Review

Song Review: Twice – Alcohol-Free

Twice - Alcohol-FreeTwice’s I Can’t Stop Me didn’t usher in the new wave of girl group synthpop I’d hoped for, but the song remains a high watermark in their discography. However, K-pop moves quickly and the girls are already exploring new genres. Alcohol-Free tackles summertime sounds, forgoing the season’s traditional K-pop tropes for a surprising blend of trendy trap-pop, bossa nova and chill lounge music.

This is an off-kilter move for Twice, and that’s putting it mildly. I admire the chutzpah, even if I don’t think this works as a title track. I’m sure my own aversion to “chill” sounds in K-pop colors my opinion, though I do think laidback grooves have the potential to be transcendent in their own way. To do this, they require a killer melody and nuanced vocal performance. One of my favorite slow jams of all time — Janet Jackson’s classic That’s The Way Love Goes — possesses both of these qualities in spades. But unlike Janet, I don’t know that Twice are the best conduit for this tempo and style.

The girls are excellent performers with charisma to spare. However, their vocals lack the texture to drive a song this sparse. Alcohol-Free‘s arrangement doesn’t help, opting for a straightforward performance rather than a lush, layered soundscape filled with harmony and interplay. Because of this, the track just kind of limps from segment to segment. The production offers a few interesting elements — filtered strings + plucked guitar + that aforementioned bossa nova beat – but without a topline as engaging, Alcohol-Free sputters. This will no doubt grow with time, and certainly makes for pleasant summertime background music. But, it’s been awhile since a Twice title track felt so uneventful.

 Hooks 7
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 7
 RATING 7.5

97 thoughts on “Song Review: Twice – Alcohol-Free

  1. While usually not put off by awkward English, but “alcohol-free” is pretty awkward to say out loud.

    I would really to enjoy this more than I do. I agree something lusher and more dreamy would serve the song the well.

    Feels very flat. I actually prefer More & More when it comes to disappointing Twice summer singles. I liked Can’t Stop Me, plenty, but I do think in general the group feels a little aimless and less impactful than at their “Fancy” and “Feel Special” peak.
    At the time Twice felt an increasingly growing unstoppable force. So it’s a little disappointing to hear something like “alcohol free”

    I also prefer Mafia to this. ring ding ding ding ding ding

    Liked by 6 people

    • I) Agreed, “alcohol free” makes no sense as a title of a song that has tequila in the lyrics. They literally spend almost a minute enumerating alcoholic beverages
      2) After this, I’m never gonna complain about Mafia again.
      3) I agree, I feel like Twice has a reached a plateau in their career: their songs are not that catchy or successful among the general public plus they keep changing sounds, even when they find ones that suit them like ICSM. This is sad considering Twice brought (and I still believe they are in a way) freshness and fun to the industry.

      Liked by 8 people

      • I think it’s supposed be that their love feels like drinking those enumerated drinks, without actually drinking them. “Alcohol-free” as in, “I don’t drink, but I feel drunk with you” kind of way.

        Liked by 9 people

        • i don’t even like the song but that was a pretty straight-forward concept and not difficult to grasp at all, some of the comments here are doing the most lol

          Liked by 5 people

          • It’s just people not reading the lyrics. It would get confusing if you heard the alcoholic list part of the chorus in a song titled “Alcohol-Free” if you didn’t also know the lyrics right before that was “I am alcohol-free, but I get drunk. Though I didn’t drink at all, it happens when I’m with you because of the way you look at me.”

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    • “Alcohol-free” is really awkward.
      A better title have been the “Drunk in you” that is often repeated in the chorus. Or even “Sweet Mimosa”.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Based on the album highlight teaser I think this will end up being More and More Part 2 the remix: forgettable sort of shitty summer tropical title track with very good B Sides.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Nick I think you’re being too nice here. This song is bad, just bad. Maybe my dislike for it is intensified by the fact that I despise chill lounge music, but certainly its jarring chorus doesn’t help at all. I never thought there would be a song by Twice I would hate more than More & More but here we are. Not only do I dislike this song, Alcohol Free is just really bad, period, but I have no doubt it would do well in the charts, even if it sounds like the cheap, “Latin genre” ambiguous you here in tropical resorts and cruises. In all honesty and very conscious that I’m being harsh here, Kpop should stay away from bossa nova.

    Liked by 6 people

    • I would also like to add it doesn’t do any favors to the members as performers. The song doesn’t suit their voices nor does it lean on their strongest assets. More pop-centered songs have always suited Twice to a tee.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I also find the song quite underwhelming, esp. during the hook part, the beat is surely unique but it’s not very catchy compared to their previous titles. Actually, I couldn’t vibe with the song since I first heard the preview but I thought I’d change my mind when the whole song came out. Overall, the song is ok, but it still didn’t live up to my expectation I have for Twice.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yeah. The production is definitely nice, aside from the humming bass of the rap (Really should’ve reeled it in. Chaeyoung’s part sounds way better than Dahyun’s part just because of it), but the melodies are just decent and pretty unmemorable. Not a bad song by any means, just nothing noteworthy.

    The fact that this has so little vocal harmonies probably hurt it a lot, even MORE & MORE had some. The post-chorus has some actually, which is probably why I like that part the most with its better melody, even if the lyrics are a bit goofy akin to the iconic Soyeon dessert rap.

    You’re right that it’s great background music though. The instrumentals glide very easy on the ears that I could find myself repeating it over and over.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Although, it is very questionable why this was the title track? I know it fits the summer vibe (even though it’s been raining heavily here), but it’s not quite energetic enough to kind of stand out as the main track of an album. I have a feeling the album itself will probably have a lot stronger songs than this. Kind of like MORE & MORE (except personally, MORE & MORE is definitely better than Alcohol-Free).

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I can’t believe that this kind of song got 7.5 while Mamamoo’s that is literally way better than this got like 7.75

    Were you being too generous for Twice and being ruthless against Mamamoo?

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      • (Crap, they’re on to you, Nick. Make for the shadows while I distract them with a maudlin nervous breakdown.)

        “Can I have your attention, please. I’m am now going to set my pants on fire while wailing like a banshee!”

        P.S. You’re welcome, Nick!

        Liked by 7 people

      • i mean, isn’t op just voicing their surprise at how different their tastes are? let people disagree with the reviews from time to time, god.

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        • There’s a huge difference between “I didn’t like this song as much as [other song]” and “why don’t YOU like other song as much as I like [other song]!!!?”

          Liked by 4 people

        • I mean they weren’t really disagreeing and were instead complaining about the different scores and were implying that there’s some weird vendetta against Mamamoo. I’m all for disagreement and think that a lot of the music that Nick rates highly sounds like the ending credits to the Secret Life of Pets or something you’d hear in a Zara but I don’t go around accusing a blogger of something as silly as what they were thinking was going on.

          Liked by 4 people

  7. I went into it thinking that the song would be a more energetic upbeat summer song like their previous summer releases, but it turns out to be a chill tropical song. It’s cute! I appreciate the subtle bossanova style beat underneath, which is grossly underused in pop music.

    Alright, so lets talk vocals. The girls hit all the notes. Great! But this just meets the song expectations. The vocals are all grouped around the middle of the 4th octave, well within their range, but they hit all the notes straight on without much style or inflection, so it all sounds very samey. A better vocal would elevate it. As is, it sounds like young girls singing into their hairbrush in their bedroom.

    So between the song style, the song title and theme, the vocal performance, it skews very young. I thought JYP was steering Twice to being more mature look and style, but this pushes the back a few years in time to bright and young and peppy. Interesting.

    A strategic key change would also have been awesome, at least for the last chorus, or maybe even every chorus change the key change back. In kpop, “Ice Cream Cake” by Red Velvet and “Lupin” by KARA are classic examples. Outside of kpop “Man in Motion” is another classic example. ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dx7vNdAb5e4

    Liked by 6 people

    • I wouldn’t call it young per se. I mean, despite being summery, it is called Alcohol-Free and the song lists a bunch of drinks (including mimosas and pina colada) which are definitely not youthful (nor drinks most young people veer towards). Even the theming’s is fruity cocktail beach party, and the fashion’s kind of like MORE & MORE except leaning more beach dresses, tropical attire and two piece flowy outfits with some of the boho-chic aesthetic.

      Though I will admit, it is very similar to Dance the Night Away, but even then the song’s vibe is way too chill compared to that.

      Even though I’ve spent like a paragraph clarifying it, Alcohol-Free does feel very much like a step back from post-Fancy vibes. If you put gave this song to someone and told someone to place this where they think this song was in their discography chronological-wise, they’d probably place it like near their early stuff. Which wouldn’t feel wrong to be honest.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It just feels young, like they are all 18 here though they are now well into their 20’s. There was a deliberate styling shift a couple years ago from their debut cute to more mature “Heirs” styling, and this feels and sounds like it is going back to that debut time, as you also write.

        My daughter likes virgin frozen pina coladas, and sonny boy virgin frozen margaritas (basically a lime slushie). Last summer when every weekend was Family Resort Weekend! I went all tropical theme with inflatable flamingos and little drink umbrellas and cooler goblets and such, and those frozen bacardi mixers. Sonny boy became quite adept at blending them up. (I would then add a generous pour of rum to mine.) The $20 I spent on that slip in slide was the best thing I bought all year.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I simply must voice my disagreement. These drinks are exactly what young people go for, they’re some of the very first things I ever ordered in a bar! Margarita, mimosa, mojito, pina colada… they’re sweet drinks that young girls order all the time in the summer. You’d have a point if the lyrics were like, “my Manhattan, my whiskey on the rocks, my bloody mary, my old fashioned.” LOL. You’re my negroni, you’re my gin and tonic, you’re my martini. Because I’m thirty years old, thank you.

        Going in the opposite direction, there are certainly selections that would skew even younger, if we’re going to be brutally honest about things that girls drink when they are actually underage. You’re my Smirnoff Ice, you’re my Mike’s Hard, my Coors Light, my flavored vodka. My 99 Apples, my peach schnapps, my rum and diet coke…

        Liked by 7 people

        • Well, I guess my non-alcoholic tendencies has been exposed. I’m vaguely aware of the differences in drinks, but because I’d never drink any of them they just kinda get lumped into one big “not for me” pile. And because I’m young, that means I don’t associate it with young even though like you said these are what young people drink.

          Your selection of drinks does feel so much older, although that’s because I listen to 30-year old women talk about drinking sometimes in podcasts and that’s what I hear.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I’m not quite thirty yet, and to be honest I still love a sweet cocktail more than anything. To me, a bloody mary is THE “adult drink,” mostly because it’s what all of the adults in my family always drank growing up. The concept of the bloody mary remains absolutely disgusting to me, but I imagine that one day I’ll start to enjoy them, and on that day I will be a true adult. My dad loves a Manhattan, and my aunt is rarely seen without a martini. Personally I am partial to a moscow mule or a whiskey sour, or a nice dry hard cider. I like tart stuff.

            ..Not that this means anything to you! But hey, maybe you are exactly the audience this song is meant for. Maybe if you decide you want to try a drink one day, and you can’t think of anything to order at the bar, you can just remember this song. Margarita, mojito with lime, sweet mimosa, pina colada.

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    • I thought I was listening to the music played during the opening/ending credits of a TV sitcom. You know.. ..something that’s suppose to be chirpy and peppy, but not be taken seriously; kinda like me! Hmm……

      Liked by 3 people

  8. Maybe as kpop fans, many of you think this song may not be as strong as a title track should be, but I think the unique lazy atmosphere of this song completely attracts me. I really like this song, maybe also because I always like Bossa Nova.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. So here is the other issue: JYP is really good at cribbing 80’s and 90’s song that are thisclosetoplagiarism, and somehow get away with it. The JYP-Rain duet that copies Bobby Brown, the Wonder Girls that copies Prince/Chaka Khan.

    There are other places he could have gone than “Alcohol Free”. There is plenty of more innocent 80’s material that he could have stolen from.

    DeBarge Rhythm of the Night ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAQSZhazYk8 (fun fact the lead singer James DeBarge was Janet Jackson’s first husband when she was only 18)
    Madonna “True Blue” ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P51LunEV3Sk
    The Jets “Crush on You” ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oy10rRJ0Cuk
    the Go-Go’s “Head over Heels” ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQyazt4RDTM The Go-Go’s are being inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame this year.

    Also, I am presuming that Shirley Temples and virgin daiquiris were no go lyrics.

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  10. Eh. Honestly…just a good big old “Eh” will do for this one. It’s interesting, but kind of….irrelevant? I wanted another “I Can’t Stop Me”, because that song was encapsulated everything incredible about Twice’s performance and was truly a triumphant moment for the girls but this feels like a b-side honestly. I feel like this June has slowed down, hope not! Brave Girls, A.C.E and Seventeen are still waiting in the wings!

    Anyways…Nick! I have listened to The Rampage’s “FullMetal Trigger” and “Swag and pride” and immensely love both of the songs! Can you give any more recommendations? Both B-sides and Singles!

    Like

    • Also I have noticed you delivering four (!) posts in a span of two hours and each and every one of them is quality writing!

      Like

  11. “OH OH OH OH OH OH OH OH OH OH OH OH NICK HOW DARE U NOT LIKE THIS SONG THAT’S EYE TEE U R GROUNDED GROUNDED GROUNDED GROUNDED GROUNDED 4 LIFE NOW GO 2 UR ROOM!!! >:((((((((((((”

    just kidding. though i do enjoy this song quite a bit, i too found it underwhelming compared to Twice’s previous single. i wish JYP would just stop giving his girl groups these kind of title tracks and give them something good for once.

    hey, at least it’s better than “More & More.”

    Like

  12. This song is pleasant background music at most. After first listen I don’t have any reason to go back to it, I have no desire to listen to it again. This should not have been the single.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is… nice, I guess. I actually don’t hate it (certainly not as much as the rest of you) and I think this chill pseudo-bossa sound has its charms. The highlights for me are definitely the plinky piano in the 2nd verse and the occasional trumpet flourishes, though I would’ve liked more of both. The girls sound good, if not a little bland, and I’m happy to see Jeongyeon back. My main issues lie with the writing and song structure. I really would’ve liked to see a bridge before the rap, maybe one that leaned into the jazzier chords found in bossa nova. Alternatively, some sort of sing-along outro would’ve kicked the energy up at the end. In all likelihood, I’m probably going to put this on in the background while I clean and hope that JYP gives them another synthpop knockout in the fall.

    Like

  14. Imagine the Mv looks the same but it’s Twice doing a song like SNSD’s Party instead, now that would be a perfect summer comeback…

    Instead we get this, the song is quite good, but I’m not sure if this suits being the title track. In the EP highlight medley there are other more exciting, upbeat songs. (at this point, the only possible reason Alcohol-free got to be the title track is because it’s written by JYP…)

    Also, the song sounds much better played at x1.25 speed.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Do remember when Twice released Twice songs? They were technically just songs, but they were TWICE songs. Other groups could’ve released songs with similar structure, but they weren’t Twice songs. Only Twice could release Twice songs.

    This.. ..isn’t a Twice song. It’s been a while since I heard a Twice song. I miss Twice songs. Twice should release a Twice song every now and then.

    Liked by 5 people

  16. As a Boss Nova-inspired alternate I’d recommend CLC’s song “Seventh” (일곱 번째). It’s a down-tempo song, but the vocals, harmonies, and rap elevate it. Plus the lyrics count up through the song (the first time I saw you, my five fingers) until they reach the number 7 at the very end.

    Like

  17. I appreciate Twice trying a new style, but this isn’t the style for them. I genuinely like them as a group, but one weak point of theirs is their rather weak vocals. Their main vocalists, Nayeon and Jihyo, are capable of hitting their notes, but that’s pretty much it. Twice’s vocals lack the finesse and agility that is required with this style of music. If a group with better vocals (say, Red Velvet) tackled this genre, I’d be more inclined to like it, but we don’t have that here.

    The soundscape of the song is also pretty lackluster. It’s good for easy listening, but Twice is not an easy listening group. The song doesn’t really go anywhere, has no forward motion at all, and the barebones production makes Alcohol-Free quite forgettable to me. 7.5 is a generous rating in my opinion. Here’s hoping Twice goes back to doing Twice music.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I like chill songs, so I’m more inclined to look at this generously than I otherwise would have, but I kind of wish the song would just go somewhere. Do something. Be a little more interesting than it is. Chaeyoung’s rap was the moment that stuck out to me but aside from that, it feels like the rest of the song just goes along without anything much happening. And I wouldn’t mind that if I liked that groove, but for some reason I don’t really like it much – maybe I’ll come around to it, let’s see. I’m just very ambivalent to this as a song, and that sucks because I really wanted a Twice summer anthem that I’d love. The highlight medley seemed promising for some of the b-sides so hopefully I’ll find something more to my liking there. In the meantime, just going to replay some earlier TWICE! classics for now.

    Like

  19. I never really understood the hate for MORE & MORE on here… I thought it was fun. It at least had a dance-ready chorus/drop, whereas this one…. idk, it just does nothing for me. It’s not like it was painful to listen to, but I feel like hearing it once was enough. Summer songs should be dancey, I think, first and foremost. This is like Zico’s Any Song but without the charm, I guess?

    Sidebar: To my ears it sounds like they pronounce “alcohol” like “al-ghul,” the Arabic root word for alcohol which I know about through Disco Elysium… which is… interesting! I’m al-ghul free! They could have gone with “sober” but who am I to tell JYP what to do….

    Liked by 4 people

  20. Weirdly enough, I actually like this one a good bit. It has that slow, casual and chill melody, and bobs perfectly normally. It reminds me of a soundtrack song in Super Mario Odyssey which also was Bossa Nova. Would not mind seeing this sort of style trend, even if I would prefer a much more dynamic sound for summer overall.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are innumerable examples of video game music done right. When it comes to game soundtrack preferences, I lean towards Japanese games the most. Probably because they go all orchestral with many offerings. While I could list hundreds of tracks, here’s a few that instantly come to mind when I think of some truly beautiful pieces:


      Resident Evil 5 – Pray – Main Theme
      Note: It’s not the entire song I like, but a specific segment (1:37 to 2:55) from the non-vocal/instrumental version.
      Ref (RE5-P): https://youtu.be/0fxpk0IIyLY?t=97

      Flower – Life As a Flower
      Note: The entire OST is good.
      Ref (F-LAaF): https://youtu.be/KT-xs4EVH4E

      The Sims 3: Supernatural Map View – Universal Lobby
      Note: This is a game pack version of the main game theme
      Ref (TS3-SMW): https://youtu.be/mofFeN4YU_I

      Final Fantasy X-2: 1000 Words (Instrumental)
      Note: All versions (Japanese/English/instrumental) are equally good.
      Ref (FFX-2-1WI): https://youtu.be/tJCXRUkUut4

      …and the list goes on…

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      • I love most Final Fantasy music so, so much. Also, Japanese companies seem to have a better idea for game music. Currently, my obsession is the Fire Emblem Three Houses soundtrack. I just finished my second route of the 4 in the game, and loving it so much. Ghosts of Tsushima rocked my playlists last year.

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  21. I don’t like the lyrical content, BUT I do like the music. I think it’s a good take on summer. It’s different, definitely not “Twice-y”, but nice. Will I play it more than a few times? Maybe not. But I appreciate the spanner in the system.

    Like

  22. Definitely like this over More and More. I’d rather take a more laid-back song than one that use the same generic beat drop tropes seen over and over in kpop. That said, I completely agree that the song feels uneventful; that probably has to do with the choice of instrumental for the song but I kind of wish we got a more high-energy title track for a summer comeback.

    Like

  23. Weeekly’s after school, Rocket Punch’s ring ring and Fromis_9’s We Go. Those songs sound like summer. This. As a massive twice Stan, twice being the group that got me into K-pop and their music helped me get through a dark period, to see fancy until now with the ups and downs and the plateau of nothingness we seem to be at right now, I’m not sure what to think about. Maybe it’s time for twice to disband and they all do their own thing, with the members anxiety breaks becoming more frequent and jyps music in general becoming…… Trash. Maybe it’s time the nation’s girl group sails into the sun. I’d rather they end now and leave us with somewhat pleasant memories than to continue on this path and just keep making bad songs that tarnish what they have.

    Like

    • Agreed. If they wanted to go for chill and laidback, the key or vocal arrangement should have been lowered. As it is, the vocals are just way too high and shrill for me to even enjoy it as something a bit more funky and relaxing for summer. The instrumental and vocal track are just fighting one another, and as a result, it pretty much cancels out the efforts of both.

      Like

  24. Today I realized that for some reason this reminds me of some of the earlier BTS’ b-sides. I liked the song on first listen and I’ve been enjoying it more though I definitely don’t think this is title track material.

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  25. The song feels fresh,summery and all to me but uneventful,as you said at the same time.I do not have any problem with Twice changing paths and exploring new genres,not only with Twice but any artist in general and when they do that it can be a hit or a miss.The song is neither great nor pathetic,its just underwhelming but hey,It would make a perfect background score.

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  26. Honestly, I’m getting the impression that summer songs just aren’t Twice (or JYP’s?) strong suit. Maybe it fits them *too* well—bubblegum pop + the lightness of summer doesn’t hit with the same strength as other genres? I mean, I like “Dance the Night Away,” but I think that, “More & More,” and this are not as strong compared with the rest of Twice’s discography.

    I think they sing a bit too much throughout, though—this could have used a longer instrumental break to add to the grooviness of it. And those plinky parts in the 2nd verse sound just straight-up… odd. Not fitting the key or something.

    “Eh” for Twice is still pretty good, though. Bossa Nova is utterly unique in the Kpop landscape right now.

    Like

  27. Bias list = biased to Twice and dissing on Blackpink. 🤡

    You gave this a 7.5 while giving BP HYLT and Rosé’s songs low scores. These songs did really well on the Korean and World Charts while this new song of Twice is struggling to rise on the K-Charts.

    This song is really awful. The opening dance intro was forced af! Ahahaha… JYP is such a narcissist that even on Twice’s comeback, it should be about him by creating this horrendous song with the JYP whisper…

    People trying to listen this for more than 10 times to grow on them is just plain forcing it their eardrums! 😅😅😅

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Mr. Cole for saying what we’ve all been thinking. Blackpink vs. Twice? No contest! Blackpink is like kale. You always know what you’re getting when you get kale. Sure, sneaky chefs might try to alter it with their culinary witchcraft, but it won’t matter; once you get a mouthful of it, the “kale” bell will instantly ring. Kale is reliable and consistent. Yep, no deviations there.

      Twice, on the other hand are like tomatoes. You never know how you’re going to get served those. A zesty pesto? A rich marinara? Fried green? Sun-dried? KETCHUP? Who wants all that variety?!? People around the world can’t even agree how to pronounce it! Tom-ay-to.. ..tom-ah-to.. ..ugh, my brain is already hurting.

      So, Nick, are you finally going to accept the truth? All hail Blackpink; the kweens of kale!

      P.S. Remember, kiddies, always eat your vegetables!

      Like

  28. For some reason. Both the song and music video make my mouth feel like it’s tasting the most disgusting carrot juice to ever exist. It feels…weird….

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  29. This style is comparable to the Lee Hae Sol remix of their Japanese single Fanfare, albeit far weaker. It feels like they held back instead of exploring that style all out. Not what you expect from a Twice title track.

    Like

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