K-Pop Group Twice On Breaking In America: It’s ‘A New Start, A New Beginning, And A New Challenge’

South Korean girl group Twice (JYP Entertainment).

JYP Entertainment

For more than half a decade, Twice has reigned as one of the most popular and most successful acts of any kind in their native South Korea. The girl group has released an incredible amount of music in the years they’ve been together—five full-length albums, 10 EPs and a handful of compilations and reissues—and they’ve all been massively successful in a number of Asian territories. Now, after proving themselves to be an unstoppable force in some of the largest music markets in the world, they’ve spent 2021 setting their sights on America, hoping to become the next K-pop act to break out in the U.S.

Almost as quickly as they began promoting their releases in the States, they achieved things very few girl groups from South Korea had before. 2021 has been a year of firsts for the singers, as they have broken into the top 10 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, earned their first leader on the Top Album Sales ranking and as of this week, reached the Hot 100.

The band scores their first major hit single in the U.S. this frame with “The Feels,” which sees them pivoting to English in order to reach a larger audience in the Western world. Twice has performed in the language before, but “The Feels” isn’t translated from a previous release. Instead, it was written and composed specifically to be sung in English, and it has proved to be a breakout smash for them.

I recently spoke to the members of Twice about “The Feels” and what it means to them to perform in English and connect with their American fans like never before by doing so.

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Hugh McIntyre: I just listened to the new single. I was dancing all around my room. I’m obsessed with it, it’s so catchy. Are you guys nervous to have this come out because it’s your first proper English single?

Tzuyu: Since this is our first English single, it’s natural that we feel nervous, we are especially nervous to see whether our fans will like it or not. How they will respond.

McIntyre: I know you’ve recorded and released songs in English before, but this is being labeled as your first English single. What makes it different for you guys—translating a song versus recording one in English to begin with?

Nayeon: When we sang Korean songs translated into English, we only had to focus on the language difference. However, this time we started with English, so we wanted to reflect our style and our concept in English. So that was the different part.

McIntyre: Tell me a bit about when you all first heard the music, and about putting it together. How would you describe this to fans?

Nayeon: My first response to the song was that it’s very upbeat and dancey. We can not wait to perform it on stage. When we were shooting the music video, we didn’t have to try hard. We were just dancing because the song was so danceable.

McIntyre: Is this song the first taste of an EP or an album? Anything coming up?

Nayeon: I would say that we are all ready and prepared all the time for an album or an EP. So whenever we will find the opportunity, releasing an EP or album is always a possibility.

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McIntyre: Would you all be interested in an album or an EP entirely in English?

Sana: It’s always a possibility and it will depend on how our single is met and what kind of response we will get worldwide. And it’ll be great if we can get the opportunity to do so.

McIntyre: I would love that. Now some of you speak English before the song, right? Is that correct?

Sana: I think it depends on which level of proficiency.

McIntyre: Sure. Some of you may know the language a little bit better than others, but I assume there were different levels of practice that went into it?

Nayeon: Regardless of English proficiency, all the words are pretty unfamiliar to us. It’s not like daily English, the lyrics. And on top of that, we put the melody on top of the words. So it was more difficult. So regardless of the English level, it was hard, I would say. But since this is our first English single to be released in the United States, we really focused on pronunciation. The right pronunciation of each word in our lyrics. And we all focused on that.

McIntyre: Absolutely. I mean it sounds great. So you guys really nailed it.

Nayeon: We are very proud.

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McIntyre: You should be. I wrote about Twice recently because you charted your first top 10 album in the U.S. and you landed your first No. 1 sales album as well, so it’s really a huge year for you guys in America. Do you feel any pressure for the song to perform well commercially?

Jihyo: Rather than pressure, it was actually really fun. I think this will bring us an opportunity to get to know our fans better. I think a lot of people in the U.S. are curious about us, but they were not able to get to know us well because of the language barrier. But now that we released an English single, it’ll be an opportunity for them to get to know us.

Nayeon: The whole experience was very fun. Whenever we do an international tour, our fans sing along with our song, even though it’s in Korean. So now that we have released an English single, they’ll be able to sing along in their own language. So we really look forward to that.

McIntyre: As I said, you just experienced some real success in the U.S. very recently. You’ve got the English single out. You were on Jimmy Fallon. What does making a real impact in America mean to you guys?

Momo: I think success in the United States means to us a new start, a new beginning, and a new challenge. I think it’ll be an opportunity to meet more fans and visit more countries and communicate with them globally.

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