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-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!