giving the group a C. They’re definitely talented, and I’m interested in the kind of music they’ll put out in the future, but for now this is where they’ll stay.

IVE

Grade: B

IVE’s Dec. 1 debut was pretty highly anticipated from what I saw, likely due to their company, Starship Entertainment, being home to popular groups like WJSN (also known as Cosmic Girls) and Monsta X, not to mention two of the members, Yujin and Wonyoung, formerly belonging to IZ*ONE. The six members made for an extremely popular debut with “Eleven” – the video had 31,441,738 views alone four days after their debut!

“Eleven” seems to blend a couple different sounds in my opinion, mostly due to tempo changes before the chorus going into it. That said, timing those tempo changes just right is really impressive. I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of this song in particular, though the members are very talented. I was also really impressed – line distribution videos have already been released, and since the group has had multiple live performances, the accuracy is more, well, accurate, and it seems that this group has one of the most even line distributions I’ve seen, especially for a slightly larger group. So, despite me not liking this song very much, I’m still giving the group a B for good efforts, popularity and looking forward to what they’ll release in the future.

Addition: I just learned that apparently IVE already has a couple controversies, from leader Yujin’s outfit on the debut stage (which is not her fault) and the group’s introduction hand sign mirroring EVERGLOW‘s, and EVERGLOW had a comeback the same day IVE debuted. Starship Entertainment did come out and speak about this.

On Top

Grade: F

And we have another, thankfully the final, group from Future Idol Asia. Let me start by saying the youngest member of this group is thirteen. Okay.

On Top debuted on Dec. 10 with their single “상관없어” (pronounced, I believe, sanggwaneobseo, and roughly translated to “no matter”). As with all of the Future Idol Asia groups I reviewed before this one, I could tell that this group of 11 could definitely use some more training before debuting. Now, I think I neglected to mention that all of Future Idol Asia’s groups are known as project groups, which I think is different from regular groups, but I’m not entirely sure in which ways, so that could be something to keep in mind.

I guess the song was a little catchy, and the sort of edgy (?) concept it had was interesting and different from the other Future Idol Asia groups, so I have to give it some credit there, but I really didn’t enjoy listening to it. So I’m going to give this one an F as well. Since they’re the most recent debut on the list, I’m not sure I should put them in the running for least/most watched music video, though they do have only 1,180 views as I’m writing this on Dec. 15.

Kep1er

Grade: ?

The thrilling conclusion to our article is one that I discussed incredibly in-depth back in October: Kep1er, the debut group formed through idol survival program Girls Planet 999. …Or it was going to be. While they were originally going to be debuting on Dec. 14 and going to MAMA, someone on their staff had tested positive for COVID-19, and while all nine members did test negative, their activities were suspended out of precaution. Their new debut date is Jan. 3, 2022, so unfortunately they don’t make the cut for this article. I guess that just gives me an excuse to give them an article to themselves when they do debut!

I’m also giving a shout-out to the group Rocking Doll, who debuts tomorrow (Dec. 19) with their self-titled single. I really like the vibe they give off from promotional materials, so I think their debut would’ve landed them a C or B.

Thanks for sticking with this for so long, and I’ll see you for another review at the end of June!

Nina Fichera

Geneseo '24

Nina Fichera is an avid writer and reader, and can often be found writing somewhere (usually in her room) with her trusty journal. She is working towards an English degree, with the hopes of becoming a Creative Writing professor.
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