This week I’m back with that kpop coverage that I know all of you love. Maybe one day I’ll get around to writing that post explaining why I like kpop as much as I do (and why you should too), but that will be another day.
I think that TWICE are a group that exemplifies kpop in its current state. The group was formed through a “girl group survival” reality show, a kind of glorified popularity contest (with a bit of controversial interference to help round out the group) which is becoming ever more common in kpop with shows like Produce 101, WIN and I guess even Kpop Star and Sister Slam Dunk. TWICE have the common traits of the “modern” kpop group, with the standard assortment of “specialised” members such as vocalists (Jihyo, Nayeon), rappers (Dahyun, Chaeyoung), dancers (Momo) and the “visuals” (Tzuyu), as well as others who can fall into any of them (Jeongyeon, Mina and Sana). Another feature of the modern kpop group is the international line, such as the Japanese Mina, Momo and Sana, as well as the Taiwanese Tzuyu, which is meant to help the group’s appeal internationally*.
But what perhaps makes TWICE standout from the rest of kpop is how “available” they are to their fans. Having come started from a reality show, the group is filled with a mix of likeable personalities and strong charisma who are all used to being exposed on TV. They’ve been performing on all the music shows, making appearances on all the variety shows (it helps when you have nine members to spread out), and have their own very active live streaming channel where fans can have “direct access” to them. TWICE are probably the best kpop group when it comes to that kind of fan service and their fandom (ONCEs) is ever growing and ever loyal…
…which is interesting when it comes to their newest single, Signal. Signal hasn’t exactly had the best reception. While TT was a runaway hit, becoming a bit of a meme and now the most viewed girl group MV on Youtube, a lot of people have been disappointed by the other TWICE tracks and Signal seems to be the most disappointing. Having relied on cute songs with a catchy hooks for every single so far, a lot of fans were looking for something a little different, but Signal seems to be a bit too different. I don’t think its as terrible as some people are making it out to be, after Red Velvet’s Rookie, I’m down with the weirdness of its “rap” bits.
The lukewarm reception hasn’t really stopped TWICE on the charts though, and the album broke Hanteo’s first day album sales record off the back of its loyal fanbase**. So again, as is typical of kpop, the song doesn’t matter nearly as much as who its performed by.
For me though, Signal is nice enough, but I still want more from TWICE.
* It’s always interesting to look at where the international members of kpop groups come from. An older group like Girls Generation has a mix of Koreans and Korean Americans, but after a few groups have tried to break into the US market and failed, the industry seems to be shifting their attention more toward Asia where kpop has had greater success. But the political tensions within Asia have led to a downturn of Hallyu in the big markets China and Japan, so it’ll be interesting to see how everything plays out in the next few years.
** Albums in kpop are more of a collectors item and TWICE have gone all out with three versions of the same album with a series of random picture cards/posters, making dedicated fans buy multiple copies to have a chance at getting their favourites. And dedicated fans will buy many copies.