As one of the leading girl groups in the world since their 2015 debut, TWICE have consistently one-upped themselves time and time again – and they’re only keeping it moving in These Uncertain Times™.
One might even say you…can’t stop them.
The non-stop nonet became one of the early adopters of virtual live experiences amid the pandemic while forging ahead with not one, but two comebacks in 2020, plus a Japanese single. Their second full-length studio album Eyes wide open, released on Monday (October 26), is evidence that, despite being five years deep into the game, they’re just getting started with expanding their musical boundaries, especially by going back…to the future.
This time around, the nine-member talented troupe explores ’80s-style influences on their latest full-length album, especially their fantastic lead single “I CAN’T STOP ME,” a sleek, sexy, (fittingly) unstoppable synth-pop production full of immediately catchy melodies, co-written by J.Y. Park, Alex Wright, Melanie Joy Fontana, Michel “Lindgren” Schulz and JYP composter Sim Eun Jee. The track is an instant replay-ready jam – and also feels like something present “Blinding Lights”-era The Weeknd would love.
The general throwback vibe floats in and out throughout the record, including the Wonder Girls-circa Reboot-style city-pop of “SAY SOMETHING” – an especially strong groove, especially in this present disco-era revival, as well as “UP NO MORE.” The sound certainly seems to be the underlying spirit of JYP artists past and present throughout this year including Sunmi‘s “Pporappippam” and her duet with her former label boss, “When We Disco.” No complaints, of course – city-pop forever, please.
Retro moments aside, the whole album is a bright pick-‘n’-mix of largely uptempo textures, including the unexpectedly dub-y midtempo “BRING IT BACK,” conjuring early ’10s pop, to the bossy and brash “GO HARD” (that “Feel Special” shout-out!), to EDM festival-ready “DO WHAT WE LIKE” – all a far cry from their cutesy “TT” and “LIKEY” days. Some songs do supply a hint of their early spirit though, including “SHOT CLOCK,” a pep rally-ready explosion of brass and marching beats, a la “TOUCHDOWN.”
The songwriting credits are full of fun surprise appearances from both established artists and songwriting superstars, from MNEK on the sultry-smooth, finger-snapping “HANDLE IT,” to prolific British duo LDN Noise (“BELIEVER”) and Swedish duo Sunshine (Ellen Berg and Cazzi Opeia) on “QUEEN.” Even better, the girls themselves are all over the record as contributors, including leader Jihyo on “UP NO MORE,” Sana on “DO WHAT WE LIKE” and and Nayeon on “DEPEND ON YOU.”
The biggest of surprises however is the final track, “BEHIND THE MASK,” which finds Dua Lipa (!) and Heize (!) credited on the same song. It’s a driving power anthem, and perhaps the closest thing to a ballad on an otherwise fast and furious record, allowing the girls to flaunt their vocal skills on a chill-inducing, atmospheric production that actually suits the spooky season well.
In terms of K-pop albums, there are (too) many cases where the title track far outweighs the greatness of the rest of the set. That’s not the case for Eyes wide open, a wall-to-wall collection of sturdy bangers pulling from a variety of genres, easily making this one the year’s most satisfying, well-rounded K-pop releases.
TWICE stay winning, as always.
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Photo credit: JYP Entertainment