Review Summary: Grab yer dancing shoes...
Over the past seven years, TWICE have become the most popular Kpop girl group behind only Blackpink. However, the company behind them JYP, used the opposite strategies to make this happen. There has probably not passed a season without a single and/or EP the girls had to promote. They are being worked hard, performing constantly on both Korean and Japanese markets. With the release of ‘Fancy’ in 2019, the group’s image started the transition to a more mature phase. Same happened to the music, featuring more disco/funk-infused elements in the electronic pop sphere. While I have yet to properly digest some of the early releases, I must admit I fell for them after growing very fond of the Fancy You
EP. A few hit-and-miss numbers aside, last year’s full length Eyes Wide Open
was actually a strong effort overall. Kpop companies seldom go the extra mile to release an album and it’s extremely rare to throw some quality content on them front to back.
So, the group’s third Korean LP, Formula of Love
arrived this year, taking full advantage of the disco funk sound that graced us since the ‘80s. Enlisting an army of producers, TWICE present us quite a cohesive record. I am glad that for the most part everyone resisted the trap/hip hop stylings that are a staple in Kpop, especially for anyone looking to break into foreign markets. They are not cut for that bad girl swag, thus opting for a sweet, at times sensual approach was the most suitable option. The two preceding singles, ‘The Feels’ & ‘Scientist’ offered a fine taste of what you can expect from this record. The catchy blend of groovy bass lines, warm synths and dancefloor-ready beats is nicely complemented by the members’ varied vocal timbres and dynamic switching from one to another. Traces of cheerleader-like sing alongs or shouts are still to be found, however, I’m glad they are kept to a minimum. They are just not suitable in this context. Meanwhile, ‘Cruel’, ‘Fall in Love Again’ and ‘Real You’ are true dancefloor bangers, reminiscing Jamiroquai during their A Funk Odyssey
era. The structures sound familiar, but are strongly executed. Another highlight, ‘Moonlight’ fully channels ‘80s nostalgia, combining those tropical disco vibes, complete with cute percussion, claps and “marimba” leads. In between these tracks, ‘Icon’ pops up, sharing a laid back ‘Cry Me a River’ atmosphere and the most swag TWICE can offer. The results are decent, there’s a solid low end present here, but for me R’n’B-wise, ‘Espresso’ ended up more addictive than it should have been. I found myself listening to it multiple times just for the vocal hooks.
On the second half, Formula of Love
slows down and suffers a slight drop in quality unfortunately. Ballads such as ‘Rewind’ and ‘Cactus’ are generic, but ultimately passable. Also, ‘Candy’ doesn’t bring anything new or interesting to the record. Luckily, the city pop inspired ‘Push & Pull’ brings back the energy, performed by Jihyo, Sana and Dahyun. The pale synths and bass work their magic, with the girls being their cute selves as usual. Each of the remaining sub unit tracks, ‘1, 3, 2’ (Jeongyeon, Mina, Tzuyu) and ‘Hello’ (Nayeon, Momo, Chaeyoung) follow different routes. The former boasts a nice Latino rhythm that fares better than the latter’s hip hop beats. They are good for diversity’s sake, yet the overall length is the main issue. Formula of Love
could have been trimmed to 10 strong cuts and I am sure it would have been one of the tightest Kpop albums in recent years. It’s easy to dismiss it due to the genre it represents, but there was considerable effort put into most of these songs, so it’s worth some listens.