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 Twenty-Two
Boyfriend – Deny (2014)
Boyfriend has one of the most underrated discographies of any K-pop act, and that’s not just because Sweetune produced a bulk of it! Deny is one of those Sweetune compositions, though it came at a time when the group was just about to loosen ties with the production team. This retro track is a bit too mid-tempo to slavishly appeal to my taste, but the fullness of the instrumental and groovy beat certainly goes down easy. As expected, Deny’s chorus is a playground of layered vocals. A stronger hook would have set this over the edge.
JYP – Even After Ten Years (1998)
Even After Ten Years comes from JYP’s 1998 album of the same name – his first of two full-lengths that year. For casual fans, it’s the one with Honey on it. Following on the heels of that funk workout, this gentle ballad is quite the shift in energy. JYP gives a plaintive vocal, utilizing that airy technique he loves so much. It’s a rather untouched performance, rough around the edges but more affecting because of that quality. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the melody, but I can see how it would have been popular in its era. There’s certainly a lot of classic JYP-isms to be found in the structure and delivery.
Bobby – Lean On Me (2017)
Bobby’s debut was spearheaded by two killer title tracks, but the b-sides are no slouch. Lean On Me is more subdued compared to the album’s bigger moments, but it has a throwback quality that works well with Bobby’s charismatic delivery. Though the beat doesn’t rely heavily on bass, the groove itself reminds me of early/mid-90’s gangsta rap. It has a laidback quality without drifting into dull territory, and builds to an unexpected singalong climax that tugs on the rhythm in a way that will surely get your head nodding. This softer side of Bobby makes for a very satisfying listen.
Block B – 11:30 (2012)
My randomizer must be in the mood for groovy hip-hop and R&B, because 11:30 segues naturally from the Bobby track. This song is more vocal-focused, but thrives upon a similar mid-90’s bounce. It catches Block B in their comfort zone, and gives their vocalists plenty of showcase. I’ve always loved the chorus of this track. It’s not complex or fussy, but the melody has an effortless sweep that sticks. It helps that the guys sound so great. I grew up with this style of music, so songs like 11:30 benefit from an added shot of nostalgia.
Beast – Will You Be Alright? (2013)
Gosh, we’ve really got a vibe going on this week! Will You Be Alright has more of a mid-00’s influence, but tackles a similar energy as the past two tracks. Beast excelled at this style, and I think there are many better iterations of this in their discography. However, I’m a sucker for Will You Be Alright’s strong, sentimental chorus. The song isn’t bombastic or loud, but gets by on its melody and heartfelt performance. The bridge is particularly engaging, adding a catchy chant and emotive guitar. This is pretty much the definition of a solid b-side.
Fifth: JYP – Even After Ten Years
Fourth: Boyfriend – Deny
Third: Beast – Will You Be Alright?
Second: Bobby – Lean On Me
First: Block B – 11:30
Congratulations to Block B’s 11:30 – the twenty-second 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!