Feature

Battle of the B-Sides: Red Velvet Edition

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!

This round will be a little different, focusing on the discography of a single artist.

You can check out all rounds of my Battle of the B-sides here!


Battle of the B-sides: Round Seven


Red Velvet – Light Me Up (2016)


Light Me Up instantly sets the mood with that bluesy guitar and dynamic percussion. The production is tactile and enveloping, surrounding you with unexpected flourishes. That alone makes this mid-tempo stand out. I’m not as big a fan of the melody, though the chorus has a few nice moments. Instead, Light Me Up is all about its arrangement. From vocals to instrumental, there’s just so much to discover within the track. Given a more straightforward approach, the song likely would have bored me. But, Red Velvet have a way of elevating material like this.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.5

Red Velvet – In & Out (2019)


The beat on this one has an almost threatening pulse, aided by creepy synths that give In & Out an off-kilter charm. The girls’ performance follows suit, moving from powerful delivery to a more hushed, coquettish tone. Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of the chorus. It’s arranged brilliantly, but that melody is just too repetitive for me. There’s not enough to grab onto within the simple refrain. But, I’ll give the track props for quickly establishing its atmosphere and maintaining the vibe.

 Hooks 7
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 7
 RATING 7.5

Red Velvet – My Dear (2016)


I love the muted brass (?) that opens this track. The instrumental has a satisfying, loungy beat that perks up as we hit the chorus. It’s incredibly smooth, perfectly matching the girls’ layered vocals. And while My Dear’s melody may be more straightforward than a lot of Red Velvet b-sides, its sweet sound goes down easy. As the track goes on, the sprightly percussion begins to take on a disco-funk style, which builds toward a really fun blast of rap during the bridge. This isn’t a big Red Velvet moment, but it’s quite enjoyable nonetheless.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 8
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.25

Red Velvet – I Just (2017)


I Just’s introduction will catch your attention right off the bat, as the song opens with a chopped, heavily-filtered vocal riff. I love this sound. It’s dripping with texture, and gives the song a definitive personality even before we reach the verses. The rest of I Just bounds along a heavy stomp of percussion. Every element is working together to further the rhythm, yet there’s still room for Red Velvet’s performance to shine. Their harmonies are gorgeous, and the chorus’s kaleidoscope of vocal flourishes makes for a dynamic centerpiece.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9
 RATING 8.75

Red Velvet – Jumpin’ (2019)


Jumpin’ is the most energetic song featured in this round, and that’s a quality that will always appeal to me. Its clap-along beat is tons of fun, especially when punctuated by tight blasts of harmony. The track’s chorus opts to pull back on tempo and energy, which would usually bother me in a pop song. And, the approach does blunt Jumpin’s momentum a bit. But, Red Velvet’s vocals carry the day. The refrain is quite catchy, and performed and arranged with brightness and vigor. I could do without the endless chants that make up the track’s finale, but overall this is an easy success.

 Hooks 8
 Production 8
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.25

My Verdict:


Fifth: In & Out
Fourth: My Dear
Third: Jumpin’
Second: Light Me Up

First: I Just


Congratulations to Red Velvet’s I Just – the seventh 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!

9 thoughts on “Battle of the B-Sides: Red Velvet Edition

  1. This is such an interesting feature and I’m glad you came up with this one. I personally enjoy I just and in and out a lot while I find jumpin’ a but saccharine. Not to tell the other songs go down easily either. Red Velvet just happen to be one of the best album artists with great cohesion.

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  2. WOAH. This is a nice switch-up to the feature. Considering Red Velvet is the first ever group I actually followed, this is going to be interesting.

    I kind of agree with you in Light Me Up. It’s a nice arrangement with a weaker melody. There’s a lot of unique stuff in here, but maybe a bit too much though that’s honestly that’s not that bad to have. Maybe with a better backbone with the melody it would be less chaotic sounding. I didn’t remember this song despite it literally being in my phone but The Velvet had a lot of songs that didn’t really hit me until way later so I understand why.

    I think I was really a big fan of In and Out in the beginning. After some time, I can see it’s repetitiveness much clearer now. It’s also got a bit of childishness that I never really noticed. It’s a good vibe, but definitely not as good as I used to think it was.

    My Dear is very good. It’s a strong melody, strong instrumentals and energy. I used to listen to this all the time, even if it wasn’t a showstopping track by any means. It’s a good b-side.

    Oooh. I Just was one of those songs that can definitely lose its luster if you repeat this over and over. The loud synth can get ear piercing over time. But regardless of my experience, this song is pretty good. I love the atmospheric feel of this song despite the strong changes in volume with the synths. I’m not that big on some of the parts like the IYAIYAIYA parts and such but overall a cool song. I vastly prefer Look from the same album but I get I Just.

    I haven’t actually listened to Jumpin’ until now. I stopped downloading their albums after their RBB comeback. The verses are great. I’m not that big on the chorus though, the halftime change doesn’t really work though the girls sound great. The bridge continues the sound of the nice verses but the slow chorus dampens my enjoyment of this song.

    In And Out = Light Me Up < Jumpin' << I Just <<< My Dear

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  3. God I miss Red Velvet. Excepting Wendy, the girls might not be vocal powerhouses on their own, but as a full unit they’re magical. Their harmonies are the best in the game, not even close!

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    • Oooh, Sassy Me is such a good song. I know most people gravitated towards Butterflies and I think Nick did too, but Sassy Me is so full of attitude and interesting. Butterflies is still a great song if a bit run of the mill, but I feel like Sassy Me is the best song in that mini.

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    • Love Sassy Me. Love the vocal fry on the verses. It’s one thing to pretend to be sassy and to actually be sassy. Red Velvet is the latter in this song. One of their strengths is their authenticity, not to mention their creativity.

      I admittedly haven’t listened to a lot of RV recently either, but with their impending comeback I’ve been refreshing my love for their music. Wendy and Joy helped scratch the itch earlier in the year with their solo stuff but I’ll be glad to see them back as a full five-woman group.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes the vocal fry is the highlight for me too! I love NCT’s “Limitless” for the same reason. We need more vocal fry in kpop I guess lol

        I’m excited for their comeback too, I think a lot of us were starting worry they were already going the way of snsd or f(x)….

        Like

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