Eschewing the typical K-pop girl group fare, TWICE dropped their latest song, “Cheer Up,” this week. Released less than a year after their debut single “Like Ooh-Ahh,” “Cheer Up” is a follow-up track that solidifies TWICE’s unique style amid the new generation of K-pop groups.
Since their formation in 2015 on a reality program, TWICE gathered a massive following, leading to high expectations for “Cheer Up.” With a spastic sound that verges on jarring, the single moves through different beats and pulls from a variety of genres to create a song that never really goes where the listener expects, but helps defines TWICE’s overall musical concept. The atypical composition of “Cheer Up” necessitates repeat listens, and emphasizes TWICE as an alternative to so many homogeneous K-pop girl groups.
Instead of promoting TWICE’s oneness, “Cheer Up” highlights the individuality of TWICE’s nine members while foregoing musical wholeness for the sake of eccentricity. The song comes together through underlying beats and sudden shifts while thriving on the diverse ranges and tones of TWICE’s members. Each woman is given a distinct role in the song with few overlapping harmonies, and even the chorus focuses on particular singers rather than bringing all the vocalists together. Despite the irregular style, “Cheer Up” didn’t do anything to harm TWICE’s popularity; the song took the No. 1 spot on the iTunes K-pop chart shortly after its release.
The accompanying video also backs up the assertion of independent identities and assigns roles to each singer, including school girls, super spies, cowgirls, Korean noblewomen from yesteryear, Hepburn-esque socialites, and Sailor Moon, before bringing TWICE together in the form of a cheerleading squad. Two days after its release, the music video for “Cheer Up” surpassed 7 million views.
Earlier this year the girl group became a contentious topic before Taiwan’s general elections. While the group was promoting “Like Ooh-Ahh” in China, TWICE’s Chou Tzuyu was singled out for allegedly promoting the Taiwanese independence movement by waving a flag of the Republic of China (Taiwan) during an appearance on an episode of a television show. Tzuyu faced backlash in China, where Taiwan is viewed as an extension of the country rather than a distinct entity, which led TWICE and other JYP acts to halt promotional activities in China. The situation prompted JYP Entertainment to release a video of the 16-year-old declaring “there is only one China,” which in turn led to outrage from pro-independence supporters in Taiwan, who felt that Tzuyu was forced to make the apology.
The scandal culminated with President-elect Tsai Ing-wen bringing up the incident during her electoral victory speech as a rallying point for Taiwanese unity. Flag-gate came to an end and resulted in Tzuyu becoming one of the most in demand K-pop stars, especially after China’s official state media released an article clarifying that her waving of the Taiwanese flag is acceptable to Chinese policy.
Following the controversy and press coverage, TWICE saw a surge in popularity; shortly after, their video for “Like Ahh-Ooh” took over the title of the most-watched K-pop debut music video ever on YouTube (It currently has over 55 million views). Ahead of the release of “Cheer Up,” TWICE was added to the lineup for this year’s KCON LA, the largest Korean pop culture event held outside of South Korea that features the rising stars of the K-pop industry.