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 Fifty-Three
Winner – Wind (Yoon solo) (2019)
Songs with “wind” or “breeze” or “hurricane” in their title usually appeal to me. The concept lends itself to brisk propulsion – something I’ve always enjoyed in pop music. Up until its chorus, it feels like Yoon’s Wind will follow suit. But as much as I love his voice, I’m not a fan of the drastic tempo/energy shifts that drive this track. The chorus is a major bummer and kind of tanks the whole song. I think there’s a way to do this kind of beat drop/slow down effectively, but those programmed hi-hats are just grating.
Youngjae (GOT7) – Crema (2022)
K-pop is littered with this style of mid-tempo r&b b-side. It takes a very strong melody or performance to perk my ears and everything about Crema feels predictable and safe. Youngjae has a nice voice and I enjoy the synth strings that sweep through the instrumental. But, the melodies are forgettable and the whole presentation has a coffeehouse drowsiness that floats in one ear and out the other.
BTS – Two! Three! (2016)
Appearing late in their Wings album, Two! Three! brings emotional heft to an album already stuffed with it. I like the old-school production on this song – especially the snare drums and soulful riff that drives the beat. The two-part chorus is also a standout, offering a variety of melodic structures that keep the track compelling. You can feel the passion in the performance, especially as we move into a dynamic bridge and final, chorused hook.
Rocket Punch – Do Something (2019)
We’re definitely in mid-tempo territory this round! Oddly, Do Something feels like a continuation of the BTS song. However, this is a much glossier pop sound. Rocket Punch’s performance is toned down as the straightforward groove reigns supreme. The chorus is catchy, if a bit repetitive. Overall, I appreciate the nods to 90’s r&b and there’s a great breakdown during the bridge that points toward a more interesting production if the track had upped its ambition a bit.
H.O.T – Do Or Die (1999)
Speaking of 90’s music, we’re going back to the source with H.O.T! Do Or Die lays out its intent immediately. The production is simple but effective, melding a catchy synth-line with head-nodding percussion. Shots of vocal harmony bring extra texture as we head toward the chorus. And, an energy-switching dance break is placed in the perfect spot – adding interest without detracting from the overall momentum. H.O.T recorded much stronger material than this, but no other song in this battle has a stronger groove.
Fifth: Winner – Wind (Yoon solo)
Fourth: Youngjae (GOT7) – Crema
Third: Rocket Punch – Do Something
Second: BTS – Two! Three!
First: H.O.T – Do Or Die
Congratulations to H.O.T’s Do Or Die – the fifty-third 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!