SECRET’s Song Ji Eun made a surprisingly successful solo debut back in 2011 with the Bang Yongguk-assisted “Going Crazy.” The brooding “Love The Way You Lie” knock-off was just supposed to serve as some reassurance to SECRET’s fans that the girl group hadn’t completely abandoned their edgier style following the success of the sugary “Shy Boy,” but it unexpectedly topped the singles chart and TS Entertainment had to extend Ji Eun’s solo promotions to keep up with its popularity.
Considering how well “Going Crazy” did, it was odd that TS didn’t actively continue Ji Eun’s solo career like Cube does with HyunA, but I guess between SECRET’s local activities and their ill-fated attempt to crack Japan, there was simply no time. After more than two years, Ji Eun finally returned as a soloist earlier this week with the release of a 3-track single album, Hope Torture (or “False Hope”).
The title track wisely separates Ji Eun from the ultra sexy and ultra cute concepts sported by SECRET and returns to the melodramatic melancholy of “Going Crazy.” It’s a low-key R&B ballad with flourishes of exotic acoustics that sound like they could’ve come straight out of an old Mariah Carey or Toni Braxton track. Rather than belting out like she usually does, Ji Eun opts for a restrained vocal approach, which proves to be just as effective as a big diva delivery.
In the video for “Going Crazy,” Ji Eun stood by as a disgruntled girlfriend set fire to her car with her boyfriend locked in the trunk, and in “Hope Torture,” Ji Eun and some dude are nailed to a wall like a K-pop crucifixion. I like this violent and depressed image Ji Eun’s adopted for her solo career, which has ultimately just added another layer to the already versatile SECRET.
The first “Hope Torture” b-side, “Vintage,” sees Ji Eun teaming up with B.A.P for a third time following “Going Crazy” and the underrated Warrior filler, “Secret Love.” Zelo’s the only member featured, who raps and interjects every so often as Ji Eun sings over smooth and funky R&B. It doesn’t scream single, but at the same time, it’s good enough that it could still be one.
The third and final track, “Date Mate,” is a groovy disco jam with a lot of electric guitars — which obviously means that it’s fucking amazing.
The b-side status of “Date Mate” reminds me a lot of what happened with Seo In Young’s perfect Forever Young EP: The ballad, “Let’s Break Up,” was the right choice for the single at the time, but the delicious disco opener, “I Want You Back,” could’ve worked just as well if released at a different stage in her career. Hopefully Ji Eun will start follow-up promotions at some stage and start plugging either this or “Vintage,” because both songs definitely deserve it.
With Ji Eun’s album being so great, I’m disappointed to see its average performance on the charts, but not at all surprised. TS Entertainment has some of the best idols, music, and concepts, but they lack skills when it comes to management and promotion. They’ve overworked B.A.P to the point of over-saturation, and SECRET’s never fully recovered from their stupid decision to send them over to Japan.
Oh well, at least Hope Torture will tide me over until SECRET’s next predictably perfect comeback. I don’t care what anybody says: “YooHoo” slayed, and “Talk That” would’ve smashed with more promo.