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 Sixteen
Infinite F – It’s You (2014)
I thought I’d never write about an Infinite song as part of this feature, but I’d forgotten about sub-units – most of which I haven’t reviewed yet. Infinite F is an interesting case, bringing together L, Sungyeol and Sungjong for what could best be described as a “cute” unit. It’s You is fresh and fun and clearly not meant to be taken too seriously. With that said, its affected style can be grating if you’re not in the mood for it. Luckily, the song’s bones are strong. The chorus, in particular, is a lot of fun. They even bring out the obligatory key change for the climax!
FIXX – Beat It (2012)
I love when my shuffle button lands on a super obscure band. FIX had a couple great singles, but most of their b-sides hinge on generic sounds of the time. In Beat It’s case, we’re talking heavy vocal effects and tinny percussion. I like the continual chant that drives this track forward, but the song could do with a stronger hook. It’s not particularly catchy, and the instrumental doesn’t do much to distinguish it from the crowd. On the plus side, this general sound brings back all sorts of nostalgia (even if that nostalgia is for songs that are way stronger!).
Astro – One & Only (2020)
It might be unfair to include a fan song like this in a battle, since its intentions are more sentimental than its competitors. But, fan-directed material should also be well-written and produced. One & Only is polished but forgettable. Its mid-tempo bounce replicates the sound of so many other tracks, and struggles to find a melody worth returning to. Thankfully, Astro salvage the generic turns with a strong performance. The chorus has an enjoyable swing to it, especially as the refrain ascends to brief spikes of climax. The dramatic bridge is also an easy standout.
Wonder Girls – John Doe (2015)
Okay, this is almost unfair. Placing a song from one of my all-time favorite K-pop albums makes for tough competition. Like the other tracks on Reboot, John Doe is an incredible feaast of retro touchstones. I adore its celebratory brass sound, underpinned by syncopated beats that recall Latin freestyle music of the late 80’s. The girls drive it all forward with undeniable charisma, grooving on that synth-powered beat. There are stronger hooks (and songs) on the album, but the energy here is just fantastic.
CNBlue – Blue Stars (2020)
Blue Stars carries many of CNBlue’s charms, delivering a pleasant, toe-tapping beat and soft rock sound. It’s not the style I tend to gravitate toward, but I appreciate the amiable energy and comfortable performance. The chorus sounds almost like American country music, thriving on strummed guitar and a simple melody. For better or worse, Iit’s the kind of song you could sing around the campfire. And though it doesn’t really go anywhere, it’s hard not to get caught up in the buoyancy of its upbeat rhythm.
Fifth: FIX – Beat It
Fourth: Astro – One & Only
Third: CNBlue – Blue Stars
Second: Infinite F – I Like You
First: Wonder Girls – John Doe
Congratulations to Wonder Girls’ John Doe – the sixteenth 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!
John Doe for the win!
Yeah, even though John Doe falls a bit short of the perfection of Candle, One Black Night or Faded Love… still a great song.
We’re back at it after lots of songs coming out.
It’s You kinda has some nice bits, but it is definitely overly cheery that works for the song, but maybe not for me haha. I like everything after the bridge, but everything before that just passed by me, it was just a bit too steady and the vocals were just a bit too quiet. Regardless, decent song just not for me right now.
Beat It has some uh… interesting parts? I think it’s slightly funny, but I don’t think the song meant to do that. It’s a bit too shallow I suppose, in terms of production and hooks. Also, vocal effects that are so unflattering haha.
One & Only is sweet, and the boys have a pretty enjoyable performance. I do agree that most of the song is just following the script, but that bridge is still pretty great. The chorus is pretty decent too, but that might just be because ASTRO make it work.
Ooooh. John Doe reminds me of aerobic and Latin music? The production is so good, all the synths so retro, but not the kind of retro that’s been trending. The brass and casual beat matched with the really well done melody. I can’t deny, it’s a really great song.
Blue Stars is pleasant. Definitely agree that it’s very much a campfire song. I enjoy the song and the ride it’s getting me on, though it’s definitely a very inconsequential song. Just a neat tune.
Beat It <<<<< It's You <<<< One & Only <<<< Blue Stars << John Doe
I enjoyed Blue Stars a lot more than I thought I would but there's no denying John Doe's the best out of all of them.
I've also recently turned around on The Chaser (the top song of this blog). I wasn't quite a fan before, but I think fully listening to the song all the way through made everything click. It's been repeated a lot for days now haha.
I’m glad to hear it! Believe it or not, it took several years for me to rank The Chaser as K-pop’s best song. I loved it right from the start, but it just grew stronger and stronger as time went on. I once called it a “delayed timebomb” of a pop song, and I think that accurately sums up its charm.
Watching live performances is a must to understand just how good it is. I’d start with this EPIC reworking:
Not surprised by the score because the author is woollim bias and only favors woollim artists
(I’m sorry Nick I couldn’t resist)
I really like this Infinite F song. They feel like the NCT Dream as Infinite is to NCT. Or something. Not a very good comparison but the idea is there I guess. Love the guitars and stuff. I need to pay more attention to their sub-unit stuff!
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I’ve never been a big fan of the Reboot album, as it has always been thiscloseto plagiarism more than homage. Wonder Girls “I Feel You” is a blatant copy of Chaka Khan’s “I Feel You” plus the instrumental from Sheila E “Glamorous Life”. Both songs were written by Prince, so yes I have a problem with that.
The verse is identical to Chaka Khan.
The “John Doe” b-side here doesn’t seem to copy any song I can remember but reminds me of the Expose-style songs of the late 80’s Expose were for a while the biggest girl group, bigger than the Bangles, the Go-Go’s, Bananarama, etc. If you like John Doe, you will like Expose’s songs like “Point of No Return” and “Come go with Me”.