By: Hannah Waitt
Over the past week, a big to-do has been made over TWICE’s new release “TT”. The group has been breaking records left and right since the music video dropped, and in fact it was just announced that as of today, the group has sold 165,000 copies of their new record, making TWICE Kpop’s highest-selling female artist of the year just a week after TWICEcoaster’s release.
TWICE’s commercial success with “TT” has sparked an intense conversation about whether or not the group will take over Girls’ Generation’s reign of Kpop. Though “the next GG” has been a hot-button topic for quite some time, up to this point no group ever seemed even close to worthy of the title. While Bangtan Boys and EXO’s rise to the top of the male Kpop sphere was undeniable, for the past two years no girl group has really proven themselves deserving of taking the baton from SNSD as Kpop’s universally recognized representative girl group. And it’s not as if Girls’ Generation hasn’t given their juniors a chance: SNSD is pushing ten years next August and hasn’t done any group promotions since the July 2015 release of their album “Lion Heart”. By all means they’ve left the door wide open for a junior group to come on in and take their spot as “the nation’s girl group”, but despite the efforts of numerous rookie groups, no one seems able to rise to the challenge.
So what is it about TWICE that suddenly has the Kpop community abuzz with talk of “the next GG”? First of all, we have to acknowledge the obvious: “TT” is a jam. The song is frighteningly addictive and despite the fact that it’s been blaring out of every shop front, restaurant, and taxi cab in Seoul for the past week, nobody seems tired of it yet (I know I’m not). The song has that repetitive “I’m like TT, just like TT” hook that’s easy to remember and even easier to sing along to, even for fans who can’t speak Korean. Not only this, but “TT” is representative of TWICE’s overall sound — it’s in line with their past singles and defines who they are as a group and where they stand in the Kpop industry, much the way that “Gee” and then “Genie” did for Girls’ Generation. The music video is also racking up views in the same way (actually faster than) “Gee” did, but something larger is at work with TWICE besides the addictiveness of their latest single.
While the catchiness of “TT” is certainly important to TWICE’s newfound commercial advancement in Kpop, even more important is the fact that with the release of “TT”, TWICE has become one of the only girl groups out there with a diverse range of members for us to care about. Our favorite books, TV shows, and films are incredible because of the unique assortment of characters whose stories they tell, and Kpop is no different. One of the biggest reasons that Girls’ Generation has become so loved by Korea and by fans all over the world, is that their story lies at the intersection of a complex set of characters with different backgrounds and personalities that they allow to shine through, all while maintaining a united front as a group. Even if you cringe at Sunny’s aegyo, you can still be smitten by Yuri’s tomboyish vibe. If you’re adverse to Tiffany’s go-getter attitude, you can still laugh at Taeyeon’s blasé aloofness. There’s something about the contrast of each of their characters and their colors that makes the group fit together even better in that they represent both the good and bad traits that we all have. Girls’ Generation reflects who we already are and who we want to be all at once, and that is exactly what makes our favorite characters relatable and lovable.
With the release of “TT”, TWICE is perhaps the first group since Girls’ Generation that has been able to clearly cultivate and present each member’s story while preserving a unified image as a whole. As Kpop began to rise in prominence around the globe and become a profitable endeavor for companies in Korea, so many girl groups just got thrown on stage with no plan, no story, just one music video after another. It’s like all the other girl groups out there are the “Suicide Squad” movie — they feel haphazardly tossed together and then force their backstories on us all at once in the hopes that we’ll take to one of them and make them our “bias”. Meanwhile, TWICE is “The Avengers” series — over the course of these past two years, they’ve invested the time to develop each character through their own “Iron Man”, “Captain America”, and “Thor” films, and we’ve therefore been able to place them into these very specific roles within the team, which has had an awesome and powerful end result.
TWICE has done this not just through SIXTEEN and their other variety and talk show appearances, but in the music videos themselves. Two out of TWICE’s three music videos so far have quite literally written out the members as different characters. In “Cheer Up” we see each TWICE member’s character change as a new filter is applied: from Momo’s gun-wielding Lara Croft, to Tzuyu’s “Gone With the Wind” ball gown and pearls, to Sana’s famous “shy shy shy” Sailor Moon cosplay, each of the members assign themselves archetypes within the music video.
TWICE utilizes the exact same strategy with “TT”, further strengthening each member’s individual identity as each of them is designated Halloween costumes to fit their personalities. This time Momo is a friendly Tinkerbell, Tzuyu is a hauntingly gorgeous vampire, Sana is a scaredy-cat super hero, and so on and so forth. And while this all seems insanely obvious and basic, it works. I’ll be the first to admit that if you put all of today’s female rookies in a lineup for me, I would have trouble placing even 20% of the members into their correct groups, despite the fact that I’m bombarded with their images and music videos seemingly every day. It’s the TWICE members’ clear-cut associations to well-known character roles that allows us to tie them to certain personality traits that we ourselves possess (or want to possess), and as a result, tell them apart and learn to love them for their differences. Each of the members of TWICE stand out as individuals while still managing to fit into the group, and that sort of equilibrium is not easy to achieve.
The strategic placement of diverse personalities in a larger group (despite its blatantly manufactured nature) is a huge part of what has made this genre successful from the beginning, and somewhere in the fourth generation Kpop rush, most companies seem to have forgotten that in their haste to debut their groups. TWICE may be the first group since Girls’ Generation to give us a well-developed set of characters to know and love, and for that reason, their well-timed hit “TT” could indeed be their “Gee”. I’m not calling them “the next GG” just yet — the group still has a ways to go before they reach that sort of legend status. What I am saying though, is that “Gee” sparked a long fuse that led to Girls’ Generation’s eventual blowup, and with “TT”, TWICE may have finally found the fuse that could lead to the right pile of TNT.
Tags: Gee Girls’ Generation TT TWICE