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Battle of the B-Sides: Key, Pentagon, Red Velvet, A.C.E, Kim Hyun Joong

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 Five


Key – The Duty Of Love (2018)


Gosh, Key’s solo album was so good. I think The Duty Of Love is actually one of its weaker tracks, which is really saying something because this is still so satisfying. I love the chunky guitar sound. That bass just chugs along with so much presence. The melody has a refreshing appeal, especially as Key moves into falsetto for the chorus. Compared to his more EDM-influenced tracks, this feels a bit subdued. But, its perky hook has a real throwback quality that suits his voice well.

 Hooks 9
 Production 8
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.5

Pentagon – Burnin’ Love (2018)


Taken from their Japanese discography, Burnin’ Love represents a Pentagon sound I have great fondness for. The group is in full funk-pop mode here, bounding along mighty rhythm guitar and blasts of celebratory brass. I love all the instrumental flourishes on this one. They really drive the verses forward, keeping momentum high. Like Key’s track, much of Burnin’ Love’s appeal comes down to that fantastic guitar. This song has a more sprightly energy, and benefits from the diversity of Pentagon’s vocals. It could do with a stronger hook, but overall this is too much fun to ignore. It’s nice to hear E-Dawn, too!

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.5

Red Velvet – LP (2019)


As expected from its title, LP hinges on a vintage sound. The synths have a cool warbly effect, lending the track an off-kilter vibe that’s kind of jazzy. I suppose LP fits within the group’s “velvet” oeuvre, but its upbeat chorus borrows some of the energy from their “red” material. In this way, the track is a nice blend of all their charms. There are more exciting songs on this mini album, but LP is a slow burn success. The skittering percussion in the bridge is particularly nice, complete with a saxophone solo to send the song into the stratosphere.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.5

A.C.E – Slow Dive (2019)


In some ways Slow Dive’s energy reminds me of A.C.E’s current title track Higher, though this one is a little more reserved in nature. It builds to a really nice chorus, harnessing a surging melody that moves from emotive croon to chant-along hook. I’m not as big a fan of the instrumental, though. There’s a lot going on here, and most of the elements feel overly familiar to this era of K-pop. The result is a bit murky. Slow Dive could have used a more focused instrumental, preferably with one or two killer sounds that helped it stand apart. Without that ingredient, the song is most satisfying when its chorus comes back around.

 Hooks 8
 Production 7
 Longevity 8
 Bias 7
 RATING 7.5

Kim Hyun Joong – Gentleman (2013)


Putting legal issues aside, Kim Hyung Joon released a fair share of great post-SS501 pop. Gentleman is definitely among his stronger material, bursting forward on an incredibly catchy hook and sprightly synth-based instrumental. That bubbling electro beat is tons of fun, and creates the perfect base for the song’s giddy melodies. I could do without some of the vocal effects, but they’re not overdone. And though the ultra-catchy chorus has the potential to grate, it never outstays its welcome. The beatboxing breakdown during the bridge is an awesome touch, matching the percussive production.

 Hooks 9
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.25

My Verdict:


Fifth: A.C.E – Slow Dive
Fourth: Kim Hyun Joong – Gentleman
Third: Red Velvet – LP
Second: Key – The Duty Of Love

First: Pentagon – Burnin’ Love


Congratulations to Pentagon’s Burnin’ Love – the fifth winner of my Battle of the B-sides! This was a VERY strong round, and I think any of my top four could have won with different competition.

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

13 thoughts on “Battle of the B-Sides: Key, Pentagon, Red Velvet, A.C.E, Kim Hyun Joong

  1. Key’s Face remains my favorite kpop solo album, its solid gold all the way through. I am seriously looking forward to whenever he drops new material. I know it’s coming, it’s just a matter of when. I think he already mentioned going with something retro and even though I don’t know what that means, I know I am going to love it.

    Also I have to disagree with you on A.C.E’s slow dive, it’s one of my favorite A.C.E B-sides. Its an 8.75 for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Key’s comeback is supposed to happen this month unless it’s been pushed back. Onew’s comeback is in September. They released these tentative dates during a vlive.

      Like

  2. So far, I liked A. C. E. ‘s song the most. Am also a fan of Key and Pentagon but I didn’t like the songs you made a review on. As for Red Velvet, am not a fan of female kpop groups except for Mamamoo.

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  3. So far, I liked A. C. E. ‘s song the most. Am also a fan of Key and Pentagon but I didn’t like the songs you made a review on. As for Red Velvet, am not a fan of female kpop groups except for Mamamoo.

    Like

  4. Your 5th is my 1st!! Absolutely love A.C.E. Slow Dive.
    2nd Pentagon
    3rd Key
    4th Kim Hyung Joon
    5th Red Velvet.
    H.A.G.D. All

    Like

  5. Missed this, got distracted. I do love LP, but not sure about the rest.

    I don’t quite get The Duty of Love. It’s too lowkey despite its energy and I’m not a big fan of it, just too empty and chugging along. Chugging along, that seems like the right word. Too slow for me without a potent melody. I’m not a big fan of “start of the day” kind of songs anyway. The verses weren’t that memorable and the chorus didn’t excite me.

    I appreciate parts of Burnin’ Love, especially the brass. Sadly, these super high energetic youthful boy groups are always a toss up, and this one is not really much to me. The instrumental got a little repetitive, and the guitar didn’t hit me as much as it clearly did to you so it wasn’t for me. The melody wasn’t really hitting much, plus the raps were par for the course.

    I already knew LP and it’s the one song that captivated me from the first album so much. I listened to the other ones and this one just for some reason worked so well. It’s Mii Music, but K-Pop. Bouncy, jazzy but still a little mellow at parts. Honestly, the instrumental is just so good. Retro-y elevator music shouldn’t really work as a fully fledged song, but it just does. The percussive bridge into the sax solo is the cherry on top of this nice song.

    Slow Dive does have a great chorus. These synth-y songs are more for me, but I can see how watery every single synth is in here. I do also think that some more interesting instrumentation could elevate the song. The piano is a start, but maybe something more. It has a lot of potential as a song but it didn’t really hit me as well as it could. Even the brassier bridge was a bit too out of left-field for the song.

    As for Gentleman… I have never heard of this artist before but this is not a good introduction. I’m not here for of the vocal effects, and none of these melodies and hooks are for me. Too minimalistic and old-school feeling to me. Even the retro synths sound cheap (though I have no idea really how expensive this song is.) It just sounds like it was built with sounds they just found in a default soundpack. Yeah, this was the worst song in this battle.

    Gentleman < The Duty of Love << Burnin' Love < Slow Dive <<<<< LP

    Wouldn't really listen to most of the songs other than LP, which I have already repeated a bunch.

    Like

    • As for me, gentleman is the best … The song, the beat , the singer and dance is best…
      Rest artists I didn’t even heard ..

      Like

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