Battle of the B-Sides: Sweetune Edition

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!

This week is a little different, focusing on the work of my favorite K-pop production team Sweetune!

You can check out all rounds of my Battle of the B-sides here!

Battle of the B-sides: Round Thirty-Four

Bump.y – New Day (2011)

Sweetune never pushed too far into the J-pop market, and that feels like a missed opportunity. Their sound is so suited to Japanese taste. Instead, they offered a few odds and ends sprinkled across a variety of groups. Girl group Bump.y didn’t get the best of the producers, even if New Day is a serviceable, sugary bop. Its insistent sleigh bells are well-suited to this month, while those bright stabs of synth are welcome any time of year. The melody feels pretty by-the-numbers, but Sweetune on autopilot is still enjoyable.

 Hooks 7
 Production 8
 Longevity 7
 Bias 8

Snuper – Jekyll, Hyde (80’s Remix Version) (2015)

I’m not sure if any other mix of this song actually exists, but that’s okay because I can’t imagine this song without its strong 80’s sound. I love everything about this. I love the chugging beat, the sharp stabs of descending synth, the bursts of guitar and the circling, pop-on-steroids hook. Sweetune’s partnership with Snuper bore stronger music than this, but even a throwaway OST like this has major teeth. It thrives on its own kitschiness.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9
 RATING 8.75

A.DE – Rainy Day (2016)

After their commercial peak, Sweetune worked with many under-the-radar acts. But, they still delivered fantastic material – even on b-sides. Rainy Day pulses with the team’s trademark energy, driven by propulsive synths and layered vocals. The melody feels like a retread of past glories, but that’s neither here nor there when your past glories are so great. Despite being released in 2016, this feels very much like a Kara single circa 2009.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 8
 Bias 9

Infinite – In the Summer (2012)

I’ve written about every Infinite song already, but I can’t run a Sweetune feature without them! Rather than focus on their ear for an excellent synth texture, In The Summer indicates how sharp their melody-writing skills are. The production is simple and clean – a strumming guitar and the group’s gorgeous harmonies. But, the song compels thanks to its gorgeous melody. It’s like a beefed-up campfire singalong, performed by the best in the business.

 Hooks 9
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 10
 RATING 9.25

Kara – Umbrella (2010)

We finish this week with another of Sweetune’s legendary collaborators. Kara made their name on Sweetune’s signature sound, and that definitely extends to their b-sides. Umbrella is one of my favorites. It’s such an ebullient song, charging forward on a turbo-powered, shuffling beat ornamented with swooping strings. It feels both old-fashioned and modern, anchored by a towering hook that sweeps in with utter grandeur. This is K-pop at its biggest and boldest.

 Hooks 9
 Production 10
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9
 RATING 9.25

My Verdict:

Fifth: Bump.y – New Day
Fourth: A.DE – Rainy Day
Third: Snuper – Jekyll, Hyde (80’s Remix Version)
Second: Infinite – In The Summer

First: Kara – Umbrella

Congratulations to Kara’s Umbrella – the thirty-fourth 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!

6 thoughts on “Battle of the B-Sides: Sweetune Edition

  1. Totally off-topic, I finalized my HM and top 50 lists yesterday and only one sub-7 song made my top 10! I’m a little disappointed in myself. I do have one song you didn’t review at all but I don’t *think* you would have rated it under 7 if you’d reviewed it and if I’d been commenting here when it came out I would have nagged you about it big time. Plus I’ve got four songs in there that might overlap with your top 10! I’m looking forward to absolutely nothing about next week except for year-end countdowns!


  2. I can’t help but rub my hands in glee when I see the name of Sweetune.
    I love Umbrella and I love this kind of Kara sound they had in their early days. Hoping for a Sweetune A-Z


  3. I have never commented before but I want to change that today! It is this very blog that made me embark on a Sweetune journey (back when I was still a K-Pop “newbie”), and I have never looked back since. Not only has it introduced me to a ton of hidden pop gems, it has also made me re-evaluate some Western pop songs from my childhood that have a Sweetune-adjacent sound (like Britney Spears’ ‘Amnesia’ and A*Teens’ ‘Closer to Perfection’). Every pop fan owes it to themselves to listen to Sweetune’s prouction discography imo


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