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 Six
Yoon Jisung – Clover (2019)
Well, this isn’t my thing at all. In fact, I could say the same for most of Yoon Jisung’s work. He’s very talented, but so many of his songs opt for this kind of soft, coffeehouse style. A track like Clover certainly has its purpose. It would make very calming background music. But, that’s just not the way I listen to music. On the plus side, Jisung sounds great and I enjoy the mix of keys and strings that forge much of the instrumental. The chorus sets off a few sparks, but not enough to keep my interest.
1Punch – Ice Ice (2015)
Now, this is more like it! Right from the start, Ice Ice’s vocal sample punches listeners in the gut, letting them know what they’re in for. This is a really enjoyable old-school hip-hop throwback. The breakbeat instrumental nails the retro style, complete with record scratches. The rap is exaggerated and energetic, while Kim Samuel’s vocal makes for a satisfying chorus. This is basically a retread of their single Turn Me Back, but that song is an underrated legend so I’ll gladly take more. I love how the bridge brings in electric guitar that goes on to power the song’s finale. This is so much fun!
Zico – Day (ft. JTONG) (2015)
From one style of hip-hop to another, Zico opts for a more modern approach. I’m not a fan of this one at all. I appreciate what he’s going for, but everything about Day is too abrasive for me. The beat is super domineering, with the percussion mixed as if the guys are banging on pots and pans. Zico’s delivery matches the intensity, which makes for great consistency. But, I find his aggressive style quite obnoxious, like he’s yelling for three and a half minutes. It’s not a pleasant experience. Guest rapper JTONG has a more palatable texture to his voice, but without much of a hook I can’t say this is a Day I’d willingly revisit.
Brown Eyed Girls – Even If You Have Another One (2009)
The name Brown Eyed Girls conjures edgy concepts and edgier songs, but the girls’ discography holds quite a bit of material that’s more straightforward in nature. Even If You Have Another One fits within this category, and sounds quite similar to what many girl groups were doing in 2009. The song comes across as album filler to me, though I suppose it’s pleasant filler. Thankfully, Brown Eyed Girls’ vocals offer a welcome shot of firepower. I like how the song merges the sentiment of a good ballad with a beat more suited to the dancefloor. I just wish their was a stronger melody powering the whole package.
2NE1 – Stay Together (2009)
Stay Together isn’t as hard-hitting as you might expect from an early 2NE1 track. Its light, disco-pop sound bounces along airy percussion and synth, occasionally pausing to make way for a subdued break. The girls’ vocals fade into the production more than usual, lacking the sharp attitude that propelled them to superstardom. It’s an oddly generic performance, though they definitely pull it off. The chorus is nice, if a bit forgettable when placed alongside their best material. Stay Together has that surging, emotional quality that can be found in other YG tracks of this era (Bigbang’s Lie and Haru Haru immediately come to mind). It’s just not as memorable.
Fifth: Zico – Day (ft. JTONG)
Fourth: Yoon Jisung – Clover
Third: 2NE1 – Stay Together
Second: Brown Eyed Girls – Even If You Have Another One
First: 1Punch – Ice Ice
Congratulations to 1Punch’s Ice Ice – the sixth 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!