“I want it all and I ain’t ever gonna settle / Even if all of this is just a fantasy.” These are the opening lines of the English version of ‘Set Me Free’, sung confidently by TWICE’s leader, Jihyo. In them, she shares an unabashedly bold assertion and one that makes the girl group’s stance on their 12th mini-album ‘Ready To Be’ crystal clear – they’re in complete control and ready to kick anything, or anyone, that doesn’t fit their vision to the kerb.
- READ MORE: On new single ‘Moonlight Sunrise’, TWICE embrace their evolved ethos with a sultry smoothness
It’s a strength that’s been brewing in TWICE’s lyrical world for some time. Back in 2020, ‘More & More’ found the women declaring: “I know I want it / I’m not gonna try to please you anymore.” Although other recent title tracks like ‘Feel Special’ and ‘Alcohol-Free’ have put the power in someone else’s hands (“You make me feel special”, “I’m drunk in you,” they sang on each, respectively), ‘Ready To Be’ puts the nine members of the JYP group in the driving seat.
The glittering Miami bass-pop of ‘Moonlight Sunrise’ – their second original English-language song – is perhaps the strongest example of TWICE’s burgeoning directness. “Baby, I don’t really mean to rush / But I’mma really need your touch / If I’mma make it through the night,” Nayeon and Mina coolly share, before they drop the invitation: “Come take a shot on me, I gotcha.”
Clearly, TWICE are not in a timid mood. Tzuyu reinforces that feeling on ‘Wallflower’, a Latin-flecked song that could lift off into a banger but instead keeps things to a compelling hush. Instead of adopting the shyness of the song’s title, the singer drops a confrontational dare: “What do you think of me? / Look me in the eye.” Later, Momo and Dahyun tease: “Are you shy? I wonder why,” they ponder. “Come a little closer.”
The group might be fully embracing their upfront side on this release, but that doesn’t mean they’re just using it to pull people into their lives. On ‘Crazy Stupid Love’, it’s the opposite story. “After brief but intense encounters and excitement / I got tired of your useless lies,” Dahyun, who co-wrote the track, explains. “I’m so done with this crazy stupid love,” the group sing later, shrugging off an old flame and speeding off to better things.
In recent years, TWICE have also been changing their sound, smoothing out the exuberant pep and cheer that filled their music since their 2016 debut into something more sophisticated. As they’ve bloomed into something more elegant, that giddy cheer has remained in their undercurrent but has been layered over with more refined sounds. Often, the women have turned to retro genres to pull this off and ‘Ready To Be’ is no different.
Here, though, they step into new ground. They’ve already proved they can do disco and do it well, so ‘Set Me Free’ takes a fresh approach, shifting into a retro-futuristic zone, propelled by a squelchy synth bassline and dramatic string slashes. ‘Got The Thrills’ is bubbling, sunkissed euphoria captured in a Balearic dance-pop bottle – blissed out but not largely memorable. ‘Blame It On Me’ – another Dahyun co-write – changes gears completely, zooming into dive bar rock riffs. “You are so into me, You are, you are so into me,” Chaeyoung sings, their lyrical stutter mirroring the chugging guitar that accompanies them.
Any moment of growth is at risk of faltering occasionally and, for all of TWICE’s impressive development, ‘Ready To Be’ does have some awkward junctures. Dahyun’s slow-mo rap on ‘Set Me Free’ feels clumsy and clunky, out of step with the rest of the track in a way that throws the momentum off. On ‘Got The Thrills’, Tzuyu draws out the word “tremolo” to fit the song’s melody, but it feels slightly like trying to put a square peg in a round hole.
In TWICE’s bigger picture, ‘Ready To Be’ surpasses these blips and helps solidify further the sound the group have claimed as their own. As they continue to hone it – and their bold attitude – even more, expect them to become increasingly inventive and unstoppable.
- Release date: March 10, 2023
- Record label: JYP Entertainment