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!
You can check out all rounds of my Battle of the B-sides here!
Battle of the B-sides: Round Forty-Seven
Seventeen – Back It Up (2019)
Come to think of it, Seventeen’s An Ode album was probably the last time I was super interested in their music. They’ve released solid material since then, but this collection of songs felt so quintessentially them. Back It Up is a ton of fun. It’s a hip-hop unit track with abrasive production and a fantastic, old-school dance beat. I love its chaotic energy and unrelenting drive. And though melody is not a prominent factor within the song, there are so many catchy moments.
CNBlue – Cold Love (독한 사랑) (2014)
CNBlue were at the height of their commercial power during this era and songs like Cold Love saw them exploring more dramatic musical arrangements. It’s a hearty rock-infused ballad, fueled by a passionate vocal and guitars that feel almost symphonic in their pomp. I’m not sure the song is as exciting as its arrangement, but I definitely appreciate the theatrics.
(G)I-DLE – What’s Your Name (2018)
(G)I-DLE’s debut album stands as one of this generation’s strongest, immediately painting a tone and concept for their music. What’s Your Name probably could’ve been a single – especially in a post-tropical K-pop landscape. The instrumental has touches of reggaeton, beefed up by synth-heavy production. I like the hook, even if it feels a bit undercooked. If it were up to me, I would’ve gotten rid of the slower tempo changes and thrown even more melody at the chorus. The song has strong bones. It just needs to be developed further.
Twice – Tick Tock (2022)
Hey, it’s a song released just a few days ago! I guess those who were hoping for a buried treasure from the new Twice Japanese album will have this as a consolation prize. Tick Tock isn’t one of my favorites from the album, but it’s a pleasant enough b-side. The ladies groove over a steady beat that melds elements of tropical pop with drumline percussion. The whole thing is an earworm, even if there isn’t a standout melody or focal point that ties a bow on the track. In the context of the album, it feels like a bridge before we get to the bigger moments.
STAYC – I Like It (2022)
Oh wow! My randomizer is really favoring the past few weeks. I Like It is another “hot off the presses” track. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the new STAYC release – both title and album. I Like It brings laidback summertime energy and wraps itself around a few catchy hooks. The chorus has an amiable groove that ingratiates itself without overpowering. I love the added percussion during verse two. It feels very seasonal. But overall, this is a rather minor effort when compared to the group’s strongest work.
Fifth: STAYC – I Like It
Fourth: (G)I-DLE – What’s Your Name
Third: Twice – Tick Tock
Second: CNBlue – Cold Love
First: Seventeen – Back It Up
Congratulations to Seventeen’s Back It Up – the forty-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!
Unrelated, but girls generation 😻😻🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏
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I didn’t like Back It Up when I first heard it on An Ode but the version that they do for concerts is pretty great. I don’t know how to describe it in musical terms but they add some kind of background sound to the “siren siren” part and it’s amazing. Really looking forward to seeing this live.
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i’m just gonna break into whoever’s controlling your randomizer and scream at them to give you a WJSN b-side, as im surprised they havent been featured on this series yet
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kinda sad that the stayc bsides aren’t as good this time around after young-luv.com, but they still have my kpop soty. bep seems to have a clear vision of where they want them to go so i’m hopeful for the future.
also ot but the new snow man release shocked me last night. i think the song falls apart during the rap but the chorus is fun + they have a lot of variety / versatility as a group (musically) that i love + the music video is great!
I’m sure I’ll get around to writing about Juicy in the next few days, but it’s a straight-up K-pop song, isn’t it? Industry tropes and all!
absolutely! (and i’m taking it that you didn’t like it as much as their previous releases?) me and a friend were trying to figure out what it reminded us of and we were stuck between a suju / 2pm (particularly 僕とまた but not as riveting) comeback.
TWICE is my winner but of course, I’m a ONCE. I love TICK TOCK. Especially because Jeongyeon gets more chance to shine. I love her emotional vocals. She gets waaaaay to few lines (she is a lead vocalist!!).
I am wondering what your favorite b-side is though. I think it’s a great album with a lot of strong b-sides, as TWICE usually gifts us. I especially love Flow Like Waves, That’s All I’m Saying, Bitter Sweet and Sandcastle (besides TICK TOCK). But there isn’t a bad song on the album for me.
Doughnut and Just Be Yourself have been released for quite a while now and I love both of them.
With TWICE I just feel they are really engaged in their music. It feels real to me. There is heart and soul in it. That’s very important for me. It’s not just a production for likes and views but real stuff.
You have a great point re Jeongyeon being a lead vocalist. But then with Jihyo and Nayeon in the same group, its hard to shine. (Kind of like the other “Short Haired Girl” in KPop, Yubin in OMG.) But I would like to take this opportunity to publicly put into to print what has bounced around my noggin-almost to a criminal aspect-since she returned from her surgery: all of those people that criticized her for her appearance after a long hiatus, including actual neck surgery, I hope you all rot in H*ll!. You don’t know what this young lady has been through, and yet she has persevered to be back with her beloved group members and in front of her fans. That’s all I have to say about that.
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I’m really happy you’ve mentioned that. It’s just so true. People really called her terrible things while she clearly fought very hard to do her best. That’s so difficult as an entertainer, especially in K-pop. And Jeongyeon just really has a kind and caring personality. I don’t know if you know the Jeongyeon, guardian of TWICE video’s on YouTube. They are really touching. She’s a volunteer at an animal shelter. She’s just a really good person. The way Jeongyeon fought during their American tour this year was admirable. She really let her feelings speak while that’s super rare in the K-pop world. I think it’s quite important somebody from such a globally big act did that.
And I get it’s difficult to get the right amount of lines with Nayeon and Jihyo there but I feel the balance is just totally gone. Jeongyeon is just as good as both of them but her voice is different. While Jihyo and Nayeon are better at upper belts Jeongyeon has a very powerful chest voice. Jeongyeon often is the one to sing at encores etc. She’s very stable live, even while dancing. Often, Jeongyeon gets less lines than some of the other members besides Nayeon and Jihyo.
A little surprised Back It Up only got an 8.5! It was one of your favorite b-sides of 2019, and probably one of my favorites from An Ode. Basically agree with your ranking here.