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 Eleven
Girls’ Generation – Honey (2007)
Girls’ Generation’s debut album contains one of my favorite K-pop songs of all-time as well as a killer remake, but I find most of its b-sides to be pretty lightweight. Honey fits within this realm, though its bright, fluffy sound feels quite refreshing when compared to today’s musical trends. I like the gentle, guitar-kissed pop beat (very reminiscent of early Britney Spears!), and the vocals are beautiful throughout. The chorus is a particular highlight. Yes, it’s as saccharine as you can get, but the harmonies and layering really elevates it.
Monsta X – If Only (2018)
When it comes to title tracks, we don’t often get to hear Monsta X’s softer side. But, their albums harbor quite a few songs with similar energy to If Only. This track is a fantastic blend of lilting balladry and emotive post-EDM tricks. It might not sweep you off your feet right away, but once that chorus comes around it’s hard not to be smitten. The melody here is GORGEOUS, sweeping upward with a series of gentle peaks. It all builds to a celebratory key change that gives the track even more oomph. For me, this is “sentimental” done perfectly right.
Lovelyz – Goodbye, Chapter 1 (2014)
Lovelyz’ debut album is full of off-kilter synth pop – much more inventive than their cute name might suggest. Goodbye, Chapter 1 moves briskly along fizzy synths and a halting rhythm that feels quite unpredictable. The soundscape is abrasive at times, but never in an off-putting way. I love how the chorus moves into double-time, giving the hook extra punch. This isn’t one of my favorite melodies in Lovelyz’ arsenal, but it’s so idiosyncratic and fantastical. It really helps establish their musical worldview.
Cross Gene – Corvus (2019)
It’s so fun to be able to touch upon groups like Cross Gene as part of this feature. Their discography is definitely underrated and inventive. However, Corvus isn’t one of my favorite b-sides, and that’s mostly down to its incessant vocal effects. Obviously, this is a creative choice. The processing gives Corvus an alien-like texture that matches well with the tropical undertones of the instrumental. But, I don’t find it particularly appealing, and the track lacks a knockout melody to compensate. I give them an ‘A’ for effort, and appreciate the artistic risk. Unfortunately, it doesn’t pay off for me.
Nu’est W – With (JR solo) (2017)
JR’s solos always bring an interesting dimension to Nu’est’s albums. He’s got a great tone for rap, and I appreciate how he’s beginning to experiment more with genre. With is more sentimental than much of his work, and this is a definite strength. The verses are sparse but dramatic, providing plenty of space for JR to flex the strengths of his performance. But, my favorite aspect of this track is the chorus. I just love big choral moments like this. There’s a slight gospel energy to the hook, with the vocals offering a forceful delivery that punches in all the right places. The song’s a little short for my taste, but it makes the most of its brief running time.
Fifth: Cross Gene – Corvus
Fourth: Girls’ Generation – Honey
Third: Lovelyz – Goodbye, Chapter 1
Second: Nu’est W – With (JR solo)
First: Monsta X – If Only
Congratulations to Monsta X’s If Only – the eleventh 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!