By Lai Frances
During 2017’s Twicetober, the annual month-long tribute when fans celebrate Twice’s debut, the idols released their first studio album, Twicetagram, and celebrated their second anniversary. A plethora of accomplishments later — including seven Korean chart-topping EPs, handfuls of hits in Japan, a world tour with arenas and domes sold out across Asia and North America, all while breaking their own records in the Korean and Japanese markets and dominating the Hallyu wave — Asia’s best-selling girl group welcomes their fifth Twicetober with new clarity and a sparkling second album, Eyes Wide Open, out today (October 26).
It all began in October 2015 when Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Momo, Sana, Jihyo, Mina, Dahyun, Chaeyoung, and Tzuyu were officially introduced as Twice on the reality competition show Sixteen; the group under JYP Entertainment was named to make an impact “once through the ears, and once through the eyes,” to capture fans — named “Once” — with their catchy hits and lethal beauty. Their debut single, “Like Ooh-Ahh,” was a melodic pop song with hints of percussion, perfectly matching the nonet’s wild and edgy visual concept, which was marked by smoky eye makeup and camo-printed looks. Six months later, the group flipped the switch, sporting jerseys and varsity jackets for their contagious dance hit “Cheer Up,” which skyrocketed them to fame. Its lyrics (“Shy, shy, shy”) became a viral meme, and the release earned the group the coveted award for Song of the Year at Mnet’s Asian Music Awards (MAMA).
Hit after hit after hit, from “TT” to “Signal” (2017 MAMA Song of the Year) to “What Is Love?” (2018 MAMA Song of the Year), Twice have matured through their music. With bubbly songs about having crushes and grooving on a beach (“Likey,” “Dance the Night Away”), Twice began to explore a more intimate, sensual side with “More & More,” released earlier this year in partnership with Republic Records. It showcased a refreshing range in sound as they tackled Latin-inspired rhythms (“Firework”), new jack swing (“Sweet Summer Day”), bass-heavy beats (“Make Me Go”), and tropical pop all in one project. Meanwhile, they projected to fans positive messages about the importance of caring for one’s mental health when they supported Mina, and recently Jeongyeon, in taking hiatuses. This was encapsulated in the 2019 track “Feel Special.”
Eyes Wide Open comes through with a burst of energy as the bigger, bolder sister of More & More. Releasing with three distinct album covers, in one case taking inspiration from ’90s fashion magazines, it embodies Twice all grown up. The 13 tracks take listeners on a sonic journey through space and time, spanning ’80s American retro, Japanese city pop (“Say Something“), and contemporary R&B while brazenly plunging into the depths of love and lust (“Hell in Heaven”), breakups (“Handle It”), and finding one’s confidence (“Go Hard,” “Queen”). The collection proves Twice to be a force to be reckoned with, showcasing each members’ abilities to vocally and visually adapt to challenge genres and concepts. The group (minus Jeongyeon, who assures fans she is doing well while on a break), speaks to MTV News about blossoming into Eyes Wide Open.
MTV News: First off, congratulations on your fifth anniversary and your second album. It’s been three years since Twicetagram followed by a handful of EPs. What can we expect with this comeback and the second album?
Nayeon: This is the second full album which is coming out after three years since Twicetagram, and we participated in this album more than before, like more than previous albums. So I’m really looking forward to Once liking this album as we invested lots of time and also the content involved.
Sana: The team reflected on our ideas, especially when we put in our opinions on the visual mood. So we also had a say in the outfits added in this music video.
Jihyo: With this album, many of the members have joined in writing the lyrics. We always joined as lyricists, but this time there are lots of tracks, meaning more members have joined to write the lyrics for other tracks, too. Our title track, “I Can’t Stop Me,” has a retro-synth sound with the message of trying to find the balance between the good and the bad of our uncontrollable desires.
MTV News: Is there a song Once should look out for in the new album?
Dahyun: There’s a song I wrote called “Queen” that includes the lyrics to just show yourself as you are. The second is the track called “Bring It Back,” and this captures the feeling of going after what you want. That includes a very strong mood.
Chaeyoung: There’s a track called “Handle It” that contains the message of trying not to acknowledge being apart from each other or breaking up. It contains the rage about breaking up. I don’t think we’ve ever done a song that carried this kind of vibe before.
MTV News: How was it like receiving a song written by R&B songstress Heize and a song composed by Dua Lipa?
Chaeyoung: It was great to work on songs with them! We have continued to be blown away by both the artists’ careers and music, and agree that their songs are amazing. It is great to have their names on our new songs, and we are looking forward to fans hearing them. The songs are awesome.
MTV News: You’ve also typically included fan songs for Once, as well. Are there any of those like “One in a Million” and “21:29”?
Nayeon: Similar to “21:29,” there’s a song called “Depend on You.” So that could be considered this new album’s fan song.
MTV News: For personal reasons and science, any plans on releasing an English version of “Feel Special”?
Nayeon: Ah, sorry! We didn’t include an English version of “Feel Special.” But, if we wait a bit longer, we still have an upcoming English version of our song coming out later.
MTV News: You made your debut with a wild and edgy concept in “Like Ooh-Ahh” and have since transformed. What changes have you seen with your music? And what would you like to see more of?
Jihyo: I would say, for us, our goal would be to become a team that is not limited in one concept and can embody a variety of concepts. I want to be an artist who wants to conquer all the concepts we try. Sort of like renaissance women?
Momo: We are open to all concepts that we both haven’t and have tried before! We have fun asking fans what they want to see from us and enjoy discussing their answers.
Nayeon: I remember when we surprised Once at a Twicelights concert with our red concept of “Heart Shaker.” The song is very energetic, so we added some fun and sexy choreography to it. It was very cute to watch their reactions! And since we have been active for five years, as a team, we do portray a certain image and concept, but we enjoy finding new things and challenging ourselves. From those challenges we find new things that match us more, and we find passion and joy in that. We hope everyone can enjoy that without a bias. So we would like to find things that match us more to make it more exciting. But we are also asking whether there is any concept that you or Once would like to see?
MTV News: Jihyo mentioned earlier that Twice wants to be a renaissance girl group. I believe you can pull it off, but I think a completely hip-hop concept would be nice as fans are asking for Nayeon’s rapper alter-ego, MC Rail.
All: (laughs) Oooooooooh!
Tzuyu: I’ll do my best trying to challenge more diverse concepts then.
MTV News: Was there a specific era you felt like you’ve grown or have started to grow?
Jihyo: When we started to get recognized from our singles “Cheer Up” and “TT.” We all wanted to give fans our love and continue to be great role models for them, and we continue to feel this way and appreciate Once for loving us.
Dahyun: Personally, I think our lead single “I Can’t Stop Me” shows our musical growth the most. Starting from “More & More,” we have focused on showing the desire of wanting someone. I think our overall themes of the songs have matured over time, and that has been a great challenge for us on the new concepts.
MTV News: With the amount of chart-topping releases you’ve done, crossovers in the Japanese market and now in the U.S., do you think you’ve reached a peak in your career?
Dahyun: I really don’t think we’re in the top position of our careers because we were able to make it this far due to our team and staff members, alongside the members, and, most importantly, the fans together. I think Twice was able to come at this point due the support of everyone. But I still think there’s still a way to go to the top.
Nayeon: More than thinking, we’ve reached the top, there’s a long way to go, we give our best to things that are given to us right now. From that, we are faced with great opportunities and more occasions to meet Once. So we work hard in the moment, and I am satisfied.
MTV News: Are there any regrets or things you wished happened differently thus far?
Momo: There aren’t any regrettable memories, but I mostly don’t regret anything. But if there were, it must be my embarrassing moments [onstage] that I dwell upon for a very long time.
Mina: Because of any embarrassing moments we go through, we could now look back at it as a really good memory. And since we can’t go back to that time trying to fix that moment, we’d try to accept it as it is.
Jihyo: (to Momo) Try to love yourself during those times.
MTV News: Any moments where you couldn’t believe things were too good to be true?
Chaeyoung: Always. All of the good memories, always.
Momo: I remember when fans were doing surprise events during our concert, we were touched when Once sang a song for us. I was really, really touched at the time.
Sana: While going on our world tour, we were able to meet so many Once in America and other places that we were able to see the different energy from each country. I remember meeting the fans after the concerts, and their faces lighting up seeing all members during hi-touch. I cannot forget their faces, and that’s why I always want to prepare something new since they’re the motivation when Twice does their best.
MTV News: Nayeon, you’re known to be the spoiler queen of Twice to the point where you even teased Momo’s new hair for the comeback. Out of all the comebacks you’ve spoiled, what’s the biggest spoiler you’ve given?
All: (to Nayeon spoiling Momo’s hair) Ah! Oh no!
Nayeon: (in English) My mistake! [But it’s definitely] Momo’s hair.
MTV News: Most memorable and greatest prank Jeongyeon has ever pulled?
All: There’s too much! There’s really too much!
MTV News: Momo, you rap, you sing, you write, you dance, you vlog, and now you’re a dog mother to Boo. What’s something you cannot do that you wish you could?
Momo: I’d like to go home to Japan, but because of the coronavirus, I can’t go now.
MTV News: Sana, on livestreams and video call events, you tend to give a lot of advice and support to Once, but what’s the greatest advice you’ve given yourself?
Nayeon: (to Sana) You should think less and go to sleep early.
Sana: In the past, if we had a day off, I would focus my day on sleep and maybe plan to do other things on the second day. But since now I have more time due to coronavirus, it came to my mind that I should search for hobbies in hopes that I can use those hobbies and utilize it to enjoy my personal time.
MTV News: Jihyo, what was your greatest moment as Twice’s leader?
Jihyo: I’m always happy. There aren’t many moments to pick, but I’m always happy to be with members.
MTV News: Mina, if you could describe the last five years of Twice as a game, what game would it be and why?
Mina: Minecraft. Because all of Twice’s creations and achievements are built like it is in Minecraft.
MTV News: Dahyun, you’re known to be the rapper, the energy booster, the Eagle dance creator, the camera catcher, but you’re quite the mystery. What’s something you want the world to know about Dahyun?
Dahyun: Other than the image I have, I’m a very serious person and really quiet and calm. I also think a lot about many things. But I’m energy booster, you know?
MTV News: Chaeyoung, what other mediums would you like to express yourself in?
Chaeyoung: I’d like to express myself more through outfit styling, but I’d still like to express myself through art and other musical ways.
MTV News: Tzuyu, in one of your past radio interviews, you said that you like to share your funny impressions of your group members. What are some things you’d like to call out on your members?
Tzuyu: I’ve been with the team for five years and there are moments when I think I couldn’t do this alone. I’ve grown more with the help of my members.
MTV News: The greatest part about being Twice?
Sana: All of the members being together on my side and freely expressing myself. But also, having to help each other and support one another.