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.