The concept of a pop musician has evolved drastically over the past decade. In the digital age, being a pop artist means more than just being a performer; celebrities are increasingly expected to be cultural figures and accessible personalities who reduce their proximity to the public in order to attain mass appeal. With the advent of social media, the landscape of pop music and its accompanying culture has evolved to significantly reward artists who extend their performances beyond the stage.
Twice, a multi-million selling girl group from South Korea, understands the evolving nature of performance more deeply than perhaps any of their peers, so it’s no surprise that their latest album, twicetagram, is an ode to the digital age. The album expands on and builds Twice’s bubblegum pop sound in new, interesting ways, with varying degrees of success.
The group and its management have embraced exactly what makes pop music and artists so successful: accessibility and relatability. The group’s endearing girl-next-door image, one of the key facets of their widespread popularity, was largely developed by their active social media presence and television show appearances. As perhaps a nod to this, twicetagram is aptly titled after their Instagram username.
The album’s first track, “Likey,” further expands on the social media theme by following the storyline of a romance in the social media age. The song is easily Twice’s most musically mature and full-sounding track yet. It combines electric keyboard, an interesting synth arpeggio, booming bass, and distant-sounding guitar to culminate in a song that is infectiously catchy without losing musical integrity.
Produced by Black Eyed Pilseung, the mastermind production duo behind some of Twice’s greatest hits, the song encompasses the trademark sound listeners have come to expect from Twice—one that is cheerful, bright, and that unapologetically embraces the most successful tropes of pop music.
The song pays homage to its masterful production with a purely instrumental climax that consists of the same backtrack that had accompanied the song’s previous choruses. It doesn’t introduce any new musical facets or do anything different. Strangely, however, there’s a quality to it that feels new and fresh, one that only continues to amp up the song and keep listeners engaged.
The rest of twicetagram unfortunately fails to live up to the excellence of the first track. At best, the album is fun and experimental; at worst, it veers on mediocre and forgettable.
One song guilty of the latter is “Rollin,” which perhaps draws from the worst and most ineffective of 80s pop. The song utilizes a grating talk-rap style throughout its verses, which comes off as outdated and unmelodic instead of conveying an “old school cool” vibe. It’s a unique and new style for the group, however, and has merit if only for its daringness and interesting arrangement.
In contrast, one of the most musically successful songs on the album is “Look at Me,” a song that recalls the R&B-influenced, synthesizer-backed electronic style that dominated Korean pop in the early 2010s. It’s catchy in an assured, subdued way, with a steady beat and aurally pleasing synthesizer tune that flows in and out of the backtrack.
Perhaps the most memorable track on the album, however, is one that marks a notable departure from Twice’s usual bubblegum pop sound: “Sleep Tight, Goodnight.” The song is an acoustic ballad with warm and bare production, consisting solely of a muted-sounding acoustic guitar and a few well-placed piano chords.
Unlike Twice’s other songs, which often feel overproduced and manufactured, “Sleep Tight, Goodnight” sounds quiet and intimate. The track’s simplistic, muted production evokes images of warm and still summer nights, its bareness suggesting a certain sincerity that simultaneously humanizes the artist and soothes the listener. It’s a song that is surprisingly emotionally mature and compelling, serving as a reminder to listeners of the group’s musical potential.
Twice continues to surprise and impress listeners by experimenting with new sounds and further developing their existing style on twicetagram. On its most memorable tracks, the album showcases the best of pop music—its ability to soothe, uplift, motivate, and charm. Even its weaker tracks possess musical merit, suggesting that the group is still making their way towards fully developing their sound. With an album that only seems to suggest an upward trajectory, it’s easy to see why Twice is South Korea’s foremost pop group at the moment.