To anyone who has even an inkling of knowledge about K-pop, Twice is basically vernacular.
These nine young women make up one of the top-selling girl groups, K-pop or otherwise, in the world — but it hasn't been an easy road. They competed on JYP Entertainment's survival show, Sixteen, to make the final lineup for Twice, and in the years since, they've had multiple comebacks (new releases), in both Korean and Japanese, each year.
Twice makes the constant grind of K-pop promoting, touring, racking up awards, and live-streaming with fans look natural and easy breezy, but it takes real stamina and passion behind the scenes. In July, the group's demanding schedule led Twice member Mina to take a break from her activities to address her anxiety disorder, adding a meaningful spark in the ongoing conversation about K-pop idols' mental health.
2019 also saw a shift in Twice's music and concepts. The spirited girls who exploded onto the K-pop scene in 2015 and became instantly recognizable with exuberant, upbeat hits such as "Cheer Up" and "TT" in 2016, transformed into confident young women experimenting with more mature song topics and lyrics. Twice's most recent Korean comeback was their eighth mini album, Feel Special, with the title track, "Feel Special." The song talks candidly about feelings of "want[ing] to hide" and "everything... los[ing] meaning," before there's a triumphant moment of "becom[ing] a very special me." In an interview with PopCrush, youngest member (or "maknae") Tzuyu also expressed that as their lyrics become more sentimental and relatable, the songs become "tougher to perform."
We talked to Twice about the deep-running impact of "Feel Special," their bond with their fans, lovingly known as Once, and managing the omnipresent stress that comes with being one of K-pop's biggest acts.
Congrats on your recent four-year anniversary! How did it feel while celebrating amongst yourselves and with fans?
Nayeon: "We had a four-year anniversary fan meeting, and it was so awesome to spend time with fans on that special day. We’re always a little surprised that we have lived such a busy life in the last four years, but it’s been so rewarding."
Dahyun: "I still can’t believe it’s been four years already! It’s crazy that we’re moving towards our fifth year; time really flies. Thank you to my fellow Twice members, and an even bigger thank you to our wonderful fans!"
How would you describe where you stand in your careers right now?
Nayeon: "I would explain myself as a singer, an artist…and most importantly I’m a part of Twice!"
Jeongyeon: "Twice is a group with nine members who have all struggled in their own way to get where they are. We know we are so lucky to have the awards we’ve won, and to be a well-known group. We’re so proud of ourselves, and we have to thank the fans for getting us here too."
Sana: "For now, I am a part of Twice, and we are communicating with the world as a team. We might be based in Korea, but we’re expanding across the world, touching people’s hearts through music and performance."
Chaeyoung: "We are singers who express ourselves, our emotions, through our songs and performances. We just want to make people happy!"
"We might be based in Korea, but we’re expanding across the world, touching people’s hearts through music and performance."
Do you feel like K-pop veterans at this point in your careers? What milestones are you proud of, and what goals have you yet to achieve?
Sana: "I think everyone has their own personality and their own thoughts, and they express these emotions in unique ways as well. I don’t think we can call ourselves veterans, because there’s so much more I know we can accomplish. I’m the happiest when I can share my emotions with the people I love, so my goal is simple: I want to grow our Once family so we can all share our thoughts and emotions together."
How do you feel about your title as “The Nation’s Girl Group?” Are there other titles you’d like Twice to have?
Momo: "I am very honored. I’ve loved all the titles we’ve been given, but my favorite description of us was 'Twice, who impress fans once via the eyes, and twice via the ears’. I loved this play on words!"
Chaeyoung: "We really appreciate that title because it just goes to show that we are relating to our fans, and receiving so much love from around the world!"
What did you feel was the hardest part of being trainees and/or rookies? If you could say a piece of advice or something comforting to yourselves back then, what would it be?
Sana: "Whenever we released a new album in Korea, we had to go through our schedules to include the music show programs, and the schedule was always so busy. Everything was total chaos! Getting used to that chaos was the hardest part of just starting out. I actually had a funny story from when we were just starting out, too. This was shortly after our debut as Twice. We were doing a live performance, and all of a sudden, my dress flew up while I was dancing. This was a live show, so I couldn’t just leave the stage, and so I had to think quick and fix the situation!"
Jihyo: "There were lots and lots of hardships, but all of those experiences were necessary for me to endure and overcome so I can get to where I am today. I want to tell all the readers that you can get through anything, and that hardships help you grow as a person."
Mina: "The hardest thing about being a rookie was that nothing was set in stone, and nothing was guaranteed for us. There was so much preparation, and so many sacrifices to get to where we are now. There were constant thoughts of What if I fail? If I could go back and tell myself something then, I would say that there’s no need to worry. Keep working hard, do the best that you can, and everything will fall into place."
What was your favorite memory from the US leg of “Twicelights” this past summer? Any special and/or funny moments?
Nayeon: "I had a lot of fun during all the performances, but the most memorable one was 'Born This Way.' Lady Gaga is one of our favorite artists, and I remember the Once in America had the best reaction when we performed that song for them."
Jeongyeon: "There were so many more fans waiting for us in the States than we could have ever imagined! That’s why I was very touched, and I remember crying a lot. There were so many emotions during that tour, and we are so thankful for our fans."
Momo: "My English isn’t great, but I did try my best to express my feelings and thoughts to Once in America. I wrote down what I wanted to say, then translated it to English, memorized it all, and spoke in English to our fans, which still feels a little awkward for me. Also, I had the chance to see so many cool places I had never been to before, so I made some great memories."
Dahyun: "Although the song’s lyrics are in Korean, the fans in the States were still passionately singing along to every word. I remember thinking that music really does have the power to unite people from all around the world. I thanked everyone there because I was so touched and deeply moved with all the love they sent our way."
Chaeyoung: "I remember after the show I thanked everyone for coming out to see our show and supporting us, and asked them to also remember Mina, since she wasn’t there. In that moment, I was so thankful to everyone and so excited to finally get to meet them."
Tzuyu: "I was happy that I was able to perform in the States, and remember being amazed that people from around the world could enjoy K-pop this much. I felt like all my dreams came true right there, because touring in the US is a very rare opportunity. I was so thankful that we were able to do that."
"I remember thinking that music really does have the power to unite people from all around the world."
“Feel Special” has touched a lot of hearts with its relatable messages. How do you feel about all of the love it’s received? And personally, what comes to mind when you think of “Feel Special"?
Nayeon: "I believe that 'Feel Special' is the story of Twice, written in a song. I guess that is why our fans related to it the most, because it is a very sincere song. 'Feel Special' reminds me of all the members, because this is our story."
Jeongyeon: "I guess 'Feel Special' was particularly loved by people because of the lyrics. We wrote the song with our producer, J.Y. Park. We talked about our past four years, and the experiences we’ve had, and wrote the song directly about us. That’s why the song is so sincere and relatable."
Momo: “'Feel Special' is the song that we all cherish, and we thought the song’s lyrics are words that everyone needed to hear. It seems like our fans loved that song, and I’m very proud of the story we told in the lyrics. The song reminds me of Twice and Once, because it really is our story."
Sana: “'Feel Special' is our favorite song to sing, but it’s also a message to Once. Although it’s our melody and our lyrics, if the song makes people feel something, and if our fans can relate to the message, then we’ve done our job."
Jihyo: "I hope 'Feel Special' touched everyone who heard it. This was a song that all Twice members wanted to tell each other, so the lyrics are all very personal and truthful."
Mina: "Thank you for loving 'Feel Special.' This song is so special to all members, especially me. Personally, I 'Feel Special' that I am a member of Twice."
Dahyun: "First, thank you everyone for listening to 'Feel Special' with warm hearts, and thank you for loving this song as much as we do. When I think of the song, our fans, Once, come to mind first. With their kind words, Once always cheers us up. They mean a lot to us, and 'Feel Special' is the message that we are sending to our amazing fans."
Chaeyoung: "Twice members come to mind first for me. As most of the members told you, 'Feel Special' is a song that we put a lot of our truth in. One hundred percent of Twice’s story is in the lyrics to that song. We wanted to encourage listeners to look around, and appreciate the precious people in your life whenever you are going through hard days."
Tzuyu: “'Feel Special' is about how Once made us special. At the same time, we wanted to tell them that they are also very special and precious people to us. The main message in the lyrics is that you are not alone, and you are awesome and perfect just the way you are."
"We wanted to encourage listeners to look around, and appreciate the precious people in your life whenever you are going through hard days."
In what ways do you lean on each other to overcome hardships and pressure? Is there anything in particular you like to do to relieve stress?
Nayeon: "We talk to each other a lot, everything from small talk to deep conversation. We depend on each other through every hardship. Even when we don’t have much to say, just being next to each other makes me comfortable."
Jeongyeon: "All my fellow members just being themselves helps me a lot. Whether it’s something positive or negative happening, we always cheer each other on. Personally, I like eat food when I’m stressed. You can’t go wrong with delicious food."
Momo: "We always gather together whenever something happens and when we need time to talk. When we are tired from our many schedules, we try to make each other laugh. I think this is how we depend on each other. For me, personally, I love delicious food when I’m stressed. These days I also love to watch funny YouTube videos, and sometimes dance and sing while I am taking a shower. This helps me a lot to relieve stress."
Sana: "I think we always try to be together whenever we have free time. We all love to bond over good food when we are stressed. People usually tell me that I laugh and smile a lot, and that I’m very positive, so whenever I’m stressed I like to surround myself with things that make me happy, like my favorite scents and the night sky. I love the stars."
Jihyo: "As many members said, we all depend on each other when we are stressed. Personally for me, I just need a little alone time. I love to just stay at home quietly and try to keep my cell phone away from me."
Mina: "We really do depend on each other when we’re stressed. For myself personally, I turn to my hobbies to make me feel better. Everyone has their own way of dealing with stress, but I think having some alone time is really important."
Dahyun: "We usually all share a meal and talk about our feelings. I don’t know what I would do without all the members, they really help me a lot whenever I need it."
Chaeyoung: "Whenever we have free time we love spending it together. I can really feel the bond between all of us, because we are so aware of each other’s feelings and emotions. It’s a strong bond that we’ve created over many years. Personally, I love writing and listening to music to relive stress. It’s what keeps me calm."
Tzuyu: "We all love to talk to each other, and we understand each other. We are always there to support one another. When I am stressed, I also like to be alone. Like Jihyo said, it is important to have your own time."
"I can really feel the bond between all of us, because we are so aware of each other’s feelings and emotions."
For every song on Feel Special, can you name the member who fits that song the best?
Jeongyeon: "'Breakthrough (Korean Ver.)' –Jihyo."
Tzuyu: "'Breakthrough' is for all members too. I don’t know why, but the energy and power of that song seems like we all have to sing it together for it to work."
Personally, is there a B-side on this mini album that you think deserves more love?
Jihyo: "The track that all people should hear is '21:29.' It is a song that all members wrote together, and it has a special meaning to us."
Chaeyoung: "Personally, I like 'Love Foolish.' It has a totally different vibe than Twice’s other iconic songs, and I think it is a very mature track."
Since all of you had a hand in writing “21:19,” how did that song come together? Do you hope to write more songs all together?
Nayeon: "We really wanted to have a song that was for our fans. We get so much from Once, and so we wanted to all gather and write a song together as a gift for them. I loved writing a song together and would love to do it again if we have the chance."
Sana: "We always get so many things from our fans. We’re always thinking of what kind of things our fans will love. As we were planning the new album, we all wanted to reply to fans’ letters and the love they give us. That is how '21:29' was born; it’s a direct message to our fans. I really want to make a song with members again if we can!"
Nayeon, Jihyo, Dahyun, and Momo: you all wrote or cowrote other songs on this album. What/who were you inspired by while writing?
Nayeon: "I haven’t done much writing in the past, but I always think about the fans a lot. The fans are so precious to me, so they were my inspiration." [Editor's note: Nayeon wrote "Rainbow."]
Momo: "I wrote 'Love Foolish,' and when I heard the music for the first time, it felt like this was a song that Twice hadn’t done before. I thought the song and music had a very mature tone, so I wrote the lyrics to match. I was inspired by the music directly."
Jihyo: "I wanted to write lyrics about feeling angry. These days, many people do not think much about how their words can seriously harm other people. People are hurt by careless words and people who say those words need to be more considerate. I wanted to write lyrics about this, and describe what I felt." [Editor's note: Jihyo cowrote "Get Loud."]
Dahyun: "When I was writing 'Trick it,' the inspiration for this song came out of nowhere! The song is about the little white lies you tell to people you care about, even though you can always tell the truth."
"People are hurt by careless words and people who say those words need to be more considerate. I wanted to write lyrics about this, and describe what I felt."
Are there other subjects/themes you’d like to explore and write about in future songs?
Jeongyeon: "I want to come back with a new summer song similar to 'Dance The Night Away.' I would love to write a song that’s exciting, bright, and has a fresh melody and lyrics."
Chaeyoung: "I also want to write about summer like Jeongyeon said. 'Dance The Night Away' was an awesome song. I would also like to write a song about saying goodbye eventually — I think it would be very touching."
How would you describe your relationship/bond with your fans, Once?
Nayeon: "I think Once are people we can depend on for comfort, or when we need a little cheering up. We do hope that we do the same thing for them!"
Jeongyeon: "I can sum it up in just a few words: a bond that can never be broken. What more can I say?"
Momo: "Once are like friends to me. I talk to them a lot and this gives me a lot of energy. It is awesome that just through conversation, which seems like such a small thing, we help each other so much."
Sana: "Once are the most important people to us. Because of them, Twice is here, and because of Twice, they are here. If either of us were missing, the relationship wouldn’t exist, so we truly appreciate them. I love you so much, Once ♥."
Jihyo: "The relationship between fans and artists is really difficult to express in words. We are not family, we aren’t friends, we aren’t a couple, but rather we are total strangers. But even with that, we are still always there to comfort each other about our pasts, love each other in the present, and cheer each other on for the future. This feeling and love for each other is very special and rare; it’s an amazing relationship."
Mina: "We are always there to cheer each other up. Whenever Once is having a hard time, we cheer them up, and when we are having a hard time, they are always there to cheer us up. We’re always thinking of each other and our bond is very strong."
Dahyun: "Every single moment with Once makes me so happy and excited. Once are such precious people, and I wouldn’t trade our bond for anything."
Chaeyoung: "I think we get our energy from each other. We depend on them to give us energy just as much as they depend on us! It’s a really great balanced relationship and we love them so much."
Tzuyu: "Once are so precious and so important to us. We adore each other; I think it is a very special bond."
What would you like to say to fans who are going through challenging times/experiences?
Dahyun: "You are doing a great job, and doing all that you can. I am on your side! Don’t worry about things that might look too hard; you can, and you will, handle this!"
Tzuyu: "If you are feeling like you are too tired, it’s okay to slow down. It’s so important to listen to your body and take time to rest. After you are ready, just get back to what you were doing, it’s never too late!"
"We are still always there to comfort each other about our pasts, love each other in the present, and cheer each other on for the future."
What is one of the most memorable things Once has told you?
Nayeon: "The most touching letter from Once was that, because I make them smile, they think of me whenever they’re happy! It was so touching and a very memorable letter."
Mina: "I remember a fan telling me, 'Thank you for being a singer.' It was such a simple sentence, but it made all the hard work I put in to become a singer so worth it."
Give a compliment to another member of your choosing.
Nayeon: "I want to complement Chaeyoung for her spirit and perseverance. She is never scared of new or unfamiliar things; instead she accepts the challenge. It is really awesome to see this side of her, and I want to learn how to be more brave like her.
Jeongyeon: "Tzuyu is the purest person I have ever met in all my 24 years. She is also the prettiest person."
Momo: "Nayeon always makes me laugh, and she is so funny when we are together. She is older than me, and she really is like an older sister. She cares about me a lot, and always gives me advice on my problems. She is an awesome sister!"
Sana: "Jeongyeon is so funny, and being with her is awesome. She also has such a warm heart and I always feel so comfortable when I'm around her."
Jihyo: "It’s the little things with Momo. Whenever she goes home to Japan, she always comes back with little presents for everyone. I really thank her for always being such a good friend, and always thinking of us, even when we are apart."
Mina: "Sana is always so bright and hugs me a lot. I always thank her for making me happy. I love being around her, she’s very positive. Thank you, Sana."
Dahyun: "I want to compliment Jihyo. Jihyo, you have dealt with more hardships than any of us can even imagine. I want to thank you for being such a brilliant leader for the last four years! We appreciate you and we all look up to you."
Chaeyoung: "I would like to compliment Mina. She is so talented with her hands, and everything she makes always turns out so pretty! She’s very creative."
Tzuyu: "Dahyun is very active and cute in front of the camera, but when it’s time to get serious, she is one of the hardest workers I know."
If you had to switch bodies and brains with another member for a week, who would it be, and why?
Jeongyeon: "I would choose Chaeyoung. I really want to know what she is thinking about all the time!"
Dahyun: "I’d choose Tzuyu. She is the tallest among all of us, and I’m really curious whether the air is different up there, haha. 😊"
What’s your favorite holiday song?
Sana: "It’s not a holiday song, but my favorite song right now is 'Where Were You In The Morning' by Shawn Mendes. He has such a beautiful voice and it always relaxes me."
Jihyo: "It changes all the time, but recently I can’t stop listening to anything by Ray Charles."
If you had to choose one song as the soundtrack to your life, what would it be?
Nayeon: "It always changes, but right now I would say our song, 'Feel Special.' I really put all of my energy and truth into that song. It is also one of Twice's most memorable tracks, I think, because it’s one of our more sincere songs.
Jeongyeon: "My soundtrack to life would have to be ‘TT’. It has gained a lot of love since we debuted it in Japan. I would say overall that it’s the song that had the biggest influence on Twice."
Momo: "It is really hard to choose only one song as the soundtrack of my life, but the most memorable song is 'See You Again' by Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth. When I was eliminated from Sixteen, that song was playing in the background. During that time, when I listened to it, it reminded me of my elimination and it was quite a painful memory. However, I kept going and I knew what my dream was, and now I’m here! That’s why that song is so meaningful to me. It makes me remember where I was, and realize where I am now, and reminds me that if you keep going anything is possible."
Sana: "I don’t have a single song to choose, but I do have a few songs and artists that I love! I'm listening to Camila Cabello’s new album and I really love all the songs. I watched Glee for the first time when I was in middle school, and even though that was nine years ago, I still love it! I am starting over again from Season 1, and I find music that I love all the time. I also really like Ne-Yo and have been a huge fan since I was young. I also can’t stop listening to 'I’ll Never Love Again' by Lady Gaga from A Star is Born. Also, I love Ariana Grande! I respect, admire and love all artists and songs.
Jihyo: "I would have to agree with Jeongyeon and choose 'Cheer Up' and 'TT.' These two songs were our big breakout songs and really introduced the world to Twice."
Mina: "I would also like to choose ‘TT.' Many members picked this song, and I believe I also have the same reason. This song was our global breakout hit, which was the bridge to connect us with all our fans from around the world."
Dahyun: "We are certainly all connected as a group, because my song would also be ‘TT’. That was the song that introduced Twice to the world, and I remember everyone imitating the choreography. It was so cool to see our Once family grow!"
Chaeyoung: "My song would be 'Breezy' by Wouter Hamel. I’ve loved this song for as long as I can remember. I went to see his concert, took a picture with him, and was able to invite him to our concert too! It’s my favorite song."
Tzuyu: "I would have to say our song 'Do it Again.' We performed this on Sixteen, which meant a lot to us. I personally like the melody, too, but this song means a lot to me because I worked so hard to prepare for that performance."
If you had to form a subunit right now on the spot, who would it be with, and what would your title song be called?
Mina: "I would form a subunit with Momo; I think choreographing a dance performance with her would be great. We would call the song 'Challenge.'"
Chaeyoung: "I was also thinking Momo! We would call our song “2 On”. Let’s see who Momo will choose...☺"
And finally, Momo: If you could only dance one of Twice’s choreographies for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Momo: "It’s hard to choose, but I would have to say 'TT.' As the other members said, that was the song that introduced us to our fans and the world, and the choreography is pretty simple to follow."
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.