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 Twenty-Four
EPEX – Go Big (2021)
Okay, fifteen seconds of this and I know it’s not for me. There’s far too much repetition, far too many skrrt skrrts and a general sense of badassery I find so tired. Beyond that, the rap is fine and the beat is solid. But, I’m just exhausted by this particular K-pop sound. On the plus side, I appreciate putting EPEX’s desire for commercial domination into musical form. It’s a smart approach for a rookie group. But yeah… too much shouting here for me.
Twice – Tuk Tok (2016)
Well, this is a fun little throwback. It’s comforting to travel back to a time when Twice were on the upswing, quickly climbing to a-list status. Tuk Tok isn’t a particular favorite of mine, but I like how unsettled the percussion feels. There’s a nice variety of groove, over which the girls deliver a more diverse series of vocals than we’re used to hearing from them. The chorus has a few nice hooks, but I could do without that irritating alarm effect that supports a large portion of the track. It sounds like a truck backing up!
IN2IT – Cadillac (2017)
Before their contract termination, IN2IT recorded quite a few bangers. Cadillac is a clearly an answer to Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic, which itself pulls directly from 80’s synth funk. Nevertheless, it’s a style I’ve always loved, and the song’s instrumental has me nodding my head. I appreciate the fullness of the sound. In fact, the beat is so addictive that the guys don’t need to do anything fancy with the tune. Cadillac’s chorus is a simple chant, while its verses offer more in the way of melody. It’s a slight effort, but that suits the song’s grooviness.
Wheein – No Thanks (2021)
I know a lot of people love this kind of sleepy, R&B-influenced pop, but it bores me to tears. Wheein has a great voice and we all know it, but that shouldn’t be a crutch preventing a song from putting forth effort via melody and production. Nothing here is objectively bad, but it all feels designed to fade into the background. It’s musical wallpaper. Slow jams like this can be so addictive, and a few have even won previous rounds in this feature. Apart from Wheein herself, nothing here is calling me back for another listen.
Infinite H – Victorious Way (2013)
Ooh, an Infinite song! I’ll try to take my bias hat off for this, but you know my favorite group is always going to have an edge over others. Victorious Way arrives courtesy of Infinite’s hip-hop unit, and pays homage to old-school sounds. The beat is simple, repetitive, and lo-fi, vibing on the kind of breakbeats that were popular in the 80’s and early 90’s. The sampled chorus is a ton of fun, especially coupled with DJ scratches. The track itself feels a little throwaway, but builds toward a nice chant during the climax. Infinite H have delivered stronger material, but I appreciate how specific this sound is.
Fifth: EPEX – Go Big
Fourth: Wheein – No Thanks
Third: Twice – Tuk Tok
Second: Infinite H – Victorious Way
First: IN2IT – Cadillac
Congratulations to IN2IT’s Cadillac – the twenty-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!