Back in 2016, it felt as if Oh My Girl were poised to become one of the leading acts of k-pop’s new wave of girl groups. They can still get there, but their level of promotion needs to increase. All that 2017 gave us was the polarizing Coloring Book, and that was nine months ago. The girls could use a big, beloved hit to reestablish their inventive, addicting sound. Secret Garden (비밀정원) is a step in the right direction, even if it doesn’t match up to their very best work.
For many fans, the group’s 2015 single Closer remains their greatest moment. And while I’m more partial to the one-two punch of Liar Liar and Windy Day, there’s no denying that the girls excel when backed by a more dreamy, synth-sparkled sound. Secret Garden feels like Closer‘s less-memorable successor, relying more heavily on the beauty of its atmosphere than the strength of its melody. But what an atmosphere it is! The instrumental offers a constant cresting of symphonic synths, lushly layered to evoke a sense of cinematic fantasia. In this way, the song recalls e.one‘s work for Cosmic Girls, delivering a majestic soundscape that’s easy to get lost in.
Melodically, Secret Garden is less interesting. The chorus swells with a captivating shimmer, but never really builds to any standout moment. The verses suffer from a similar sense of flatness. I’m thankful that the group didn’t journey down the aegyo route and stuff the melody with unnecessary diversions struggling to become catchphrases, but the track remains almost too similar over the course of its four minutes. From the vocal arrangement to the production choices, Secret Garden is surprisingly straightforward. This threatens to become a bit monotonous, even if it’s a gorgeous interpretation of what “monotonous” can be.