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-Five
Chungha – Make A Wish (2017)
Hey, I’m finally back with more b-sides! First on the docket is Chungha, with a track from her debut album. Make A Wish has a theatrical vibe – almost like an old vaudevillian track fused to modern production. The result is quite interesting, with plenty of twists and turns. I love the synth during the chorus, and Chungha’s vamping is super fun and engaging. The arrangement builds to a dramatic climax, giving the song an appealing fullness. This is actually better than its accompanying title track.
BTS – 2nd Grade (2학년) (2014)
I miss this era of BTS! 2nd Grade has all the aural bluster of many current boy group tracks, but it’s fun and freewheeling and makes its energy work. Their flow is fantastic during the verses, and the sing-song chorus has a great bounce. I can’t even get mad at the gun shot sound effects, which usually drive me crazy. I wouldn’t count this as one of my absolute favorite BTS tracks, but its placement toward the end of the Dark & Wild album brings a burst of playful intensity.
Euijin – Like It (2019)
Euijin’s solo career came and went despite his work with The Unit’s UNB. Like It’s mid-tempo beat works well enough and I enjoy the continual vocal loop that underlines the production. The vibe is satisfying, and that’s half the battle. But, Like It isn’t catchy enough to stand out. It sounds like a slowed-down Brave Brothers track, relying on its hypnotic quality to pull you in.
Girls’ Generation (SNSD) – Fire Alarm (2015)
I love a good SNSD uptempo, and Fire Alarm definitely fits that description. It’s almost unfair to bring them to a Battle of the B-sides, because their music can be pretty unbeatable. Listening to Fire Alarm, I can’t help but realize how well the chunky bass of its verses fits today’s trends. However, the song doesn’t rely on that one aspect. It zigs this way and that, bringing in 80’s-style harmonies and jagged synth to give the instrumental tons of texture. It’s all tied to a brilliant melody that makes this a total standout.
NCT U – I.O.U (2020)
I haven’t listened to the Resonance album as often as I would have thought, though I could say the same about most of NCT’s recent work. I.O.U is one of those songs that’s very pretty but kind of dull. I know fans of their vocals will beg to differ, and I’m also a big fan of some of the tones here. The arrangement feels rooted in 90’s r&b (a good thing!), but the melodies are kind of dull (not such a good thing). However, I love when the track speeds up during its middle section. That alone scores bonus points.
Fifth: Euijin – Like It
Fourth: NCT U – I.O.U
Third: BTS – 2nd Grade
Second: Chungha – Make A Wish
First: Girls’ Generation (SNSD) – Fire Alarm
Congratulations to SNSD’s Fire Alarm – the forty-fifth 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!