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-Nine
Winner – Air (2018)
Looking back, Winner were one of the key acts in popularizing “tropical” sounds within K-pop. Air isn’t anywhere near as impactful as Really Really, but its light, tropical synth beat goes down easy. I wish the song had a bit more oomph to it, though the hook is super effective and benefits from its reserved energy. Winner are well-suited to this vibe and Air finds a satisfying blend between trendy and classic.
Changmin – Airplane Mode (2022)
The opening volley of tracks from this mini album are so strong, making a more subdued song like Airplane Mode almost feel like an afterthought. Of course, nothing with Changmin’s voice could possibly be an afterthought, and Airplane Mode benefits greatly from his piercing falsetto. It’s a bit too downbeat for me, but there are some nice melodic turns that keep this one captivating — even with its hazy atmosphere.
AB6IX – Behind You (2020)
What’s with all these slower songs popping up in battles lately? I’m just not a slow song kind of listener unless the melody, vocal performance or arrangement are jaw-droppingly good. A track like Behind You is absolutely fine for what it’s trying to be, but it feels too much like album filler. As fans like to say: “it’s a mood.” Unfortunately, it’s kind of a sleepy mood. At four-and-a-half minutes, it’s also a bit long for a K-pop track. The chorused vocals during the finale are nice, though.
ZE:A – Dirty Cat (2012)
Ah, ZE:A! They’re one of my favorite underrated idol acts. Seriously, go listen to some ZE:A today. Your life will be better for it. Dirty Cat comes from a spectacular album (it’s literally called “Spectacular,” and it lives up to the title) and it’s one of the more humorous moments in the group’s discography. Those who enjoy electro-swing will fall hard for this one. That chorus is super catchy and the instrumental has such a satisfying bounce to it. It’s just a ton of silly fun.
Romeo – Present (2015)
Well, I guess it’s an all-male battle this time! Romeo happen to be another favorite underrated act, mostly because of their association with Sweetune. The production team only worked on their first couple of releases, but gave us a couple of late-career classics. Present is a classic upbeat Sweetune banger, as sugary as their moniker suggests. You can’t beat those punchy synth stabs and syrupy pop melodies. Romeo’s equally charming performance perfectly fits the schtick.
Fifth: AB6IX – Behind You
Fourth: Changmin – Airplane Mode
Third: Winner – Air
Second: ZE:A – Dirty Cat
First: Romeo – Present
Congratulations to Romeo’s Present – the forty-ninth 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!