Much has been said about K-pop over the years and much has been misunderstood about the genre too. Naysayers chalk up K-pop acts to pale imitations of Western artists, while the uninitiated disparage the grandiose production as derivative or cliché.
But on their new EP, Ready to Be, the girl group TWICE blows up the tired stereotypes and smashes through barriers with a seven-song set that’s as brash and compelling as anything in the pop music landscape today. Ready to Be is a confident comeback from one of K-pop’s most exciting groups, chock full of high-octane bangers and clever earworms that command your attention from the very first note.
The album opens with “Set Me Free,” a disco-fied anthem that finds the girls mustering up the courage to confess a crush. “I’ve been hiding how I feel for you forever,” they sing. “Now that it’s off my chest there’s room for you and me.”
Things quickly shift into high gear with first single, “Moonlight Sunrise,” a serious contender for pop song of the year. No longer the wide-eyed group that burst onto the scene as teenagers in 2015, TWICE get downright sultry and seductive on the Atlanta bass-inspired track.
“I don’t really mean to rush, but imma really need your touch if imma make it through the night,” coo Nayeon and Mina.
“Loving undefeated, on your knees pleading, baby you can hit up my line when you need it,” raps Chaeyoung on the second verse.
In just three minutes, “Moonlight” perfectly encapsulates the sheer joy of TWICE’s music, brimming with sing-along melodies and playful lyrics that get people talking (just see the memes and TikTok videos created after the song’s “I need you o’clock” line went viral).
The rest of the album is similarly exhilarating. The aptly-titled “Got the Thrills” is a shimmery dance track with a hands-in-the-air refrain that could turn up the heat in any club today. “Blame It On Me,” meantime, is a foot-stomping, kiss-off anthem that’s begging for an HBO sync. “You’re out of control,” the girls declare to an ex-lover. “Don’t you cry about me baby – don’t blame it on me.” The alternative-leaning “Crazy Stupid Love,” opens with a bluesy, minor-key riff before storming into a head-nodding chorus that find the girls, “So done with crazy stupid love.”
Fun and sassy, TWICE have never sounded more in control than on this album, and it’s evident that when it comes to their music — as with their relationships — these girls, nay these women, mean business. Eight years into their career, TWICE are certified veterans of the K-pop scene and they’re only getting better and stronger. No longer content to play coy, Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Momo, Sana, Jihyo, Mina, Dahyun, Chaeyoung, and Tzuyu are finding their voices as bold and fearless artists who go after what they want.
“I want you to know that I ain’t ever going to settle, even if all of this is just a fantasy,” they sing on the English version of “Set Me Free,” which closes out the EP. Consider it the K-pop declaration of independence. At just seven tracks long and clocking in under 20 minutes, Ready to Be is the ideal soundtrack to prep for a night out. If only it were a little longer so the euphoria could last beyond your first drink. “We can keep going at all hours,” the girls sing on the tropical-tinged “Wallflower,” and you kind of want the album to keep going too.
Still, in a crowded industry that’s seemingly launching new acts every other week, Ready to Be proves that TWICE are not only ready to compete — they’re ready to stake their claim to the top.