While the pop timeline has been historically unkind to girl groups as they grow in the industry, TWICE is heading into their fifth year together with arguably more international attention than ever — in the midst of a year bringing new highs and lows.
After a 2015 debut on the K-pop scene that led them to landing annual viral hits, 2019 marked a change in which the ninesome was able to land hits while showcasing a more mature and heartfelt side of themselves with singles like “Fancy” and “Feel Special.” Even as TWICE dealt with stalking threats, scary mobbing at airports and member Mina taking a break from performances due to mental health issues, the group turned their real-life hardships into their most personal material yet. Instead of hurting their rise, the experiences have led to even greater Billboard chart achievements and marked a fascinating a turning point in TWICE history. Instead of glossing over the issues that have plagued the act, the group embraced and learned from them, and it created some of their best material yet.
TWICE was able to see up close how international fans were responding to their creative changes this year during their first U.S. tour, which included three arena dates, as well in Japan for their first “dome tour” that saw the band performing in the country’s biggest venues with tickets selling out in minutes.
Jihyo, Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Mina, Sana, Dahyun Momo, Chaeyoung and Tzuyu took some time to sit down and get deep into answering questions for Billboard (via translators) to look back at their remarkable time together so far, address some of the tougher parts of this year and share some secrets about what’s coming next.
Hello, TWICE! Congratulations on such a successful year. Let’s check in on everyone. How are you all feeling as 2019 comes to a close?
Nayeon: I’ve been enjoying the last few days of 2019. We’ve been prepping and rehearsing for our upcoming performances, so that has been a challenge but still so fun. I can’t believe 2019 is already coming to an end, but I am so excited to see everything 2020 has in store for us.
Jeongyeon: We’re always busy, but I think we are the busiest during the end of the year. We are preparing for our upcoming performances and award ceremonies. We have a lot to be thankful for in 2019; we’re so appreciative to have received the awards we have this year, and of course we are very thankful to everyone who loves K-pop and supports our music.
Momo: It’s a very busy season for us right now, but I am also looking back and reflecting on all the amazing things we’ve accomplished this year. 2019 has been a great year, and I am sad that it’s ending, but I’m very excited for 2020.
Sana: This year we didn’t have much time to stay in Korea during the winter, so it feels like 2019 has been warmer than usual.
Jihyo: It’s pretty hectic for us right now, getting ready for our performances and starting to plan 2020. We want to thank all our fans for the incredible support in 2019, and we can’t wait to show you what we have planned for 2020!
Mina: I can’t believe how fast time flies. Feels like we just celebrated the new year. I’m just thinking back on this past year and am feeling so appreciative and proud of all the things we’ve accomplished.
Dahyun: We are usually very busy towards the end of the year, so I know that whenever we get super busy, it must be a sign that the year is ending. We’re all very excited for the new year!
Chaeyoung: We’re all getting ready for 2020 and working on some very exciting things for the new year.
Tzuyu: I’m the happiest when I get to meet all of our amazing fans from around the world, and we got to meet so many incredible ONCE in 2019.
TWICE had a major year on the Billboard charts. Fancy You earned you your biggest album sales in America, then Feel Special broke that record for your biggest album sales. Do you think there was something in particular that connected with these albums or concepts?
Nayeon: This was the first time we toured in the U.S., and we are so thankful for everyone who came to see us. It was great to finally meet our ONCE in the States. We’re so overwhelmed by the support and love. We are so happy that so many fans were able to relate to our new album, Feel Special, and we hope to see them in the U.S. again soon.
Jeongyeon: America is very far away from Korea, so we were very impressed that people knew K-pop, let alone liked it! There were so many more fans than we expected to see, so we were overjoyed. When we were making the album, our goal was to create music and lyrics that people could relate to, and I think we accomplished that.
Momo: This was our first time touring in the U.S., and I think all of our favorite part was getting to meet all the fans. It was an honor to have our album and names mentioned on the Billboard charts. Like Jeongyeon said, our goal with the album was to have something people could empathize with and relate to, and we are so happy that our fans were able to do that.
What did you learn on this U.S. tour that differed from your past tour experiences??
Nayeon: The passion I felt from the U.S. fans was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Although we don’t get a chance to see each other often, it felt like we had been friends for years. We really want to thank everyone who came out to see us. I would love to improve my English and come tour in the U.S. more often.
Jihyo: I was very touched and blown away that people who speak a completely different language and live so far away from Korea were such huge supporters of us! It was our first time touring in the U.S., so seeing all the fans’ reactions and seeing them dress up in costumes from our music videos was so awesome.
Chaeyoung: I tried my best to study some English so that I could deliver a message to our fans in the U.S. I hope we get to come back again soon!
“Feel Special” felt like a really important single not only for the group, but it also gave you a new No. 1 on Billboard’s World Digital Song Sales chart and your first hit on the Canada Hot 100. What do you think resonated with this single with listeners?
Sana: First off, thank you so much! Anybody that has been following TWICE quickly realized that the lyrics in “Feel Special” illustrated the inner feelings and thoughts of both TWICE, but also ONCE — feelings that we couldn’t necessarily talk about openly. I think anybody who was going through a rough day or was facing some hardships in their life related to this song. Also the song cheers us up whenever we listen to it, so I believe that’s another thing that resonated with listeners.
Jihyo: I believe that the lyrics to “Feel Special” share an important message. We’re in our 20s, and we write about hardships and obstacles we face in our lives, and I think that people of all ages can relate to us and our lyrics. Our fans especially know the things we’ve dealt with this year, and I hope that listening to our song made them as happy as it made us!
Mina: Even though we speak a different language, fans from all over the world were able to relate to our lyrics. I think this just goes to show the power of music, and that we are all human and experiencing the same things. Thank you to all our fans for supporting our music and for always being there for us.
Another big part of this year was opening up yourselves more and being vulnerable when it came to mental health and other topics. Can you share what you’ve learned this past year about taking care of not only your physical but mental health?
Dahyun: If you there is something on your mind that you’re worried about, it is so important to have friends you can depend on and talk to in times of need. Also, it is totally fine to be busy and to work hard, but you also have to listen to your body and rest when you are feeling tired. Ignoring the needs of your body, both physically and mentally, could be very harmful later on.
Chaeyoung: I always come to the same conclusion: I am the key to my mental and physical health. You have the power to control your mental well-being just by changing your mindset. I always try and remind myself of this and keep my thoughts positive.
Tzuyu: Whenever I am going through something, I always have my fellow members to lean on. We all depend on each other for support and advice; that’s why we have such a strong bond. I don’t know what I would do without them.
Unfortunately this year ended with some scary news as your company has had to address unsafe behavior at the airport and even stalking threats. It’s difficult for a lot of us to imagine what you might be going through, but can you let us know how the group is doing or how fans can be supportive?
Jeongyeon: This was also our first time dealing with something like that. Our team is doing their best to deal with the situation and are doing everything they can to make sure that we feel safe and supported.
Sana: I just want everybody to be happy — both TWICE and ONCE — the most important thing is to be healthy and happy. That’s what we are focusing on right now.
Dahyun: We truly thank everyone who come to see us so early in the morning [at airports], but safety is the most important thing for everyone. Our team has been great through the whole process, and really try to make sure we feel protected. Obviously we want everyone to be safe and happy too!
Not only is it the end of the year, but it’s the end of the decade! Many say TWICE is ending this decade as “the top girl group.” How does that kind of title feel?
Momo: We have dreamed of being “the top girl group” for so long, and we are so thankful and appreciative to even be described as that. We owe everything to our fans and we want to make sure we continue to be the top girl group in their eyes.
Mina: That is such a sweet title, but I think we still have a long way to go. There’s so much more we want to accomplish, and we just want to continue spreading positivity and love to our fans!
Tzuyu: What an honor. When we were just starting out, we could never have imagined to be where we are now. Top girl group is awesome, but I also really loved this description of our group: “TWICE who impress fans once via the eyes, and twice via the ears.”
Billboard chose both “Fancy” and “TT” in our 100 Greatest K-Pop Songs of the Decade list. Do you agree with these choices? What do you think some of your best songs of the decade are?
Nayeon: We were just so honored to be included! My favorite song of ours has to be “Feel Special.” It was a little different than our bright songs that talk about love and general happy things, but we thought the song had a special message. The song was directly written about our experiences and our concerns, so I think it was an especially truthful song.
Sana: What an incredible honor. We’re constantly so busy and everything is so hectic, so sometimes we forget to take a step back and really soak everything in and appreciate everything we have. We are so proud of these songs and we want to thank everyone for the support.
Tzuyu: Thank you so much for including us! We were so thankful that so many people from different countries loved our song and supported us. For me, I can’t pick just one song that I love, because all of our songs have their own memories and special meanings to me.
What are your hopes for the new year and the new decade, maybe not only for TWICE but for K-pop music as well?
Jeongyeon: Our new year’s resolution is to be healthier, mentally and physically. To continue to grow as a group and create music, our health should always be the No. 1 priority.
Momo: I hope that more and more people fall in love with K-pop in the new decade. For us personally, and for our fans, I hope everyone stays healthy and has many exciting, happy things coming their way in the new year!
Jihyo: I hope that the wonderful culture of K-pop music continues to grow and evolve and that artists continue to be supportive of each other. I think we can easily accomplish this with the help of all of our amazing fans.
Since it’s the end of the decade, can you make predictions or wishes for another member where she’ll be 10 years later?
Nayeon: Mina loves Hawaii, and she goes there a lot for vacation. In the next decade, I think she might buy a house in Hawaii so that she can visit there more often. [Laughs.]
Jeongyeon: I don’t even want to think about myself at 35 years old in 2029… but I think Dahyun will be just as cute as she is now in 10 years!
Momo: After 10 years, I think Chaeyoung will still be just as creative as she is now. She has such a versatile personality that I think anything she chooses to do she will be great at.
Sana: Hmm… I guess Tzuyu will still be doing a great job being the youngest member of our team! I can’t wait to hear all her funny stories after 10 years. She always makes all of us smile and we look forward to hearing her life stories.
Jihyo: In 2029, Nayeon and I will be in our 30s. We hope we will still be able to follow our passions and be all together as TWICE. That would make us the happiest. I know Nayeon and I will have an awesome time in our 30s.
Mina: Jeongyeon will still be taking care of all of us in 10 years: We will still be sharing food together and she will still tell us all her interesting and funny stories. Maybe the types of stories will be a little different, but I still can’t wait to hear them.
Dahyun: After 10 years, Momo will still be just as bright and energetic. I don’t know what I will look like — it’s too far in the future to imagine — but I do wonder how the other members might look like after 10 years. Maybe a little more mature?
Chaeyoung: Actually, I can’t really imagine Sana in 10 years… one thing for sure, though, is that she’ll be just as bright and cute as she is now.
Tzuyu: Because Jihyo has such a great voice, I think she may release a solo album by 2029. I also think she might be even more beautiful as time passes. I’m sure that she will mature gracefully, and be just as pretty on the outside and she is on the inside.
Looking ahead, will your schedule be as packed as it was in 2019? Any new year’s resolutions or messages?
Mina: We will be continuing the TwiceLights Tour finale in Seoul and at the Tokyo Dome early next year; we’re so excited! We have so many exciting things coming in the next year and we can’t wait to show ONCE what we have in store. We’re looking at a very busy 2020.
Dahyun: In 2020, TWICE will be working hard and staying busy as usual! Concerts, a tour, a new album, so many exciting things are scheduled. It’s looking like 2020 will be just as busy as 2019, but that just means we get to see all of our incredible fans again.
Chaeyoung: I recently glanced at our schedule for 2020 and realized it’s all already full! What can we say, we like to stay busy. My new year’s resolution is to work on new music, build my hobbies and, most importantly, live a happy life.
Anything else you’d like to share with international fans as the year and decade ends?
Nayeon: ONCE, we were so happy to meet all of you during our world tour! Thank you so much for giving us such happy and amazing memories that we will never forget. We will try to come back as often as we can and show you some love in return.
Dahyun: ONCE, you have been so amazing in 2019! We really appreciate you for all your support and everything that you do for us. We hope your year ends on a positive note, and I hope you all are healthy, happy and greet the new year with a big smile!
Jihyo: ONCE and TWICE members, let’s all focus on being happier in the new year! Happy holidays to everyone, and I hope this new year brings you many blessings.