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!
You can check out all rounds of my Battle of the B-sides here!
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!
I’m curious, how did you pick these? Because there are A LOT of Kpop b-sides that I can’t quite figure out how you could do it.
Though I’ve never heard of any of these songs so it must be working somewhat.
While I was listening to Limitless, I just kept thinking I’ve heard this somewhat. It reminds of me of a milder and smoother version of I Can’t Breathe by GWSN at least melody-wise for some reason. Not at all similar songs of course, but I can feel it somehow. I really like it actually.
Bring It Back is decent, but also just slightly boring at times. Comes with the R&B style, which is a toss up on whether I like it or not. Not a big fan this time.
Love Announcement is slightly charming honestly. There’s something about the muted cheerful bad singing that feels very comforting haha. The rap is also nice. It’s not that bad honestly, the melodies are not that bad just recorded in bad quality.
U & I is very strong. I like all the sections and the production. The chorus is great, and the sound is exactly what I like. Helps that they are actually sound really good with their vocals. Nothing extreme, but great to listen to.
UGH, the vocals and dynamic melody in Lorelei is *chefs kiss*. I’m actually like lo-fi sounding songs as long as they can catch my attention and match a vibe I really like. This is one of them. The atmosphere is so well developed. Also, I resent that melody comment because there is a lot of lovely melodies in this song Nick.
I’d probably rank it as: Lorelei > U & I > Limitless > Bring It Back = Love Announcement.
For the last two, Love Announcement I at the very least enjoyed, but Bring It Back is definitely the better made song but was just boring at times.
I should probably also say U & I is a very close second. It’s definitely the more catchy being more upbeat than Lorelei, but I love the vibe of Lorelei more.
I also realize now that it’s called Period and not Limitless. Oh well.
Also, thank you for exposing me to three very good songs Nick. Period, Lorelei and U & I are getting replay value from me now.
Let’s just say I have a looooooooong playlist to draw from!
It’s fascinating how different our impressions are 🙂
Did you include b-sides from artists you aren’t a fan off? Did you just collect b-sides from every album you’ve listened to over the years? I’m genuinely curious how this playlist was made. Because I’m curious if new groups like Rocket Punch, PIXY, Drippin will be included or if some of them won’t be in this giant playlist.
Pretty much every album, and I’ve been at this for awhile! All those groups you mentioned would be eligible. Nearly every K-pop group would, and that’s what makes it so much fun!
Absolutely love Bring it Back. I have a soft spot for what they used to call “Quiet Storm” back in the 80s/90s.
Me too! It’s not a genre I often seek out, but I do love it.
I like Lorelei a lot, but Bring it Back is my favorite, I really love that sound.
oh man, a LC b-side from their incomplete (for now) healing trilogy!! I adore this and wish they’d finished that set of albums off but even as is this album and myst3ry hold a special place in my heart so I can’t even pretend to be unbiased lol
Oh hey! I tweeted about how I really like Royal Pirates’ “Run Away” a few days ago (I found that from a video where someone did a poll on the top 20 k-bands)!
Speaking of hidden gems, I would really like to highlight one of my favourite Korean soloists here. This is Leenzy, currently the only female soloist from Planetarium Record (same label home to soloists such as Gaho, June, Jinwoo and more!).
There’s a collab she did with Gaho which I think it’s absolutely gorgeous. My 100% recommendation if you want to see her versatile range in lower and higher vocal colours:
This is a cover, but I would like to highlight the richness of her deepish voice which I think this cover does it well (plus it’s my favourite cover by her):
Granted, I have not listen to a lot of soloists (specifically those who aren’t really idols like say Ha Sungwoon or Wonho) since there’s a lot of sounds they do that are more, simple and overall not really catered for me. For Leenzy’s case, one of my favourite things about her songs is the simple vocal layering she sprinkles across her songs. She has done a variety of sounds.
Some of my recommendations of hers would be her song “overdue” and my favouite which is her demo song “Dark” found on her Soundcloud. The build-up to the climax is one of my favourite things in this song: https://soundcloud.com/leenzylife/dark-demo
Just realised you can’t edit comments (I’m too used to doing that…)…
I forgot to mention that for any Superband fans out there, Leenzy is currently on Superband 2! It’s awesome to see 1) A second season and 2) Female musical artists participating this show!
I really like this feature! Can’t wait for more.