After making a splash with their debut in 2017, Top Secret unfortunately faded into the K-pop landscape; something not helped by the conviction of member Kyeongha for sexual assault last June. Nevertheless, persistence is the lifeblood of K-pop, and having since rebranded as TST, they are back! Currently performing with a 5-member line-up — Wooyoung is taking time off for health reasons — their new song “Wake Up” is a standard but serviceable slice of pop
“Wake Up” is the rare song that pulls from vintage sounds and tones without going full-on retro. There are late 80s influences all over this track, but it still feels more like modern pop than another throwback. It helps that the 80s aspect tend to be subtle and are embedded deeper in the mix rather than front and center. This is notable considering TST is most clearly borrowing from is the eurobeat music of Stock Aitken Waterman.
The keyboard tones, the guitar riffs and especially the drum lines are all pure 80s, but they are not over-emphasized. However, that is really to the detraction of “Wake Up”, as it does not have a strong hook or sticky melody. It is bright, it is fun, but it fails to pop. Placing the catchier elements closer to the front of the mix, rather than focusing on the synths and vocals would give it a boost in terms of memorability.
Lyrically, there is not much there either. “Wake Up” is, in the grand tradition of SAW production, a silly love song. TST are head over heels in love. They have been this way, and they are staying this way. There are hints of a more nuanced story, of TST trying and failing to move on, of being rejected due to youth, but that is not the point. The point is that TST are here for their girl and nothing is going to make them love her less. The song is cheesy, but when paired with the earnestly steadfast delivery, it puts a smile on the listeners face
The MV also falls into the category of decent yet fun. It mostly avoids the bright pastels typically seen with a youthful, excited track. Instead, the setting alternates between a barebones hallway, full of whites and greys, and sets decorated with neons and bright, intense colors. This contrast works well. The duller set is used mostly for group shots, with the color being saved for the closeups and solo shots. This creates a dichotomy that gives an extra push towards the members of TST. The energy and warmth they exude becomes even more appealing as spots of comfort in an otherwise sterile environment.
This focus on TST as personal pockets of warmth is amplified by the top-notch styling. Their wardrobe is full of layers, turtlenecks, and jackets over sweaters. The fabrics and patterns tend towards plaids, tweeds, and suede. It is the type of clothing people wear when the weather is blustery and grey, when the chill gets into your bones. Thus, TST is drawing to mind the kind of day where everything is miserable and you just want to curl up under the blankets. In turn, they are offering to curl up with you. The message is sweet and inviting, creating an MV where the appeal lies in an illusion of personal connection and devotion.
“Wake Up” is definitely a fun song that will put a smile on the audience’s face at this most dreary time of year. However, it falls short in many ways. TST definitely provides some upbeat background music, though probably not able to make a lasting impression.
(Images via JSL Company, YouTube)