The return of my fourth favourite girl group SECRET is a cause for celebration, but it’s also a time for facepalming and “FML” groaning. Now that they’re back to their sexy style, all Western K-pop fans take it as an opportunity to put down the group’s cutsie hits. (Because according to Western K-pop fans, the only acceptable concept is either fierce of porno, as they’re so used to seeing their pop stars hyper-sexualized before they’re even legal that they can’t accept any possible deviation from that.) The same thing happens to poor sweet A Pink, and it used to happen to Girls’ Generation before “The Boys” came along.
Before we proceed, let me just go on record right now to say that the timeless retro anthem “Shy Boy,” the world’s No. 1 children’s lullaby “Starlight Moonlight,” and the heavenly but underrated Christmas classic “I Do I Do” are all perfect K-pop songs. But so are SECRET’s sexy hits, and as anybody with eyes knows, SECRET are one of the few K-pop groups that can really slay a provocative concept without looking like pre-teens playing dress up.
The group’s new single, “I’m In Love,” sees them swapping long-time composers Kang Jiwon and Kim Kibum for trending hitmaker Duble Sidekick, who brought Hyosung some unexpected solo success with May’s “Good-night Kiss.”
“I’m In Love” is archetypal K-pop, with so many hooks and beat changes that even the glossiest American hits would look slender by comparison. SECRET hopscotch from piano-laden ballad moments to brosteps wub-wubs and speedy dance-pop, as if they’re racing a musical obstacle course. It’s hectic, but not in an intentionally disorientating way like “Red Light” or “I Got a Boy.”
Aside from the group’s one foray into electronica with the Shinsadong Tiger-produced “Talk That,” “I’m In Love” marks a new sound for the quartet without completely eroding Kang Jiwon and Kim Kibum’s years of hard work to make SECRET K-pop’s answer to Beyonce or Amerie. As a fan, I appreciate that Duble Sidekick still bothered to preserve the group’s sound by filling the song with as much sassy brass as possible.
I have yet to meet a SECRET single that I don’t end up obsessively stanning for, and while my feelings for “I’m In Love” are more “I’m In Like” right now, that’s just because it needs a little time to sink in. However, it’s impossible not to get some instant gratification from the music video, which would be SECRET’s best sexy MV if “Poison” didn’t already exist.
All the members have had vampish makeovers; most noticeably Sunhwa and Hana, who have sexed-up new looks to match their new faces. (Both of which are living testaments to the power of great plastic surgery.)
In terms of sexy girl groups, SECRET are the true successors to Brown Eyed Girls, so there’s really nothing to fault in this T&A fest. Outside of the constantly evolving Hana, Sunhwa –aka the bastard child of Kim Tae Hee and Jun Ji Hyun– is the standout for using her new act-dol status to give an Oscar-worthy performance that echoes Lauren Conrad’s most dramatic moment on The Hills.
What I’m really amped for is SECRET’s live performances. They’re one of the top when it comes to live singing and dancing, and the “I’m In Love” choreography is off the damn chain. There’s already some epic fancams from a rain-soaked performance at a recent K-pop festival.
Unfortunately, “I’m In Love” is already flopping harder than “I Do I Do” on Melon right now, but hopefully things turn around soon, or the song shows some serious “Good-night Kiss” longevity. As a hardcore fan, I don’t think I could handle my girls tanking for a second consecutive time.