[Review] TWICE continue to refine their sound on “Feel Special”

TWICE have had a transformative 2019 so far, embracing a more refined sound while maintaining their immense popularity. Fancy has slowly become my most-played title track from the group, eclipsing their iconic 2016 work. Time will tell if new single Feel Special will overtake that spot, but the song makes a great first impression. By opting for a more straightforward club beat and robust chorus, the girls draw on their talents in unforeseen ways.

Part of me thought (and feared) that Twice would forever remain a quirky-cute girl group. The first handful of Twice title tracks had an idiosyncratic appeal, but stuck to a similar template. Now that they’ve begun to branch out with songs like this and Breakthrough, it’s like we’re listening to a completely different group.

The first few moments of Feel Special had me worried. I feel like we’ve heard this chirpy synth loop a million times before. It’s a holdover from K-pop’s endless fascination with tropical house, augmented to fit within a deep house framework. I’d still prefer a more unique texture, but the instrumental is quickly bolstered by a high-energy dance beat that feels commanding and confident. Even when the tempo drops for the half-time pre-chorus, Special maintains its momentum. I could do without the trap-rap bridge, but unfortunately these dalliances come with the territory nowadays.

Thankfully, Feel Special doesn’t climax in some undercooked beat drop. Its chorus proudly waves its anthemic banner, going for the pop music jugular with a full-throated refrain. It doesn’t force itself to be “cute” or “girl crush,” or any other K-pop buzz word. It just is. That may sound like odd praise, but it’s a quality that’s been frustratingly hard to find this year. The verses are less memorable, but they get the job done without needless diversions. The song’s middle section is particularly strong, effortlessly harnessing the energy from its chorus to drive things forward. Between this and Fancy, it feels like Twice have finally become comfortable with their standing as Korea’s biggest girl group. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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IATFB says: Feels like this was supposed to be their Korean “Breakthrough”, which I loved, but it doesn’t quite hit as immediately as that or their other Korean hits. That said, it wouldn’t be the first time that I graded a TWICE song out as average to above-average initially and it eventually grew on me.

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