B-Sides: Heart-Stopping Vocals
In an industry so heavily focused on visuals, it can be easy to overlook the true heart of K-Pop: music. Between jaw-dropping dance moves, extravagant photoshoots, and unforgettable music videos lie some of music’s most incredible vocalists. For this reason, this week’s B-Sides is bringing you some of the best vocals in K-Pop!
“Wait” - EXO
As any K-Pop listener knows, EXO has some of the technically best vocals in the industry. Though many of their title tracks tend to lean towards the EDM-dance side of things, typically with main vocalists D.O., Baekhyun, or Chen highlighted at the end, the group’s B-side tracks are where all the members really shine. Between amazing intonation and downright beautiful harmonies, EXO is a group that truly has it all, and their ballad “Wait” may be one of the tracks that best showcases their talent.
Released on their LOVE SHOT Repackaged album, “Wait” is a winter-themed acoustic wonder that’s just a hair's breadth away from acapella, with multiple-part harmonies making up just as much of the backing track as the guitar. Those outside of the vocal line also get their chance to shine, like Chanyeol and Sehun in the second verse. If you have any doubt that EXO is one of the most vocally talented groups in K-Pop, listen to the key change 2 minutes and 30 seconds into the song—it’ll change your mind.
“Scandal” - Ailee
For the best power vocals in K-Pop, look no further than Ailee. Known for her full voice and stable belting, Ailee is undoubtedly a remarkably strong vocalist. Her song “Scandal,” off her sophomore EP A’s Doll House shows her at her best. As she sings about an unfaithful lover, Ailee injects a certain feeling of bitterness into her tone, taking the heartbreak and betrayal in “Scandal” to the next level. Truth be told, this song wouldn’t be nearly as impressive if it didn’t have a voice as strong as hers singing it.
Few singers in K-Pop are capable of the buildup Ailee offers at the end of “Scandal,” with her crescendoing high notes perfectly illustrating how she has reached her breaking point with her lover. When you consider that this song was just a B-side in her early career, it’s a little terrifying to think just how talented Ailee is.
“Habit” - SEVENTEEN
In 2017, SEVENTEEN released their fourth mini-album, Al1, which proved to be a turning point in the group’s career with its single, “Don’t Wanna Cry.” Just as iconic, however, is the vocal team’s unit song “Habit,” a ballad about the heartbreak of being unable to move on from a loved one. Not only are the composition and lyrics almost haunting in their sadness—thank you, Woozi—but this song really allows SEVENTEEN’s vocalists to show their prowess, especially as a group.
From Woozi’s bridge into the final, explosive chorus with all five members singing in unison on top of Seungkwan’s devastating adlibs, SEVENTEEN’s “Habit” offers listeners some of the most emotional vocals in K-Pop.
“to him” - Park Jimin
One of the softer tracks on 2016’s 19to20, “to him” is a lovesick song that highlights Park Jimin’s extensive range. Thanks to her crystal clear tone, the singer’s signature voice is easy to recognize in almost all of her work, but “to him” allows her to dial it back, trading in high-energy belting for soft-spoken heartbreak. In such a delicately sad song, Jimin controls her voice very carefully but don’t be fooled: She still hits those impossibly powerful notes at the end of the track. It’s this switch between dynamics that really gives the song its kick, as Jimin slowly realizes that she’s lost herself in trying to be someone else for a loved one. After that last swell in the song, the final few lines are almost nothing more than a whisper in comparison—something only an accomplished vocalist like Park Jimin could deliver.