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 Forty-Two
Winner – La La (2018)
A song called “La La” has the potential to be all kinds of annoying, and this one does push a few of my buttons. But, it’s mostly fun fluff – a rock-infused romp that doesn’t feel overthought. I really like a few of the synth tones chosen throughout the track and the second verse shift is successful. I could do without the chanting, but that approach is par for the course when it comes to rambunctious party songs like this.
Shinhwa – Ice Moon (얼음달) (2015)
Ice Moon comes from a fantastic album – a collection of songs that prove a veteran idol group can adopt modern trends without sounding like posers. This track has an irresistible slink, bringing the funk with a malleable groove that perfectly complements the guys’ rhythmic performance. The chorus is a major earworm, using falsetto to craft a wonderfully memorable centerpiece. I also love the old-school rap during the bridge.
Aprince – Oh-Girl (2012)
We’re in obscure territory, now! I doubt many newer K-pop fans would remember Aprince. They had a relatively short career with a few highlights. Oh-Girl (I have no idea why the hyphen is there…) is a great example of solid 2012-era album filler. The song is nothing special on its own, but it’s like catnip for those of us who miss this particular K-pop sound. I’m a fan of the chugging, insistent beat and smooth, layered vocals. The song could be hookier, but I really like its style.
1PUNCH – Ice Ice (2015)
Ooh, this is a strong week! 1PUNCH were even more short-lived than Aprince, releasing only one single before going their separate ways. Kim Samuel and Jung Jaewon went on to solo work, but I’ll always love 1PUNCH the best. Ice Ice is an immensely fun fusion of new jack swing and the classic Brave Brothers sound. What can I say? If you love this style, you’ll love this song. I adore its cheeky, boisterous energy and wish we had more.
Momoland – Curious (궁금해) (2018)
Momoland are holding it down for the ladies this week, and Curious is a solid effort. It’s a little too subdued to win, but I enjoy its laidback melody and interesting production. The symphonic flourish after the first chorus is a particular highlight, as are the interesting textures used during the pre-chorus. I wish the actual hook was a little more memorable given all the oddball choices happening around it, but overall this is a nice blend of playing it safe and pushing boundaries.
Fifth: Winner – La La
Fourth: Momoland – Curious
Third: Aprince – Oh-Girl
Second: Shinhwa – Ice Moon
First: 1PUNCH – Ice Ice
Congratulations to 1PUNCH’s Ice Ice – the forty-second 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!