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 Thirteen
Weki Meki – Metronome (2018)
Metronome harnesses my preferred Weki Meki style: groovy and sleek. A stronger (less repetitive) hook would have put it over the edge, but its rhythmic sound fits well within the context the song sets up. There are quite a few effects and tricks applied to the vocals, chopping them to create added groove. I like this approach, though the fact that we’ve heard this style so much over the past couple of years makes Metronome feel slightly less exciting and fresh than it did at the time.
Wonder Girls – I Tried (2008)
Apart from the singles, most of Wonder Girls’ early work isn’t for me. A song like I Tried is a good example of why. While the vocal is nice, I find the melody pretty dull. The instrumental doesn’t really go anywhere either, though I appreciate its old-school approach. This feels pitched toward those who enjoy a more subdued sound, as the track casts off a satisfying, low-key vibe. I could easily be among those admirers, but I need a stronger hook to draw me in.
Monsta X – Rotate (2021)
I think this is the most current track to pop up within this feature. It’s not even two months old! Rotate does a lot of things right, and maybe two years down the line I might have different thoughts about it. But being in the midst of 2021’s “groovy chorus” K-pop trend, I can’t help but find the song pretty generic. It’s well-performed, and there are some fun highlights within the otherwise predictable melody. But, the song never really takes off. The chorus feels more like an extension of the verses than a highlight unto itself.
EXO-CBX – Monday Blues (2018)
I miss EXO-CBX! Their first mini album was so good. I thought its follow-up was more of a mixed bag, and Monday Blues isn’t one of the tracks that has stuck in my memory. The song has a drowsy, mid-tempo energy, built upon shuffling percussion and generous doses of harmony. The guys sound incredible, and their vocals buoy Monday’s overall effect. The bridge is especially good, as the interplay between their voices really drives the melody forward. But, that languid chorus isn’t for me. It’s a real head-nodder, but I wish the groove had more bite.
NCT 127 – Come Back (2018)
Released in both Korean and Japanese versions, Come Back was performed on music shows but never released as a single. I can see why SM wanted to highlight this song, because it’s pretty fun. The crunchy instrumental blends classic with modern, resulting in an addictive energy that fits NCT well. The pre-chorus allows for much-appreciated spotlight on the guys’ vocals, while the chorus is easily the strongest among the five songs I’m writing about today. I don’t know if this is a knockout punch, but it’s definitely a satisfying burst of rugged dance pop.
Fifth: Wonder Girls – I Tried
Fourth: EXO-CBX – Monday Blues
Third: Monsta X – Rotate
Second: Weki Meki – Metronome
First: NCT 127 – Come Back
Congratulations to NCT 127’s Come Back – the thirteenth 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!