The origin story of TWICE is one born out of tenacity. The group’s nine members – comprised of Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Momo, Sana, Jihyo, Mina, Dahyun, Chaeyoung and Tzuyu – had initially competed against one another, as well as seven other JYP Entertainment trainees, in 2015 during their appearance on the Mnet reality TV competition Sixteen. But that was only just the beginning.
The group made their debut in late-2015 with their moderately successful first mini-album ‘The Story Begins’, which featured the title track ‘Like Ooh-Ahh’. TWICE had to continue working before having their breakthrough in 2016 with the chart-topping singles ‘Cheer Up’ and ‘TT’. The girl group later solidified their legacy with a string of number ones in 2017 and 2018, and have become one of the most recognised names in South Korea’s mammoth entertainment industry.
At a time where the world is in desperate need of small pleasures, TWICE are here to provide a necessary dose of joy to their fans. Having sat across a virtual room from the girl group, it’s easy to understand why fans absolutely adore them. They exude the same charming, adorable, infectious energy that is ever present in their songs and music videos. Simultaneously, they carry an air of humility that would easily make one forget that they are the highest-selling girl group in South Korean history, who also graced Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia list in 2020.
Over the course of six years, the group have released 10 mini-albums, two studio albums and a number of reissues, as well as a handful of Japanese-language releases. Now, TWICE are back with their latest mini-album ‘Taste Of Love’, which dropped on June 11, with the title track ‘Alcohol-Free’. With a groovy beat and energetic choreography, TWICE succeed in their desire to bring their fans “good vibes” in unprecedented times.
NME spoke with TWICE over Zoom about their new album, what makes them happy and which girl groups they would get advice from.
Editor’s note: Due to health reasons, Jeongyeon could not be present for the interview.
‘Alcohol-Free’ has a strong Latin Pop vibe, what made you want to experiment with this sound?
Jihyo: “With our song ‘Dance The Night Away’, we already provided a song that is very young, so to speak. We wanted to bring a different kind of summer song this time and we also wanted to challenge ourselves with a new genre of music.”
Besides the title track, what song from the album are you most looking forward to fans hearing or performing?
Tzuyu: “The song called ‘First Time’, because all of our voices are recorded beautifully and the parts, the way it’s divided, it’s very harmonious. So I’m looking forward to putting that song on stage. And I would also like to add that the part was divided by one of our members, Jihyo.”
What was the easiest song to record for the album and what was the hardest?
Nayeon: “I think [it] depends on which member you ask. But in my opinion, the result of ‘First Time’ came out the best. It’s not the easiest song, but the recorded result was the best. And the most difficult song for me was ‘Alcohol-Free’ because it was directed by the producer himself, J.Y. Park, and the parts often changed during the recording process. So that was the hardest part.”
Chaeyoung: “‘Alcohol-Free’ was the most difficult, and there was no easy song for me.”
What does the group normally focus on during the album recording process? Do you try to take into account the opinions of fans or do you just stay true to yourselves?
Chaeyoung: “It’s different with each album. But when we try out a new concept, we usually focus on challenging ourselves and focus on expressing ourselves more when we’re introducing [a] new concept. And when we’re choosing a song, our input is important of course, but at the same time we try to incorporate the opinions of our company because they have better ears and they can gage better what the public wants.”
What do you want fans to take away from this album?
Nayeon: “The weather is getting nice and a lot of people, including ourselves, want to travel but we cannot in the age of COVID-19, so we wanted to bring to the fans a very bright song that can give good vibes to our fans.”
What do you wish that fans knew about what it takes to prepare for a comeback?
Momo: “Even today before the interview, we went to the practice room to practice our choreography. I want our fans to know that even when they don’t see us, even when we’re not on camera, we’re always putting our best effort to give the best performances and to our fans and to the public.”
Speaking of the public, TWICE have earned the title of “The Nation’s Girl Group.” When did you ladies realise that you are really famous?
Jihyo: (Laughing) “When we’re doing interviews like this.”
Tzuyu: “When I go back to my home of Taiwan.”
Nayeon: “When we visited the USA. Even though we didn’t really do a lot in America, we were there for some other concerts, [but] people recognised us on the street. I thought that was like a really weird experience and amazing at the same time.”
When it comes to performances, you have now experimented with a variety of sounds. I’m specifically thinking of the rock version of ‘Fancy’ that you did at the 2019 SBS Gayo Daejun. Are there any other genres that you want to experiment with in the future performances?
Sana: “During concerts we’ve always wanted to do a live band version of our songs. But because of COVID-19 we were not able to do that. But going forward it’d be great if we can perform our songs with a band on stage.”
Mina: “When we were doing ‘Cry For Me’, I thought that if we could make this into an orchestral version, like a classical version. I would like to try that.”
What has been your favourite song to write lyrics for?
Chaeyoung: “My favourite song to write lyrics for was ‘Strawberry’. I really like the lyrics. It really came from my heart because I love strawberries, so the lyrics came quite naturally for me. Thankfully fans love that song as well and the song worked really well with our voices.”
Jihyo: “For me it’s ‘Sunset’. Usually when I write lyrics, I try to picture the words and the scenes of the lyrics. I could easily picture ‘Sunset’. It came very naturally for me.”
Dahyun: “I actually love all the songs that I wrote lyrics for, but if I have to pick a favourite, it’d be ‘Queen’ because it’s about expressing yourself as you are and loving yourself for who you are. Fans love that song as well, so that’s my favourite song.”
What is your favourite choreography?
Momo: “For me, the first favourite is ‘Cry For Me’ because in the end intro part there is a group dance that I really thought came out beautifully. And the choreography really reflects the lyrics, so I really like that a lot. Another favourite is ‘Feel Special’ because we get to dance a lot as a group and there were a lot of group moves. And it also came out beautifully, so I like that a lot.”
Nayeon: “Actually, Momo said two of my favourites. So if I were to pick, I had to give my third choice which is ‘Dance The Night Away’. The choreography is really hard but during the dance, we get to make a lot of eye contact with each other so it kind of puts us in a really good mood while performing the song.”
Mina: “We rarely perform this song on stage, but my favourite is ‘Firework’ because it’s very sexy and powerful at the same time.”
Tzuyu: “‘Cry For Me’ because the lyrics really reflect the choreography well, and we actually dance quite well in unison for that song. We make really harmonious moves in that song, so I think that’s a really good song to perform.”
Sana: “I agree with all the favourites that the other members mentioned. But if I were to pick it’d be ‘Fancy’, because the mood was quite different from all the other previous songs. So, it was really exciting to watch while we were learning and [it] was very exciting.”
This past year has been very difficult for everyone globally. With all the time that we’ve had to slow down and reflect on ourselves, I have to ask, what makes you happy?
Tzuyu: “Because of COVID-19, we were not able to see our fans for quite some time now so that’s really sad. But we were able to meet them through online performances. I’m actually very thankful and happy that we got that opportunity to give the performances to our fans. And I could feel our fans’ love for us even though it was online, so I’m very thankful.”
Sana: “Because we couldn’t see our fans directly, we made a lot of content [like] YouTube videos for the fans. And whenever we released a new episode on the internet, the fans responded very well. It made us happy to see that.”
If you get advice from any three girl groups in the world, whether they’re still together or not, which girl groups would you choose?
TWICE as a collective: “Wonder Girls because they we’re in the same company and Wonder Girls also had quite a presence in the United States as well, so they could probably give us a lot of good advice.”
Jihyo: “Destiny’s Child.”
Chaeyoung: “TLC. And all of the groups that were mentioned are very famous and we actually would like to talk to them about how things were then for them, and how they coped with challenges while they were still together. That’s the kind of conversation I would like to have with them.”
TWICE’s ‘Taste Of Love’ is out now via JYP Entertainment.