TWICE – ‘Between 1&2’ review: A self-assured showcase of how far the K-pop group have come

The best-selling girl group offer diverse moods and confident lyricism on their 11th mini-album

There are multiple interpretations of the title of TWICE’s latest EP, ‘Between 1&2’. The obvious one, of course, refers to the relationship between TWICE and their fans, ONCE. Since their debut, TWICE’s love for their fans has been threaded into the tapestry of their ethos, manifesting not just as songs dedicated to their fanbase but also the group’s atypical honesty with them.

Judging by where TWICE are in their career, however – fresh from renewing contracts with longtime agency JYP Entertainment and dipping their toes into solo releases with Nayeon’s stellar solo debut, ‘I’m Nayeon’ – ‘Between 1&2’ is also an ode, acknowledgment, and a promise rolled into one.

TWICE have come a long way from the starry-eyed, bubbly girls of ‘Cheer Up’ and ‘TT’. They’ve reformed their narrative, exercised agency, and forged their own confident path. On ‘Between 1&2,’ they look back on this growth with fondness and pride, and leave us with the promise of better things to come.

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Perhaps no other song is more representative of that glow-up than the retro-pop lead single ‘Talk That Talk’. The track opens with a melody reminiscent of the starting riffs of ‘TT,’ but that’s all the throwback you’ll get – TWICE immediately dive into an exciting future with dizzying speed, culminating in a captivating chorus which sounds as sweet as it is seductive.

If ‘Talk That Talk’ was meant to be a sonic goodbye to their yesteryears, ‘Queen of Hearts’ adopts a more lyrically direct approach: “Got no ties left to yesterday… burn my ashes in the fireplace”. It starts strong by hinting at a pop-rock progression à la Avril Lavigne, but the tempo on the chorus unfortunately dissipates all of the energy.

Then the mood shifts almost immediately on ‘Basics’, as if someone turned the clock forward and landed us in the middle of a mysterious night perfect for getting up to no good. True to its title, the track adopts a simple – but effective – approach. Paced rapping and vocalising works in tandem with a consistent beat that sometimes fades out – as if pulling us underwater – creating a heady push-and-pull effect that doesn’t gets old.

What really punctuates the point is the marked difference in TWICE’s lyricism and delivery. Instead of ceding power to a third party (think ‘TT’: “You say I’m ridiculous, that I don’t live up to my looks, doesn’t cheer me up at all, baby,”) TWICE’s lyrics are now far more self-assured. On ‘Trouble’, which harks back to 2010s dance-pop, the group create an illusion of choice (to the other party to act first), but that the final decision is always theirs to make is quite clear. Even when reckoning with betrayal and heartbreak on ‘Gone’, they make a clean break with finality: “If you see me, get away from me, far away from me.” This song’s electro-pop chorus, though, at times overpowers TWICE’s vocals. And as touching as it is, the retro and synth-heavy style of ‘Brave’ becomes repetitive in the second half.

Despite the road bumps, ‘Between 1&2’ comes to an optimistic conclusion in ‘When We Were Kids’. Nostalgic and poignant, the track elevates a conventional balladic arrangement by alternating between pared-down beats in the verses and soaring vocals on the chorus. Both conceptually and sonically, it seems like a fitting end to an album where TWICE acknowledge how far they have come. Between the fierce competition of Sixteen and early years spent doubting their path, TWICE have not had the easiest road to self-discovery. ‘When We Were Kids’ manages to look back on that journey with gentle kindness and reassurance, as if to tell themselves that just as they have done until now, they’ll find their way forward together.

Details

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TWICE - Between1&2

  • Release date: August 26
  • Label: JYP Entertainment
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