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How 9 girls from Twice dominated K-pop

  • Published : Sept 24, 2019 - 16:01
  • Updated : Sept 24, 2019 - 16:01

From “Like Ooh-Ahh” to the latest “Feel Special,” a look back on the JYPE girl group’s prominent career

Twice is definitely feeling special this time. Upon its release on Monday, the act’s new single, “Feel Special,” immediately began dominating major local charts and global iTunes charts, with its music video garnering over 12 million views on YouTube as of Tuesday afternoon. The album has also trended on Twitter in several countries, a testament to the group’s international fame.

It is no longer a question of whether the act’s new songs -- regardless of style or genre -- will be successful. In its fifth year, the nine-piece multinational act is continuing its winning streak as a full-blown K-pop juggernaut that keeps seeing hit after hit, record after record. Recently, it became the first female K-pop team to hold a multicity dome tour in Japan. During its first US tour, the band connected with audiences outside of Asia.


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(JYP Entertainment)


Twice was formed from the 2015 reality show “Sixteen,” where 16 JYP Entertainment trainees competed for limited spots in a new band. With different personalities and different talents, each member brought a distinct flavor to the group, and this later became Twice’s powerful edge -- enabling it to race past other rookie bands and win over global listeners.

For instance, Jihyo, who spent the longest time as a trainee, offered a sense of maturity and stability, while Jeongyeon projected a rather boyish image. Dahyun, with her goofy side, managed to balance out the group’s feminine tones, epitomized by Mina and Tzuyu. Main dancer Momo earned the title “one of the best female K-pop dancers.”

The presence of Japanese members Momo, Mina and Sana, as well as Taiwanese member Tzuyu, increased the band’s appeal to global audiences, especially in Japan where they serve as cultural ambassadors between the two countries.


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At the core of the band’s success was JYPE’s considerable experience in cultivating historic girl bands such as Wonder Girls and miss A, but Twice’s consistently cute concept, coupled with its cheerful bubblegum pop sound, also played an integral role. From its breakout debut single, “Like Ooh-Ahh,” to “Cheer Up” and “Likey,” the band carved out its own niche with its signature “color pop” -- a combination of rock, R&B and hip-hop, with unconventionally addictive lyrics.

The fresh new sound didn’t seem to reflect the branding efforts of JYPE producer-songwriter Park Jin-young, who had a penchant for the retro style of music favored by Twice’s predecessor girl groups. With its early singles, Twice racked up awards and trophies, including a commendation from the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism at the Korean Popular Culture and Arts Awards.


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As the group grew, its sonic style evolved. After releasing peppy hits like “Knock Knock,” “What Is Love, “Heart Shaker” and “Yes or Yes,” the versatile group pushed toward new genres and sought to change its image with songs like “Fancy” and “Breakthrough.” It was a timely shift, according to critics, as listeners saw a new side of the ever-smiley, innocent girl band. Twice adopted a mature style and danced in sensual black femme fatale-esque outfits in “Fancy,” while embracing brassier electro-pop in “Breakthrough.” They were no longer fresh-faced girls in bright cheerleading uniforms.


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There were some ups and downs -- most recently, Mina publicly revealed her struggle with anxiety and Jihyo was reported to have been dating fellow musician Kang Daniel -- but the act managed to stay strong thanks to the tight bonds between its members and support from its huge fandom. Hardships turned them into mature musicians, ready to speak with their own voices and unafraid to reveal their deep emotions.

Now back with “Feel Special,” a mellow mood-pop dance track, Twice said it hopes to inspire and encourage people who are going through hard times in their lives. During a recent media showcase for the act’s new EP, Nayeon explained: “Due to our showbiz career, obviously there have been times when we found hectic schedules and the following outcomes challenging. But we were able to overcome all that thanks to the support from caring people around us, including the members and our fans. And that’s what ‘Feel Special’ is about. There are people around us who help us stand on our own two feet.”


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The song represents the act’s third time collaborating with Park, who wrote the song after talking with the members and learning how they’d overcome the challenges they’d faced as K-pop idols.

“I hope more people will realize that there are helping hands around us and find comfort with our song,” Nayeon added. Tzuyu said she strongly related to the song’s lyrics and hoped to spread the message to listeners as well.

Promising fans they’d stick together as a group for a long time, the band members showed their strong determination to grow as musicians.

“Since Once (Twice’s fandom community) love us being together, our bond is very tight and we support each other, the nine of us will always be together,” Momo said.

“We’d like to become a long-running group that keeps communicating with fans and never stops growing up,” Nayeon added.

By Hong Dam-young (lotus@heraldcorp.com)