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-Eight
Xia Junsu – F.L.P (2015)
As far as I’m concerned, Junsu doesn’t record nearly enough dance tracks. I know ballads are his bread and butter, but I love hearing him tackle a high-energy stomper. F.L.P heads right for the club, though it also shoehorns some unnecessary half-time bursts into the equation. The production is a bit too generic for its own good and the hook is barely there, but Junsu’s inimitable vocal carries the song over the line. It only goes to show how a fantastic performer can elevate a so-so song.
Mamamoo – Ten Nights (열 밤) (2019)
Mamamoo have a slew of these slow, jazzy b-sides in their discography. The only time I ever really listen to them is during the holidays, where their cozy nature feels right at home. Otherwise, my upbeat-loving self is in search of more energetic material. Still, there’s no denying how tightly matched this style is to Mamamoo’s beautiful vocals. It may usually be a ‘skip’ for me, but it’s a skip that I’ll happily admire for a moment.
TO1 – Hot Sauce (2021)
TO1 are about to make a comeback, and I hope it sounds nothing like this. Hot Sauce is good, silly fun until we hit the chorus. Yes, the bulk of the track is generic and predictable, but what the heck is happening with that drop? It’s not “hot like hot sauce.” It’s ill-placed, obnoxious, and totally ruins the flow of the track. I’ll never understand the fascination with this sort of noisy, shout-along hook. The guys sound weirdly angry, yet the song has nothing to be angry about. Do TO1 have heartburn? Did they spill the sauce all over themselves?
B1A4 – Oh My God (2014)
Though casual fans know B1A4 for their quirky title tracks, their albums are often filled with these groovy midtempo tracks. I’m not a huge fan of the style, but the group always made it work. I’ll credit their diverse set of tones, which add texture and character to what might have otherwise been a throwaway b-side. Oh My God is catchy in a subdued way, and its hooks sink their teeth in the longer you hear them. Jinyoung’s got some great flourishes in the second verse, and I love how the rap blends naturally with the melody.
iKON – Just For You (2018)
Though they can hype up the crowd with the best of them, iKON’s more emotional tracks are always a treat. Just For You might not stand as a pillar of their discography, but it has a nice, confessional heft that rewards repeated listens. The guys’ voices are given room to breathe as the instrumental ornaments without overpowering. I like how the percussion becomes more driving as the song goes on. It has a nice sense of build that makes it feel full and satisfying.
Fifth: TO1 – Hot Sauce
Fourth: Mamamoo – Ten Nights
Third: iKON – Just For You
Second: Xia Junsu – F.L.P
First: B1A4 – Oh My God
Congratulations to B1A4’s Oh My God – the twenty-eighth 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!