Most of the time, a k-pop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-side tracks deserve recognition, too. In the singles-oriented world of k-pop, I wanted to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
EXO-CBX’s new Japanese album is pretty much a party from start to finish, even with a couple of requisite ballads tacked onto the end. This upbeat sound is a sweet spot for the trio, who have developed a commanding discography within a relatively short time. Off The Wall fits right in with their best dance tracks. Its title instantly brings to mind the seminal 1979 album by Michael Jackson, whose electric performance style often informs k-pop (and j-pop). This is likely intentional, as the song retains much of disco’s irresistible energy.
Kicking off with a sticky bass guitar loop, Off The Wall quickly grows as more synth and percussion are brought into the mix. This is replaced by an utterly joyous blast of brass for the chorus, reminiscent of many of the tracks on SHINee’s early-2017 Japanese album. It’s a classic funk-pop arrangement, and takes full advantage of CBX’s strengths as performers. We get plenty of harmony and even a bit of hip-hop, but the song never tries to twist into something it’s not. Even as the tempo slows for the subdued bridge, things bounce back with renewed vigor for a satisfying conclusion. Off The Wall is probably too straightforward to garner much attention as a single, but it’s the exact kind of b-side I like to hear.