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 Eighteen
Astro – When You Call My Name (2020)
Astro aren’t faring well when it comes to the luck of the draw in this future! I love the group, but a song like When You Call My Name isn’t for me. I’m not a fan of the plonky beat, which sounds like it’s trying to be Pentagon’s Shine without the charm. The off-kilter chorus is better, and that’s mainly down to Astro themselves. However, there isn’t much of a hook here. The phrasing throughout the track feels unoriginal, complete with a wealth of silly vocal tics that come across as forced. Sorry, Astro. I really do enjoy the vast majority of your discography!
Neon Punch – Goodbye (2019)
The subdued nature of Goodbye isn’t what you’d expect from a group with “punch” in their name, but every K-pop act records tracks like this. For me, they tend to be album filler, and I’d paint Goodbye with the same brush. Its muted keys and wispy synth pads create an amiable atmosphere, but the song lacks bite. The chorus just kind of sits there, unable to grow into anything affecting or dynamic. I know that’s probably not the point, but it doesn’t inspire much enthusiasm from me.
Snuper – Angel (2016)
We’re not doing so well this round, are we? Well, Snuper and Sweetune are here to change that! Seriously, this is a pairing that never misses. I will forever regret Sweetune’s absence from K-pop’s current 80’s revival period, especially when they’re able to cast off great synth pop tracks like this. Angel isn’t a discography highlight, but its giddy synth and ascending melody make it such a fun listen. Despite not being as intensely forward-moving as much of their work, the ever-twisting arrangement maintains interest through a series of brash synth lines and inventive breakdowns. It’s a weird little song, but that’s one of the reasons I love K-pop.
fromis_9 – Mulgogi (2020)
fromis_9 have some fantastic b-sides, and Mulgogi confidently stands in that category. I love the funky rhythm guitar that buoys the instrumental, pairing with bright, retro synth to craft a percolating arrangement. The whole thing is so bouncy, and I appreciate the girls’ slick, restrained performance that never strays too far into unnecessary aegyo. However, Mulgogi is missing a killer chorus. In fact, the pre-chorus is the song’s catchiest moment – and doesn’t last long enough. It’s a shame, because given a wonderful centerpiece this could have been absolutely incredible.
April – 1,2,3,4 (2020)
April are another group with strong b-sides, but I’ve never quite jibed with 1,2,3,4. The album it comes from is wonderful, and this song has its moments. The propulsive pre-chorus is the biggest treat, bringing extra pulse to a production that can otherwise come across as too lumbering. I guess I’ve just never been a huge fan of this style of percussion. It’s loud and exciting, but never finds a groove that makes me want to dance. With that said, this is still a solid effort. Replace the shouty chorus with a great melody and we’d have a real winner on our hands.
Fifth: Neon Punch – Goodbye
Fourth: Astro – When You Call My Name
Third: April – 1,2,3,4
Second: fromis_9 – Mulgogi
First: Snuper – Angel
Congratulations to Snuper’s Angel – the eighteenth 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!