Feature

Battle of the B-Sides: ONF, NCT 127, G.Soul, Cho Yong-Pil, Lovelyz

Battle of the B-sidesK-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 Two


ONF – Moscow Moscow (2019)


Though I’m not usually a fan of slower, moodier boy group fare, ONF knows how to make the style work. Moscow Moscow is an album standout, grooving on jazzy undertones but always putting the guys’ vocals front and center. The chorus harnesses a brilliant melody that injects a real sense of emotion. As with much of their material, Moscow feels worlds apart from what most groups are doing. I especially love the haunting bridge, which dials back on the instrumental before hitting us with a layered, chant-like refrain that adds great texture to an already-tactile track.

 Hooks 9
 Production 8
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.5

NCT 127 – Dreams Come True (2020)


SM boy groups love their 90’s throwbacks, and there are touches of that decade’s sound within Dreams Come True. I like the instrumental’s scratchy, lo-fi sound, especially when paired with the piano arpeggios that run through the track. The chorus is more robustly produced, as brass supports the effusive refrain. The group’s vocals sound fantastic when layered together, giving Dreams Come True the memorable centerpiece it needs. The second verse is also a standout, as the arrangement becomes more loose and jazzy.

 Hooks 8
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 8
 RATING 8

G.Soul – Till I Die (2015)


This track throws off great atmosphere right from the start, with those wind tunnel effects and moody synths. The first verse unfolds in constant build, with the muted percussion hiding just under the hood. This climaxes in a simple, straightforward hook. But in this case, I think the simplicity works. Although slight, the melody is quite euphoric – made even more so by G.Soul’s strong performance. I wish the song would built to an even greater climax during its finale, but it casts a great vibe either way. The percolating, tropical synths are a nice touch that adds to the song’s sense of optimism.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.5

Cho Yong-Pil – When I Am With You (2013)


K-pop royalty Cho Yong-Pil made a super successful comeback in 2013, melding his timeless sound with trendier elements. When I Am With You encapsulates this style well. It’s a straightforward rocker, driven by his gravelly voice and a punchy power pop hook. I love the scuzzy distortion in the verses, and the pre-chorus makes a few satisfying melodic turns. The chorus itself surges forward with a satisfying heft, paying off with a higher-toned refrain that adds a great sense of movement to the track. As expected from this artist, there’s a real classic appeal to When I Am With You.

 Hooks 8
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 8
 RATING 8

Lovelyz – Fallin’ (2017)


Lovelyz never get enough credit for their strong vocals, and mid-tempos like Fallin’ are a good showcase for this skill. The song unveils a luxurious sound, fueled by twinkling keys and an early-00’s pop/r&b beat. The melody is more subtle than most of the tracks in this feature, but that works to the song’s advantage. Fallin’s chorus gently peaks with gorgeous crests, and I love how they’re echoed by a male backing vocal. The song’s ornate bridge adds a spike of drama, bringing in a wonderful waterfall of synth.

 Hooks 8
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 8
 RATING 8

My Verdict:


Fifth: NCT 127 – Dreams Come True
Fourth: Cho Yong-Pil – When I Am With You
Third: Lovelyz – Fallin’
Second: G.Soul – Till I Die

First: ONF – Moscow Moscow


Congratulations to ONF’s Moscow Moscow – the second winner of my Battle of the B-sides!

Readers, what do you think? Did you discover any hidden gems? Leave your own ranking in the comments!

10 thoughts on “Battle of the B-Sides: ONF, NCT 127, G.Soul, Cho Yong-Pil, Lovelyz

  1. Definitely heard of Moscow Moscow, first time listening though. The rest are all new, so let’s get down to it.

    Moscow Moscow is definitely a good song. I love the jazz vibe. I needed to be in the right mood for it, but I enjoyed it anyway. It feels very much like an eloquent letter being written. I loved the shifty synths too, very ONF. The second chorus was a nice change too. I think I didn’t quite like the first chorus though, something about the instrumentals and vocals just weren’t quite right? Maybe a little too dramatic.

    I’m more into Dreams Come True than I thought I would. The piano and synth is perfect for me. The layered chorus, the brass, the melodies, the vocals. All of it excellent. Even the raps. UGH. Maybe there could’ve been some more interesting bits, but overall hard to complain about much of this song.

    I don’t really like the hook of Till I Die, the vocals just sound like he’s trying to sing without expelling air? I think his vocals aren’t really for me. The melody of the chorus is also very stilted to me. The synths are also kinda basic to me? I don’t know. This song just didn’t really work for me at all.

    The vocals were too quiet for When I Am With You? It was hard to hear him at times and he got drowned under the guitar and the instrumentation. The chorus felt like he was at the back of the room and trying to reach out with his voice. Also, it was just a bit eh. I don’t think I get this song. It feels very lackluster, wasn’t really a fan of it.

    You know, the intro of Fallin’ gave me big nostalgia. I did a quick search and turns out it sounded very much like one of Naruto’s ending song called “For You” by AZU, though I don’t doubt it was a common sound in the early 00s. That said, I was listening and didn’t even realize the chorus happened. It’s fine for the chorus to smoothly transition, and some songs work like that. I think it only really worked at the end where it was clear that it was the chorus. The bridge was lovely though. Not bad, but I only enjoyed it at the last part. I do thank this song for reintroducing me to For You though. That song was great.

    Okay Lovelyz didn’t deliver as much as they did last time and I only really like two songs this time, and ONF’s wasn’t for me right now. So there’s only really one winner for me.

    Till I Die < When I Am With You < Fallin' < Moscow Moscow < Dreams Come True

    I flipped it this time because I feel like that makes more sense. I also am keeping track of my playlist too. Since it seems like we're deviating on our top choices each time.

    Liked by 2 people

      • It really is. Honestly, it’s not intentional that my top songs happen to be the one’s you didn’t really like out of the five.

        This series is definitely giving me an exercise in expressing my thoughts on songs. It’s making me focus on and try to actually parse out why I dislike a song instead of just saying it. Or why I like a song too.

        Although I did just write “good” for the Pepsi song, so maybe I’m not doing a good job on that part.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Describing ONF as being worlds apart from what most groups are doing is something I just want to shout from the rooftops. I hope they can keep up putting out amazing music alongside interesting concepts. And as for this series, I’ve found a couple new releases already! I’m loving these.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m going to try to respond to this in a nice and mature way. But if you really have a personal bias against female groups, maybe that is something you can… work on? Because i might understand your opinion if this was a cutesy, chirpy girl group track, but it’s quite the opposite. And Lovelyz are 8 girls with varied and distinct vocal tones, and at least 4 of them are very strong singers (Kei, Jin, Baby Soul, Sujeong).

      I guess making this kind of statement is more accepted among kpop fandom (“some people like boy groups and some people like girl groups and that’s okay” etc) but you couldn’t say about a Western artist without turning some heads, surely. “I really don’t like female artists.” Almost anybody would say that’s sexist. Of course I think it’s fine to have preferences and many of my favorite artists are boy groups, this is just the sort of comment that rankles me, I hope you understand.

      Like

  3. I’m always interested to check out Lovelyz b-sides that I may have passed by before, but this one isn’t for me… I can’t hear that intro without my brain filling in, “You look so dumb right now / standing outside my house.”…..

    Like

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