Longtime readers of The Bias List will know how stingy I am when it comes to rating songs nine and above. But, there’s plenty of music that qualifies. In fact, I’ve got a playlist of over 600 of them sitting in my iTunes. The vast majority of these are singles or title tracks, but there are many b-sides as well.
As a compliment to my Buried Treasures series, I thought it was time to spotlight some of these undervalued gems. Enter, Best of the B-Sides, where I’ll be sharing four non-title tracks that have connected with me in a big way. Korean, Japanese, Chinese… doesn’t matter. Hopefully you’ll find something you like!
Kim Sung Kyu – Shine
Year released: 2012
The very first pop album I ever owned was Savage Garden’s 1997 debut. Their style of songwriting and vocal delivery will always be extremely nostalgic for me, and Shine almost feels like it could be a long-lost cut from that era. Kim Sung Kyu is, without a doubt, one of my top vocalists in all of K-pop, and he’s perfectly matched here with an emotive pop/rock track that surges with a sense of well-earned catharsis. That guitar-led chorus is just pure bliss, especially as extra instrumentation is brought in for Shine’s climax. He’s had plenty of dynamite singles, but this b-side is my favorite overall solo Sung Kyu track.
Kis-My-Ft2 – Dream On
Year released: 2017
At its core, Johnny’s Entertainment is as closely tied to the stage as it is the pop charts, as evidenced by the rousing performance of Dream On at the conclusion of Kis-My-Ft’s Music Colosseum tour. This track acts as the climax to the album of the same name, and conjures everything I love about cheesy 80’s rock power ballads. I’m utterly under the spell of the song’s opening choir, and thrilled by the ensuing stabs of guitar that precede each verse. It’s silly in the way most of my favorite pop music is, but performed earnestly and with great love for the genres it pays homage to.
Nine Muses – Miss Agent
Year released: 2013
Even looking at just its title, Nine Muses’ Miss Agent always felt like it should have been a single. I mean, the Charlie’s Angels-esque music video practically writes itself. Despite not being produced by Sweetune, Agent carries the same trademark synth sound. I love the jittery, retro electronic beat, especially as it segues into the song’s gorgeous pre-chorus. The vampy hook is pure cheese, but performed with a ton of verve and some delightful vocal layering. It’s just a shame that the girls only managed one full album in their too-short career. At least it was filled with highlights like this.
TVXQ / Tohoshinki – I Think U Know
Year released: 2011
If a song could have a physical weight to it, I Think U Know would break the scale. Its thumping percussion is just so heavy, underlining the track with an incessant throb that works its way into your bones. There’s an immensity to this dance track that suits TVXQ well, drawing on an impish sing-talk delivery for the verses and a simple – but absolutely potent – hook that relies on its instrumental just as much as the vocal. My favorite part is the climax, when everything comes together in a maelstrom of warped vocals and dense production.