The Year of K-pop Girl Groups: B-Side Domination

B-sides are categorized as side tracks or non-important tracks. I, however, disagree with that. B-sides are an essential part of an album. Sadly, they rarely get centre stage because they are always overshadowed – in most cases – by the title track.

Title tracks are made for marketing purposes, therefore having a more ‘standout’ personality. Nevertheless, what happens if the title track does not live up to its pre-set expectations? Chances are, listeners would turn to the side tracks in the album instead.

That’s why today I want to share 13 of my favourite K-Pop Girl Group’s B-sides from this year. 2020 has been a year of girl group domination. Their title tracks have been satisfying and the dance performances have reached a higher standard, but most importantly, their B-sides have been Godlike! Experimenting with so many genres and styles, B-sides have taken the spotlight this year. With that being said, some just shine brighter than others, and those are the songs I’ve picked out.

So, let’s get into it!

 Concept photo for ‘The ReVe Festival’ Finale , Source

Red Velvet: La Rouge – ‘The ReVe Festival’ Finale

La Rouge tango into the listener’s ears with its Latin-esque vibe. It’s instrumental consists of a really sexy guitar line, accompanied by trumpet sounds and taut drum beats. Coating the song are Red Velvet’s five vocals. Their voices, rich like old wine, interweave seamlessly with the instrumental. Not just creating an incredibly sultry feeling, it oozes confidence and boldness. 

ITZY: Nobody Like You – It’z Me

Well known for their experimental sounds that differ from other rising girl groups, ITZY’s Nobody Like You takes a different direction. Reminiscent of the 2000s Western rock pop songs, the song is filled with a band of crashing cymbals, echoey bass drums and a wicked electric guitar on the sidelines. If you feel like you need to shout or release some stress these days, listen to this.

EVERGLOW: No Good Reason – -77.82x-78.29

Another rookie group in the industry, EVERGLOW diverges from their usual hard-hitting ‘girl-crush’ concept for the last song of their album – No Good Reason. A typical EDM track, the song is layered with multiple layers of synths. The stand-out element however, is the song’s very chill vibe that contrasts with the lyrics of being unable to let go of your first love. 

MAMAMOO: Chuck – TRAVEL

It’s MAMAMOO, what more can be said? Chuck is a tune that tells the story of a fight between lovers, it starts off soft and ends on a bang. Repetitious oscillating beats act as the backbone of the track, complemented by percussion and keyboard. These contribute to its very minimalistic sound. Nonetheless, since it’s MAMAMOO, their powerful vocals and rap turn the song on its head.

Twice’s Album shoot for Eyes Wide Open , Source

TWICE: Oxygen – More & More

Acknowledged as one of the top 3 girl groups in South Korea, TWICE’s summer album ‘More & More’ offers a variety pack of bops. My suggestion would be Oxygen. Stimulating the listener’s ears with its sparse use of high-pitched synths at different sections, each part of a song offers a new synth structure. This keeps the song fresh and breathable – like oxygen.

TWICE: Do What We Like – Eyes Wide Open

In ‘Eyes Wide Open’, TWICE’s concept becomes much more matured. In an album full of songs about women empowerment, Do What We Like was ultimately chosen. It utilizes whimsical synth beats and slight voice modulations. This conjures up an airy, almost underwater-like atmosphere for the listener. As the song progresses, it gives off a ‘breaking-the-surface’ vibe instead, with its loud party-inducing chorus.

 IZ*ONE’s teaser image for One-reeler/Act IV , Source

IZ*ONE: Open Your Eyes – BLOOM*IZ

Open Your Eyes is the last track of the BLOOM*IZ album, and it ends on a strong note. A bass-heavy pop track, with fleeting feather-like beats sprinkled in small proportions, Open Your Eyes is an awesome party song. This track reminds me strongly of Cobra Starship’s ‘You Make Me Feel Good’, still one of the best pop songs out there. 

IZ*ONE: Merry-Go-Round – Oneiric Diary

Dreamy, poppy and déjà vu; these words sum up the song. It is a combination of 2 different genres: retro and city pop. Funky synths and a throwback of 70s disco are mixed with the wistful violins of city pop nostalgia. The song is a modern take on the diluted and fading genres. It’s crisp and clean synths makes this song a must listen if you are into these genres.

IZ*ONE: Sequence – One-reeler/Act IV

Of what is presumably their last album before their disbandment, Sequence deserves a spot here. The new retro trend that has taken over K-Pop, finally shows itself in IZ*ONE’s discography. High-tension and energetic, it’s skippy beats will make you get up and dance like there’s no tomorrow. Oh, and the descending notes in the chorus? Chef’s kiss. 

Teaser photo for LOONA’s [12:00] , Source

LOONA: Oh (Yes I Am) – [#]

LOONA, a highly-rated girl group of the new generation, made their February comeback with this masterpiece of a song. An unusually vocal-heavy song, its instrumental comprises sporadic instances of bells and chimes. As these synths are light and high in nature, its heavier bass beats keep the song grounded in post-chorus sections. This fusion creates something similar to push-and-pull and turns out to be the song’s charm.

LOONA: Voice – [12:00]

Voice, the Korean version of Star, has an outer space vibe. Accompanied by steady recurring drum beats and misty dreamlike synths, the song floats in between the ears. As to not make things too bland and repetitive, this song has a dance break which, well, just explodes. Another reason the song has this wispy aura is due to the soft melodious vocals of LOONA. Truly a group to watch out for in the future.

GFRIEND: Here We Are – 回:LABYRINTH

Gorgeously written lyrics thanks to e.one, Here We Are takes the listener back to GFRIEND’s previous tracks. A vocal orchestra with amazing high notes and unrivalled harmonies is supported by a beautifully composed instrumental. The song’s confessional and emotional feeling stems from the instrumental’s slow rhythmic beats, coupled with melancholic strings of violins and quaint piano keys.  

GFRIEND: Three of Cups – 回: Walpurgis Night

Three of Cups is a disco track that shares the same roots as its predecessor. Muffled drums and trumpet-like synths within the song pays homage to the evergreen retro era. In addition, small elements of city pop are scattered throughout the song. This allows the song to have that ‘party-all-night’ or ‘getting-off-work’ euphoric feeling.

13 tracks

Before I finish, I do want to apologize if none of your favourite groups made it to this list. I had to be as strict as possible when choosing these songs.

These 13 tracks have their own colour, style and sense. It goes to show that no artist is the same. Every song is an art on its own. 

As I reach the end of the article, I just want to wish happy holidays to everyone. I hope that all of you will be safe and healthy, and come back in good conditions next semester. Take care, and don’t start any fanwars!

Also, today is the 13th of December – coincidence? I think not! 

Written by Ivan Ling Chen Chuen