It’s time for a new Bias List feature!
K-pop’s title tracks might gain most of listeners’ attention, but many album tracks are worth equal spotlight. I call these “buried treasures.”
Beyond this, K-pop’s albums deliver thousands of additional tracks that settle for a more limited audience. It’s these songs that will become a part of my “battle of the b-sides” feature.
In this feature, I’ll be putting on my A&R hat and taking a listen to five randomly-selected K-pop b-sides. I’ll write a mini review for each, including a Bias List rating, and rank them from least to most favorite. The winner will join a special Bias List B-side playlist. Think of it like my own little agency, hand-selecting songs I’d like to pitch to my nonexistent artists!
Battle of the B-sides: Round One
Limitless – Period (2019)
I really like the groove on this one. The track lays down its steady beat right from the start and never strays. Injections of rhythm guitar add a shot of funky energy, while that high-pitched synth riff gives the instrumental some dimension. The vocal is nice if somewhat faceless, and Period could do with a stronger hook. Without that vital element, the song is pleasant but somewhat forgettable. I really like the breakdown during the bridge, though. Great use of percussion!
Hwanhee – Bring It Back (2009)
This kind of swinging R&B beat brings me right back to the 90’s. There’s a real sense of nostalgia around this sound, but I look for an incredible vocal or melody to compliment it. Hwanhee is a powerhouse, so there’s no worry when it comes to his skills. I like how Bring It Back gives him more opportunity to show off as it goes on. The second verse is particularly satisfying. The chorus has a great sense of rhythm, speeding up his vocal delivery to craft a dynamic groove. This is a really solid b-side.
Sechs Kies – Love Announcement (1997)
Wow, we’re back to first gen with this one! Sechs Kies have a handful of awesome singles, but there aren’t too many of their b-sides that I love. Love Announcement is clearly a product of its time, perched atop a beat that takes slight influence from reggae. The entire track is performed in a sing-song style that occasionally strays off tune. I’m more inclined to enjoy the rap verses, as overexaggerated and dated as they are. The breakdown in this is nice, but I wish there was more of a hook. Too much of the song comes across as a copy of more successful music of this era.
Royal Pirates – U & I (2015)
We continue to run the gamut when it comes to genre, as U & I melds rock music with R&B in a sound that feels very early/mid-00’s to me. This song is incredibly smooth – maybe too much for my taste. That guitar riff that opens the track is very catchy, and definitely my favorite aspect of the instrumental. The chorus echoes its melody, pushing into falsetto for a sound that’s quite engaging. I can’t really find much to complain about a song like this. However, U & I is missing that one knockout punch that might have me rushing back for more. The beefed-up climax almost gets there.
Ladies’ Code – Lorelei (2016)
Listening to the intro alone, Lorelei is easily the moodiest track of this bunch. There’s hardly any percussion for the song’s first minute, and when the beat finally drops, it’s a gentle shuffle rather than a hearty rhythm. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t really to my taste – though I can appreciate what the track is aiming to do. It has a nice lo-fi sound at times, allowing for spotlight on the girls’ vocals. They give a dynamic performance. I just wish there was more of a melody to be found. As it stands, Lorelei comes dangerously close to becoming one of those “coffeehouse” songs I tend to dislike.
Fifth: Sechs Kies – Love Announcement
Fourth: Ladies’ Code – Lorelei
Third: Limitless – Period
Second: Royal Pirates – U & I
First: Hwanhee – Bring It Back
Congratulations to Hwanhee’s Bring It Back – the first winner of my inaugural Battle of the B-sides!
Readers, what do you think? Did you discover any hidden gems? Leave your own ranking in the comments!