TWICE Open Up on ‘With YOU-th’ Album Themes of Growing Up & Beyond K-Pop

It takes around 30 minutes, but eventually, TWICE relaxes enough in their New York City hotel room to chitchat and laugh out loud among their nine-member huddle — a stark difference from the professionally guarded and admittedly “nervous” girl group that Billboard spoke with at their first U.S. appearance in 2016.



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Ever the humble professionals, the K-pop heroines and their loyal fans have earned the right to comfortably settle into a new, happier routine after growing for nearly nine years together.

Nearly immediately following TWICE’s entry into the K-pop scene in late 2015, members Jihyo, Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Mina, Sana, Momo, Dahyun, Chaeyeon and Tzuyu became reliable chart-toppers and commanded the industry’s attention with every release. Not only did they set the standard for their generation of K-pop acts with nine consecutive No. 1 singles on South Korea’s Circle Chart, the nontet replicated their prominence in the Japanese market (with 20 top 10 entries in the Billboard Japan Hot 100) with a next natural step in cracking the world’s largest industry, the United States.

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With a lineup from South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, the U.S. is a trickier and far less obvious market to embrace TWICE. In K-pop’s ongoing global crossover, where more acts have fluent English speakers and Billboard-charting girl groups are trending towards six or fewer singers, TWICE remains strong with all nine of its original members. After taking over K-pop with the viral performances and dances accompanying singles like “Cheer Up” and “TT,” and solidifying a deeper connection with tracks like their biographical “Feel Special” and the encouragement anthem “Talk That Talk,” now is the moment for the group to let the material strengthen the bond with U.S. audiences.

“‘I Got You’ was influenced by TWICE,” leader Jihyo explains of their latest original English single that kicked off their new era in early February. “It’s us speaking to each other and encouraging each other, which is really great that we can do this together because there are members who can help me when I’m having a hard time, there are members who see me when I’m in a good mood — just being together is encouraging…just like how PD [producer-director J.Y. Park] first made ‘Feel Special,’ the album concept itself is putting together our story. We wanted to showcase how the fans look at our teamwork, and that’s why we chose this song.”

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The JYP Entertainment founder and producer behind TWICE hits like “Signal,” “What Is Love?” and “Alcohol-Free,” Park previously told Billboard how a teary meeting discussing relying on their team mates through the hardships of K-pop idol fame inspired him to write the No. 1 single on the spot in 2019. But if “Feel Special” was birthed from TWICE’s hardships and growing pains, “I Got You” and its quick-selling accompanying mini album EP With YOU-th comes from reaching a point of happy stability.

“Up ’til now, we’ve never done a song like this before,” Jihyo adds. “We’ve always been singing songs about the theme of love, and this is more about our friendship, kind of similar to ‘Feel Special,’ and it was really comforting to us because of that…It was actually one of the songs on the album that the members reacted to really well. I thought it was new, but it also felt comfortable. We liked the lyrics [for] the fans and thought the fans would like the lyrics as well.” Momo adds, “While we were performing this song outside [in Mexico City] on tour, the weather was nice, it went so well with the song — just seeing the fans’ expressions was really great to see.”

The sentiment extends to their upbeat lead single, “One Spark,” released alongside With YOU-th on Feb. 23, originally in Korean before the English version dropped days later for maximum global consumption. Lyrics in both versions speak to a unique, undeniable ally through an effervescent tempo-hopping pop jam: “If I lose my rhythm/ Then your beat goes on and on,” Mina and Tzuyu sing on the pre-chorus, with the English version’s chorus shouting out “My favorite person, it’s our golden days/ My heart is burning, burning, burning/ Don’t lose this spark, baby.”

“Actually, we were thinking a lot about which title song [single] we should do between ‘One Spark’ and ‘I Got You,’” explains youngest member Tzuyu, sharing the group’s opinion heavily influences their musical path today, but joke they’ll take 100 percent creative control at 10 years. “We voted between the two songs of what should be the title track single. I think ‘One Spark’ is actually a great song performance-wise and we can put on quite a powerful stage performance.”

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“Compared to, let’s say, ‘Set Me Free,’ the choreo is a bit more complicated with a lot more movement to consider with our stage outfits,” Chaeyoung adds about bringing the new single to life. “It’s a faster song. It’s tough, but we worked hard on this choreo and felt like we grew, so I’m glad we’re doing it. Even in the music video, once we’re together and partying, the mood explodes. Of course, people can take it in this way, and others might see it a little bit differently, but overall, we just wanted to showcase the good energy among us and how much synergy we have within the group.”

But alongside the celebratory mood, a poignant moment in the music video comes during a flashback when viewers see Dahyun crying in the dance studio with several members trying to cheer her up. While Dahyun admits she had a tear dropper on set just in case, she ultimately “really wanted to express my own emotions, so I just cried by myself without any tools.”

“The music video shows us in their past during our trainee times when we were going through a hard time,” Jihyo says. “We wanted to showcase how we push each other throughout those hard times working as a team.”

Admitting that the trip down memory lane brought back “sad emotions,” Nayeon adds how “even if this didn’t happen during that trainee time exactly, we thought about how, throughout our history, there were a lot of these kinds of moments.”

Momo says the new album process brought back her experiences with Sixteen, the 2015 singing competition show that created the group. “I was actually remembering when I was first eliminated on Sixteen and crying,” she shares. “All the members were there with me. And when we were filming, one of us had to go to the emergency room and all the members were together.”

Exploring a deeper connection with each other and their loyal fans — affectionately known as ONCE — is a central theme in With YOU-th.

A teaser video previewing all six new tracks on the EP shows what one might imagine a longtime superfan’s room may look like, with different memorabilia, imagery, and visual references from past eras accompanying the audio. With YOU-th is not just a message of togetherness but marks them moving and maturing through the years.

“Around our debut, or even a few years ago, many of our fans still went to school and now go to work. Or there may have been a few in middle school and now in high school,” Sana reflects. “We take a lot of pride in seeing them and how they grow. We’re really thankful that we have fans who have been with us throughout their time as we grew with our career.” TWICE even know two ONCEs who ended up marrying each other.



Courtesy of JYP Entertainment

Three B-side tracks on With YOU-th feature three TWICE members as sole songwriters sharing their experience of growing more mature and fearless in their creative processes.

‘Bloom’ is a song about asking someone to wait,” Jeongyeon shares of the track she wrote. “Referencing a flower, the last step would be when the flower blooms, meaning I will come to grab you then and hold you.”

Chaeyoung felt inspired by alt-pop star PinkPantheress while writing “Rush.” “While I was listening, I felt like a Jersey Club rhythm, kind of like PinkPantheress’ music, and thought the sound itself was quite cute and lovely, so I wanted to bring that in the emotions in the lyrics in a fun way,” the Seoul native says. “Lyric-wise, it’s about approaching something or someone, so I wrote it in a more fun way.”

Bringing the record full circle, With YOU-th closes with the Dahyun-penned “You Get Me” that connects to “I Got You” by expanding on a relationship more profound than words.

“The lyrics say how ‘even if we don’t say anything, you already know me,’” explains Dahyun. “It’s a warm, easy-listening song, and I really wanted to write the lyrics as soon as I heard it. I was able to do that, so I’m really happy about that and can’t wait for the fans to listen.”

While teasing that “ONCEs are going to be really busy this year,” there is certainly a concerted focus on ensuring TWICE can and will keep developing.

“The biggest thing is that K-pop has become so global,” reflects Mina, as TWICE moves into contention for their first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 — an arguably overdue feat as they hold the largest U.S. sales week for a female K-pop act when Ready to Be earned 153,000 equivalent album units last year. “I think that teams’ lifespans have generally been extended a lot and that we’ll be able to do much more in the future. There have been a lot more opportunities to take advantage of because of the global expansion of K-pop. If there’s something wrong, we’ll tell the company, but as long as the fans want to meet us, we want to go until the end.”

“There’s not so much meaning behind setting goals now; we put a bigger priority on promoting longer and spending meaningful time with the fans,” Jihyo adds. “Of course, the company might have a goal. But personally, we think that having a happy time with fans is the goal right now.”

Despite the warm contentment felt inside With YOU-th, and within the TWICE members’ tight-knit cluster after nearly an hour of chatting, there’s one quick glimmer of hesitancy from Jihyo after a mention of their exciting chart prospects in their latest crossover push into America.

“You know how you mentioned, ‘Isn’t it time for America to focus on TWICE?’” the group leader says quietly but firmly, as their final word. “Please do focus on us.”