After 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.