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-Four
Girls’ Generation (SNSD) – Light Up The Sky (2017)
For some reason, my shuffle button seems to love SNSD ballads. I don’t personally love them as much, but that’s nothing against SNSD themselves. I just prefer the upbeat stuff. Light Up The Sky is quite pretty and a little treacly. It makes nice album material, but I’d never seek this out on its own. The chorus is definitely its strongest asset, as the percussion comes in and gives the arrangement plenty of heft. A more memorable melody would have elevated this beyond pleasant filler.
Epik High – Rain Again Tomorrow (2019)
Epik High have such a great sentimental hip-hop sound. They’ve never strayed too far from it, even when their music became more commercial under YG Entertainment. Rain Again Tomorrow effortlessly melds an energetic performance to a more subdued backdrop. I love the flow in this one. It’s rapid-fire yet still feels restrained. The hook is simple but effective, and that repeated vocal sample lends a real evocative texture.
G.Soul – Coming Home (2015)
I remember being so excited about G.Soul’s debut album. Every song is great and compliments his excellent vocals. Coming Home is one of its most atmospheric tracks, utilizing a style of driving synth percussion that’s currently in vogue (despite this being released seven years ago). The melody is more sparse, which adds a sense of desperation that brings the emotion home. I like how fragmented it feels, even as that instrumental remains laser-focused. The climax is especially compelling.
(G)I-DLE – Lost (2021)
This keyword for this week seems to be “evocative,” as multiple b-sides are delivering this vibe. Lost alternates between subdued verses and a slightly more explosive chorus. Certain production elements tie this strongly to its era, but nothing is overdone. Even the second-verse breakdown fits fairly well within the arrangement. Me being me, I’d prefer a bit more oomph. But, that’s not really the point of a song like this. Instead, the song’s mood does the talking. (G)I-DLE’s performance feels especially well-tailored to this style.
DAY6 – Hunt (2016)
Hunt comes early in DAY6’s career and is part of a fantastic mini album. It’s not my favorite track in that collection, but its exciting energy goes down easy. The chorus barrels in, punctuated by great guitar flourishes. I also like the ‘surf’ sound of verse two. The track definitely hearkens back to early rock & roll styles and DAY6 pull off the retro feel in convincing fashion. Although the melody is quite punchy, I think it could have been even stronger and sent this song into the stratosphere.
Fifth: Girls’ Generation (SNSD) – Light Up The Sky
Fourth: DAY6 – Hunt
Third: (G)I-DLE – Lost
Second: Epik High – Rain Again Tomorrow
First: G.Soul – Coming Home
Congratulations to G.Soul’s Coming Home – the forty-fourth 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!