"Secret Love Song" is a song recorded by British girl group Little Mix for their third studio album, Get Weird (2015). It features guest vocals from American singer Jason Derulo, who co-wrote the song with Jez Ashurst, Emma Rohan, and Tich. It was produced by Jayson DeZuzio. The group's cover of Derulo's 2015 single "Want to Want Me" inspired him to collaborate with them. "Secret Love Song" is a slow ballad comprising pounding bass and melancholic strings. The lyrics discuss unrequited and forbidden love, while Derulo's verse details his personal experience of having an affair.
The song was announced as the third single from Get Weird in Ireland and the UK. It was met with mixed reviews from music critics, who lauded the group's vocal performance, but criticised Derulo's feature and the track's originality. "Secret Love Song" has reached number six on the UK Singles Chart. An accompanying music video was directed by Frank Borin and filmed in London near Tower Bridge.
In July 2015, Little Mix member Jesy Nelson said that the group's third studio album, Get Weird, would have a song "that is possibly going to be a single that we've never done anything like before". Group member Perrie Edwards added: "And it may or may not have a feature...." The track, "Secret Love Song", was written by Jez Ashurst, Emma Rohan and Tich, and produced by Jayson DeZuzio. The group then sent the song to Jason Derulo who positively reacted to it, writing his own verse. Recording took place at Poinsettia Place in Los Angeles and at Blue Box Studios in London.
Derulo's decision to collaborate with the group was influenced by a string of events; Hit 30 presenters Angus O'Loughlin and Ash London played him the group's cover of his 2015 single "Want to Want Me" for BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge in July 2015. He reacted: "I was into that, man", and said he understood why the cover became a viral video. However, Derulo was unfamiliar with the group's music at the time and had to "research" their discography which he ultimately became fond of. Group member Jade Thirlwall felt the song's slow tempo was "a nice change" for Derulo and "[showed] his voice off a lot". A solo sequel of the song, "Secret Love Song Pt. II", was included on the deluxe version of Get Weird.
"Secret Love Song" is a ballad. It comprises pounding bass and melancholic strings. Derulo's vocal uses vibrato and Auto-Tune. He sings the song's second verse. Nelson belts the high note during the song's bridge.
Lyrically, "Secret Love Song" details unrequited and forbidden love. Edwards said the lyrics are about "being with someone and you want to scream it from the rooftops but you have to hold it in". Thirlwall interprets the group's lyrics in the song as a narrative for the struggles LGBT people are faced with when coming to terms with their sexuality and public affection. According to Derulo, his verse serves as a "twist" in the song, discussing his personal experience of having an affair: "I told a true fucking story about this girl that I am really into but she has a boyfriend but we still do our thing."
The group revealed the song's title on 7 September 2015, on Instagram. On 13 October 2015, they announced Derulo's involvement on Twitter, ahead of Get Weird's release the following month. The song was first made available as part of the album when Get Weird was released on 6 November 2015. On 5 December 2015, Little Mix confirmed on Twitter that "Secret Love Song" would be the third single from the album in the UK and Ireland. The song impacted UK radio on 11 December 2015. They unveiled the single's cover art on Instagram on 8 January 2016. On 3 February 2016, the song's video was released.
"Secret Love Song" has received mixed reviews from music critics. Whilst critics acclaimed Little Mix's vocals, Derulo's contribution was criticised. Popjustice wrote that the song would be better without Derulo, but called it "a big ballad" with an "amazing" chorus and gave it a rating of seven out of ten. Brad O'Mance from the website disliked Derulo's "dulcet/song-ruining tones". Lewis Corner of Digital Spy said the group matured emotionally on the track and described it as a "sweeping slowie [...] that soars highest on the perfectly polished chorus". He also deemed it "powerful" and "an LGBT anthem". Dan Wootton from The Sun viewed the song as "brilliant" and a highlight on Get Weird. Sugarscape described the lyrics as "beautiful" and highlighted Perrie Edwards' vocal performance throughout. They also expressed dismay it was not released as a single over the Christmas period. The Huffington Post described the chorus as "touching" and praised the music video for the single.
In a more negative review, Cameron Adams of the Herald Sun described the song as "uber cheese". Harriet Gibsone from The Guardian viewed the song as one of Get Weird's "odd moments of mediocrity". Chuck Campbell of the Knoxville News Sentinel felt the song tried too hard. Nick Levine from NME regarded the song as "melodramatic" and "not as entertaining" as the rest of the album. Ludovic Hunter-Tilney of the Financial Times said: "Their manufactured origins surface on 'Secret Love Song', a by-the-numbers ballad watermarked with [Simon] Cowell's foreboding features." Andy Gill of The Independent criticised Derulo's "ghastly, tremulous vibrato" on the track, calling it "by far, the worst [irritation]" on Get Weird. Matthew Horton of Virgin Media opined that "Secret Love Song" failed to help the album "catch fire", dismissing it as "syrupy" and "an unrequired duet".
"Secret Love Song" debuted at number 66 on the UK Singles Chart on 8 January 2016, selling 8,635 units. The following week, it sold 14,964 units and rose to number 34. It peaked at number six, making it their eighth top ten single to date. On 1 April 2016, the song was certified gold in the UK for selling over 400,000 copies. The song peaked at number 16 in Australia and has been certified double platinum for selling over 140,000 copies despite not being released worldwide. The single achieve one million copies globaly.
The accompanying music video for "Secret Love Song" was directed by Frank Borin. It was filmed at London Bridge and Tower Bridge in London on 16 and 17 December 2015 from 13:00 to 03:00 BST. Derulo's scenes were shot on 8 December 2015. Stomp Models cast a Derulo look-alike, and three couples: one homosexual, one heterosexual and one interracial. Thirlwall previously revealed on Twitter on 5 November 2015 that the group had pictured the video to depict the struggles of a LGBT couple. Stomp Models required the couples to be relatable and emotional with "a cool or hip factor", and to act with a sense of longing and fulfilment. Cast members were hired for £200, agency fee inclusive. Thirlwall said the music video is "very different" from the group's previous visuals.
Borin posted image teasers from the production on Instagram throughout December 2015. On 8 December 2015, MTV shared a preview image from Derulo's scenes. Footage of Thirlwall filming her scenes surfaced online on 13 January 2016, the version she was singing was from part 2 of the song confirming a video for both versions will be filmed. The group teased a snapshot from the video on Instagram on 21 January 2016.
When the video was released on 3 February 2016, six days later than expected, all the scenes featuring the same sex couple, the opposite sex couple and the interracial couple had been removed from the final cut, and on its release, only British fans could access the video, before worldwide viewing was enabled a few days later.
Little Mix and Derulo performed "Secret Love Song" for the first time live as part of their set-list at Capital's Jingle Bell Ball on 5 December 2015. They opened with "Salute" which was followed by "Move" and "Love Me Like You". Prior to singing "Secret Love Song", Little Mix introduced the track and said "So we have an exclusive for you. We know you'll enjoy a cheeky little surprise. This song is going to be our next single. We hope you enjoy it." They concluded with "Wings" and "Black Magic". Christina Lee of Idolator was critical of the group's stage presence, writing "This wasn’t the best display of the UK girl group's showmanship; whoever wasn’t singing with Jason would stand on stage, staring blankly, as if waiting in line at the grocery store." Lee did however praise their vocal performances, and singled out Jade's as "angelic". Little Mix joined Derulo on his 2016 arena tour at The O2 Arena on 5 February 2016 to perform "Secret Love Song". On 12 February, Little Mix and Derulo performed the song on The Graham Norton Show.Jez Ashurst – writer
Emma Rohan – writer
Rachel Furner – writer
Jason Desrouleaux – writer
Jayson DeZuzio – producer, engineering, all instruments and programming
Maegan Cottone – vocal producer
Phil Tan – mixing
Sam Ellison – assistant vocal producer
Credits adapted from the album's liner notes.