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-Six
April – Wake Up (2016)
This is a specific girl group sound I miss quite a lot. Yes, songs like Wake Up are a little saccharine. But, they thrive on a good-natured energy and well-constructed melody. This particular example is a little hesitant for my taste. I need those swelling synths to take over in full orchestral fashion! But, if you enjoy early-GFriend’s “innocent” sound, you’re bound to enjoy this too. It’s also the opening to a great mini album that’s stuffed with fantastic producers (e.one! SEION! Monotree! G-High! Zigzag Note!).
Twice – Be Ok (2019)
Be Ok comes from the point in Twice’s career when their J-pop output began to catch up with the quality of their Korean material. I’m not sure I’d call Be Ok a highlight, but it has its moments. I’m not fond of the sing-song chorus, though the underlying drum line is nice. The percussive verses and pre-chorus are more enjoyable. Twice’s performance is a bit aloof during these segments, adding an energy that compels in a different way than their typically effusive Japanese style.
Super Junior – Song For You (2007)
We’re going far back with this one! Song For You is listed as a “bonus track” on Super Junior’s 2007 album Don’t Don. I’m not sure why it’s given this special classification (anyone know?), but I’m glad they included it as part of the tracklist. The song is upbeat and fun. It feels very suited toward a live setting, with a straightforward arrangement that emphasizes buoyant energy. This makes Song For You pretty darn cheesy, but it’s the kind of silly, singalong cheese I tend to enjoy.
U-KISS – Top That (2011)
Newer fans may not know the name U-KISS, but they were quite big during their time. Top That spawns from the zenith of that popularity: 2011’s Neverland album. It’s a hard-hitting dance track — sort of how an NCT unit might have sounded had they debuted a decade earlier. I love the chaotic energy, especially that crazy vocal loop that fuels the bulk of the track. Top That has a militant drive, with the guys casting off truncated melody lines in a powerful sing-shout style. It’s very effective.
Younha – Wish (2021)
We’re really covering the gamut here. Wish is only a few months old, which gives it a very different stature than some the older tracks on this week’s feature. Her End Theory album is stronger than its promoted ballad may lead you to believe, and Wish is a great example of what you get when you meld her powerful vocals to lush production and a soaring melody. I would have preferred the galvanizing energy of its chorus to stretch across the verses as well, but this is a winner either way.
Fifth: Twice – Be Ok
Fourth: Super Junior – Song For You
Third: April – Wake Up
Second: Younha – Wish
First: U-KISS – Top That
Congratulations to U-KISS’s Top That – the thirty-sixth 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!