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!
You can check out all rounds of my Battle of the B-sides here!
Battle of the B-sides: Round Ten
Laboum – Hush (2019)
I’m not sure what happened to Laboum’s music. There was a period of time (2015-16) where they were churning out such high-quality pop. As interest faded, they moved toward far more generic material. I found this particular album to be immensely forgettable, and Hush really illustrates why. Yes, it paints a beguiling mood. But, where are the hooks? Nothing about the melody catches my attention, and the production never introduces any interesting elements. I enjoy some of the vocal flourishes, but that’s about it.
SHINee – Up & Down (2010)
Unlike the last track, Up & Down boasts a megawatt hook and knows exactly what to do with it. The song is quite repetitive, but that’s the point. The chorus is a major earworm, coming across as a musical taunt as the instrumental lurches forward. The verses have a halting arrangement, resulting in a rhythm that feels almost robotic. And as the song goes on, off-kilter flourishes are brought in to support the central hook. This comes to head during Up & Down’s finale, which devolves into pure madness as repetition battles against repetition to forge some unexpected, odd arrangements. You’ll either love it or hate it!
B.A.P – With You (2014)
I feel like B.A.P’s discography often gets overlooked, and that’s a shame. Their albums are stuffed with great b-sides. With You might not be a highlight, but it’s a testament to the power of a well-executed midtempo pop track. We’ve heard With You’s schmaltzy sound a million times before, and that’s okay. The song knows which sentiment it wants to sell and does a solid job convincing you to listen. The instrumental has a resounding stomp that keeps the energy consistent even as we move between vocal and rap. The chorus is a little underwhelming in its repetition, but I’m not expecting miracles from a song like this. (I would have appreciated a key change, though…)
U-KISS – Party All The Time (Eli & AJ unit) (2013)
Coming after the last three songs, this is like a burst of energy! U-KISS are another group with a super-solid discography that often goes overlooked, and Party All The Time is an example of how fun their music can be. Honestly, this song is pretty stupid, from its ultra-repetitive hook to the generic dance beat. But, I appreciate how relentlessly upbeat it is. There are a few nice melodic turns buried within the incessant “party all the time” refrain, and Eli and AJ are clearly not taking themselves too seriously. However, the track threatens to wear out its welcome pretty quickly. It could’ve been just as effective with the final minute shaved off.
BoA – Honey & Diamonds (2020)
BoA has a way of effortlessly adjusting to trends, bringing her unique talent to whatever K-pop era she’s working in. Honey & Diamonds feels fresh but timeless, grooving over a skittering dance beat that occasionally dips into funkier territory. The production is light and rhythmic, and BoA’s performance follows suit. I’m not as sold on the song itself. Other than the titular hook that opens the track and follows each chorus, none of the melodies really knock me out. But as an enjoyable dance track, Honey & Diamonds definitely succeeds.
Fifth: Laboum – Hush
Fourth: B.A.P – With You
Third: BoA – Honey & Diamonds
Second: U-KISS – Party All The Time
First: SHINee – Up & Down
Congratulations to SHINee’s Up & Down – the tenth 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!
You picked the least powerfu B-side for BAP. You could have even chosen “Spy”, “BangX2”, “Goodbye”, “Excuse me”, “Dystopia”, “Dancing in the rain” or “Pray” etc… picking “With You” is another way to make people overlook BAP’s albums.
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It’s literally a random shuffle. I didn’t pick anything. That information is in the post…
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SHINee Up&Down sounds like the happier version of One Minute Back by way of Hello.
… what a quiet week in kpop, this week, last week. I can’t think of any other time like this month. I’ve only bought 4 songs in July total so far, including the the Rumble-G “Roo Pretzel Charm” debut song and the obligatory regular Kyuhyun release.
The only other month I could compare it to is April 2014 with the Sewol ferry disaster. Two completely different situations, though…
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First up, as more of these kinds of songs come up, I’m seeing how much I actually like them? I think your comment’s a little unfair, Hush isn’t meant to be a pop song with hooks. I don’t really think this is a bad thing, though I get that it’s not your taste at all. I really like the sensuality of the song and the airy high vocals with the melody. The atmosphere and synths are absolutely my thing. Reminds of Wonderland by DC actually.
Up & Down is more hate than love for me. By the end, there’s a vocal effects heavy ending with the hook that I already didn’t like from the start. I liked some of the verses and the pre-chorus but that chorus is just not at all pleasant to me, with the circus-esque background and relentless hook. I like the spurts of violin, and the harmonies.
I thought this ballad was way more boring than Hush? With You is schmaltzy but I’m not into that kind of song. I have no attachment to this group, so that kind of sentiment doesn’t carry through. This feels more generic, though it sounds nice.
The time of day I usually review these songs are not at all fit for energetic songs. Regardless of that, Party All The Time has some weirdly bland vocals. I also cannot deal with this song right now. It’s noisy and a little ridiculous. I like the final repetition of the chorus, with the background vocals joining in adding some desperate energy to the unenergetic singer. Yeah, not what I like really.
Honey & Diamonds is really good. Love the bass, and the melody flows pretty well. I also love the atmospheric synths into the strong chorus. It’s breezy and I enjoy it just as much as I enjoy Free Somebody by LUNA.
Up & Down <<< Party All The Time < With You <<<<< Honey & Diamonds < Hush
I was really struggling so hard to choose between Hush and Honey & Diamonds. The latter is a straight-up bop and groovy, but the first is so delightfully atmospheric and the vocals are beautiful. I would've loved to add both into the playlist honestly. I really like listening to Hush so that's what ended up happening.
I think I'm starting to realize how different my wants are for certain songs. I don't care that much for hooks really. It's amazing if its their, but it doesn't ruin my enjoyment of a song if it doesn't have an instant memorable melody. Of course, the production has to work as well being good.
I'm the kind of person who likes instrumental songs, this really shouldn't be a surprise to me. I scratch my head when some people can't even fathom the idea of listening to songs without vocals. Thankfully, I am not that person.
Also that I, for some reason, tend to dislike some of the pop songs that get rated high by Nick. Some of them just are too unrelenting. Sometimes, I'd rather not be knocked out by a loud high-speed rollercoaster.
Haha the more of these I write, the more I realize that you and I are complete opposites when it comes to taste in pop music! It makes me all the more thankful that you continue to read and comment!!
Thanks! It’s not like I haven’t liked songs you’ve liked but it has been happening quite a bit in this series, especially since I think we’ve only matched winners like once haha.
Man, by the time the Top 50 songs will come up, I’ll still have to reconcile the fact that Atlantis is getting on there. And not a single PIXY song will be in it (well who knows how their third comeback will go this year).
Up & Down is so addictive…the exact kind of quirky, hooky repetition that SHINee and other SM groups had mastered around that time.
Anyways a m e n to B.A.P’s massively underappreciated discography. Nick, I’m not sure if you’ve re-listened to their Carnival EP from 2016 recently but my god is it a fantastic summer album (ignoring the fact they decided to release it in February). I was just blasting the songs in my car with the windows down on a hot July afternoon and it fully, utterly took me there. Couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate TS Ent’s demise tbh…!
It sure is! Carnival is SO good. I still can’t believe it was released in the dead of winter…
I want a SHINee A-Z list even more than before now ! This song is so fun yet it is drowned in such a loaded discography.
They take the win in this round for me
I just bought Shinee’s Lucifer album, I can’t wait until it arrives! (actually been waiting a while now but thats just how it goes with kpop shipping) I’ve been slowly trying to piece together Shinee’s discography for three years now, but its slow going considering SM sucks at keeping things in stock. Even Taemin’s current releases go out of stock within a year. I will never understand SM makng it harder to buy albums by refusing to restock them. SM you literally exist to sell albums so why do you insist on making it a challange?
With You is my favorite! BAP had such a good discography. sad they disbanded prematurely.
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I view Berry Good and Laboum in similar categories—having good-or-better songs starting out that sort of faded into average over time. Berry Good’s case had to do with their main producer passing away, so I dug into Laboum’s discography to see if something similar happened.
“Petit Macaron” – Jung Jae-yeob
“Sugar Sugar” – 어벤전숭 (Eoben Jeonsu) (no idea who that is)
“Aalow Aalow” – 어벤전숭 (Eoben Jeonsu)
“Journey to Atlantis/Fresh Adventure” – unsure
“Shooting Love” – unsure
“Winter Story” – Seo Dong Sung/Baek Seung Beom
“Hwi Hwi” – 카면라이더
“Only U” – Duble Sidekick, Longcandy, Glory Face
“Between Us” – Maxx Song, Soyeon, VO3E
“Turn it On” – DAY&NIGHT, Command Freaks, Kim Jong Sam
“Firework” – Maxx Song, Secret Weapon, (someone’s name in Korean I found too blurry to read)
“Cheese’ – Soyeon, Kim Minje, Stoner Tunes
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Uhh what is this? And why is this so random? Hush is literally a solo song by Haein so I don’t know why of all song youre going to pick that. And I dont know where you get the no hook part????
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I´m so triggered right now lmao. Honey and Diamonds is one my fav songs from last year and i´m still addicted to it. The groove is so sexy paired with Boa´s charisma and voice.
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