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!
This round will be a little different, focusing on the discography of a single artist.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fifth: In & Out
Fourth: My Dear
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!