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Battle of the B-Sides: Elris, Wonder Girls, Oh My Girl, B1A4, NCT 127

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 Thirty-Three


Elris – No Big Deal (2020)


No Big Deal came out at the beginning of 2020, just before the retro boom took over. But, it feels very at home in 2021, down to its slinky bass-driven chorus. It makes me wonder how the song would have fared if the agency held onto it just a bit longer. It’s a great example of this approach, ebbing and flowing with stabs of bright synth and a confident vocal from the girls. In fact, I prefer this to most of their actual title tracks. The climactic rap bridge is particularly nice.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.5

Wonder Girls – Act Cool (ft. San E) (2011)


I’ve always found San E’s rapping to be obnoxious, and his intro to this track doesn’t instill confidence. Add some ear-piercing whistling (because there’s nothing like someone blowing a whistle right in your face…) and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. I’m not sure this song is meant to be taken seriously, but even as a joke it’s not very pleasant. I like the experimental synth and some of the rapping is funny, but that chorus is a big NO. This is pretty cringe.

 Hooks 6
 Production 8
 Longevity 6
 Bias 7
 RATING 6.75

Oh My Girl – My Doll (2021)


The ladies are well-represented this week! My Doll comes from Oh My Girl’s latest mini album, and I remember seeing it praised quite often upon release. It does a great job delivering its off-kilter mood, down to the effects put over some of the vocals. But, this brand of mumble pop (thank you, Billie Eilish…) isn’t really for me. Thankfully, Oh My Girl’s beautiful tones carry the track to the chorus, which harnesses an earworm melody to great effect. I also like the slurred, choppy vocal ad-libs after the second chorus, which soon segue into a synth-heavy bridge.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 8
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.25

B1A4 – Ready To Go (2012)


B1A4 released quite a few original Japanese tracks throughout their career and they were generally quite strong. Ready To Go is a straightforward dance-pop track, very much of its era. The instrumental is generic, but has a satisfying surge that lends the song anthemic heft. The melody is also generic, which blunts the overall effect. B1A4’s character pokes through in fits and starts, but I think anyone could have recorded this song to similar results. Still, I’m always up for some solid upbeat pop.

 Hooks 7
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 8
 RATING 7.75

NCT 127 – Run Back 2 U (2018)


Run Back 2 U is the kind of song that could do with some streamlining. Its centerpiece is an immensely enjoyable EDM freakout, tied to a refrain that pulses with energy. But, this is surrounded by a needlessly fitful verse and post-chorus. Run Back 2 U swerves into a Gang-like breakdown, interrupting the flow. The instrumental break in verse two is more satisfying, but still feels as if it was cribbed from another track. I wish we could split this into two songs: a hip-hop banger and an EDM anthem. As it is, Run Back 2 U doesn’t fully satisfy either craving.

 Hooks 8
 Production 7
 Longevity 8
 Bias 8
 RATING 7.75

My Verdict:


Fifth: Wonder Girls – Act Cool (ft. San E)
Fourth: B1A4 – Ready To Go
Third: NCT 127 – Run Back 2 U
Second: Oh My Girl – My Doll

First: Elris – No Big Deal


Congratulations to Elris’s No Big Deal – the thirty-third 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!

17 thoughts on “Battle of the B-Sides: Elris, Wonder Girls, Oh My Girl, B1A4, NCT 127

  1. Aww, see I LOVE Act cool (act-act cool) because it felt appropriate for Lim at that age, like her literal posturing to try and be cool like her older group members LOL

    It definitely feels more like a skit than a song tho I will admit.

    Like

  2. This was a pretty solid batch. Glad to see Elris got the win given I really enjoy “No Big Deal”. Speaking of them, They just moved over to “IOK Company”, where BI currently resides as executive director, and the prospect of Elris getting a BI or Millenium produced single has me VERY excited. Also praying they escape nugudom because they deserve it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • heavy agreed! i would, at the very least, like to see a comeback from them soon. It was definitely a bummer that they didn’t put anything out this year.
      If they pursued a style similar to what they’re doing here, I could really see them catching on!

      Like

    • No wonder the company’s name IOK looked familiar…
      Now you got ME excited at the idea of artists like B.I(!) composing for ELRIS. That would be so cool~

      Speaking of ELRIS, you seem to really like them so I think asking a fan of an artist is wise hehe. Having said that, you got any songs you would like to recommend by them?

      Like

      • Why yes I do!! While No Big Deal in this article is probably my favorite b-side of theirs, I do think “Focus” is also worth a listen. As far as title tracks, I’d recommend “Summer Dream” and “Pow Pow” (very great track right there). I also have played their “Color Crush” EP a surprising amount of times over the year. It’s not a revolutionary kpop project or anything but it is vibrant and colorful with a strong retro influences which is just how I like my girl group music.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh heyy My Doll! I really love the mood of that song, particularly the chorus. It’s very dreamy and nostalgic, but it still feels uplifting and carefree.

    This is a little off-topic, but speaking of Billie Eilish, I can’t believe I only just discovered the mid-song transition in Happier Than Ever a couple weeks ago! A little embarrassed that all I heard was some clips of the song and passed it off as a acoustic ballad I wouldn’t enjoy.

    Like

  4. Also Nick, I don’t know if you saw, but they’ve finally released the full versions of the MVs of those Universe app songs on Youtube! I guess they finally realized that their app sucks and that locking the MVs to it wouldn’t bring any users in 😂

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I’ve always listened to run back 2 u like a guilty pleasure song. Not perfect at all but I like each individual part of the song as its own thing. Its also a throw back to the SM rookies performance video for me.

    Like

  6. Speaking of NCT, how do you feel about NCT 2021 Universe, and the track videos? I’m still not bowled over by the track videos (no Deja Vu or Misfit yet) and apparently the all-together song…………is a ballad. Not going where I want it to.

    Like

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