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21 K-pop b-sides that stole our hearts in 2021

By Hannah Mallorca Published Dec 28, 2021 6:42 pm

The b-side is the missing ingredient that completes a K-pop album. In other words, these are the songs in an album that (undeservingly) don’t get promoted as much as the title track. 

Like in any other year, K-pop is not defined by its title track. A group or soloist’s b-side is a peek into their discography while displaying what they can offer as artists. While it’s impossible to capture the best of these songs into one list, allow us to list down our favorite K-pop b-sides as we wrap up 2021.

21. Life is a Bi… by BIBI

BIBI is known for expressing her truths through music—and Life is a Bi… is a lyrical journey of how life feels like our worst enemy. Such profoundness about our everyday lives is rare in K-pop, where most lyrics are either too shallow or too edgy for the sake of it. BIBI’s personality shines throughout the song, as she opens up about her daily musings without sounding too prickly. 

God-tier: The use of “but” in the chorus is a masterful touch on how life manages to knock us down when we try to get up.

20. Airplane Mode by fromis_9

Airplane Mode is a display of fromis_9’s ability to combine brightness and elegance so effortlessly. The song seems simple at first listen, but its poppy verses and stripped-down chorus add to its character. Combined with the girl group’s refreshing vocals, the track is a satisfying and groovy bop from start to finish. 

God-tier: Hayoung and Jiwon’s bright vocals in the chorus feel like you’re being lifted off the ground.

19. Pushin’ and Pullin’ by Red Velvet

Pushin’ and Pullin’ proved why Red Velvet has one of the best discographies in K-pop. It starts in a spoken word-esque verse about being in a relationship with someone emotionally unavailable until it builds into a dreamy R&B melody, shifting into a more empathetic tone. One that assures a lover they’re willing to help in overcoming their anxiety. Of course, who can forget the girl group’s godly vocals?

God-tier: Pushin and pullin’ / I know how your anxious heart feels, everybody does / We’ll be alright / You can just come to me”—so romantic.

18. Red Lipstick by Lee Hi feat. Yoon Mirae

Lee Hi lets loose in the glitzy retro trend as she invites rapper Yoon Mirae to the party. The blend of the soloist’s soulful voice, disco-funk elements, and a dash of ‘90s synthwave in between is a charismatic combo that invites listeners to “get caught up in the vibe” and “groove without any thoughts on your mind.” The song is a whiplash to listeners since it’s a reminder that this soloist is a grown-up already. 

God-tier: Lee Hi’s straightforward invite to a lover who “feels like Friday night” and Mirae’s fiery rap is sexy without trying too hard.

17. Trash by Wheein feat. pH-1

For a track called Trash, this is surprisingly smooth until the last note. The trap beat sets an impactful tone, infused with an urban flair and the signature wispy vocals of Mamamoo’s Wheein. While this song explores the bliss of new love, this track feels mature as the sentiments feel more adult. 

God-tier: The track’s upbeat melody symbolizes the increasing heart rates of someone in love. What a nice touch.

16. All I Got by Baekhyun

EXO’s Baekhyun and panty-dropping R&B tracks always go hand-in-hand—and All I Got is one of the clear examples why. The opening beat of the song commands attention as the bass acts as a blank canvas for Baekhyun to flex his vocal abilities until the final note. A satisfying track filled with spectacular adlibs and jaw-dropping falsettos that that only he is capable of doing. 

God-tier: Baekhyun starting off the song with his soulful falsetto sent us screaming, “More, Baekhyun!”

15. Body Rhythm by SHINee

Compared to the synth-pop tracks in SHINee’s Don’t Call Me album, Body Rhythm swerved to a sexier route. The song opens with Taemin’s breathy “Won’t you follow my body rhythm” until we’re treated to Key, Minho, and Onew seducing listeners with their voices. Emotive vocals laced with personality are imbued in the group’s presence, and this track is a sensual glimpse into their biggest strength. 

God-tier: The blending of SHINee’s voices in the chorus is heaven-sent. Spectacular.

14. Midnight by Chancellor feat. Gaeko

It’s one thing to take cues from the retro trend, it’s another to fully commit to the theme. And Chancellor and Gaeko embraced their Michael Jackson Rock With You era with Midnight. The ‘70s-inspired track is incredibly smooth as both singers bounced along with its sticky rhythm until the final note. Despite its steady melody, the beat never succumbed to monotony as their vocals are charmingly slick all throughout. 

God-tier: The bridge showcases Chancellor’s sky-high vocals, leading us to the infectious clap-along finale.

13. Je T’aime by Joy

Red Velvet Joy’s first mini-album Hello is oozing with sweetness, and Je T’aime is a charming proof of her bright personality. A remake of the 2001 song with the same name, it’s now infused with a whole lot of string instruments and smiles. It’s a sunny and crystalline display of her strengths as a vocalist—you can actually hear Joy smiling while singing. 

God-tier: Joy’s crystal-clear voice compliments this track so effortlessly, that you’re motivated to start the day on a brighter note.

12. Light by Taemin 

SHINee’s Taemin has always been in a league of his own. And Light is proof. The song starts off slow until the groovy synth and his vocals intensify, then it ends to how it started. There’s something so satisfying about Taemin who’s fully confident about his own artistry that you can feel his confidence radiating all throughout. A satisfying opening track to his final album before military enlistment. 

God-tier: Did Taemin just combine singing and rapping in the verses? Why does it sound so smooth?

11. I’ll Make You Cry by Aespa

I’ll Make You Cry is an in-your-face display of Aespa fully embracing their futuristic cyberpunk concept. The powerful vocal performances and dizzying electronic synths continue the listeners’ journey into the group’s fictional universe of Kwangya, as we explore more of their lore. The group channeled their inner Scarlet Witch as the vibe slowly gets creepy until it reaches its final note. 

God-tier: When the song takes us on a wild electronic breakdown, then Ningning and Winter’s powerful vocals take center stage.

10. Express Moon by Jo Yuri

It’s hard to miss out on Jo Yuri’s husky voice since her Produce 48 and IZ*ONE days. However, taking on the reins of being the signature belter made us forget that she shines in laidback songs too. Luckily, the romantic, mid-tempo track Express Moon is a display of her vocal color in all of its glory.

God-tier: The swinging rhythm and Yuri’s honey vocals is a dreamy combo to die for.

9. Gone by Rosé

BLACKPINK’s Rosé channeled her inner sad girl as she mourns the end of a relationship with Gone. The acoustic track seems formulaic for some, but the vulnerability of her vocals is what makes it one of the standout b-sides in 2021. Rosé strips off the glitz of a K-pop superstar, giving us a peek into her heartbroken thoughts. An emotional statement piece done right. 

God-tier: That moment before the chorus when the instrumental cuts out for a moment, and it’s just us and her emotive voice.

8. Upper Side Dreamin’ by ENHYPEN

ENHYPEN is the epitome of the phrase “Go big, or go home”—and Upper Side Dreamin’ is proof. The electro-funk track turns on the intensity of the group’s title track Tamed-Dashed, but in a more heart-fluttering and charming direction. There’s something about the earworm of a hook on the chorus that treads a nostalgic path. A proof of the boy group heading in the right direction. 

God-tier: Jake, Niki, Heeseung, Sunghoon, Sunoo, Jay, and Jungwon’s charming vocals make it hard to believe this track came from a debut album.

7. Why Can’t You Love Me by Wendy

Red Velvet’s Wendy takes comfort to a whole new level with Why Can’t You Love Me as it exhibits the homey vibe of a rainy day. The heart-fluttering lyrics, along with the piano and rhythm guitar harmonizing with her voice is a flawless combination. With a voice like Wendy’s, it feels criminal that her solo debut arrived on the girl group’s seventh year. Luckily, this track makes the wait worth it. 

God-tier: Wendy’s crystal-clear voice shines throughout the track, especially with the chorus.

6. Crush by SEVENTEEN

Combining R&B and Hip-Hop elements in one track sounds impossible—but SEVENTEEN made it work with Crush. Featuring an 808-style base and synthwave beat, this track is a loud and straightforward confession to your crush without being too overwhelming. The heart-fluttering track reminds us of the boy group’s earlier days, but as more mature artists. 

God-tier: SEVENTEEN (especially DK and Hoshi) is luring us into their spell with the track’s intro. And it’s working.

5. F.I.L.A (Fall in Love Again) by TWICE

TWICE and disco are a match made in heaven, and there’s no denying that F.I.L.A (Fall in Love Again) is one of their best tracks under this genre. It includes metaphorical lyrics about surviving a hopeless relationship, a Saturday Night Fever vibe, and the infectious ‘70s urban nightlife influence that makes this track so delectable. Did we mention the lyrics were written by Nayeon herself?

God-tier: We all know that those are Nayeon and Jihyo’s voices reaching the skies as we arrive at the chorus.

4. Anti-Romantic by TXT 

Keeping up with the coming-of-age theme of TXT’s album The Chaos Chapter: FREEZE, Anti-Romantic feels like a pessimistic adult’s perspective of teenage love gone sour. There’s something so nostalgic and bittersweet about this track that hits home for adults. It’s not a confrontational track, but its lyrics force listeners to look back on their childhood love stories as their present selves. 

God-tier: Sorry, I’m an anti-romantic / I don’t trust it anymore, romantic / That my heart will burn away”—why did our childhood crushes suck? Oops. 

3. The Rose Song by Rio

RIO whisks us off into a euphoric dreamland—or more of Nevertheless’ Yoo Nabi’s lovesick thoughts—with The Rose Song. The alluring instrumental combined with the frustrated “You’re a bad person, you’re a bad love / You took all of my heart / But you don’t give me yours” is a picture-perfect display of being hypnotized with someone who’s bad news. 

God-tier: The contrast of its dreamy instrumental and desperate lyrics is beautifully tragic and relatable. 

2. Shoot! by ITZY

This sexy banger is an example of autotune done right, as it takes advantage of ITZY’s magnetic presence. Seductive, infectious R&B meshes with fluttering percussions and tempting vocals—with its straightforward lyrics all blend into a track that’s perfect to channel your inner dangerous woman. Not a typical ITZY track, but a good way to explore musically. 

God-tier: Not being biased, but Lia, Chaeryeong, and Yuna’s vocals are enchanting. Yuna’s “Look at my eyes” is a chef’s kiss. 

1. My Love by D.O.

My Love is Do Kyungsoo in a song. It’s intimate, alluring, and it offers many layers that entice you to listen more. The acoustic confession doesn’t feature any grandiose instrumentals, however, it draws listeners in from the very first note. Opening your heart to someone who feels like home is not easy, but D.O.’s emotive voice is the best way to express its heartfelt lyrics without holding back. 

God-tier: With its vulnerable lyrics and acoustic melody, My Love is proof that you don’t have to be the most extra to draw attention.