The new MNET series Queendom Puzzle recently dropped its lengthy first episode, incorporating 28 formidable women in the K-pop industry – all competing to earn a spot on the next mega-level untitled lineup of seven.
In the first episode alone, an assortment of contestants (ranging from gifted rookies like tripleS and H1-KEY to powerhouse performers from groups like IZ*ONE, Lovelyz, and Cherry Bullet) graced the series with their versatile skills, ultimately setting the stage for an intense journey towards a contemporary queendom title.
Now, just before our options get even more difficult to choose from (which they undoubtedly will) we’re breaking down our seven pre-season favorites of the remaining 26 who all have what it takes to contribute to the next major K-pop girl group. And we made sure to include a few honorable mentions because it’s practically impossible to put parameters on these incredibly talented women. Let’s dive right in!
Every group requires a groundbreaking singer, and when you have Lovelyz own main vocalist Kei in the mix, it’s a complete no-brainer. Kei has spent years showcasing her untouchable range, acapella perfection, and musical theater-style performances, earning herself a rare role in pop music spaces. So at this point in her career, Queendom Puzzle feels like a natural progression that’s entirely deserved. In this house we stan Kei!
If you don’t know MOMOLAND, then you’ve also missed out on one of the most entertaining K-pop collectives in recent years. While the group that’s responsible for smash hits like “BOOM BOOM” and “Ready Or Not” recently disbanded, the charisma and fortitude behind their ray-of-sunshine, smiley rapper JooE has proven to be a huge selling point for their long-term stature as icons. Now, JooE is finally taking her career into her own hands, so if we’re lucky enough to see the singer’s magnetic presence make the group, it’s going to be another glorious era for K-pop.
woo!ah! is easily one of the most underrated groups in the business, having crafted a balanced discography of title tracks and hypnotic b-sides – while their leader Nana continues to generate buzz for her own MC assets, consistent visuals, and her distinct eye for choreography. In fact, after proving to be a popular idol on the rise, having her funnel her potential into a new formation could be the exact push that she needs to sharpen her skills and level up once again.
DO HWA (AOA/Soloist)
AOA’s impactful time together led to several hit tracks including “Like a Cat”, “Heart Attack”, and “Bingle Bangle” so when the group’s well-rounded member DO HWA (formerly known as Chan Mi) was announced as a participant, fans were confident she’d be a strong contender. Knowing that she’s molded a strong reputation as a dancer, OST vocalist, and even in the acting world, it seems more than likely that DO HWA will make this all-star stage yet another accomplishment in her career.
With WJSN winning Queendom 2, Yeoreum’s spot on the show was well-earned – even more so after witnessing her renowned survival show strengths months prior. Though, it’s the artist’s effortless shift between genres across the aforementioned program that makes Yeoreum a guaranteed member of the final team. Essentially, it would be shocking if the well-trained dancer and WJSN CHOCOME legend didn’t maintain an active role as a Queendom Puzzle front-runner.
H1-KEY is a stellar dark horse girl group in today’s K-pop landscape, currently known for their timeless 2022 summer single “Run” or their more recent sleeper-hit single “Rose Blossom”. Yes, each member of the group (and across Queendom Puzzle) is incredibly deserving as-is, and yes, we adamantly adore her fellow contestant/bandmate Riina, but Hwiseo’s versatility as a vocalist, rapper, and “Rose Blossom” lyricist could prove to be an all-important perk for the final roster.
It’s no secret that we adore Seoyeon of the evolutionary new girl group tripleS, but after her debut in their recent unit +(KR)ystal Eyes, our respect grew tenfold. On the group’s captivating first single “Cherry Talk”, the young rookie artist truly blossomed into a noteworthy performer through one of the bubbliest title tracks of 2023 so far. That along with her upcoming appearance via the tripleS sub-unit LOVElution dictates that she’s more than prepared to adapt to new members and various stylistic needs. That’s next-gen Queendom Puzzle material!
Wild Card Picks:
Yeeun is a star in every sense of the word – going from CLC to a flourishing soloist on the 2023 track “Cherry Coke”, so it would be an easy transition if she finds her way onto the final Queendom Puzzle roster. While we’re already living for her individual artist era, the singer and rapper is still a fierce competitor to keep an eye on.
Suyun (Rocket Punch)
Woollim’s Rocket Punch has been together for nearly four years, giving the pop unit’s members enough time to hone their buzz-worthy skills, and in this instance, enough time to highlight their own concept-chameleon Suyun. You just know she’s going to keep us guessing.
When Weeekly debuted in 2020, the group was a welcomed addition to K-pop, however in 2021, their single “After School” granted them access to a much larger global audience. With Zoa in particular, the epic group’s own maknae proved to be a fast learner, prospective actor, and rapper, so there’s plenty of room for her to create her own position on Queendom Puzzle.