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The Great BIAS LIST Debate: Strong Title Track vs. Strong Album

The Great Bias List DebateAfter years of writing about K-pop, certain age-old questions tend to pop up. I spend way too much energy thinking about them, but I guess that comes with the gig!

But, the time has come to tackle some of these questions head-on in a new Bias List feature.

Yes, we’re going to have a good old-fashioned debate! I’ll lay out a question, do my best to advocate for both sides, and let you all vote and discuss. None of these quandaries have easy (or correct) answers, but that’s what makes them so much fun to think about.


Debate: Strong Title Track vs. Strong Album

This year in K-pop has me thinking about this issue a lot. Obviously, we’d all prefer a strong title track AND a strong album, but that doesn’t always happen. So, here’s our not-so-hypothetical situation:

When it comes to mini/full albums, would you rather have a fantastic title track backed by underwhelming b-sides, or a so-so title track surrounded by an otherwise fantastic album?

Leave your thoughts in the comments and remember to vote in the poll. Let’s keep it civil and have a healthy debate!


In defense of a strong title track:

When it comes to K-pop, title tracks are king. They dictate an artist’s overall sound and concept, and may be the only songs casual fans will hear from them. Even if you’re deeply invested in a group, title tracks will be omnipresent on music shows, variety, playlists, countdowns and concerts. They are an album’s calling card, and one outstanding title track is worth a host of strong b-sides. For the majority of listeners, they form an act’s legacy.

A title track also has the benefit of being enhanced by choreography, visuals and a music video. You can have the best b-sides in the world, but if none are accompanied by these supporting elements, you’re only experiencing a very small slice of K-pop’s delicious pie.


In defense of a strong album:

Yes, title tracks are important. But, a strong album offers much more than a single song. A title track might offer sustenance for three minutes, but an album is a long-lasting feast. Wouldn’t you rather have five or six knockout tracks than one song you have to repeat over and over?

Plus, the context of a strong album tends to buoy a so-so title track. You all know the cliché: a rising tide lifts all boats. A title track is better as a piece of a coherent puzzle. Albums tell stories. They showcase various strengths in an artist or group and offer a fuller picture than a single song ever could. Title tracks may be the fancy welcome mat outside the door, but an album is where you get to know the true charm of a group. Without this sense of depth, a dynamite singles run only goes so far.


Poll

39 thoughts on “The Great BIAS LIST Debate: Strong Title Track vs. Strong Album

  1. I’ll always prefer a strong album. I rarely listen to songs on their own, so most of the times I end up forgetting about great singles just because I don’t like their parent albums.

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  2. If I like a group, I would prefer a strong album because even if the title track is mediocre, I would have faith in the b-sides.

    However, if it’s a group I don’t really care for much, I would prefer a strong title track. The title track is usually what motivates me to check out the rest of the album, so if I don’t like the title track, I wouldn’t even think about listening to the b-sides.

    Liked by 15 people

    • I think this is the case for me too, and makes a lot of sense. For all the groups I’m a casual fan of, I would probably only hear their title tracks, and so I would definitely prefer for those to be stronger. For the groups I really like, when a comeback comes up, I find myself wishing for a strong album, so that I can buy it haha (idt I could ever bring myself to buy an album I don’t like, even for my most favourite groups).

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yea this is me. Unless it’s a group I’m uber familiar with, it’s unlikely I even check out their album if the title track isn’t really good. A great title track still holds a lot of weight for me but a great album holds a tad more

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nick, how wow you crazy, 4 new releases aren’t enough so you have to throw in a side convo?

    OK sure.

    Singles are for the flavor of the moment.
    Albums are for the flavor of the years.

    I buy lots of singles from lots of groups.
    I buy very few albums from very few groups.

    Liked by 7 people

  4. I think that at the start, a strong title track is more important as it is the thing that captures your interest in the group. But then as you find yourself in the fandom, a strong album or ep is then more important to me. I can also forgive a bad title track if there are great album tracks, for example I could forgive A.C.E for Savage as Slow Dive was good.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I feel like with kpop becoming more fan-oriented, albums are becoming more important because groups now focus on sales rather than charts. So nowadays a good album is more important than ever

      Liked by 4 people

  5. A strong title track is key BUT I think a so-so title can be boosted via performance and become very charming due to that so I vote for stronger album

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  6. Neat feature Nick!

    For me, I’d pick a great album any day. On my blog, I choose not to differentiate too much between title tracks and album tracks in the rankings. To me, several good tracks without an MV easily outweigh one good track with an MV. I usually just listen to the audio in the car or at my home.

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  7. If this was posed to every Kpop fan I think title track would win by a country mile whereas a lot of us have gathered here specifically because of the music. But I can’t say I blame the former as my own kpop consumption prioritizes title tracks over b sides. I don’t check out the vast majority of albums while I do try to listen to every new title track. Albums are left for the handful of groups that I enjoy, either because I highly enjoy their music consistency or are a group that I have a lot of bias for. However even then I still usually only add the title tracks to playlists. Not sure why, maybe my decade of kpop has just trained my ears to only jive with the kin of music that producers pick to be title tracks

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  8. It’s gonna be title tracks for me.

    They’re the total gesamkunstwert of kpop.

    From the concept, to the video, to the choreo, to the stages …it’s here…that everything comes together to support a creative vision.

    Look I like…no I love music for music’s sake. but title tracks isn’t music for music’s sake, they’re promotions.

    that said…b-sides is where some of my favorite music is at. There are some groups I barely listen to their title tracks but they have some b-sides I have on repeat (Fromis9 is the biggest example for me)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, love to see someone else still using “gesamtkunstwerk” to describe k-pop comebacks like I occasionally do haha. Did you also get it from the writings of Jakob Dorof, or just decided it fit on your own?

      Anyway I agree, though I adore a solid album it really makes a true “era” when the title track is a smash and everything accompanying it gets to feel like a victory lap.

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      • I have often thought to use the phrase “das ist ein gesamtkunstwerk” but two things prevent me from from doing so
        1) sounding like a twit
        2) a lack of something good to use it on

        But now that you mention it, the next kpop song that comes along that is deserving, I shall use.

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  9. Ooh, tough question. I bucked the trend (inadvertently, as I voted before reading the comments) by picking strong title track, for two reasons:

    1) As you said, title tracks give you the whole k-pop experience. The visual element is a super important part of why I enjoy kpop. My absolute favorite songs are usually title tracks – they’re big, they’re fun, they’re the ones with the music videos I want to share with my friends even thought none of them are into kpop. I’ve described kpop as what it would be like if Lady Gaga released a new “Bad Romance” or “Telephone” every 4-6 months and then spent a month performing it repeatedly on live television, but instead of just one LG, there’s a release on that level every week or so.

    2) In a reverse of what some others have said, if I had to choose I would rather my favorite groups released strong title tracks because that’s what builds audiences which is what funds more music, and because a good group elevates even less-impressive b-sides. To be fair, all of my favorite groups have some of both and being a fan of super-low-output groups like BLACKPINK or AESPA sounds like a drag, but so it goes. In terms of building out my playlists, I listen to all the full releases that I can even if I don’t love a group’s title tracks.

    TBZ’s release today is a perfect example – if I were a huge fan and really invested in their success, I’d be stressed out because the title track didn’t seem so great, although I’m often a terrible judge of what’s commercially successful so I’d keep my fingers crossed that other people like it. As a casual fan, though, I was pleasantly surprised to find a few b-sides I quite enjoy, and if they eventually get promoted in some form, then even better.

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  10. strong album, for sure! oneus’ devil was an album i was SO ready for, but No Diggity burned my excitement down to ashes. i only listened to the rest of the tracks months later, and oh boy, was i IN LOVE! it has quickly become my favorite work this year, but the title is still sitting as my least listened track.

    i assume OnlyOneOf aren’t your cup of tea, but (at least for me) most of their remarkable works were hidden in b-sides: desert, bOss, tear Of gOd, cOy, OnlyOneOf me, fragile… their title tracks are good, but i think only sage and libidO are close to their amazing bsides.

    ps. sorry if there’s any confusing grammar, i hardly ever write things like this in english so it’s a bit difficult.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Few things bug me more than someone writing in pretty good English, and apologizing that the grammar is bad or something. Caliegh, your grammar is fine, don’t worry, it reads better than some of the English by native English speakers I have seen in many places, including the K-Pop review community 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, OnlyOneOf are VERY much my cup of tea, and I’m still reeling from Love’s departure 😦

      I do tend to prefer their titles, but there are a few b-sides I love as well. You listed some of them (bOss is a big highlight), and I’d add Instinct, Designer and dOra maar.

      Liked by 1 person

      • OH! from your reviews to some of their title tracks, i had assumed you didn’t pay them much mind, very good to see i was wrong!
        love’s departure definitely made a big hole both in the group’s relationship and i’m sad that it will be the same for the music. he didn’t produce much for them? if i remember well, but his voice gave their songs such a unique color that it’s hard to imagine them without him from now on.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Only Taeyeon & Infinite who can have both. Both Taeyeon & Infinite is good make tittle track with good b-side too. Before i’m prefer strong album for every group but now i’m not interest to listen so much every group song and i’m only listen their tittle track now. So i choose strong tittle track

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  12. I have higher standards for title tracks when compared to albums, because it’s a lot harder to make, say, 8 standout tracks than just one. A strong title track for me, would be one that I absolutely adore and play to death, whereas for a strong album, I might think “hey, that’s quite decent!” When it comes down to it, I’d prefer one incredible track than several somewhat good ones.

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  13. I’d probably have to say a title track is more important to me, for a few reasons.

    First being that I don’t really like the “grab bag” style of mishmashed genres that is so common for a lot of kpop. People have a lot of love for Dreamcatcher’s first full album, and I can definitely see why. It’s a wide variety of cool sounds, and also not really what I want to hear when I think about putting on DC.

    I generally go out of my way to listen to a certain group with the explicit purpose of listening to a certain sound that I think they do well. I’m only going to listen to the album if I like the title track, usually because I want to hear more songs that sound similar to that one. When the next few tracks sound nothing like the reason I started listening to this album for, I quickly lose interest. Loona’s XX repackage and Twice’s Eyes Wide Open albums are the first to come to mind when I think of exceptions to this. I don’t need every song to sound exactly the same, but some sort of consistent tone is nice.

    The last reason a strong title track helps is just because of the methods in which I listen to music. I very rarely listen to an entire album in one sitting, and instead just tend to loop one song for an extended period of time. Title tracks, in an effort to stick out in a saturated market, tend to be the most unique offering on an album. Not necessarily the best, but the most likely to try something weird, I think. I’d rather have one song stick out to me as very strong, instead of a large pool of songs that even out to “pretty good”. I’m more likely to keep listening to the former than the latter.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. As someone who needs a constant stream of high-octane songs on any given listening session, it’s strong title track for me all the way. I’d rather have a single standout track that’ll blow my mind and be remembered for years, one I can pair with other such tracks, than have the “energy” diluted throughout the whole album, however good the overall result is. Case in point: Stray Kids’ album and that purple TXT mini. I know they are good, but no single song stands out for me. I need to listen to the whole release to get the experience, and, for whatever reason, I rarely feel inclined to listen to a whole release ever since I stopped being a teenager (CIX, perhaps Verivery, being the very rare exceptions nowadays).

    Besides, if the title track is kinda meh, I won’t even feel compelled to listen to the rest of the album in the first place, even if it’s a group I like. This is what happened to me with TO(O)1’s (re)debut. I found the title track mind-numbingly boring, to the point that I didn’t even finish listening to it it until the 3rd attempt, and so you can imagine what happened to the rest of the mini. And as someone else said, I mostly like a group for a particular sound, so I don’t usually have much interest in the genre mishmash that’s usually found in the album tracks.

    At any rate, my ideal is actually having two, perhaps three, standout tracks on a release. Sort of like Mirae’s and more recently Just B’s debut minis, or ONF having Sukhumvit Swimming and Geppetto/Beautiful, Ugly Dance and Ubermensch, or the average NCT release (Dream mostly excepted).

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Strong Title Track:
    PROS
    -More likely to match up with the group’s style from the past, so can create a long, consistent run of singles with similar sounds (Kara, Dreamcatcher)

    -More memorable in general. Queen (not kpop haha) has a lot of good “B-sides,” but I don’t revisit them nearly as often as my few favorites, which tend to be the flashy, more well-known songs.

    -More people are likely to notice a group with a great title track than one with an average track but great album. Groups with great title tracks may have greater longevity. Spreading out the content over time rather than hitting you with one great album then being forgotten.

    CONS
    -Fewer songs in general; may become “starved” for a certain group’s sound.

    -Only one chance for the song to make an impression on you (risers and fallers)

    -MASSIVE amounts of content around title track can make it hard to assess its quality at first

    Strong Album:
    PROS
    -Many good songs, numerically, are better than one good song.

    -Demonstrates consistency. One great title track can be a fluke; a great album is more likely to be representative of a good producer or people who can recruit good producers (this is not guaranteed; however. For example, I think Twice and Red Velvet’s b-sides have been slowly improving over time.)

    -There’s often a style of song for everyone.

    -Artist(s) get a “second chance” to redeem themselves given a less-than-great title track

    CONS
    -“Why wasn’t this the title track????” syndrome (see: Crossroads and Labyrinth from Gfriend)

    -In my experience, people tend to hype up kpop b-sides more than they deserve to be. I’m more often disappointed when someone says “this is an amazing b-side” vs. an amazing title track.

    -Expectations for albums are lower in general. I think AKMU’s latest album is quite impressive, but I’m only likely to return to two songs often (Hey Kid, Close Your Eyes & Nakka.)

    -While there’s something for everyone, this experimentation means that not every song is likely to jive equally well with you.

    -Fewer related content than for the title track (music & dance videos, concert performances, band versions, lyric videos, vlogs, instrumentals, etc.)

    All in all, I’d say title tracks win over b-sides for me, because I’d rather someone more frequently excellent title tracks with mostly average bsides (early Twice-style?) than occasionally release great albums (Hozier-style? Again, non-kpop example.) Both are great, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m so conflicted. I understand both arguments. I LOVE a good album, but you’re right about a title track being able to define an artist’s career and offer more than just an audio. It really is worth a million b-sides sometimes. You inevitably associate more with a title track than a b-side. But then who doesn’t love a consistently strong yet diverse body of work? I don’t know, I wouldn’t want to be known as that one group who has weak b-sides.

    As an album lover, I’m gonna have to say title tracks matter more in K-pop and vote for that. Had this not been about K-pop I would’ve probably voted differently.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I refuse to choose. An at least decent title track and strong album get my vote. No matter how much I like the rest of the album, if I don’t like the title track I’m not buying the album (as opposed to saving it on Spotify).

    Liked by 1 person

  18. If I had to pick, I would go with a strong album. I love the experience of listening to an album from start to finish and strong b-sides would make me listen to a title track more. However I will say that the title track has to be so so it can’t be terrible. A strong album can heal the sick, it can’t raise the dead.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I’ll have to echo what many others have said – it depends on whether I’m already a fan of the group or a casual listener.

    For groups I already know and love, I appreciate a strong album. A strong title track is always a plus, but a so-so one won’t keep me from diving into the rest of the album.

    For groups new to me, title tracks are what I will stumble upon 95% of the time. If it fails to catch my attention, I won’t usually go out of my way to check out the rest of their discography.

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  20. I’m late to the party but today, I finally heard Oneus’es “Devil” album. Horrible title track for a fantastic album. And I’m angry that the title track made me delay such an awesome album that just SLAPS. I think a good album makes up (Don’t call me -SHINee, Devil -Oneus, voice: The future is now -Victin,Taste of Love -Twice, NGDA2 -Taemin) since I’m mostly just here for the music, but at the same time, a good title track sells the album. I wish more people listened to albums as a whole. Good title track gets the money, but good, consistent b-sides keep loyal fans (or at least for me). A good album tells a story, it hits and connects, it can experimental with sound, it gives the artist replay value, and can capture the greater array of sound, emotion, and experiences.

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  21. The general rule for me is that I mostly only listen to the title track, because I usually don’t have enough time and attention span to really listen to the whole album.
    An exception is Infinite, I learned about them after Paradise, but I stayed as an Inspirit because of Diamonds.

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  22. this is actually a hilariously relevant question for me, and I can even use my ults as my prime example. I sincerely love almost every single Monsta X title track except for maybe two, one of which being, unfortunately, last year’s Love Killa. in spite of this, the 10-track album it belongs to is without rival as my 2020 AOTY. in some strange twist, the album is, to me anyway, all killer no filler, and i listen to the other 9 tracks on the album constantly, and yet i skip love killa every time. in my head the album begins at track 2. does it hurt to even look at the love killa title in the tracklist? yeah, kinda!! but because the rest of the album is so magical and well-crafted (to me) i still have such intense fondness for the album and era as a whole, and i know that fondness wouldn’t be AS intense had love killa been an absolute banger and the other 9 tracks been pretty good at best.

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    • also LOL at those saying a weak title track discourages them from checking out the rest of the album because while that makes sense, some of us are Nicks at heart and listen to every release in full looking for that hidden gold 😂 no regrets!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hidden gold diggers? Count me in! That said, having an Apple Music account is totally a must for me – I’d listen to far fewer b-sides if I actually had to pay for them. Actually, the idea of paying for music without listening to it first has become completely alien – how strange.

        Liked by 1 person

  23. I love albums. singles are the backbone of rock ‘n’ roll, but albums really drove creative progress. Having said that, singles are good to sample unfamiliar wares, and there’s nothing like an old-fashioned Greatest Hits, especially from bands with weaker albums. I wish Kpop would embrace this more.

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  24. A title track honestly makes or breaks a good album. Just the dread of a b side not getting picked for promotion. So I’d say title track.

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