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!
SHINee – Four Seasons (2008)
Every time SHINee appears on this feature, it seems to be one of their tracks that isn’t among my favorites! That’s sort of a bummer, but even a so-so SHINee track eclipses most of its competition. Four Seasons is standard, late-00’s mid-tempo pop music. These beats were so popular back then! The melody is sturdy if uninteresting, but the song is elevated by the group’s strong performance.
Spectrum – My Star (2020)
Spectrum didn’t have a very long career, but they spun off a few solid singles. My Star is one of those sentimental fan-song type efforts. Funny enough, it feels very much like the SHINee track, updated for a different era. Swaying audience hands are almost built into the recipe, as My Star offers some softly anthemic “oooh, ooooh ooooh” moments to sing along with. Sadly, everything about this is pretty forgettable despite a nice rap verse in the middle.
Kara – 1 + 1 (2013)
We’re entering slightly more sprightly territory with Kara’s 1 + 1. The song has a sugary-sweet appeal, reminiscent of their early Sweetune work. But, this is not a Sweetune track and that’s evident in its threadbare production. On the album, this becomes even more jarring immediately following the bombastic Damaged Lady. 1 + 1 is pleasant enough, but it doesn’t really go anywhere or leave a lasting impression.
UP10TION – Just Like That (2016)
We are definitely feeling the mid-tempos this round, aren’t we? The album this stems from is one of the group’s stronger efforts, but Just Like That isn’t quite a standout. Even so, this is the strongest melody we’ve heard yet in this round. The production remains subdued throughout, but that chill approach actually works in the song’s favor. There’s a slinkiness to the groove that’s quite appealing. At times, it feels very 90’s.
Beast – Hateful Person (2012)
Now here we go! Just when you need Sweetune most, they sweep right in. This is their only collaboration with Beast (now Highlight) and is bolstered by their trademark melodies and vocal layering. It’s not one of their more grandiose moments, but those sparkling synths and propulsive chorus will quickly work their way under your skin. There’s just no beating classic songwriting like this. Plus, Yang Yoseob’s voice sounds fantastic under their care.
Fifth: Spectrum – My Star
Fourth: SHINee – Four Seasons
Third: Kara – 1 + 1
Second: UP10TION – Just Like That
First: Beast – Hateful Person
Congratulations to Beast’s Hateful Person – the fifty-fifth 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!