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 Three
Zion.T – The Bad Guys (2017)
The Bad Guys is very much in the vein of subdued, singer-songwriter K-R&B that tends not to excite me. There’s nothing bad about this track, but I can’t say that it compels me to listen further. The beat has a nice groove to it, and I find Zion.T’s phrasing to be pretty unique during the verses. It feels more like spoken-word than hip-hop, and helps establish an interesting rhythm as the track goes on. The chorus has a nice lilt to it – more melodic but still within the rhythmic framework that the song sets up. This feels like a slight effort, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.
GOT7 – Made It (Jackson solo) (2018)
It’s interesting to think about Jackson’s LMLY single while listening to this track. Prior to his recent solo work, this kind of trap-infused hip-hop is what I most associated him with. Made It utilizes a ton of vocal effects in the verses before moving into a heavy, shout-along chorus. I’m not a fan of either segment, though the orchestral samples during the hook are a nice touch. Overall, this is just too tuneless and shouty for me. I find Jackson’s voice to be quite grating in material like this.
TVXQ – Don’t Cry My Lover (2008)
I’m always surprised by just how many ballads are on TVXQ’s early albums. Played one after another, they tend to run together. The group does a fantastic job with material like this, and it’s always nice to hear their voices front and center. But unlike some of their masterpieces of this style (Love In The Ice), I find Don’t Cry My Lover to be quite dull. Yes, the track builds toward a hearty chorus with some brilliant harmonization, but the energy and momentum never materializes in the way I would have hoped. Things perk up a bit in the second half, as the song swells to a vocal-heavy climax, but this same trick has been used on much stronger TVXQ/DBSK tracks.
14U – Good Girl (2017)
14U were a very short-lived group, but they delivered some awesome funk pop during their time. Good Girl is a ton of fun, harnessing a recurring refrain that’s incredibly catchy. The instrumental pulses with bursts of electric guitar and synth that echo the spontaneity of the melody. This isn’t the kind of song that builds toward a dramatic chorus. It’s more subtle than that. Instead, the entire thing is a playground of micro-hooks, and these small touches add up to a very dynamic whole. Good Girl is also unabashedly retro, so you know that will score well with me!
LOONA – See Saw (Go Won, Chuu & Kim Lip) (2018)
Three members of LOONA deliver a nice shot of mid-tempo pop with See Saw. This song doesn’t stick out as being particularly memorable when stacked against the group’s strongest material, but it makes for a satisfying album track. The vocal arrangement is incredibly atmospheric, which echoes the airy nature of the instrumental. The track sort of sputters to life, gently rising and falling as it goes on. I’m sure this is intentional given the title See Saw! I would have loved to hear a more robust chorus, but I like how the production incorporates a more dynamic rhythm during this segment.
Fifth: GOT7 – Made It (Jackson solo)
Fourth: TVXQ – Don’t Cry My Lover
Third: Zion.T – The Bad Guys
Second: LOONA – See Saw (Go Won, Chuu & Kim Lip)
First: 14U – Good Girl
Congratulations to 14U’s Good Girl – the third 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!