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-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!