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!
You can check out all rounds of my Battle of the B-sides here!
Battle of the B-sides: Round Thirty-Seven
A.C.E – Story (2021)
After several years of churning out excellent singles, most of A.C.E’s 2021 music didn’t connect with me in quite the same way. However, Story deserves a second look. It probably wasn’t energetic enough to serve as a title track, but I think it would have made a satisfying one. The song pulls back to showcase the members’ vocals. I like the synthwave-esque beat during the chorus and there are some nice melodies here. The second half carries the sentimental weight I always crave in a good pop track.
4minute – I’ll Teach You (2014)
Opening with a brassy sample, the bouncy sub-unit track I’ll Teach You has a great vibe. It’s also surprisingly restrained, built upon an instrumental that doesn’t stray far from its core idea. But, this continuity makes for an enjoyable track. When I’ll Teach You moves toward softer sounds during its second verse, it sets up a reemphasis of that drumline. Guitar makes for a fun flourish during the climax and the girls successfully sell the song’s attitude.
DAY6 – Whatever! (놀래!) (2017)
Whatever comes from 2017 – the year DAY6 released new music every single month. This promotional approach began to lose steam as the year went on, but looking back the guys delivered some incredible hits. Within the spectrum of boring-to-awesome, Whatever falls somewhere in the middle. This makes its dismissive title very appropriate! I appreciate the straightforward 90’s rock sound, but the track lacks a bit in melody. Compared to their best work, it’s not very memorable.
Click-B – Start (2000)
Though they were big during their time, Click-B’s legacy doesn’t receive the same spotlight as many of their contemporaries. That’s a shame, because they created some great music. They were an idol rock band that fully embraced pop energy, with songs that often blurred genre lines. Start is a relatively generic effort, bopping along the kind of festive beat that was so popular around the turn of the millennium. It’s a fine example of this trend (especially when the guitar solo comes in), but they had better b-sides.
LOONA Odd Eye Circle – Chaotic (2017)
Most fans cite LOONA’s pre-debut era as a golden age. I’m more mixed on this music, but the prolonged roll-out was certainly exciting. Sub-unit Odd Eye Circle was a high water mark for the project, resulting in a few great singles. Chaotic is less showy and takes some time to get going, but its chorus is a winner. The vocal harmonies make for brilliant texture as the skittering beat recalls late 90’s r&b. And even if I tend to prefer my pop music just a bit catchier, I can definitely get lost in this vibe.
Fifth: DAY6 – Whatever!
Fourth: Click-B – Start
Third: 4minute – I’ll Teach You
Second: LOONA Odd Eye Circle – Chaotic
First: A.C.E – Story
Congratulations to A.C.E’s Story – the thirty-seventh 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!
Oh.. ..LOONA, LOONA, LOONA…..
During the individual debut phase, I was falling more an more in love with this group as each new member was revealed. Sure, each member possesses individual charms, and let’s be honest.. ..they’re gorgeous; but that wasn’t what was making me a die-hard stan.
It was the music. So many different styles and themes. I started believing we were going to get a group of 12 ladies that were going to surpass Red Velvet in the “experimental” department. All the producers had to do was take a step back once the full group was assembled, and then examine all of the music released up to that point, then build out from there. Keep experimenting, don’t try to latch on to what other groups were doing, and use external focus groups to help determine potential reception.
I will forever bow my head to Lee SooMan for his contributions to K-Pop through his time at SM, but I really think his involvement with LOONA resulted in less hit/more miss.
I’m still an Orbit. The ladies earned that. I’ll just wait until, hopefully, someone at the agency realizes the potential that’s being untapped.
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There’s bubblings of a new comeback on the horizon. If so I’m really curious what the direction will be. We got the little LSM lead era, then we saw Ryan S Jhun taking charge of the group so…what’s next? While I do wish the group would return to the styles of their earlier releases, I’d really just want a project from them that takes some risks again. I still have faith (even if it is dwindling) but we’ll see how things go.
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LOONA lost me eventually, sadly. I came in with I’ll Be There, which is still a top LOONA song for me. Then they just kept building strength with The Carol, Kiss Later, and Eclipse. Odd Eye Circle was amazing.
I was sad to see them expand to a 12 member group. It watered down their strengths and their sound. And it was odd to introduce each girl as an individual who could stand on her own, but then debut with every girl in the same outfit and give way more lines to some members. Their post debut material for me has been hit and miss.
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Maybe they could go the “NCT xxx” route and focus almost exclusively on sub-unit releases (e.g., 1/3, Odd Eye, etc.); even create new sub-units (e.g., Heejin/Kim Lip/Eve, Haseul/Choerry/Chuu, etc.). Then they all come together as 12 for special releases. I don’t know.
What I do know is that the producers were willing to explore different sounds during the debuts, but now seem to want to ride on the tails of “what worked” for other groups. As for it being crowded with 12 members, it only becomes congested if all members want to fill the same role; which is usually the singing part. But then.. ..that’s the monster they created by debuting each girl separately, isn’t it? Fans met each girl as a singer in a solo release so it seems like punishment to take that away from them. Kind of like, “How do you enjoy being in the driver seat, ViVi? Like it? Cool, now get to the back of the bus.”.
I just want the producers to step up and create a flower path for these ladies, because it’s sad constantly worrying if tomorrow you’re going to see a news blurb declaring LOONA is no more.
Yes! I need more people to open their ears to A.C.E! They are an incredible group and very underrated! I hope people appreciate them more one day.