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!
Seventeen – Shining Diamond
Year released: 2015
It’s almost hard to consider Shining Diamond a b-side. The track functioned as the theme song of Seventeen’s pre-debut reality series, and was the first Seventeen song that most of us heard. As such, it set the tone for the funky, melodically robust style that would define the group’s first few years. At the time, Shining Diamond made me ridiculously excited for Seventeen’s eventual debut, and remains one of the best songs in their discography. I adore the track’s brass-kissed beat, anchored by guitar (both electric and rhythm) and the breathless charisma of the group themselves. To me, this is quintessential Seventeen, and the sound I always wish for them to return to.
M!LK – Thoroughbred Onzoushi City Boy
Year released: 2019
That title alone deserves praise, right? In case you were wondering, “onzoushi” means “’son of a distinguished family,” which will come through when listening to the song’s overlong instrumental introduction. Personally, I’d separate that intro into its own track and get straight to the good stuff. By “good stuff,” I mean cheesy 80’s synthpop. Thoroughbred Onzoushi City Boy is retro pastiche through-and-through, and I love that. Its chorus is basically You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) filtered through a J-pop prism, with all the self-aware humor needed to make that work.
Rainbow – Cosmic Girl
Year released: 2013
In general, Rainbow have a much stronger discography than most give them credit for. Cosmic Girl is a definite highlight, surging on a go-for-broke disco beat that incorporates a full strings section for maximum theatricality. The track has a genuine build to it, taking its time to craft an explosive bridge and brassy dance breakdown that makes Cosmic Girl feel like a real moment rather than a throwaway novelty. I can’t think of another K-pop girl group track like it. It feels suited to soundtrack a cheesy 70’s spy movie, and that’s a definite compliment!
B1A4 – After 10 Years
Year released: 2015
Damn, Jung Jinyoung sure knows how to write a pop song! I can think of no other idol composer who has a better instinct for melody, and that was on full display throughout B1A4’s ballads. After 10 Years is the kind of big, cathartic track that triggers all the right dopamine centers. It surges with a grand sense of weight, like the soundtrack to some epic coming-of-age drama. But, it’s the gorgeous, shimmering chorus that really takes the track home. I adore the melody here. It feels so unique to B1A4, and so emotionally satisfying. That ad-lib by Jinyoung at 3:10 gets me every time. Throughout their career, you really got the sense that this group poured their whole heart and soul into their music.