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-Five
SF9 – Fanatic (2021)
This is a super recent track, being released just three months ago. For me, it’s also a so-so b-side. I’m not a fan of the vocal effects during the first verse, but I like the breathier performance that highlights the pre-chorus. This approach continues into the chorus, giving the track plenty of texture. However, I don’t think the melody is very strong here. Luckily, verse two brings a jolt of energy as extra percussion gives it a more dynamic sound. With a few easy changes, Fanatic could have been a real standout.
Wonderboyz – It’s Exciting (2012)
How did Wonderboyz get away with their band name? I guess it doesn’t really matter, because their music marks a pretty short footnote in K-pop history. But, they did the most with that brief time. Their singles are so much fun, and their b-sides are a goofy blast as well. I’m not sure I’d call It’s Exciting objectively “good,” but I’m really into its off-kilter electro assault. The vocals are all over the place, exaggerated in the way you often hear in trot music. But, the production is actually quite thrilling, pulling in video game synths, police sirens and electric guitar. It’s all a bit bonkers, really.
DAY6 – I’ll Try (2017)
DAY6 released so much music in 2017. We were really spoiled. For me, the songs began to lack impact as the year went on. But, that may just be my aversion to ballads poking through. DAY6’s approach definitely got slower and more sentimental, and I’ll Try fits in that wheelhouse. The melody is pretty, and has a nice tug that grows more compelling as the song goes on. But, the track’s best moment is the extended piano solo leading into a beautiful a capella climax. I may not revisit this one often, but I can’t deny the power of that segment.
Girls’ Generation (SNSD) – Promise (2013)
I feel like I’ve covered more than my share of Girls’ Generation ballads as part of this feature. I’m not sure why they keep popping up! As with most of them, Promise is nice and satisfying, if not revolutionary. The gentle, early-00’s R&B beat makes it more of a slow jam than a straight-up ballad, but the girls’ performance and sugary melody add undeniable pop sheen. This is the sort of track I’d enjoy as part of the album, sandwiched between more upbeat fare. On its own, Promise isn’t something I’d seek out.
Bigbang – Wrong Number (2007)
Wrong Number hails from a very different time, with its foot firmly in the late 00’s. The electronic shuffle of the instrumental dates it instantly, but in a fun way. I appreciate the consistency of this track. It finds its scuzzy groove and sticks with it, offering just enough modulation to showcase the guys’ vocals. It’s not one of Bigbang’s momentous, trendsetting tracks, but even on cruise control the group impresses. And as soon as the track begins to feel monotonous, we switch gears for an awesome rap courtesy of T.O.P.
Fifth: Girls’ Generation (SNSD) – Promise
Fourth: DAY6 – I’ll Try
Third: SF9 – Fanatic
Second: Wonderboyz – It’s Exciting
First: Bigbang – Wrong Number
Congratulations to Bigbang’s Wrong Number – the twenty-fifth 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!