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Battle of the B-Sides: Heo Young Saeng, Just B, Trouble Maker, Stray Kids, Girls’ Generation

Battle of the B-sidesK-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 Seventeen


Heo Young Saeng – I Know (2013)


SS501’s Heo Young Saeng is an underrated beneficiary of Sweetune’s magic touch. They produced a lot of his solo work, including a couple songs on this wonderful mini album. Surprisingly, I Know isn’t one of those productions — despite sounding like Sweetune through and through. We’ve got those fist-pumping synths, that bright, effusive melody and a tempo that will get your pulse racing. I know a song like this won’t be for everyone, but it’s definitely for me. It actually feels like an anime opening, complete with all the musical cheese you’d expect.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 8
 Bias 9
 RATING 8.5

Just B – My Way (2021)


This song was only released a few weeks ago, so it hasn’t yet enjoyed the benefit of time. My Way has a few excellent ideas (that Tron-like electro squiggle running underneath) and a great beat drop, but the song often gets in its own way. It’s a claustrophobic brew of influences that don’t always fit together. I long for a moment of release, but the track never delivers. Instead, it constantly builds tension without much pay-off. Its individual moments are strong enough to compensate, but it feels like there’s an excellent song trapped inside this maelstrom of sounds.

 Hooks 7
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 8
 RATING 7.75

Trouble Maker – Attention (2013)


Trouble Maker was such a great project, resulting in some truly iconic singles. The accompanying b-sides were more of a mixed bag, but Attention is one of the strongest. Pulsing atop a brassy backbone, the song allows both HyunA and Hyunseong to unleash their charisma over a catchy instrumental that will certainly get your head moving. The chorus is disarming in its simplicity, but its freewheeling vibe complements the track’s energy. It harnesses an old-school appeal without coming across as dated – largely because of  the duo’s engaging performance.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.5

Stray Kids – Hero’s Soup (2018)


Stray Kids’ I Am You mini album took longer to grow on me than earlier efforts, and I think that’s down to its more pensive energy. Hero’s Soup is a great example of how authentic the guys sound when opting for a more subdued, emotional sound. It’s very much b-side material, but the muted production sets a mood that the group expands upon with their performance. The pop-lover in me longs for a stronger melody during the chorus, but I actually like the droning quality of the hook. It feels almost lullaby-esque, casting a reflective, sentimental vibe.

 Hooks 7
 Production 7
 Longevity 8
 Bias 8
 RATING 7.5

Girls’ Generation (SNSD) – Dear. Mom (2009)


We don’t hear this style of straightforward, sentimental ballad much in K-pop anymore, but they were a staple in mid-to-late 00’s albums. It takes a very strong melody for a song like this to capture my attention, and while I can appreciate the sentiment behind Dear. Mom, I’m sure I’d enjoy it more if I was a native Korean speaker. The vocals are fantastic and it’s nice to hear them front and center without much distraction, but this simply isn’t my kind of song. Even a group as amazing as Girls’ Generation can’t do much to make it interesting.

 Hooks 7
 Production 7
 Longevity 7
 Bias 7
 RATING 7

My Verdict:


Fifth: Girls’ Generation (SNSD) – Dear. Mom
Fourth: Stray Kids – Hero’s Soup
Third: Just B – My Way
Second: Trouble Maker – Attention

First: Heo Young Saeng – I Know


Congratulations to Heo Young Saeng’s I Know – the seventeenth 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!

8 thoughts on “Battle of the B-Sides: Heo Young Saeng, Just B, Trouble Maker, Stray Kids, Girls’ Generation

    • Uhhh, I don’t think that’s quite possible, but who knows? Maybe the randomizer will spare us from bad songs (though I would like to see what lies in the bottom of Nick’s giant hat of songs.)

      Like

  1. I Know is quite nice to listen. I like the synths and the melody is very pretty. Kind of old-school sounding, but I like the retro feel a lot. The key change is exciting too, but overall a good song.

    I know My Way is using vocal effects intentionally, but it’s also not my cup of tea. Some of the instrumentals are actually listenable, but other times it’s just very noisy and not at all coherent. The energy is there, but it’s too sporadic for me.

    I think Attention is a bit one-note? The main brass line just scoots the song along forward for so long and a song is plopped over it. You got the entire song by the first chorus, aside from the Hyuna rap part. It’s not unpleasant but it’s unchanging for the most part.

    Hero’s Soup is basically background music for the most part, but it’s very enjoyable that way. The melancholic drone of the song is very lovely actually.

    Dear. Mom reminds me more of anime than I Know honestly. It has the sentimental “face the world” vibe that a lot of their openings have. I actually really like it. It has a pretty strong melody and they sing it very well. It’s definitely somewhat generic genre-wise, but it’s actually very good.

    My Way <<< Attention <<<<< Hero's Soup <<< My Way < Dear. Mom

    I think the three songs are pretty good. Hero's Soup gets third simply because of how melancholic it is and not that interesting apart from it's vibes. Dear. Mom beat My Way because it caught me by surprise and it caught my attention more. My Way is definitely good too, but the guitar-driven ballad has a lot of anime vibes that I couldn't resist.

    Like

  2. I like the Heo Young Seang. It reminds me of those 80s AOR songs that kind of blended post-punk and dopey metal. Like Cutting Crew or something. But Attention is spotless for me. Anything with a sassy retro feel and horns is in my wheelhouse, and Hyuna is queen of sass here.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I definitely was lucky for that. I was addicted to Way to go in middle school. It’s a Shame that We’re getting such weak SNSD songs for this feature. Even amongst they’re slower songs dear mom is pretty unsatisfying

        Liked by 1 person

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