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 Thirty-Five
Ha Sungwoon – Twinkle Twinkle (2020)
After a bit of a hiatus, I’m back with more b-sides! First up is a track from Ha Sungwoon. Sungwoon’s albums are usually solid all the way through, and 2020’s Twilight Zone is probably my favorite. Twinkle Twinkle is a nice throwback groove. It’s nothing revolutionary or even that memorable, but will likely have your head moving. It shines spotlight on his vocals and lets him flex a bit – particularly during the verses. He’s got some great ad-libs here.
Kim Hyung Jun – Girl (2011)
Ah, some good old second-gen album filler! I call this “filler” but it’s actually stronger than many title tracks today. I love the chugging dance beat, even if it’s totally tied to its era. Kim Hyung Jun delivers a slick, confident performance and brings personality to the earworm chorus. This is a lot of fun without any real diversions that would break the momentum. It’s so funny that this sound might have once felt futuristic but now seems so dated!
Nine Muses – Ladies (2010)
It’s hard to believe there was a time when Nine Muses weren’t synonymous with Sweetune, but before they found that magic partnership their debut threw everything at the wall. For me, it was largely unsuccessful. Ladies is a good time, but its hooks are also threadbare and repetitive. The track borrows the worst from its era’s trends and doesn’t come close to hinting at the fantastic discography they’d go on to deliver.
Agust D – Honsool (2020)
Suga’s work as Agust D already has its fair share of admirers, so it’s probably okay for me to say that most of it just isn’t for me. I think having a grasp of the Korean language would improve the experience (“Honsool” itself is an interesting compound word), but without the lyrics burned into my memory, the song’s downbeat style doesn’t do much for me. It’s certainly moody and striking, but feels more like a performance piece than a fully-developed song.
TVXQ – Flower Lady (2008)
I’m sure I’ve said this before, but TVXQ’s Mirotic is a behemoth of an album. At seventeen tracks (depending on which version you’re dealing with), it’s kind of unwieldy. And with so many ballads and midtempos, I often find myself cherry-picking rather than listening all the way through. With that in mind, Flower Lady is a perfectly pretty track that I enjoy but probably wouldn’t include on a paired-down “essential” version of the album. The guys sound as great as ever and the chorus has a satisfying swell. But, it feels like a pretty minor entry in their catalog.
Fifth: Nine Muses – Ladies
Fourth: Agust D – Honsool
Third: TVXQ – Flower Lady
Second: Ha Sungwoon – Twinkle Twinkle
First: Kim Hyung Jun – Girl
Congratulations to Kim Hyung Jun’s Girl – the thirty-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!