2015 was an incredible year for K-pop.
Pioneers of swag BigBang showed the world that they were still in a league of their own, whether in the role of creative mavericks or style icons.
Girls' Generation's first album as an octet turned out to be such a massive success, everyone's now going "Jessica who?".
I loved the return of rap phenom Psy, pop granddaddies g.o.d and Brown Eyed Girls' unabashedly raunchy tunes.
Then again, we expected nothing less than excellence from these A-listers.
2016 looks set to be even better. If the January releases and teasers are any indication, the time has arrived for younger stars to step up their game and set the industry ablaze.
Here are four acts to look out for in 2016.
FLYING THE K-POP FLAG AT COACHELLA: EPIK HIGH
Unless you've been living under a rock, you would have heard that the hip-hop trio are performing at Coachella in April, a milestone for K-pop.
Yes, that Coachella - the renowned US music festival where headliners Guns N' Roses are reuniting after 20 years.
Tablo, Mithra Jin and DJ Tukutz have come a long way from Seoul's underground scene to become stalwarts in K-pop, having signed to giant label YG Entertainment.
Make no mistake, the desert valley in southern California is ready for them.
But let's not kid ourselves. Following the onslaught of wholesome rookie groups such as Red Velvet, Twice and Lovelyz - their cheerful, cutesy ways dominated the second half of 2015 - we kind of miss the overt sexiness of bolder, more mature outfits like Dal Shabet and Stellar.
Well, the good news is they're back.
Dal Shabet dropped a new mini album, Naturalness, earlier this month, while Stellar showed off their svelte figures and slender legs in promotional photos for their upcoming release, Stabbed.
K-POP'S NEW COOL CATS: WINNER
To be labelled by the Korean media as "the next BigBang" when they were mere rookies, the expectations must have been unimaginable.
Yet, instead of buckling under pressure, the suave quintet has grown from strength to strength.
The video teaser for Winner's upcoming studio release Exit Movement boasts some of the coolest, slickest visuals I've seen.
In it, the boys are portrayed as rebellious, hard-partying superstars leading a wild, reckless high life. In one scene, they land themselves, all blurry-eyed, in the back of a police car.
They've also taken a leaf out of seniors BigBang's book of clever marketing. Like the latter's MADE album series last year (where singles were released one at a time, across a few months), Exit Movement is billed as a "project" slated to run over the first half of 2016.
This article was first published on January 27, 2016.
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