Photo Courtesy of JYP Entertainment
K-Pop Superstars TWICE Talk New Album 'Eyes wide open,' Growing Together And Staying Close With Their Fans
TWICE don't need to ask for attention. With their striking looks and coordinated fashion, the nine-member K-pop ensemble is a sight that's impossible to miss. Backed by their vast discography, a cornucopia of catchy hooks, and synchronized, head-turning performances, the group stays in your mind long after they exit the stage.
Formed in 2015 through JYP Entertainment's reality survival show, "Sixteen," in South Korea, TWICE are a record-breaking, show-stealing, eye-magnet juggernaut. They have more than 10 million cumulative album sales, sold-out tours in Asia and America, including last year's Twicelights at The Forum in Los Angeles and Prudential Center in New Jersey, and an array of releases that regularly top the Korean and Japanese charts.
But ultimately, it's TWICE's individual charms that pull the listener into their world: the brightness of Nayeon's bunny smile, Momo's killer dance moves, Sana's natural sweetness. It's Dahyun's charismatic sense of humor complementing Chaeyoung's bold creativity, Jeongyeon's sultry allure pairing with Jihyo's unrelenting energy, Mina's graceful resilience matching with Tzuyu's elegance and sensitivity. Like a kaleidoscope slowly revealing different shapes and colors, TWICE shine in beautiful detail the more you get to know them as individuals and as a collective unit.
Still, the best phrase to define the group may come from the ladies themselves: TWICE is "[touching people's hearts] once through the ears and once through the eyes," Tzuyu told GRAMMY.com over a Zoom call, followed by cheers and laughter from the other members. The commotion-causing motto is well known for both the group and their fans, known as ONCE. First used by JYP Entertainment founder J. Y. Park, the phrase has since become a defining staple in the TWICE universe. But Momo hesitates. According to her, "it's hard to express TWICE into words, because it's through our performances that people can really get to know us."
Yet, an aversion to their peppy beginnings (see "Cheer Up," "Knock Knock") and the general perception of K-pop as an assembly-line production still keep several eyes shut to their talents. It's not that TWICE feel the need to change or that they care about impressing the unamused. But they do recognize the benefits of exploring new challenges—and therefore earning second thoughts.
In the past few years, the group has explored maturing sounds and visuals and has amplified their participation in writing lyrics and choosing visual concepts. The bittersweet pop of "Feel Special" (2019) reflects the pressures of being one of the biggest girl groups in the industry, while the '80s-infused "I Can't Stop Me" (2020) plays with the temptations of desire. Their latest release, "Cry For Me," released last month (Dec. 18), is a special single for ONCE and builds on yet another novel theme for the group: throbbing revenge underlined by a dramatic instrumental.
Their latest album, Eyes wide open, released Oct. 26 by JYP Entertainment and Republic Records, further signals the band's global success. Charting on the Billboard 200, and peaking at No. 2 on the World Albums chart in the U.S., the 13-track LP showcases a group at their peak. From '80s retro ("I Can't Stop Me," "Up No More") to Japanese city pop ("Say Something") to EDM anthems ("Do What We Like," "Believer"), Eyes wide open is a testament to TWICE's growth, artistry and versatility.
GRAMMY.com caught up with TWICE—minus Jeongyeon, who is currently on hiatus for health reasons—to learn more about their newest album, Eyes wide open, their ever-developing style and their future goals.
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity. An interpreter translated all answers from the group.
Congratulations, the group celebrated five years together in 2020. How have you been celebrating this landmark in your career?
Dahyun: These five years have been long, but also short when I look back at it. We made a lot of good memories with ONCE, and we also had our online concert this year. It's really sad we couldn't do our fifth-anniversary fan-meet in person, but I hope that next year we can meet offline. I'm also very thankful to the other members, ONCE and all JYP staff.
You recently released a special surprise single, "Cry For Me." Can you talk a bit about this song and how you prepared for it?
Jihyo: Since we haven't had the chance to meet ONCE in person, we discussed for a long time whether to release this song. We weren't thinking about it, but ever since we decided to, we have been practicing a lot to give this special present [to] ONCE.
Mina: Heize wrote the lyrics for us, and we really love that it approaches a new and interesting topic for TWICE.
Sana: We had many concepts in the past, but I personally think that since "More & More," we have been exploring more vibrant, active styles. "Cry For Me" is the completion of TWICE's 2020 story—this is an important point to enjoy the song.
So was it also a surprise for you to release the song?
Sana: It was a surprise performance for fans, but we thought their reaction was so good; we weren't expecting it. So we decided to release it fully, in hopes that fans will love it even more.
Since Sana mentioned that "Cry For Me" completes this new chapter for TWICE in 2020, how do you view the development of your musical style?
Chaeyoung: We have tried various concepts through our five years together and, most recently, concepts we hadn't tried before. First and foremost, TWICE is bright and energetic, and we know ONCE like that, so we can always go back to this image. But our aim now is to show that TWICE can also have all these different sides, too. We are putting our opinions in our comebacks a lot, and there are many other challenges we want to try.
This year, you also recorded English versions of your singles "More & More" and "I Can't Stop Me." How was that experience? Why is it important for you to release English versions of your songs?
Nayeon: When we were recording, we focused on pronouncing the words well so people could understand [them] when listening. Our lyricists also tried to make a natural translation of the meanings from Korean to English.
Momo: The reason why English versions are important for us is because TWICE has gained a lot of attention internationally, so expressing our songs in English means we can be closer to our global ONCE. And since we can't travel overseas now, we are able to meet them through these songs.
Despite the pandemic, you've had a really busy year with promotions in Korea and also overseas, albeit virtually. How have you managed that? What has changed in your schedules?
Tzuyu: Before COVID-19, we were able to meet fans directly in person. There were a lot of performances, concerts and fan meetings. But since now it's a dangerous time, we have done a lot of online events and concerts. At least we can meet with ONCE that way, but we can't wait to do these activities in person again.
What has changed since your debut five years ago? What has stayed the same?
Chaeyoung: Since our debut, we can't walk around anymore because people recognize us. I also don't feel like I'm getting older. I still feel like I'm 18 years old. [Laughs.]
Jihyo: The familiarity and how close we are has stayed the same.
Momo: I agree. We became much closer since [our] debut.
Dahyun: Our musical performance has grown and changed. While our debut was bright and cute, we reorganized our composition as nine members to show a cooler image—one that many people thought we couldn't. They might listen to "Cry For Me" and think, "How could TWICE do that?" But we are doing it now. A thing that hasn't changed is how much we love our fans and how hard we work for them.
Mina: Many people tell me that they can see our members are really close to each other through our performances, and I think that's a point that hasn't changed since [our] debut.
Do you feel any pressure in keeping up with all your accomplishments so far?
Jihyo: Numbers and records are important, but I think the most important thing is to live as artists, enjoying our music with our fans.
Nayeon: How many albums we sell and records we break is important, yes. But what kind of tracks we release, how we prepare for them and how we show our artistic abilities is the most important thing for me.
Sana: Debuting was our main goal when we started. But so far, we have gained a lot of awards, fans and attention, so I'm grateful for everything fans have done for TWICE.
Besides meeting ONCE, what are you looking forward to in 2021?
Mina: That the [pandemic] situation gets better.
Momo: Travel overseas.
Jihyo: I want us to perform as nine [members] together again.
Nayeon: We haven't performed our English songs yet, so I want to do that next year.
Sana: I want the same as the other members.