Twice Comeback Review: “Signal”

Sometimes I feel like I have a love-hate relationship with Twice.  I really like them, but I get frustrated because I think JYP isn’t using them to their full potential (the agency, not the person).  They have catchy songs, appealing personalities, and stunning visuals – but we all know that by now.  I wanted to see them try something new, and it seemed like JYP was more and more determined to stick to what works.  “Signal” isn’t exactly the radical change I was hoping for, but it’s different enough from their previous hits that I’ll take it.  It’s not their best song so far, but it’s super cute and pretty darn fun.

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*WARNING!* This review assumes the reader has listened to the music and/or seen the music video!

Concept: Cute and quirky

Past Concept(s): A lot of people think Twice is cute, but I tend to disagree. While they’re naturally bubbly and refreshing, I don’t think they’re saccharine enough. I call their usual concept “feminine,” which is a mix of cute, girly, and sexy.

SONG:

Music by: JYP ‘The Asian Soul,” Kairos

Arrangement by: JYP, Kim Seungsoo, Armadillo, Jairos

Songs by JYP (the person) are about as close to pure pop as you can get, especially when they’re made for girl groups. His style seems like a perfect fit for Twice, who are straight up bubblegum pop.  But interestingly enough, “Signal” has a distinct retro sound.  It relies on a strumming bass and a fast-paced hi hat for an upbeat swing vibe.  This makes it sound slightly old-fashioned compared to their other tracks.  JYP’s signature pop synth is still there, but it’s more for ambiance.  It gives “Signal” a quirky feel, and it reminds me of outer space sound effects.  We’ll also see this retro/futuristic mix in the music video.

“Signal” is currently my favorite Twice song.  This is partly because I’ve listened to their other hits way too many times.  But it usually takes me a while to warm up to their music, and “Signal” was an instant like for me.  It literally hasn’t left my head ever since I first heard it.  I find myself humming it all the time, and I don’t even mind. It’s pretty simplistic with a one-track mind, but it never pretends to be more than what it is. It’s designed to be fun and catchy, and it fulfills that promise. The only thing I don’t like is the talk-singing.  I get why it’s there, but there’s something off about the delivery.

SCORE: 17/20

LYRICS:

Lyrics by: JYP

“Signal” is super straightforward. It’s about a girl trying to let her crush know she’s into them  But despite all her efforts (coy glances and smiles and the like), that clueless person just doesn’t get that she wants to be more than friends:

“I send you a sign, send you a signal, but it doesn’t work at all
I give you a glance and keep throwing you hints, but you don’t understand
You really got me so frustrated, I really don’t know why
Once again I gather up the courage, I send you a sign, send you a signal”

I always find pop stars singing about this kind of stuff amusing.  It’s kind of ironic because these girls will probably never have this problem. They literally have millions of fans who would love to be the person they’re singing about. But Twice’s M.O. is songs about crush-related feelings, because they want to be relatable to high school and college-age girls. And I think this situation is really relatable.  Goodness knows how many times I wished a crush was picking up on my hints back in the day.

SCORE: 8/10

LINE DISTRIBUTION:

Up until now, Twice has pretty much worked with the same formula.  In any of their title tracks, at least two of the following will be true:  Nayeon starts the song, Chaeyoung and Dahyun have the second verse together, Nayeon and Jihyo sing a chorus together,  Jeongyeon and/or Mina will sing part of the last chorus, and/or Tzuyu, Sana, and Momo have catchy lines that call attention to their visuals and cuteness.

It’s not the worst thing to have such a set line distribution; it just means that it’s a little predictable. They made some attempts to re-distribute with “Knock Knock,” but “Signal” really shakes things up. For once, Nayeon and Jihyo don’t have the coveted chorus – instead, it’s Tzuyu and Sana. This might be because main vocal Jihyo was injured in the last couple of months, and it would make sense for JYP to create a song that took the focus off of her. But whatever the reason, I think it was a good idea to have something less vocally challenging. Twice is always criticized for their singing anyway, so it’s better to have a song where it’s harder to point out their shortcomings.

I don’t think line distribution is that important in the long run, but I’m really happy to see that they changed it up. Though I think Twice is one of those rare groups where all the members are pretty popular, there are some like Nayeon and Dahyun that get more attention.  So I think it’s nice that other members get more lines – especially Momo, who often gets overlooked. There are still some changes I would make (give Jungyeon more lines!!!), but in general I’m pretty happy with this.

SCORE: 9/10

CHOREOGRAPHY:

Key-Point“Signal” is much harder than anything Twice has done. It’s incredibly fast and it constantly keeps you on your toes. Also, it’s super precise and requires more concentration than you might think. I learned the choreography a couple of weeks ago, and I still mess up a lot because of the fast pace and small details.  So in short, I’m pretty impressed with this dance.  I like all Twice choreographies, but I think that this one is especially fun.  I really like the signal key point, which is so adorably weird.  And it’s hard to explain, but I think it closely mirrors who they are as performers and people.  It’s a mixture of cute and sexy (though leaning more towards cute this time), and it also lets them be bubbly and bright – and a tad bit quirky.

CuteI think many girl group choreographies are simpler than boy group ones because they emphasize different things.  Boy groups tend to show off their knife like synchronicity and manly poper, while girl groups usually spend more time appealing to fans with coy glances and girly hand gestures. Twice themselves have dances like this in “Cheer Up” and “TT,” which are fun but loaded with filler moves. “Signal” proves that girl groups can still be cute while tackling complicated choreographies.  There’s very little frivolous movement here, and they still manage to appeal to their fans with every other move.

So-Many-HeartsWhile I really enjoy this choreography, the one thing I’m not wild about is all the hearts.  The whole routine is literally peppered with them, and the girls don’t go thirty seconds without throwing one.  I understand that it’s a big part of what makes it so cute, but I think it makes them look much younger – like borderline childish. A few hearts here and there is fine, but I think a constant barrage is overkill.  I do, however, recognize that (per usual) I’m probably in the minority on this one.  And I am impressed that they can make those hand gestures so quickly and easily.

SCORE: 18/20

CENTER AND FORMATIONS:

I think part of Twice’s appeal is the simplicity and catchiness of their music and dances.  So although “Signal” is a significant step up in difficulty, the formations remain rather basic.  This is probably a good thing; the fast pace doesn’t really allow for anything overly complex anyway.  However, the dance does have a couple of standout moments (and in the slower paced sections, no less!).  The most memorable part is the beginning, when they’re basically a machine charging up hearts to send to the fans.  Tzuyu is literally a love antenna bouncing back and forth.  I know I just wrote I wasn’t into all those hearts, but this part does make me smile.

Opening

As we saw with line distribution, different members are stepping up to take the center this time.  JYP has been prepping Tzuyu and Sana for more attention for a while: Tzuyu’s visuals have been heavily promoted, and Sana gets an especially catchy line with every song.  I think they’re both nice choices for center. They’re pretty good dancers, and they fit the cute and quirky concept. Actually, I think Sana is the closest to the image JYP has for Twice. I’m a little surprised that they didn’t push Nayeon more, seeing as she’s one of the more recognizable members and has a fairly big brand reputation.  But they do give her the ending position that’s usually reserved for a notable member or the visual.

I’m really excited to see how they’ve changed things up with the girls, but I still want to see Momo as a center.  They do promote her as a “dance queen” and put her on shows like Hit the Stage, so it’s a bit surprising that they haven’t put her in center since “Cheer Up.” I’ve always said she’s a good technical dancer, but her expressions and performance have been a little lacking.  She’s improved a lot in recent months, and I think she dances “Signal” the best. Hopefully they’ll let her shine a little more next time.

SCORE: 9/10

MUSIC VIDEO:

MV-ChaeyoungAt this point, Twice is pretty well known for typecasting their members – usually with outfits. Although I was starting to get bored with the cosplay, I love how each girl always has her own unique character and/or style. As the teasers showed us, “Signal” gives us a super-powered Twice. As a huge comic book nerd, I totally approve. They did really well choosing powers that both are fun to show onscreen and suitable for Twice’s personalities:

Momo: Super speed
Mina: Hypnosis
Jungyeon: Freezing time
Chaeyoung: Telekinesis
Jihyo: X-Ray Vision
Nayeon: Blinding people with that stupid pen Resetting time
Tzuyu: Super strength
Sana: Invisibility
Dahyun: Multiplying

MV-Unhappy-AlienAs cool as those superpowers are, that’s only part of the story.  The girls get them because of an alien who’s decided to check out Earth – and happens to go to their school. They attempt to use their new abilities to impress him, but he’s having none of it. Eventually, he leaves the planet – but accidentally (?) turns them into aliens in the process. To be honest, I was more interested in the superpowers than this extraterrestrial plot. It’s a shame we only got to see a quick glance or two of each one. But music videos are short and the “love” story is obviously the focus, so I don’t see how that would work.

MV-MinaTwice tries to give their members some individuality in their music videos, but I don’t think it always works. There are some members that are easy to remember, like Dahyun doing the bunny dance in “TT” and Sana’s infectious cute moments in “Cheer UP”.  But most of the time, we can tell the girls apart because they’re wearing different costumes – not because they’re doing anything to make themselves stand out.. “Signal” adds in a couple of truly funny moments, like Mina accidentally hypnotizing herself or Tzuyu sending the alien flying into the wall with a gentle pat.  And there are a lot of other small humorous touches, like the nods to “Cheer Up.” On variety shows, Twice generally strikes me as  little shy and hesitant. It’s good to see them coming out of their shells, and I hope to see a little more of this quirkiness in the future.

MV-DahyunMy favorite thing about the music video is the color palate. K-pop videos tend to be very colorful, but I really like the ones that they picked for “Signal.” The turquoise is my favorite, but I also like how there’s a lot of yellow and pink (spring colors!) They’re not exactly pastels, but they do have a little bit of a softer look compared to other music videos like Oh My Girl’s “Coloring Book.”  And the peculiar choices of colors create a world that looks slightly futuristic.

SCORE: 18/20

STYLING:

I’ve probably said it before, but one of Twice’s greatest strengths is their styling.  There hasn’t been a member who’s been screwed over yet (unless you don’t like short hair, but that’s subjective).  Everything about them visually – looks, clothes, hair, makeup, etc. – is fabulous. I love how their clothes are very sixties retro, but their hair – especially Nayeon and Sana’s – is very futuristic.  It’s quirky yet fashionable at the same time! Plus I love the bright colors and funky prints.  I totally want Sana and Mina’s outfits.

MV-Fab-Fashion

STYLING MVP: Momo.  She’s always looked great, but the dark hair and subtle makeup really suit her here.

MV-Momo

SCORE: 10/10

FINAL TALLY:

Song – 17/20

Lyrics – 8/10

Line Distribution – 9/10

Choreography – 18/20

Center and Formations – 9/10

Music Video – 18/20

Styling – 10/10

TOTAL: 89

CONCLUSION: When I reviewed “Knock Knock” several months ago, I came down on Twice pretty hard.  (Well, I gave them a 75 – but for me that’s being tough) Although JYP tries to promote Twice as a unique group, every comeback was becoming more generic and less interesting.  Honestly, they could release the blandest and most auto-tuned song in the world and it wouldn’t matter. Their massive fandom will keep them afloat.

I know that these girls have more potential than talent at this point, but I want them to have the chance to at least try to challenge themselves.  But since they’re already so successful, I was starting to think it was unlikely they’d do so. Like I said before, “Signal” is not a complete change of pace.  Although it’s cuter and quirkier than what they normally go for, there’s a lot that’s still very “Twice.” However, I do think it’s new and refreshing.  It’s clear that they have made attempts to shake things up through with a different style of song, a new line distribution, and a harder choreography.

From what I’ve seen online, the general consensus on “Signal” is that it’s not great (outside of the Once fandom, I presume). I agree that most of the hype surrounding it is because it’s Twice.  Quirky/cute groups like Oh My Girl, WJSN, and maybe even Red Velvet wouldn’t have had as much success.  “Signal” won’t go down in history as Twice’s greatest hit, but it does show a potential for the group to grow and evolve.  And that makes me happy to wait for the day when they’ll truly wow me.

Sources: Youtube, JYP Entertainment, Wikipedia, Soompi, K-pop K-fans (Blogspot), Seoul Beats

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