The Best K-Pop B-Sides of 2022

The Best K-Pop B-Sides of 2022

by Tássia Assis

In K-pop, title tracks take all the glory, with spectacular music videos and TV performances. They’re like glossy company business cards, introducing an artist’s zeitgeist to the general public and showcasing their biggest, boldest strengths. That’s alright — after all, what would 2022 be without hits like (G)I-dle’s rock gala “Tomboy” or IVE’s delightfully wicked “Love Dive”?

Less alright: how some of K-pop’s best cuts remain a secret. Chances are, if you listen to any K-pop album from start to finish, you’ll likely find at least one or two other tracks to enjoy — some of them being stronger than the single itself. Hidden amid tracklists that are largely unknown to the general public, B-sides are where the real gems lie.

That’s why we’re here to vindicate them. We aim for justice for all those raw diamonds covered in dirt (lack of time and attention) and debris (K-pop’s unstoppable pace). Check out 15 of 2022’s best K-pop B-sides below.

15. Fifty Fifty — "Tell Me"

Rookie girl group Fifty Fifty proved to be a joyful surprise this year. Their excellent debut EP, The Fifty, only has four tracks, but each is infused with personality and mighty vocals. The best example is “Tell Me,” which opens the EP in full city-pop flair. Members Aran and Keena charmingly plead a lover to “play me like a movie that you’ve never seen” and “tell me like you’ve known me your whole life.” It’s a sweet, sparkling track that rolls as smoothly as a sunset by the pool.

14. MIRAE — "Welcome to the Future"

​MIRAE brings turn-of-the-millennium sounds to the fittingly titled “Welcome to the Future.” Their brand of high-octane EDM doesn’t appear as often in K-pop these days, but its relentless growth and exuberance make for a rewarding listen. It’s the kind of motivational track that inspires you to get up and reimagine the world — just like we dared to do twenty years ago.

13. STAYC — "247"

​Taking on early-2000s R&B — the sound that came to define many of 2022’s hits — STAYC delivered one of its coolest iterations. “247” is a simple love song, confessing one’s desires in sweet verses like “Baby, tell me what you want/ Whatever you want/ I'll make it all come true.” Every part is executed so flawlessly that this B-side becomes a mood, a worshiping anthem. More than the quirky beats of their singles or their glitzy visuals, “247” shows how vocal alchemy is what ultimately makes STAYC so addictive.

12. SUHO — "Decanting"

Suho’s sophomore EP, Grey Suit, allowed him to find his own path. The EXO leader experimented beyond routine balladry and gave us gems like the exhilarating “Hurdle” and the yearnful, subdued “Decanting.” Sounding straight off a Jeff Buckley album, Suho’s honeyed vocals imbue the track with longing and some of the sultriest verses of his career: “Oh, gracefully yet wildly with the tip of your tongue/ Boldly and gently ruin me.”

11. Stray Kids — "Muddy Water (Changbin, Hyunjin, HAN, Felix)"

“Muddy Water” is the perfect playground for Stray Kids’ unbeatable rap line. Over an old-school hip-hop beat with hints of jazz, Changbin, Hyunjin, HAN, and Felix spit some of their best bars yet (Felix’s reference to Demon Slayer, anyone?), and showcase their pliable, unique styles. Comparing themselves to fresh rainwater that comes to wash the mud away, they state: “This is our flow, just step off the show” — a reaffirmation of Stray Kids’ innovative verve and rule-breaking guts.

10. RM — "Yun (with Erykah Badu)"

“Yun” is a lush opener to Indigo, RM’s first solo album, and sets the tone for what he named as “the last archive of my twenties.” Paying homage to the late Korean painter (and one of RM’s favorite artists) Yun Hyeong-keun, the BTS leader muses over his own life and work, underpinned by lo-fi drums and Badu’s bewitching voice — which arrives like a whisper from the gods above. It’s a poignant reflection from one of the most influential minds in music right now, stripping fame and the creative process to bare essentials: “I wanna be a human/ ‘Fore I do some art.”

9. DPR IAN — "Calico"

“My heart’s in Calico,” declares DPR IAN on this lustful track off his first solo album, Moodswings In To Order. Referencing the Californian ghost town, he warns a lover that he’s just as doomed and deserted — but who cares? He moves forward like an incubus, whispering sweet nothings right into your ears: “You're so addicted to my bad decisions/ You locked yourself in this imagination.” By the time the bass solo arrives, there’s no returning from his entrancing spells.

8. Red Velvet — "Rainbow Halo"

If soap bubbles were turned into music, they would sound like “Rainbow Halo.” Translucent, iridescent, and with a kind of magic that only Red Velvet’s harmonizations can deliver, this B-side off The ReVe Festival 2022 – Feel My Rhythm EP is a fleeting treasure. “This is definitely love/ Rainbow halo floating on top of it,” they sing, followed by mesmerizing chants and a nifty sax line. New loves and soap bubbles might burst at any moment, but at least “Rainbow Halo” can be replayed forever.

7. NCT 127 — "Faster"

Metaphors comparing music to vehicles are nothing new, especially in NCT’s hyper-technologic lore. But then there’s “Faster.” Opening the band’s fourth album, 2 Baddies, this track spins on its own title, offering not an unstoppable race but a calculated, menacing ritual. When the group utters “we going faster,” you expect the track to finally pick up steam, but it instead sweeps you off your feet by slowing down to a mechanical, nearly voiceless hook. This could be a recipe for disaster in other hands, but NCT 127 makes it one of 2022’s most gripping pieces.

6. Tomorrow X Together — "Opening Sequence"

Tomorrow X Together (TXT) dive deep into heartbreak on their latest EP, minisode 2: Thursday’s Child, but none of its five tracks hurt as deeply as “Opening Sequence.” In a poignant soundscape that vocalist Taehyun described as “alternative R&B,” they beg: “Stay for me, stay for me, stay for me/ I can't get used to it, used to it, used to it/ It repeats brutally, I can't stand it/ I cry.” Dramatic much? Yes, but so very true to the emotional turmoil of grief, and delivered with absolute mastery by this wholehearted, ever-growing quintet.

5. Kep1er — "MVSK"

So far, Kep1er’s singles have been a burst of bubblegum and dynamite, focusing on a maximalist approach that’s impossible to ignore. What a surprise, then, is “MVSK.” This dark EDM banger (thankfully accompanied by a performance video) commits to its concept like no other, pushing the listener until the final reveal. Like a beast after its prey, Kep1er is ravenous and focused here, proving that their talents extend way beyond their bubbly appearance.

4. Cravity — "Automatic"

Yet another song contemplating a vehicle metaphor in this list — but what can we do if they’re that good? “Automatic” is filled with catchy little details: the staccato-y falsettos in the refrain, the car engines roaring in the background, the ‘90s boy band-esque keyboard right before the chorus. Driven by a propelling electro beat, every turn of “Automatic” is both a surprise and an instant earworm, so good that you won’t even notice when it slows down a bit before the verses. Well, maybe now you will, but that won’t stop you from enjoying this track at full speed.

3. ATEEZ — "Cyberpunk"

Deep in the great mysteries of K-pop lies the question: Why wasn’t “Cyberpunk” the title track for ATEEZ’s latest EP, The World Ep.1: Movement? Don’t get us wrong, “Guerrilla” is great, but to think of this techno masterpiece being known only within the fandom is a real reason to riot. ATEEZ’s biggest strength is their larger-than-life energy, and to watch them perform is to witness something otherworldly. Now, imagine how much higher they could soar had a tour de force like “Cyberpunk” been given a music video and full-on promotions.

2. KEY — "Another Life"

Picking up right where 2021’s EP Bad Love left off, “Another Life” expands Key’s avant-garde vision. The SHINee singer, who has been boldly building a universe of his own through solo releases, glows in this interstellar, synth-laden epic. “Fears will not settle/ Emotions forever planets we fight/ Through the heights,” he sings in English, comparing love to the space fiction movies he grew up watching. It’s exactly the kind of music that we would expect from him, and that only solidifies how consistent and exciting his artistry is.

1. LE SSERAFIM — "Blue Flame"

Oh, LE SSERAFIM. It’s only their first year and they already gave us more top-notch B-sides than some artists’ entire discographies. Choosing between tracks like “The Geat Mermaid,” “The Hydra” and “Impurities” (just to name a few) was not easy, but “Blue Flame,” off their debut EP Fearless, took the crown this time. What settled the deal? Well, this song is spellbinding. “I’m feeling something like I’m being possessed/ A woozy glare from afar/ A force that leads me into the fog,” they sing, as if knowing that’s exactly what happens when you press play. The song drags you in head-first with a delightful bassline before sprinkling in some summer-y synths and cowbells, only to grab you by the neck with the quintet’s mystifying tones. There’s no letting go. There’s no stopping the replay button, either.

Photos via Getty