It's not often that a group is this good right out of the gate.
TWICE's debut release "The Story Begins," released on Oct. 20, is a solid and entertaining release from beginning to end, blending influences from classic pop music with newer cutting edge studio techniques to make the album appealing to just about anyone.
Overall, "The Story Begins" is strikingly well-rounded and satisfying to listen to, surpassing many other albums I've heard this year, including ones released by established groups, with its consistency remaining throughout the six songs on the EP.
Much credit is due to the talented and diverse team of song writers, lyricists and producers that music and marketing genius JYP assembled for the effort, but the singers themselves should not be overlooked either.
Even though they were chosen by process of elimination from a group of previously unknown performers courtesy of the South Korean reality television program "Sixteen," TWICE pull off an incredible feat on "The Story Begins."
Whether harmonizing together, or singing individually, TWICE already sound like polished veterans, not newcomers or talent show contestants.
"Like Ooh Ahh," written by Black Eyed Pilseung and Sam Lewis, begins with a mysterious melancholy, but builds to a more triumphant feeling by the time the chorus comes around. There are notes in the vocal melody that shift and slide so gracefully, particularly the verse that band member Jihyo sings.
This song is a unique and creative combination of musical styles.
There are sawtooth waveforms backed by trap-style beats that give it a modern electronic dance music (EDM) edge, not to mention all the random video game sounds. But there is also a subtle strumming of electric guitar in the mix that sounds more like a classic rock song, and the combination is irresistible. Adding to the appeal, the chorus is infectious and the tempo is peppy and danceable.
"Like Ooh Ahh" was requested several times at a recent K-pop dance party that I DJ in Richmond, Va. So, I know that the partiers are feeling this one.
The next song, "Do It Again", written by J.Y. Park, Glen Choi, and Fingazz, is another real crowd rocker, and keeps the momentum going strong. The opening words at the beginning, "you ready, Girls?" remind me of the opening of 4Minute's "Hot Issue."
The intro backup vocals sound like a cheerleading chant and there is added cheering in the background mix that gives the song a wild party vibe. The fast rhymes at the end of this track go perfectly with that fast, funky drum-'n'-bass-influenced beat. "Do It Again" also has a super-heavy bassline that will definitely put your speakers to the test.
"I Think I'm Crazy," written by a whole crew of talented musicians and lyricists, is a slower ballad that has a certain '90s R&B vibe reminiscent of something TLC or En Vogue might have released. There are funky swelling keyboard notes that compliment the vocals throughout and the keyboard sounds get even funkier during the chorus, conjuring the spirit of 1970s New York City funk legends Cameo.
"Truth" is by Norwegian songwriting company Dsign (who have been churning out K-pop hits since 2009) as well as Tatiauna Matthews and Xin Xin Gao. This track borrows instrumentation from funk groups like the talented UK dance band Brand New Heavies and another seminal funk act, The Ohio Players with it's funky, rhythmic guitar strumming, punchy horn accents and a thick, growling bassline.
The vocals of "Truth" seem to draw inspiration from classic Motown groups like The Supremes, especially in the backing vocals and harmonies. This song is funky and playful throughout the verses, but the mood shifts to an ecstatic modern synth sound during the chorus, with epic piano octaves and earthquaking bass notes from the keyboards.
"Candy Boy" is the penultimate climax of the album, punctuated by heavy bass hits and a quick hand clapping rhythm. The verses are filled with tense anticipation that build to a triumphant chorus celebrating the affection of a boy who is sugary sweet. As this fancam video of the song from a recent showcase performance clearly shows, it's already a live favorite.
"Like a fool", the closing track written by Daniel Kim and Mayu Wakisaka, is a thoughtful piece that combines classic power balladry with a bumping hip-hop rhythm. With its nostalgic harmonica accents, acoustic guitar strumming, bright piano and moody strings, "Like A fool" brings an introspective feeling to the album and gives it a satisfying sense of finality.
Though, when it's finished, you're probably going to want to play this 2015 highlight again from the very beginning.
Watch the music video for the leadoff single from TWICE's "The Story Begins" EP "Like Ooh Ahh" RIGHT HERE
Listen to the full "The Story Begins" album RIGHT HERE
Carl Hamm is a DJ, radio host, film maker and self-described culture pusher. "Pop Yeh Yeh," Carl's critically-heralded compilation of 1960s psychedelic rock from Singapore and Malaysia, was released in 2014. He is currently working on a documentary film about '60s music in the same two countries.