Mega group Twice continues the grand pop tradition of releasing a Christmas single. This isn’t their first foray into holiday merriment, Twicecoaster: Lane 2 had a special Christmas edition but it’s their first song dedicated to the holiday. Crafting the perfect Christmas song is a guaranteed annual cash cow if you do it well enough, a phenomenon to which the goddess of December festivities Mariah Carey, can well attest.
The perfect Christmas song is shamelessly sentimental, sometimes bittersweet, seasonal, and usually nostalgic, harkening back to the innocence of youth. Extra points are allocated for mentioning Santa Claus, family, and all sleigh bell sounds are welcome. “Merry & Happy” hits all the right notes to fit into the canon without elevating itself to a Christmas classic. The song reflects on past unhappy times that have been overcome so now the song’s protagonist enjoys the festive season.
Narratively the song mirrors the triumphant mood of the lyrics. Chaeyoung is the first member to be shown, looking forlorn and the mood of ennui is continued by Mina and Sana. They are soon cheered by the efforts of some of the other members. We’re then shown the preparations and ensuing Christmas party at the Twice house. The affectionate interactions between the members particularly during the exchange of gifts are genuinely heartwarming and feel authentic.
The premise for the MV isn’t particularly unique, however, during the festive season nostalgia and familiarity is not only acceptable but preferable to edgy concepts. Food, friends, gifts, and charmingly handmade decorations all bring a sense of homespun wholesomeness to the scenes. Nothing is too polished and everything looks like it could conceivably be created by the members which were nice, making things seem personable.
The interest in the visuals is mostly created by the use of different camera techniques, creating dynamism in the domesticity. The intimacy of the household scenes are increased by the insertion of VH style footage of the members during reactions to exchanges of gifts and secluded moments. This adds to the comfortable, chummy atmosphere of the video. The more constructed points where the members are dollied through the party individually and interact with the viewer gives audiences a chance to see their favourite in a single shot and is another interesting way to maintain visual attention.
There isn’t any group or singular choreography or performance of the song itself, the MV chooses to focus on the personalities and interactions of the members. This works well because the primary concern isn’t necessarily the music but the creation of a mood. The atmosphere is close, warm, and enjoyable and too much emphasis on the song might break that emotion.
The song itself is warm and upbeat; it satisfies all the requirements of a seasonal hit and then some. There are references to Santa Claus, the weather, and the holiday blues which are sweet but it never taps into the depth of schmaltz that typifies the greatest examples of the genre. In order to be ranked on the scale of “All I Want For Christmas (Is You)”, “Winter Wonderland” or even Wham’s “Last Christmas” the song needed a greater commitment to mushiness. Possibly a more dramatic vocal performance would have propelled this track into k-pop classic territory but the gentle harmonies and sweetly sung verses don’t do enough. The song is pleasantly delivered in the style of classic, big band standards but it feels underdeveloped.
Overall, Twice is endearing and charming in “Merry & Happy” and it’s a decent addition to anyone’s holiday playlist. Twice’s reputation is big enough that the song won’t quickly fade into obscurity, given to a lesser group it probably wouldn’t be too memorable. Given the existing reputation, the group enjoys we can share in the genial atmosphere and look forward to various costumed performances for the coming weeks. Chasing a classic Christmas song is a snipe’s hunt but making a pleasant holiday appropriate song isn’t that lofty a goal. Twice takes a run at the latter without truly attempting the former and achieves their goal with ease.
(YouTube, Images via JYP Entertainment)