With a title like Breakthrough, you better have the goods to deliver.
Thus far, Twice’s Japanese material has ranged from fair to frenetically frustrating. Last year’s BDZ hinted at some musical progress, but their immense popularity doesn’t exactly spawn motivation to change. More than a breakthrough, the group needs to take a sledgehammer to their old J-pop sound and refashion themselves entirely. This track — one half of a double a-side release — doesn’t quite go that far. But, it offers a sound that’s refreshingly different from Twice’s usual fare.
Right from the start, it’s clear that Breakthrough won’t be another Candy Pop or (shudder…) Wake Me Up. The instrumental’s fractured synths point toward darker pop trends, giving the girls an edgier soundscape to work with. Twice follow suit, delivering an opening verse that jettisons ‘cute’ completely. It’s not the most stirring of melodies, but the shock factor of this new sound is enough to keep the momentum going.
The real fun happens during the chorus, as the girls’ vocals are layered to create a staccato hook that feels lifted from some imaginary K-pop burlesque show. Free from the need to appeal individual charms, Twice work together to create a vocal blend we’ve never really heard from them before. There’s a brassy swing to this hook, driven by rhythm and harmony. In fact, harmonies are Breakthrough’s not-so-secret weapon. They pop up almost everywhere, lending the pre-chorus a lush atmosphere and putting a satisfying exclamation point on the song’s central refrain. I could do without the second verse trap-rap breakdown, but it’s brief enough not to totally derail Breakthrough’s energy. Time will tell if Twice harness this same style for Korean comebacks, but regardless of its wider influence over their discography, Breakthrough is easily their strongest Japanese single.
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This release is a stunner, in more ways than one. I’m a big TWICE fan and they delivered with “Breakthough”; but not with.. ..that other song.
Vocals: The Japanese line all sing in lower registers; not that helium aegyo voice in most of their releases. Instead, it’s Jihyo that tackles some of the higher octaves. Their voices all sounded great. Not sure why the producers went with heavily chorused voices for the bridge, but it was decent. I agree that this piece didn’t need a “rap break” because it dropped the zapped some of the energy that was building up.
Music: REALLY liked the music on this. The synth start could’ve gone in any direction. Finger snaps and vox come in with the pre-chorus along with a mood elevating synth slide into the chorus. Then BAM.. ..some heavy brass (french horns?) comes in to supply a nice marching band/swing’ish to accompany a quicker pace. I think the bridge pacing could’ve been rev’ed up a bit to avoid tapping the breaks with the momentum.
Visually: Umm.. ..yeah. A BIG yeah with all the trimmings.
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This song reminds me of T-Ara’s Cry Cry, in several ways. First, the staccato of the chorus instrumental. Second, the brass elements in said chorus. Third, they’re both in the same key (F# minor). With Cry Cry being one of my favorite kpop songs of 2011, of course I don’t find Breakthrough to be quite as good. The vocals in this song are much less sultry than in Cry Cry, and the instrumental is less lush – Cry Cry threw in strings, an actually good use of Latin guitar, electric guitar, keyboard, and maybe more.
All this said, I really like… dare I say love… Breakthrough. I’m a sucker for songs in F# minor, I like the main hook, I love all the vocal harmonies they do, and I kind of stan TWICE. And I know we talk about music on this blog, but I’ve already mentioned how GD’s hair got me into kpop; so I’ll also say that the styling in this music video is gorgeous. Jihyo can step on me.
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Out of curiosity, what did you think of the ballad version of Cry Cry? Personally, I think the regular version was better, but only because I’m not a ‘ballad’ type of person. Still, I was very impressed with how this song was transformed for both versions.
The ballad version wasn’t a hastily slapped together novelty. If you didn’t know there were two versions, you’d think all the stops were pulled to make each one shine. T-ara’s style lends itself well to moody ballads so if any group had a chance of getting me on that train, it was T-ara.
I had a crush on Jihyo since release. It pained me to see all the crap she got in the beginning for her weight. She was always sexy; with or without a few extra LBs. When she dropped the weight, you could see the boost in her self-confidence so there’s that.
When she gives a genuine big toothy smile, I melt. When she gives that ‘come hither’ glance into the camera, I swoon. When she dresses and performs like she has in everything since Likey, I.. ..I.. ..I gotta go.. ..take care of something.
I’m also not a ballad person, and one of my favorite musical tidbits in that song is the pounding percussion on the “Seulpeume bbajin” line, which is missing in the ballad version for understandable reasons.
That said, you’re correct in saying that the ballad version is very well put together. I wasn’t aware that it was there, but now that I know it is I might listen to it if I’m in a crying mood!
Links to both versions of T-ara – Cry Cry for reference:
Ballad Version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMTSYvRyNzs
Regular Version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5M69TE1yzt4
It feels very 2nd gen to me. I was thinking Girl’s Generation, but I am no expert on girl group oeuvre.
It aiiight. Not my thing.
It would have been better with actual brass and not synth brass on a keyboard. And actual harmonies not synth harmonies. The vocals are also heavily processed, and not in a “Superhuman” way, but in a clever masking way.
Also not an expert on Twice work, but I believe most of the lead singles have the chorus sung by a chorus, and it is only occasion that the chorus is solo (eg the last Twice single). The few high note melodies are of course assigned to Nayeon and Jihyo.
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Yeah, I got instant Girls’ Generation vibes as well.
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I am absolutely stunned by how good this is… this just sounds so good? and reminds me of 2nd gen kpop in some parts.. definitely a right step for them..might be one of my favorite twice tracks ever!
Wow ! I am not a Twice stan but this song IS damn GOOD !!
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the song grew on me after a few listens. at first, the song is kinda meh in general (like, I enjoyed it more with the mv and as a performance) but made me excited to see where twice would take their sound as a group (although I do love their bubblegum pop songs, it would do well for them to branch out)
In my opinion it is one of Twice’s best title tracks.
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