Anyone who’s been a long-time K-Pop fan and witnessed the great ‘09-’10 era of the genre would definitely remember SECRET. Mastering the art of catchy hooks, they were known for the “Magic, Magic, Magic” and “Madonna-donna-donna” craze that rocked 2010, as well as 2011’s “Shy Boy” which enabled the group to win their first music show award. The group has been doing consistently well; however, after a few more singles, the group faded into the background after their promotions for “I’m In Love” in 2014 ended. With a K-Pop market that’s completely different from seven years ago, SECRET is definitely still one of the most missed K-pop groups today!
Hyosung, Jieun, Hana, and Sunhwa
Initially debuting with four members, SECRET consisted of Jun Hyosung, Song Jieun, Jung Hana (then called Zinger), and Han Sunhwa. The group had exposure from the start as Sunhwa had been a permanent cast member of KBS’ female idol variety show Invincible Youth, alongside HyunA, T-ARA’s Hyomin, Girls’ Generation’s Yuri and Sunny, and more. She joined the show weeks before they even debuted and were known to the public as “basement-idols” after it was revealed that they lived in a basement when the pilot episode aired. She became a lot of people’s favorite Invincible Youth character because she was naturally funny with a rookie spirit.
Leader Hyosung has the most experience in the industry out of all four members. Being a finalist on Battle Shinhwa in 2005 enabled her to train for four years before debuting. She was 1/5 of Five Girls, a non-debuting girl group with now ex-Wonder Girls member Yubin, former AFTERSCHOOL member UEE, ex-SPICA member Jiwon, and G.NA. She is one of the two solo artists in the group, the other being Song Jieun, a #1-charting artist with her 2011 hit “Going Crazy.” Jieun also appears in a lot of romantic comedy dramas, where she successfully delivers her charm to the public. Jung Hana is the group’s main rapper and dancer, bringing swag to the table whenever the group performs.
What to Listen to First
For people unfamiliar with SECRET’s music, "Madonna," "Magic," "Shy Boy," and "POISON" are the first four tracks you should check out from the group. These tracks showcase the concepts that truly clicked during these respective eras, and while not necessarily the best cuts from their entire discography (as they have a LOT of album gems), these tracks best showcase the group’s cute, sexy, and energetic charms.
For the best b-sides, here are a few you should check out:
From their second mini-album Madonna, "Hesitant" is my all-time favorite SECRET b-side. It’s a very easy-going, catchy song that’s perfect for a listen when you’re driving. It has a melody that sticks very well to the arrangement.
"Calling U" is another great b-side from the group. It was released as part of the POISON mini-album in 2012. Produced by Jeon Da-eun and MARCO, it has a prominent flute sound that works perfectly with the catchy hook.
Technically not a b-side, but the Acoustic Version of “I Want You Back” is still one of my all-time favorite K-Pop tracks. It drives away from the synthy arrangement the original has and creates a relaxing, unplugged vibe with this version. It’s still catchy, but it sounds more classy!
Their Last Single
SECRET’s last single before their hiatus, “I’m in Love,” is honestly one of 2014’s best K-Pop tracks. It was produced by Duble Sidekick, which makes this the first time the group has ever worked with the producing team. It had the perfect elements of a Duble Sidekick production, from the popping and escalating synths in the arrangement to the tango-influenced rhythm. It was so refreshing to see the group try out another sexy concept after “POISON” because it fit the group’s appeal more than the lighter concepts.
Why the Long Hiatus?
SECRET was one of the most dynamic female groups to come out during their time. They became known for their snappy choreography and for their mix of retro yet modern style of music. After several singles, the group became inactive in late 2014 as each member started to focus on solo endeavours. It remains a mystery why SECRET was left hanging AFTERSCHOOL-style after the Secret Summer era. However, after complete thought, there are a few company and group-related issues that come to mind, which shed light as to why the group has stayed lowkey.
For the most part, it is possible that their fading popularity had a lot to do with their hiatus. With 2012’s “POISON” being their last million-selling single, none of their post-2012 singles have charted as well as their earlier hits. “YooHoo” did quite well during its time, but it still failed to mirror the popularity of their previous hits. Their next two singles “I Do I Do” and “I’m in Love” debuted outside the Top 10 of the charts, which became their poorest-charting singles since 2009’s “I Want You Back.” Still, “I’m in Love” outsold its predecessor, and I really thought that another comeback was coming. However, after promotions for that era ended, I believe the company started to face a few challenges.
It was during this time that TS Entertainment started to have unresolved issues regarding B.A.P, which gave the company a big blow as B.A.P was the label’s main source of revenue during that time. Jieun was also in the middle of her solo comeback during this time, but it also didn’t perform as well as her or SECRET’s previous comebacks. It was in that same year that the company started preparing for SONAMOO’s debut, whose chart performance was quite underwhelming when they debuted. Hana even joked in a Weekly Idol episode that SONAMOO needed to do well in order for SECRET to do a comeback; this might as well have been the real deal between the company and these artists.
Let’s Not Point Fingers
Just like any other K-Pop group, SECRET had their fair share of issues and scandals, but it was in 2015 that the quartet first faced issues of discord in the group.
After Sunhwa posted some tweets regarding Hana’s statements when she guested on Yaman TV, it was an indicator that things weren’t going well between the two. However, no one really knows what was going on between the girls that time, which is why it would be wrong to point fingers on who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s a pity, because I really think it was all just because of their unresolved differences. Sunhwa was the only one to leave the group after their contracts ended in late 2016 in order to pursue acting, which has been a great passion of hers.
Future Secret Time?
The future for SECRET honestly remains quite hazy at the moment. While a comeback for the second half of the year was announced by TS Entertainment earlier this year, nothing else has been going on for the group. With Hyosung and Jieun only focusing on their current acting gigs, it seems like there’s no clear sign that the group is gearing up for a comeback. I’ll still welcome a Hyosung or Jieun comeback if TS decides that those would be more profitable, but I’m really waiting for my SECRET fix. SECRET is currently on the top of my list for the most anticipated comebacks, so really, any time is perfect for another SECRET Time!