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!
You can check out all rounds of my Battle of the B-sides here!
Battle of the B-sides: Round Twenty-One
Ha Sungwoon – Puzzle (2020)
I often mention how strong most of Ha Sungwoon’s b-sides are, and this was especially true in 2020. Puzzle wasn’t featured as a buried treasure on this blog, but easily could have been. I love how percussive this track is. The entire thing bops along a satisfying rhythm, building toward a chant-along chorus that feels trendy but unexpected. That’s a hard balance to strike, but Puzzle thrives thanks to Sungwoon’s engaging performance. I actually think this could’ve been a pretty successful title track.
Nu’est – Big Deal (2014)
We’ve yet to have a 9+ rated song pop up in this feature, but that ends now! I’ve always adored Big Deal. In fact, it’s probably one of my favorite Nu’est tracks. The entire Re:Birth album is super strong, but Big Deal kicks it off with a bombastic theatricality that’s never quite matched. I love how over-the-top every element is, from the choir of backing vocals to the dubstep breakdown to the pounding chorus. This is the kind of track that’s best played with the volume turned all the way up. Let those majestic synth strings take you to pop nirvana.
Lee Jinhyuk – Wave (2021)
It’s weird how I can find Lee Jinhyuk so appealing as a member of UP10TION but so obnoxious as a soloist. His solo work is not for me at all, and Wave is no different. I find the production grating and the vocal exaggerated. The constant siren-like synths make for a claustrophobic instrumental, which is too bad because the old-school hip-hop beat has some potential. But by the time Wave climaxes in its shouty, slurred finale I’ve already tuned out the noise. Sorry, Jinhyuk. I liked your funny glasses in the UP10TION Tonight stages, if that’s any consolation!
GOT7 – Save You (2018)
GOT7 is another act that doesn’t always cater to my musical preferences. They definitely have their hits, but too much of their recent material borrows from sounds and styles I tend to find boring. In this way, Save You is a middle ground. The new jack swing influences in the production are right up my alley, but the lurching future bass synths drag that rhythm down. It all blends into a track that is decent but unspectacular. A stronger hook would have helped, as the chorus never really distinguishes itself despite a confident series of vocals. Kick the energy up a notch, choose a brighter synth palette and we might have a hit!
Suzy – Sick And Tired (ft. Reddy) (2017)
I guess Suzy has pretty much paused her solo music career, huh? That’s too bad because I’ve always loved her voice. I think she’s often let down by dull material, but she has to have some more big pop hits in her, right? Sick And Tired certainly doesn’t scream “pop hit.” It’s fine for what it is, but this kind of mid-tempo R&B needs either a killer vocal, killer beat or killer melody to stand out. All three aspects are decent here, but nothing stands out. The production is muted to the point of being faceless. The vocal is lovely and tender and wraps itself around a few nice melodic turns. Yet, the track almost evaporates as soon as it’s over.
Fifth: Lee Jinhyuk – Wave
Fourth: Suzy – Sick And Tired (ft. Reddy)
Third: GOT7 – Save You
Second: Ha Sungwoon – Puzzle
First: Nu’est – Big Deal
Congratulations to Nu’est’s Big Deal – the twenty-first 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!