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-Four
SHINee – Odd Eye (2015)
As the opening track on the original version of the group’s 2015 album, I always found Odd Eye a bit… well… odd. It’s far more languid and sparse than many SHINee tracks, but this adds to its off-kilter appeal. There’s actually a lot going on here, even if the chorus forgoes bombast for an elusive sense of mystery. I probably don’t love this song as many SHINee fans do, but it’s definitely become a grower.
SF9 – Scenario (2021)
SF9’s sleek dancefloor sound extends to many of their b-sides, and Scenario feels like it easily could’ve been promoted as a title track. I really enjoy the light disco groove that propels the track. The percussion has an interesting texture, almost as if it’s run through some sort of filter. The chorus has nice heft, but I wish the second verse packed more bite. Fortunately, Scenario reaches a satisfying climax right before it finishes.
MBLAQ – Can’t Come Back (2012)
MBLAQ’s music is worth revisiting, as it’s largely been forgotten by newer K-pop fans. Can’t Come Back is very much of its era, but it harnesses a surging, emotional sound I miss very much. The looping keys drench the track in mood as the melodies follow suit. It’s the kind of track that feels in constant build. This adds tons of tension and breaks the tired verse/chorus/verse structure that can feel so predictable.
Beakhyun – Poppin’ (2020)
EXO’s Baekhyun is in his element with this style of loose, beat-heavy r&b. I haven’t been a huge fan of his solo music, but this is definitely the type of sound he should be pursuing. Poppin’ feels like it could have been a radio hit in the mid-2000’s, establishing an addictive groove and sticking with it. The song offers plenty of opportunities for dynamic riffs and is anchored by a simple chorus that shines full focus on an exciting, layered vocal arrangement.
(G)I-DLE – Already (2022)
I wouldn’t say I’m a big (G)I-DLE fan, but they deliver this kind of moody, midtempo pop quite well. I much prefer this to their more bombastic singles. Already lets us hear the girls’ unique vocal tones over a quirky, claustrophobic beat. I really like the percussion that comes in during the bridge. Even so, this style of song will never be my first choice when it comes to listening. It’s just a bit too muted for my taste.
Fifth: (G)I-DLE – Already
Fourth: Beakhyun – Poppin’
Third: SHINee – Odd Eye
Second: MBLAQ – Can’t Come Back
First: SF9 – Scenario
Congratulations to SF9’s Scenario – the fifty-fourth 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!