Most of the time, a kpop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-sides deserve recognition, too. In the singles-oriented world of kpop, I want to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
Of all the title tracks that I’ve written about this month, BTOB’s I’ll Be Your Man has probably grown on me the most. And despite having the most cringeworthy album intro track of the year (thanks to Peniel’s ultra-cheesy English monologue), the New Men album is pretty strong as well.
Top on the list of quality entries is Yes I Am. Though not an outright dance track, the song is a perfect blend of their ballad-heavy performance style and a rousing uptempo arrangement. Ditching k-pop’s usual fascination with electronics, Yes I Am opens with a folksy guitar loop and a bed of gorgeous harmonies. But this plaintive sound doesn’t last long, as the instrumentation is quickly joined by drums and a gutsy, shout-to-the-sky chorus. To compare the group to a western boyband, the song feels as if it could have found a home on any recent One Direction album, taking cues from groups like Mumford & Sons rather than hip-hop or r&b. It’s a beautiful, mature departure for BTOB, and the guys perform the hell out of it. I’ve often been critical of Peniel’s rap verses (ie: the first paragraph of this very review!), but he’s at his best when positioned at the build to a song’s climax, as is the case here. Still, the MVP of the song is undoubtedly the punchy, addictive chorus. Harmonies swirl around this central refrain, giving the melody a full, cathartic feel that easily becomes the album’s centerpiece.