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 Eight
Twice – Polish (2019)
Polish comes from the latter stage of Twice’s Japanese career, where the music is actually decent! There are stronger songs on this album, but this has a nice bounce that fits Twice’s quirky aesthetic without going over the top. I particularly like the percussive explosion that introduces each chorus. The rest of the production conjures a laidback groove that’s easy to get into, and the singsong hook echoes this vibe. The song loses some focus as it goes on, and becomes unintentionally funny as it sounds like the girls are claiming to be from Poland rather than a “polished diamond”!
DAY6 – Day And Night (2020)
Day And Night is more rhythmic than a lot of DAY6’s work, pulsing on a fun drumbeat echoed by chirpy synths. The energy feels pretty celebratory, fueled by that marching band-like instrumental. The verses mostly kill time, but the song’s chorus is quite addictive. The melody moves from surging to playful, offering a diverse structure that maintains interest. But, Day And Night’s best moments come during the climax, as the bridge heightens energy before one last explosive chorus. This will certainly get stuck in your head.
Super Junior-D&E – To You, Tomorrow (2020)
When I think of D&E, my mind doesn’t immediately go to ballads. The two are solid vocalists, but their real strength lies in more upbeat material that allows them to showcase their personality. To You, Tomorrow is probably too upbeat to be considered a straightforward ballad, but its verses are much more stripped back than most of the duo’s output. The instrumental has a nice swing to it, and builds toward an explosive, band-driven chorus. But, the song itself doesn’t do much for me. It’s the kind of late-album track I’d usually skip. I appreciate the earnest sentiment, but would’ve rather had a stronger melody.
SF9 – Shh (2020)
Shh is very much in line with the more sensuous side of SF9’s music. They fit this style well, and the track grooves along a satisfying blend of synth, guitar and scuzzy bass. What the chorus lacks in knockout hooks, it more than makes up in dynamic production. At this point in 2021, we’ve heard so many tracks with this style, but Shh was ahead of its time. I appreciate the instrumental’s bluesy flourishes. They give the song a nice sense of atmosphere that makes it feel less generic. The rap bridge is also a ton of fun, and offers a chance for the track to burst into a more freewheeling energy.
Son Dam Bi – No Sympathy (2008)
A pleasant synthline powers the bulk of this midtempo dance track, and gives No Sympathy a stately appeal. Touches of guitar distortion bring a sense of contrast, making this relatively simple instrumental stand out. No Sympathy might not by the loudest or most bombastic track in this round, but I think its vibe works really, really well. That chorus is a total earworm, and Dam Bi’s vocals are super smooth. I love the synth strings that grow more prominent as the track goes on. There’s such a timeless quality to the crisp production and straightforward delivery.
Fifth: Super Junior-D&E – To You, Tomorrow
Fourth: Twice – Polish
Third: DAY6 – Day And Night
Second: SF9 – Shh
First: Son Dam Bi – No Sympathy
Congratulations to Son Dam Bi’s No Sympathy – the eighth 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!