Review: Yes or Yes by Twice

Yes or Yes by TwiceSo, here I am again, trying to review a Twice album, after skipping the last one (and noting that we generally skip repackaged albums). It really got frustrating because the group was staying in their lane, and almost three years in it got really annoying. My cousin was a professed Once, but she gave up on the group precisely because they didn’t move and inch – and they were supposed to appeal to her. But then, we ought to give the group credit, because they’ve recently realized they have to grow if they’re to stay relevant beyond their rabid fanbase. Their recent Japanese releases have been interesting, both keeping with the Twice sound while broadening the appeal, going beyond than being just a cute throwaway pop song. (Take their respectful cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”.) Yes or Yes, their sixth Korean mini, takes that direction further, but not too far – too much change can be galling for K-pop groups. The title track doesn’t hit their typical call-and-response shtick until two-third of the way through. Okay, it’s not a revolution, but the mini is at least listenable, even to the point that “BDZ” – a Japanese single that’s cutesy by Twice standards – isn’t annoying. Your best hint at growth is in the music video, though: a mature look, Jihyo owning her unexpected visual position, and more importantly, all of them are dancing properly now. [NB]3/5

Review: Twicetagram by Twice

Twicetagram by TwiceHow do you move the ball forward if you’re Twice, one of K-pop’s biggest acts today? Not much, it seems. In the two years since they debuted their mini albums have dominated the charts with their cheerful, slightly edgy, but ultimately fluffy pop – and they have not changed the formula much. (It’s also why we have found it quite difficult to review their albums, to the point that it felt like I’m just ripping them apart needlessly.) But then, Twicetagram offers them a new slate: this is their first full-length album, and perhaps smartly, everybody involved recognized that they can’t rely on borderline mediocre tracks for this record. That said, Twice still fall victim to K-pop’s tendency to have inconsistent albums. This is a full-length built like a mini: tracks don’t really flow together, and you get swings between the genuinely good (the cunning “FFW”) and the frankly bad (the cringy “Ding Dong”). But this time they (or their minders, really) focus on a quieter, less in-your-face sound – that shtick ran dry with Signal. That meant the second half of the album was something I actually didn’t mind listening to. That also meant single “Likey” – produced by Black Eyed Pilseung, who also produced their biggest hit “Cheer Up” – really sticks out, in all its high-energy glory, albeit one that feels too much like “TT”[NB]3/5

Review: Signal by Twice

Signal by TwiceWell, here we are again, undertaking the foolish duty of reviewing a Twice mini – that creature that, no matter what you say about it, will be successful anyway. Not that this review ever wanted to take down one of the biggest K-pop groups today. However, the template has been so predictable you wonder why we even bother to do this: a mediocre release (“Cheer Up” is catchy but nothing beats “Like Ooh-Ahh”; everything else was gently downhill) followed by months of dominating every bit of Korean entertainment one consumes. Signal does attempt to move things along: it finally sees the group’s big boss Park Jin-young produce a song for them, and also sees contributions from former Wonder Girl Yenny, as well as Jihyo and Chaeyoung writing “Eye Eye Eyes”. I hear some reggae, and the title track bring the relatively cutesy girls to the world of trap, awkwardly. (It’s terrible because it jars completely with everything the group hasn done before.) But then, Signal is exactly what you expect it to be: it’s a Twice album. It’s forgettable, but it’s completely irrelevant to its success. It’s the default reaction. It’s getting really boring. When I reviewed their last mini Twicecoaster: Lane 1 I argued that they’re hitting diminishing returns. I stand by it. [NB]2/5

“쉽게 열리지는 않을 거야.”

“Knock Knock” by Twice | Twice is the K-pop group you begrudgingly accept. No matter how mediocre their songs are – I’m still of the opinion that “Like Ooh-Ahh” is their best – you have to accept that they will dominate the charts, stay on the top for weeks, defying usual chart behavior, where songs gently (or suddenly) go down after hitting their peak position for a week or two. At least “Knock Knock” isn’t as annoying as “TT”, but you just know you’ve heard better, even from the group themselves. And yet their success is so undeniable that other girl groups have decided to transition their images to Twice’s bright, preppy one. gugudan’s “A Girl Like Me” has similar imagery, but more noteworthy is Lovelyz’s “WoW!” – they have done relatively powerful yet mostly innocent songs to this point, but now they’ve sort of haphazardly put Twice’s clubbiness over their landmark song “Destiny”. Shalla’s gone so far as describing it as their “Marionette” moment. It’s awkward to see them attempt to turn their bodies into props like Twice do so well, but at least they have much better vocalists. But, perhaps, the one act Twice has banished into limbo is Red Velvet. Don’t get me started… [NB]

Review: Twicecoaster: Lane 1 by Twice

Twicecoaster: Lane 1 by TwiceDo we really need another Twice mini-album? Yes, I’m not one of the millions of Once out there, and I have been skeptical of their work before, but think of it this way: “Cheer Up” is still dominating the K-pop landscape six months after it was released, to the point that it’s crossed the thresholds from “cute little song” to “icon” to “I’m tired of this”. I don’t know. A part of me thinks we all really need a rest from Twice, and Twicecoaster: Lane 1, their third mini-album in one year and one week, just proves the point. Sure, they can’t afford to change the formula, not with this big a following, but at least their last two releases had some standout moments – the solid 90s throwback “Going Crazy” on The Story Begins; their remake of Park Ji-yoon’s iconic “Precious Love” on Page Two – but here they’re just grinding down what’s left of the preppy, 8-bit musical aesthetic. Even their single, the awkward-sounding-for-Filipinos “TT”, feels all over the place despite being written by the same people behind their first two (smash) singles. (Okay, there’s “Next Page”, but it feels like an oasis after the five tracks that preceded it.) All I’m saying is, we need a break from Twice – and Twice needs a break from all this. For their own good. Their following may be big, but they’re hitting diminishing returns this early. [NB]3/5