K-Poppin’ Off: Episode 9 – Secret Number!

 

We’re going on a musical journey. In this series, I’ll be exploring the world of K-pop, reviewing artists, bands, and albums as we go! Along the way, I’ll offer my unfiltered opinions – so if I criticize your favorite song, I apologize in advance. Let’s start “K-Poppin’ Off!”

 

Not many good things came out of May 2020. In a month where everything smelled like hand sanitizer and banana bread, at least we also got Secret Number. Debuting on May 19th of that terrible year, the 5-piece group burst on the scene and provided thousands of fans worldwide with a new set of idols to appreciate! This weekend, I put aside some time to get to know the girls and their music.

Made up of Jinny, Denise, Soodam, Dita and Léa, I was surprised to find out that most of this band of newcomers weren’t actually from Korea at all. In fact, only Soodam is from the home of K-pop itself! Talk about a diverse mix: Jinny and Denise are both Americans, Dita hails from Indonesia, and Léa (from Japan) was originally named Hana when she served in a different girl group called Skarf.

Having assembled the team, their management company – Seoul-based Vine Entertainment – has seen big things out of the ladies so far. In less than a year, they’ve accumulated over 160,000 fans on Twitter and a cool million on Instagram! In case you were curious (like I always am with these things), their fandom is name is Lockey.

Thanks to the persistence of those fans, I became familiar with Lockey and their five faves, so I cued up the four songs that Secret Number have released so far, and pressed play.

Their first single, “Who Dis?” came right out of the gate with a swanky saxophone, giving off major “Talk Dirty To Me” influences. This song, their debut as a group, was loud and impactful – the rollicking horn section was bigger than any I’d heard previously in my limited K-pop experience. Boasting an excellent flow in the verses, I wished that their songwriters had added a few more syllables in the chorus, which sounded like it could have used a little more vocal material. That being said, this was a solid debut, and it gave me a strong idea of what to expect as I moved forward in my listening.

The B-side, “Holiday,” followed and featured an overly compressed acoustic guitar, which distracted just a little from the girls’ excellent vocal slides. I heard some Kygo DNA in the instrumental drop, followed by an imposing rap break. Using a piccolo snare and some exciting wub-wub EDM synths, this song wasn’t too far off from being competitive in the Western pop scene. Even though it covered the traditional verse-chorus-verse structure in its entirety, I couldn’t help but feel like this one should have been longer.

Moving into the band’s second release, I heard “Got That Boom.” This one served up a hip-hop cowbell pattern and a bassline so thick I wanted to sprinkle cinnamon on top of it for a quick snack. The girls sang with perfect note choices, moving each section along with great pacing. The bridge arrived in massive fashion, setting up an anthemic final chorus. This would fit nicely at the end of a nightclub DJ’s set, when people always need a little energy before the grand finale.

That brought me to the next B-side, “PRIVACY,” which lacked the over-the-top production that sold me on the rest of Secret Number’s repertoire. In spite of the flat presentation, this song’s instrumental drop belonged on the Mint playlist on Spotify – in other words, it was textbook electronic goodness. “Got That Boom” would have been a hard act to follow no matter what came next, but I found myself longing for a little more musical sparkle in this last track.

It’s far too early to pass judgment on these girls and their sound, since they’re only four songs into their journey. But that would make a disappointing review, so I’ll say this: Secret Number probably won’t be a secret for long. One part thanks to their passionate fans (shoutout to Lockey!) and one part due to their firey, energetic sound, I think these girls could go far.

But the path to stardom in K-pop is a long one, and I’ll be hoping for more consistency in their next release. Considering the fact that everyone except Léa is younger than me, I’d say they’re doing pretty well, less than a year into it.

My final scores for Secret Number look like this:

Persona: 7/10

Vocals: 7/10

Production quality: 8/10

Musical variety: 7.5/10

Replay value: 8/10

The final grade for Secret Number: 7.5/10. No secrets about these numbers. This quintet almost certainly has lot of music to show us soon, and with each drop, we’ll get to know the girls a little more. Here’s to hoping that just like their multicultural roots, Secret Number soon sees success all across the pale blue dot.