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-Six
N.Flying – I’m Gonna (아무거나) (2020)
It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from N.Flying, hasn’t it? Their rollicking rock sound used to be a staple on my playlist. The Real era was especially fun. However, I find a lot of their more recent music pretty dull. I’m Gonna slots within that framework. It’s laidback and catchy, but I rarely enjoy plonky midtempos like this. The brass is a nice touch and the group’s vocals are always a treat. I appreciate the quirkiness of the vibe. I just don’t really have a place for it within my own music library.
AOA – Heat (2018)
Though scandal has tarnished much of AOA’s legacy, we can’t forget their rock solid discography. Their polished sound is very missed in today’s shouty K-pop market and they’ve got quite a few excellent b-sides to their name. Heat doesn’t stick out from the pack, but it’s not designed to. Instead, this pleasant midtempo spotlights the group’s underrated vocals. It’s got a nice beat and slightly sultry vibe and the chorus is pretty strong. That’s enough to make this a winning b-side.
Red Velvet – Love Is The Way (2019)
Red Velvet are one of the few groups who can totally get away with a old-fashioned doo wop throwback. Love Is The Way bops along a classic beat that offers plenty of space for the ladies’ vocals. The male refrain during the pre-chorus is a fun addition, jolting us into the catchy chorus. A second verse rap modernizes this nostalgic sound. Overall, I’m not super fond of this genre and I would’ve liked to hear a more upbeat version of it. But, Red Velvet definitely fulfill the brief. Their performance is spot-on.
Beast – Hands Up (2015)
Hands Up comes from the stream of Japanese tracks Beast released in 2015. It’s kind of a single, but has no music video. This is their take on a buoyant, pop-rock-dance sound (very B1A4-ish at points!). It’s totally derivative, but the group’s voices carry the day. I don’t always appreciate songs that change tempo (ie: slow down) during their chorus. However, Hands Up‘s arrangement is big and exciting all the way through. The song is definitely suited to a concert setting. You can easily visualize the moments fans would be clapping along.
EXO-CBX – Gentleman (2018)
EXO-CBX released quite a few strong tracks (their debut Korean mini is all killer, no filler), and while Gentleman may not be one of my favorites, it still gets the job done. The guys have targeted a laidback soul-pop sound and their vocals are well suited to this groove. The song doesn’t have much of a chorus, but the repeated hook is catchy. I’m more partial to the pre-chorus, which takes better advantage of their skills. Overall, this is a nice vibe to nod your head to.
Fifth: N.Flying – I’m Gonna
Fourth: AOA – Heat
Third: Red Velvet – Love Is The Way
Second: EXO-CBX – Gentleman
First: Beast – Hands Up
Congratulations to Beast’s Hands Up – the forty-sixth 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!