20140517_seoulbeats_HyosungIt has been a while since Secret made a comeback– they released a holiday single 5 months ago, but their last full comeback was over a year ago. Not helping is the fact that fans haven’t had a taste of Secret sans sugar since 2012’s Poison. The good news is Hyosung‘s solo debut, Top Secret, is a three-track morsel that will no doubt sate the appetites of Secrettimes the world over, and maybe win some new fans in the meantime.

The album opens with “Don’t Know Women”. It’s a fun R&B track with a killer beat that can only be described as infectious. It has an undercurrent of funk and sleaze, complete with a sax solo, that makes listening while sitting still impossible. The lyrics deliver a message that is woefully rare in all music, which is that acting controlling towards a girl will not get you anywhere. Hyosung dresses down the men who act like this, pointing out that anyone who tries to get girl by acting like a domineering prick doesn’t  know women. Guest artist J’Kyun tries to embody the male perspective, but fails. Actually, he just fails in general, bringing the whole track down a few notches with just one verse. “Don’t Know Women” was clearly written for Hyosung, the vocals feminine and confident while using her range to the best of her ability. This is a song made for her to do what she does best– sass with class.

[youtube.com https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbNqVJdHlr8]

Next is the title track “Good-night Kiss”. This is, in all honesty, the weakest album on the track, though it is hard to really figure out why it doesn’t work. Hyosung, once again, does a great job. “Good-night Kiss” almost entirely in her upper register, which has the fabulous effect of ratcheting up her femininity without sacrificing her strength or confidence. The music is just as catchy and sleazy as “Don’t Know Women”, but instead of R&B, it’s softer electronica with an edge that compliments Hyosung’s singing on this track. The lyrics, it has been noted, are more than a bit inane, but it’s no worse than some of Secrets’ songs. It’s just a case where the whole is less than the sum of its’ parts. The elements are all there, but they don’t click like they should.

You know, there is a law that all K-pop releases must include a b-side that is better than the title track, and “I Hate Nighttime” is that song. It is at once both powerful and desperate, with Hyosung begging her lover to come over, as she hate being alone at night. She takes the roles of both the seducer and the seduced, playing both parts to perfection. Much like “Don’t Know Women”, this track screams Hyosung, giving her a chance to show her whole range, her power, and her charisma. The production is magnificent, combing the soft elements of “Good-night Kiss” with the power and the brass of “Don’t Know Women” and the sleaze of both to create a knockout track. If this was her title track, there’s no doubt that Hyosung would’ve snagged a few number ones. It is phenomenal. If nothing else, listen to “I Hate Nighttime”.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cP5VT2xRTUs]

The overall tone of the album is wonderfully adult. Hyosung is playful, coy, seductive, classy, and best of all, sleazy. That glorious mix of confidence and flirtation and “So, your place or mine?” is not something that a lot of women can pull off, let alone are allowed to do so, and that the fact that Hyosung can and is doing so is cause for celebration. Top Secret is a statement from her, and that statement is “I am women, watch me pick up that hot guy at the bar.”

Top Secret  is not a world-changing release, but it is a testimony to the power of good production values. Every song was tailor made to suit Hyosung, from her range to her vocal tone to her stage presence. Top Secret was made to make her look good, and it succeeds. Hyosung slays, delivering every line with power, feminine yet not girlish. The whole single is wonderfully cohesive, polished but not soulless. There are definitely worse ways to spend 10 minutes. Your thoughts?

Rating: 4/5

(Youtube [1], [2], images via TS Entertainment)