K-Pop girl group Secret has released the infectious “Love is Move,” the carrier single off their first full-length album, “Moving in Secret.” I’ve enjoyed the music of Hyosung, Jieun, Sunhwa, and Zinger ever since they came on my radar in 2010 with the funky “Magic.” The brass horns, the sassy attitude, and the fact that Jieun was the prettiest K-Pop singer I’d ever laid my eyes on made me an instant fan. My wife and I bought their album, and the follow-up, “Madonna,” which was even catchier than “Magic.”
Ironically, the girls’ first #1 hit, “Shy Boy,” and its second #1 hit, “Starlight Moonlight,” both of which were “single albums” (K-Pop speak for maxi-singles), were songs I didn’t purchase in hard format. (I purchased them digitally.) TS Entertainment, the girls’ record and management label, took them – briefly – away from the sexy image and packaged them as cutesy retro girls from the 60s-type aegyo damsels. It must’ve filled in a void that groups like Wonder Girls or Orange Caramel must have been targeting, because both songs went to #1.
Now, TS Entertainment has returned them to their signature brassy sassy sound, and I couldn’t be happier. As a matter of fact, the sound is both modern and retro; you can hear the 60s rock-and-roll influences in Love is Move, as the swinging brass section, the powerhouse vocals, and the irresistible “Come on! Come on!” chorus all combine to make a truly catchy carrier single that would, in any other time, probably and easily become a #1 hit.
Unfortunately – or fortunately? – Secret released Love is Move opposite “The Boys,” the comeback single of K-Pop’s reigning queens, Girls’ Generation. They also elected to launch in the same week that Hallyu superstar Kim Hyun Joong staged his comeback with “Lucky Guy.” As if that weren’t enough, they also released opposite “Because We’re Friends,” the return single of balladeer and actor Lee Seung Gi.
Now if that weren’t just kick-me-in-the-balls, slap-me-in-the-face bad luck, I don’t know what is.
Or is it?
By releasing its product directly against Girls’ Generation (SNSD), Secret is gambling that SONEs, as Girls’ Generation fans are known, will seek out their single to compare it to “The Boys.” The “rivalry” of Secret vs. Girls’ Generation created the kind of buzz that couldn’t be created on its own. In one fell swoop, Secret established itself as that girl group that dared to promote opposite SNSD, a fairy tale David vs. Goliath match that would never end the way David’s battle did, but would be noteworthy for the sheer bravery – and gall – that such a challenge belied. At one point, Secret was known as the basement idols, so-called because their dormitory was located at the bottom of the dingy building that TS Entertainment chose to keep them in as they raised them to become superstars.
“Love is Move” is arguably Secret’s best single to date. It is light years ahead of “Magic,” the group’s weakest carrier single, certainly more tolerable than “Starlight Moonlight,” more sassy and with a lot more attitude than “Madonna,” and with its retro-meets-contemporary pop feel, at par with “Shy Boy.” Not quite sure what song on the album would serve as an adequate follow-up – I’m inclined to think “Bastard” or “Neverland” would be okay – but if TS Entertaiment decides to take the route of SM Entertainment (Girls’ Generation’s label and K-Pop’s powerhouse management), they may release a repackaged edition that would – and should – win the girls even more fans.
The plucky basement idols have come a long way.