Published on December 15th, 2014 | by dinoseoul0
2014 in B-Track Review: The Dinoseoul Team & Their Favourites
Unless you’re a fan of the group/artiste you’re listening to, chances are, you’ll only know their title track. ‘Fess up non Taeyang fans, – how many of you can actually name one other track you like off ‘Rise’ other than ‘Ringa Linga’? And that’s exactly why the Dinoseoul team has come together to compile a list of our favourite B-tracks in 2014. We were each given the task of narrowing down just two songs this year we love, so here are our final picks!
Phantom‘s ‘Baby Please’
Honestly, I can’t think of many albums released this year that I’ve listened to from beginning till end but Phantom’s first full-length album ‘Phantom Power’ is one of them. Including some of their previous singles, the album is undoubtedly one of the most versatile yet consistent in quality I’ve heard. ‘Baby Please’ is one of the standouts of the album for me – I absolutely loved it on my first listen. With a title like that, one would expect a sad ballad of sorts, but it turns out to be the complete opposite. It speaks of a man tired of a relationship and saying ‘baby please, just let me go’ which I thought was really amusing yet brilliant at the same time given the choice of title. The song is surprisingly upbeat and bright (except for the slightly mellow introduction) but with Sanchez’s silky vocals and with Hanhae and Kiggen going full-out with their raps, there is a nice balance of emotions that the trio wants to portray. Not to mention, the song is also a typical Brand New Music production, which can only mean one thing – it is insanely catchy!
FT Island‘s ‘Orange Sky’
FT Island have not been domestically active this year. Instead, they’ve been rocking Japan with three singles and one studio album, so I thought it was really apt for them to release a special album ‘Japan Best Album – All About’, where we’d get to listen to Korean versions of ten of their songs which were originally Japanese. It’s no secret that the band prefers to make music in Japan because they’re given more creative control over their tracks, so these songs naturally sound more sincere with their brilliant lyrics. ‘Orange Sky’ is easily my favourite in the album simply because of how Hongki nails rock ballads, something he’s known for. When it comes to delivering emotions through songs, I still haven’t found an idol singer who does it as well and as consistently as he does. Also, it’s songs like this which are a testament to the band’s songwriting abilities, something which is sadly often overlooked.
f(x)‘s ‘All Night’
Ever since the release of ‘Red Light’ in July, ‘All Night’ has been my go-to song whenever I craved for something with a feel-good vibe. This track fits the bill perfectly from its 70s-inspired melody right down to the retro outfits the girls donned during performances – it’s all about the bell-bottoms, people. Albeit being a very simple song, I can’t seem to find fault with ‘All Night’ when it’s been giving me all the right reasons to bob along to. Another point worth mentioning is how it allows all five members to showcase their vocal capabilities – which are all pretty darn lovely, if you ask me.
HyunA‘s ‘From When Until When’ featuring Yoseob
Despite the controversy that surrounded the ballad, ‘From When Until When’, off HyunA’s ‘A Talk’ album (well, used to anyway, the song has been removed from all productions since the issue was raised), I thought it’s possibly the most standout song, owing to the different sound we’ve heard the artiste deliver since her solo endeavours kickstarted. And don’t get me wrong, it’s a pleasant kind of different and I’m definitely giving her a thumbs-up for it. We all know she’s not the best rapper around but this track calls for a tinge of sweetness and vulnerability which HyunA’s voice can offer. BEAST’s Yoseob lends his soulful vocals here which did nothing but rocket my appreciation for his incredible falsettos tenfold. That vocal tenderness interweaved with HyunA’s rapping has certainly won me over.
As a group, B.A.P has been very clear from the beginning that they were eager to try out as many genres of music as possible, this desire particularly apparent in ‘Badman’, in which they’d incorporated trap and jazz music to mixed reviews. Of course, with experimentation comes hits and misses, and while their previous release seemed to have missed its mark, their first full length ‘First Sensibility’ was hands down, my favourite of the year. It was put out earlier in February and a ton of music has since been released so surely that is a testament to its quality. Here, they explore their more mature, sensitive side with songs that range from ballads, to R&B, to dance-pop, and even alternative rock. While ‘Lovesick’ could have easily been overlooked for its more traditional boy band sound, it’s exactly that sweet, earnest singing about being in love that makes this such a standout. Infectious and incessantly catchy, it’s a stereotypical formula that works just for the simple fact that it’s done so well, never failing to put an instant smile on my face whenever it comes on. Besides its addictive chorus and pleasant harmonies, what’s especially great about the song is the even line distribution, which allows all six members to shine (even rapper Zelo gets singing lines!). Even though it’s unlikely we’ll be getting any new music from the group until their lawsuit has been settled, I’m glad this was the last release from them (aside from single album ‘B.A.P Unplugged 2014’ in June) because it’s definitely worth a couple more spins.
Bangtan Boys‘ ‘BTS Cypher PT. 2 : Triptych’
For those unfamiliar with the term, cypher in rap lingo essentially refers to freestyling, where each person raps one after the other in a cyclical manner. Each of BTS’ prior albums has contained a cypher, but it’s the one in ‘Skool Luv Affair’ that grabbed my attention right from the start. BTS is one of those groups that I appreciate mostly for their fun personalities and hard-hitting choreography executed to perfection, and it’s rare that I enjoy their songs past their powerful title tracks. Like ‘BTS Cypher PT.1’ from previous mini album ‘O!RUL8,2?’, ‘BTS Cypher PT.2: Triptych’ has rappers Rap Monster, J-Hope and Suga spitting out lightning quick rhymes over a continuous beat. This cyher acts as a continuation, which explains the similar lyrical content about their meteoric rise to popularity and how they’re representative of a new generation of K-pop groups. With such self-assured lyrics like ‘If I’m the sun, you’re the moon / Because when I rise, you go down’, it’s rap that’s practically overflowing with confidence, just like how it should be. While I typically gravitate towards more lighthearted tracks, ‘BTS Cypher PT.2: Triptych’ has a certain hypnotic quality and when delivered with such confident swagger, makes this one I wouldn’t be able to forget even if I tried.
Bangtan Boys‘ ‘Let Me Know’
If I were to be completely honest, ‘Let Me Know’ can’t hold a candle to ‘Danger’ when it comes to Title Track Eligibility, but ‘Let Me Know’ stands out for being the “dark” in ‘DARK & WILD‘. Nestled among other high energy tracks like ‘War of Hormone’ and ‘Hip Hop Lover’, it could have easily faded into oblivion and forgotten, but I was struck by how smooth and well-crafted it was. I was also impressed by its boldness – the background music is almost completely stripped out of the first couple of rap segments, and its rapid, no holds barred escalation from being pensive to those desperate, chest-thumping “girl let me know”s. The unanticipated variations in mood is extremely effective in keeping the track fresh and interesting throughout and saved it from falling into the dreaded formulaic ballad trap. I also loved how the sadness expressed in the track isn’t just baldly sadness; it’s nuanced, layered with longing and uncertainty and in turn it evokes complex emotions in the listener, making the track very relatable. In another dimension where Bangtan Boys isn’t a group with such delightful hard-hitting choreography that has to be showcased at every opportunity, perhaps ‘Let Me Know’ could have stood a good chance of being a title track.
It’s hard to find a group that is more controversial than EXO. For all the brouhaha surrounding them this year, it doesn’t change the fact that their music is still very appealing to me. ‘XOXO‘ was easily my favourite album last year, and ‘Overdose‘, while not as magnificent as ‘XOXO’, has its merits too. EXO’s sound remains very distinctive and modern yet accessible, and ‘Thunder’ is an interesting piece of work that is a very good representative of that. It’s like that slightly eccentric, offbeat kid that doesn’t get much positive attention, but after repeated encounters, you realise it’s actually pretty charming in its own awkward way. I like the groovy tone, the irregular beats and the clean presentation of the song. ‘Thunder’ and ‘lightning’ are used in the song as metaphors for two people in a complicated relationship to emphasise the distance between them and how they’re very different but fundamentally the same (both originating from a thunderstorm). It’s pretty clever, but it could get a teensy bit tiresome since they harp on it from literally beginning to end, as if worried their listeners wouldn’t be able to get the metaphor. They even threw in ‘boom boom boom boom‘ for good measure! Sometimes saying less is more. But well, despite that, it still made it on my list of favourite B-sides this year. That’s how much I like it.
Taeyang‘s ‘This Ain’t It’
One of my favourite male idol artistes is Taeyang, and I stress that this is for good reason too. He’s got so many great title tracks, but his B-side numbers never ever fail to disappoint either. While 2014’s ‘Rise’ isn’t as solid as ‘Solar’, it still packs a punch, with lots amazing swoon-worthy songs. My pick from the 9-track album would have to be the guitar-laden ‘This Ain’t It’. It’s a ballad with relatable lyrics of a lover lost with poignant lyrics like ‘I miss you more than I hate you, I long for you more than I’m sad’ that just gut you and put you in the most melancholic mood ever. It’s also beautiful because all we have are Taeyang’s gentle vocals accompanied by unpretentious background music – a stark reminder that while this is an idol dropping progressive club bangers with each album, he still knows a good emotional track like this one always digs deeper. There’s a gradual climatic climb as the song progresses, but there’s never a point where I felt overwhelmed, which is good for putting this on loop! The gospel-like singing backing up Taeyang’s singing at the bridge are a nice touch in elevating the pureness and simplicity of this track too, making it all the more earnest and nostalgic.
Akdong Musician‘s Small Star
I love the entire ‘Play’ album, so it was incredibly tough to pick a favourite, but my feelings resonate most with the dainty ‘Little Star’. Akdong’s musical direction throughout their entire album might be similar – a very laid-back, acoustic style – but each song has its own unique flavour, and this is no exception. ‘Little Star’ is a track that tells a story of hope and child-like innocence as the siblings sing about how ‘at night when you hear a girl’s prayer from somewhere, it’ll be the sleep talk of a small star, at night when you hear a boy’s love confession, it’ll be the tossing of a small star’. The whimsical aspect of the entire track, moulded to play out the scene of how one wistfully wishes on a star to fulfill his or her dreams is really lovely. I also like how they tied in the ‘please let my star rise on your night’ from this song into their cover of Taeyang’s ‘Eyes, Nose, Lips’.
15&‘s ‘Not Today And Not Tomorrow’
On their debut album this year, ‘Sugar,’ the two teens of 15& showcase their incredible vocals and penchant for interesting, exciting music. Title track ‘Sugar’ is great, of course, and one of my favorite singles from 2014, but I’ve always found myself coming back to ‘Not Today And Not Tomorrow.’ The song has a great energy, constantly shifting its rhythm and arrangement slightly to keep it interesting. The girls sing a send-off to their loser boyfriend who doesn’t treat them right. The chorus makes especially expert use of both English and Korean, alternating ‘not today and not tomorrow’ with ‘nal jom geunyang naebeolyeodwo’ (‘just leave me alone’), which has the same scansion and even rhymes! But the chorus also shows a moment of weakness for the girls, where they admit they’re afraid of leaving him. That section of the chorus also happens to be the most musically exciting moment, with Jimin and Yerin singing in tight harmony, making the phrase even more bittersweet. Emotionally and musically complex as well as catchy and memorable, ‘Not Today And Not Tomorrow’ is just as great, if not greater, than ‘Sugar.’
Ha:tfelt – ‘Wherever Together’
Wonder Girls‘ Ye Eun (Yenny) released a solo album this year under the name Ha:tfelt called ‘Me?’ Expectedly, the album finds Yenny exploring herself and her sound, with an eclectic mix of genres and introspective lyrics. All of it is particularly interesting and bold, but the highlight for me is actually a straightforward dance song. ‘Wherever Together’ isn’t really special. With its bubbling synths, strong dance beat and extended instrumental hook, it sounds a lot like Zedd’s ‘Clarity.’ But it’s executed so well. Her voice is fragile and breathy in the verses and then powerful and belted in the chorus, imbuing the track with the same emotional depth she gives her ballads. The production is interesting and clear. It’s also interesting because in the song, she attempts to comfort a lover, telling him not to be afraid, flipping the traditional gender roles. All of Ha:tfelt’s album is great, but if you need something perfect for the dance floor, ‘Wherever Together’ is the one to go for.
Do you agree with our choices, or do you have your own personal favourites? Let us know!
All opinions remain strictly the personal opinions of the Dinoseoul team and were not based on the popularity of a group or artiste.
Lyrics from beautifulsonglyrics.