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 Twelve
Highlight – Love Like This (2017)
This song has such an odd opening verse. It feels hesitant, yet draws attention due to its evocative melody and off-kilter instrumental. As the percussion becomes more insistent, it feels like we’re about to drop into a more uptempo groove. But, the song remains fitful, as if unable to find a comfortable form. This is all intentional, and works quite well. But, Love Like This is easier for me to appreciate than fully enjoy. It feels under-formed, and the tempo’s halting nature makes the track come across as aloof rather than inviting.
GWSN – Shy Shy (2018)
Shy Shy’s bright, dreamy chorus envelops you right from the start, whisking listeners into the song. The verses utilize a pleasant blend of synths, adding to the sprightly vibe. The melody feels a little unfocused, with the chorus easily being Shy’s strongest element. The verses aren’t tightly structured enough for me, and that blunts some of the track’s overall impact – especially toward the end. But, I like the overall tone of Shy Shy. The girls sound great and that bounding beat is pretty satisfying.
U-KISS – Dancing Floor (2010)
This has 2010’s electro-pop sound all over it, and I’m totally okay with that! The rugged electro beat hits hard, keeping the energy pumping throughout the track. I like the balance of the verses, pairing fast-paced rhythmic hooks with more elongated shots of melody. The chorus leaves something to be desired, as its repetition grows a little stale. But in the context of a track like this, I think the simple hook works. This is silly fun — nothing more, nothing less.
AOA – Three Out (2017)
AOA would occasionally veer into this kind of brassy sound, and it fit their sexy concept pretty well. It’s always sounded a bit “burlesque” to me. This can easily become cheesy, but Three Out strikes a nice balance. I really like the melody in this one. The verses have a punchiness that compliments the bombastic bursts of brass. Then, the chorus hits us with an extended note that adds new dimension to the track. The whole song upends here for a brilliant splash of energy. It’s quite a show!
Taeyeon – Sweet Love (2017)
Here, we have Taeyeon doing what she does best – laying that powerful voice over a subdued groove. Sweet Love isn’t my kind of song at all, and that will no doubt reflect in its ranking. But, I can’t discount how accomplished Taeyeon is when it comes to material like this. She nails every curve and peak of the melody before belting it out for the chorus. I don’t find the melody to be all that engaging, and the instrumental doesn’t do anything for me either. But, I totally recognize how that’s down to personal taste.
Fifth: Highlight – Love Like This
Fourth: Taeyeon – Sweet Love
Third: GWSN – Shy Shy
Second: U-KISS – Dancing Floor
First: AOA – Three Out
Congratulations to AOA’s Three Out – the twelfth 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!