While not necessarily the most high-profile new group of 2017, A.C.E’s high-energy hardstyle approach made the quintet stand out. With two singles under their belt, “Cactus” and “Callin,’” it will be interesting to see where this act takes their sound in 2018. But based on the high-quality performances they’ve shown so far, their brand of electro K-pop is something to keep anticipating.
After first gaining attention as an almost member of Seventeen, being one half of duo 1Punch, and rising to fame one of the most prominent competitors on Produce 101- - the Korean television program through which many of this year’s most prominent rookies rose to fame -- Samuel finally debuted as a soloist in August with his biographical Sixteen EP. Korea’s first Latino star, Samuel’s pre-debut career has been longer than many a K-pop act’s entirety, and expectations are high for this talented teen.
8. Golden Child
Coming in as the younger brother act to INFINITE -- literally, due to band leader Daeyeol being the brother of INFINITE’s Sungyeol -- expectations were high when the 11-member Golden Child debuted earlier this year. The group delivered with their debut EP Gol-Cha! and the lead single “DamDaDi,” serving up a dynamic retro-tinged electro-pop-rock sound that is all at once quirky and filled with youthful vibrancy. Bright and vivacious, Golden Child showed major potential with their first release and will hopefully continue to do so in the coming year.
7. Weki Meki
With the hectic, genre-hopping of “I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend” leading their debut EP, WEME, this eight-member act ended up having the best-selling album from any new K-pop girl group, proving that their bouncy dance-pop sound and styling has attracted a lot of fans, in part thanks to the inclusion of two former I.O.I members. Though there's only one eccentric single under their belt, expectations are high for Weki Meki to continue their unconventional electro dance-pop sound as their career progresses.
There's something innately ebullient about the funky retro vibe that ONF veered towards throughout their debut EP, On/Off, resulting in attention both in and out of Korea from pop music lovers. Arriving in the summer with their breezy sound that brought in genres like tropical house and melodic reggae, the boy band is produced by WM Entertainment and lablemates to both B1A4 and Oh My Girl, two groups that have delivered some of the Korea’s finest pop releases, holding promise for ONF’s future musicality.
Another group with some former I.O.I ladies, the 10-member Pristin saw moderate success this year with the singles "Wee Woo" and "We Like," bringing about some of the sleekest electro-pop productions from any Korean girl group this year. The members of Pristin reportedly have a hand in crafting their music and performances, like lablemates Seventeen and Nu’Est, and have begun to see a lot of recognition for their addicting style that will hopefully continue as their career progresses.
4. Jeong Sewoon
This Produce 101 contestant turned soloist first gained prominence in 2013 through an appearance on another popular Korean star search show, but it took until 2017 for the singer-songwriter to release first EP. Fronted by the single “Just U” with rapper Sik-K, Part. 1 Ever with Jeong Sewoon’s groovy poprock sound won over hearts both in and out of Korea; his debut album peaked at No. 10 on the World Albums chart in September.
In an industry where many acts reinvent themselves conceptually with each release, Dreamcatcher went one step further: previously known as MINX, a quintet that started in 2014, the now seven-member act recreated its identity earlier this year and has since become a fan favorite by setting itself apart with a unique identity as the only girl group in South Korea prominently utilizing heavy rock and nu metal sounds. With magical, often haunting, imagery and storylines incorporated into their music videos, there’s a sense of theatricality to this girl group's visuals, and combined with their powerful vocal delivery and beguiling choreography, it's helped them stand out from among competitors and even prompted them to hold an international tour that will take them to countries in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
2. Kim Chungha
This I.O.I alum became one of the most prominent female soloists in the K-pop scene this year thanks to her breakout tropical house track “Why Don’t You Know” feat. Nucksal. The talented singer and dancer has since gone on to work on collaboration tracks with other Korean artists, and all eyes are on her in 2018 to see what she does next.
1. Wanna One
With 11 members hand-picked by Korean television audiences, the boy band became a top act in Korea from the minute it was formed on Produce 101 earlier this year. Since then, they have lived up to their title as the “Nation’s Idol Group” with the precisely crafted electro-pop tracks “Energetic” and “Beautiful” topping Korean music charts, and their highly-stylized choreography garnering a lot of attention.
But Wanna One’s success isn’t limited to their home country; both of the band’s 2017 EPs ranked high on the World Albums chart, while the group was one of the hottest acts at this year’s KCON 2017 LA and was dubbed one of Tumblr’s most popular K-pop acts of the year. The boy band even topped this year's Best K-Pop Songs list, landing "Energetic" at No. 1.
Though Wanna One is slated for disbandment at the end of 2018, after which the men plan to go their own ways and return to being managed by individual labels, there’s still a year left for the group to impress the K-pop scene.